Friday, March 29, 2013

Guest Posts and Giveaways - The Full List!

by Stephanie Morrill

Jill and I have been on a blog tour this week, and in case you missed them, here are links to the blogs we were on. I'm noting the ones where the giveaways are still open with asterisks:

Just Simply Unique, where I talk about the cowriting process.
*Pink Sapphire, where Jill talks about 5 ways to respect your dream. (Last day to enter this one!)
Pen Over Sword, where we talked about how to pursue writing regardless of where you are in life.
*Pages from My Journal, where we did a very fun interview.
*The Life of a Teenage Writer, where we talked about procrastination and how to beat it.
*Emily Rachelle Writes, where we shared the biggest mistakes we feel we made early in our careers
*Notebook Sisters, where we did an interview and learned Jill isn't a real writer after all.
*The Ramblings of a Young Author, where we talked about what it means to write a bad first draft.
Book Hi, where we talked about if you should write for the market or yourself.
*Anna Schaeffer's blog, where Jill and I talked about what motivates us and why we love teen writers so much.
*Further Up and Further In, where Jill talks about how to give a good critique.
*Stori Tori, who was kind enough to feature the book and say nice things about it.

Many thanks to all our wonderful hostesses!

Next Monday we'll be announcing a new contest on the blog. I won't give away all the details yet...I'll just suggest that you might want to take a little time to dust the cobwebs out of your writing space. In case you suddenly decide to take a picture or two of it. And share it. With me and Jill.

You never know.

Happy Easter!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Another Couple Chances at the Go Teen Writers book!

by Stephanie Morrill

Today Jill and I are giving away three more downloads of Go Teen Writers: How to Turn Your First Draft Into a Published Book!

At Sky's blog, Further Up and Further In, we're talking about how to give a good critique.

At Anna Schaeffer's blog we talk about what keeps us motivated and why Jill and I do what we do with Go Teen Writers.

And we're also hanging out at Stori Tori's blog, so check that out as well!

Good luck!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Two more chances to win the Go Teen Writers book!

by Stephanie Morrill

The blog tour continues! We're on two more great blogs today, which means you have two more chances to win the Go Teen Writers book!

On Book Hi we talk about Should You Write for the Market Or Yourself?

And on The Ramblings of a Young Author we discuss Bad First Drafts, and what even the worst of them should have before you move on to edits.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Three MORE ways to win the Go Teen Writers book!

by Stephanie Morrill

In case you missed it yesterday, Jill and I are on a blog tour this week! We're being hosted by some wonderful young writers and giving away a free download of Go Teen Writers: How to Turn Your First Draft Into A Published Book. Here's where you can find us today:

The Notebook Sisters where we did a really great interview in which we learned that I'm 2/3 a real writer and Jill, sadly, isn't a a real writer at all. Very tragic discovery.

We're also on Emily Rachelle's blog talking about Mistakes We Made Early In Our Career.

And The Life of  a Teenage Writer talking about Strategies for Overcoming Procrastination.

If you missed yesterday's stops, you can find the list here. Good luck!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Four Chances to Win the New Go Teen Writers book!

by Stephanie Morrill

Jill and I are on tour this week, and we're so thankful to the wonderful young writers who are hosting us on their blog. On each blog, Jill and I are giving away an ebook of Go Teen Writers: How to Turn Your First Draft into a Published Book.

Here are our stops today!
(Some may not have their posts up quite yet. Jill and I are early birds!)

Just Simply Unique with Kelsey Gulick where I talk about the Cowriting Process.

Pink Sapphire with Tonya LaCourse where Jill talks about 5 Ways to Respect Your Dream.

Pen Over Sword with Caitlin Hensley where I talk about ways to Pursue Writing Regardless of Where You Are In Life.

Pages from my Journal with Alyson Schroll, who did a great interview with me and Jill.

Friday, March 22, 2013

The Winners From the Pitch Us Your Story Contest

by Stephanie Morrill

We were rather shocked when we closed down voting yesterday afternoon and learned that 992 votes were cast in this contest. And I was grateful to discover that Google forms tallied the results for me so we don't have to rely on my iffy math skills.

The top three pitches, and the winners of Go Teen Writers: How to Turn Your First Draft into a Published Book are:

Overwhelmingly first place:
#24 Fleeing an unwanted marriage, Eden Trenton stows away aboard a pirate ship. Terrified, yet determined, she sets sail with a notorious captain into the unknown. - Heather Manning

These two entries tied for second:
#25 In a country where twins are outcasts, identical princesses masquerade as one girl - Rylie, heir to the throne. A secret not even their father knows. - Aidyl Ewoh

#7 Lenora Hood, daughter of Robin Hood, had three successful years thieving. Stealing the prince’s fortune should have been easy, but then she fell in love. - Christina

Third place:

#19 When a villain realizes he is a stereotyped bad guy, he sets out with a clichéd superhero to defeat their true enemy. The author. - Allison E.

And here are the other entries who were in the top ten:

#21  In the future children are controlled by remotes for their whole childhood. Julius, sets out  to destroy the Dictator and find the truth about life. - Anonymous

#10 In medieval France, a timid monk races to hide the bishop's illegitimate daughter before the bishop disposes of her, the only evidence of his sins. - Olivia H.

#6 Briar unintentionally journeys to an altered past and views Abraham Lincoln murdered before Gettysburg; those assassins from the future then chase down the witness: her. - Gretta Kissell

#1 A home-schooled teen thinks she has her life figured out, until disaster strikes, and she has to survive in the real world of high school. - Lydia H.

#23 Four writers. Four novels. One premise. They have six months and a prize to dream of: representation from a prominent literary agent. Who will win? - Anne-girl

#12 Harvey was just an Aryan Nazi before he fell for a Jew; Elsie. There’s one problem – He's supposed to turn her family into the gestapo. - Summer A.

#4 Two best friends survive a hurricane that devastates the east coast. Alone and desperate, they journey cross-country seeking normalcy, safety, and a new life. - Kaitlin S.

Congratulations to all the finalists! If you finalled but your entry isn't listed above and you're curious about your rankings, please send me an email and we'll talk privately.

Thanks so much to everyone who entered and voted for making this such a fun contest!

Next week we're continuing the celebration of our release, Go Teen Writers: How to Turn Your First Draft into a Published Book, by going on a blog tour! You'll have lots of chances to win free downloads of the book and to discover some great blogs that are run by young writers.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Tricky Word Usage: Nouns vs. Adjectives

by Jill Williamson

My daughter Kaitlyn is shaping up to be a good speller. Check out her latest spelling test. As an author, it's important to spell correctly. But there are many words that authors misspell and sometimes still miss catching in rewrites.

One of the trickiest types are the words that are spelled the same but are sometimes one word and sometimes two. How the word is spelled depends on how the word is being used in your sentence. Check these out. Do you ever misuse any of the following?

any more vs anymore- 
  • any more (adjective) means "any additional" or "any extra." Ex: I don't need any more paperwork for the account.
  • anymore (adverb) means "any longer." Ex: She refused to stand in his presence anymore.

a while vs, awhile- 
  • a while (noun) means "a length of time." Ex: It took me a while to finish cleaning my room.
  • awhile (adverb) means "for a length of time." Ex: Come visit me for awhile.

back door vs. backdoor-
  • back door (noun) Ex: Someone is knocking on the back door.
  • backdoor (adjective) means "furtive" or "indirect." Ex: He was an expert at finding people involved in backdoor dealings. Or for ex: The web designer needed backdoor access to fix the site.

back seat vs. back-seat-
  • back seat (noun) Ex: The back seat of my car is filled with clothing.
  • back-seat (adjective) Ex: Don't be a back-seat driver!
  • The same rules applies to back yard and back-yard. Ex: The picnic was in the back yard. Or for ex: We're having a back-yard picnic.

back up vs. backup-
  • back up (verb) means either "to move position backward" or "to make a copy of something." Ex: Don't back up until the biker passes. Or for ex: Did you back up your computer files?
  • backup (noun) means "a copy of something" or "a substitute." Ex: Do you have a backup of the files? Or for ex: We need a backup plan.

car pool vs. carpool-
  • car pool (noun) is "a group of individuals who commute together." Ex: I belong to a car pool with other people from my work.
  • carpool (verb) means "to participate in a car pool." Ex: I carpool to work on Wednesdays.

every day vs. everyday- 
  • every day (adjective + noun) combined means "each day." Ex: I shower every day.
  • everyday (adjective) describes a noun. Ex: Forgetting to eat breakfast is an everyday occurrence for me.

home school vs. homeschool-
  • home school (noun) Ex: Chris graduated from home school.
  • homeschool (verb) Ex: I homeschool my children. Or for ex: Are you homeschooled?"

set up vs. setup-
  • set up (verb) means "to cause," "to create," "to put in danger," or "to begin." Ex: She set up a lemonade stand at the end of the driveway. It took time to set up the program.
  • setup (noun) means "position" or "something constructed or contrived." Ex: It was a setup. Ex: The setup looks great. 

some time vs. sometime vs. sometimes-
  • some time (some is an adjective and time is a noun) Ex: I spent some time judging the contest entries.
  • sometime (adverb) means "at an unspecific point in time." Ex: I'll clean my room sometime tomorrow. Or for ex: I went there sometime last May.
  • sometimes (adverb) means "occasionally." Ex: I visit my parents sometimes. Or for ex: I sometimes go to that pizza place on Broadway Avenue.

under way vs. underway-
  • under way (adverb) means "in progress." Ex: The contest is under way. Or for ex: The trip will be under way soon.
  • underway (adjective) means "happening while in motion." Ex: These are the underway activities on the cruise ship.

And don't forget that if you want to vote for your favorite pitches, you only have until noon today before voting closes!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Good and Bad Guys In Your Story

by Stephanie Morrill

Many of us have heard the concept that you don't want your main character to be perfect. They should have flaws, issues, and lies they believe.

Recently I read a book where the main character clearly wasn't perfect ... yet I felt as though I was being pushed into believing she was. This seemed like a strange sensation to experience, and I started hunting for what I felt was amiss. I could name a few flaws. I could name the lie she believed. What was going on?

It didn't click with me right away but eventually I figured out that it wasn't an issue with the development of the main character - it was an issue with the other characters in the cast.

In the book, every character who was "good" loved and supported the main character. They had honorable intentions toward her and did things to promote her best interest. While every character who was "bad" didn't like the main character and worked against her.

Which left me asking myself several questions about my manuscript:

  • Who in my story does my main character consider good, and how could they do something to frustrate her plans?
  • How could one of my antagonists help my main character? What would have to happen to motivate them to do that?

What about you? Have you developed the other characters in your story well or do you tend to focus too much on your main character?

If you haven't voted for your favorite pitches yet, you have until Thursday at noon to do so. You can do that by clicking here. I forgot to mention that we had 140 pitches submitted to that contest and there were a bunch that we liked but not on the finalists list. You guys have such creative stories!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Crime Scene Investigation for Writers

by Jill Williamson

*WARNINGThis post talks about investigating a murder. If that is not something you want to think about in detail, you might want to skip today's post.* 

I went to the IdaHope writers conference last weekend. It was small but powerful. And I had a fabulous time.

I went to this same conference several years ago, and Ray Ellis, a police detective, gave a workshop in which he wore his police belt and told us what everything on the belt was for and what it did. It was fascinating. So when I saw that Ray was teaching a crime scene class, I had to be there.

Ray Ellis has been writing for more than twenty years and has been a law enforcement officer and ordained pastor for just a little while longer. Ray is the author of the Nate Richards Police Mystery Series: a “Top 100″ for African-American Christian Fiction titles on Amazon. Check out Ray at his: websiteTwitter, or Facebook.

Here is Ray's classroom sketch of the crime scene. In this instance, a body was found, and we pretended that we were the detectives called to the scene. The first sketch is of the entire premises. The second, a close up of the room in which the victim was found. Rays says that he considers all deaths homicides until proven otherwise (in which the evidence might prove that the death was accidental or a suicide).

When Ray arrives at a scene, the sight is often horrible. And as a compassionate human being, he has to calm himself down right away. He slows down, relaxes, controls his breathing so that he doesn't get tunnel vision and miss evidence. He needs to remain objective and let the crime scene tell him what happened, not to tell the crime scene what he thinks happened.

Ray asked us to consider the five senses when your officer enters the crime scene. When writing this, use the senses in this order, and you can plant breadcrumb clues for your detective and your reader in what is observed.

1. Sight- This is the first sense used when an officer enters a crime scene. He's looking around, observing. Everything is evidence. He asks himself, "Do I see anything off the bat that stands out as foul play?" Some examples of things a detective might notice: Witnesses present? Position of the body. (In the drawing the body looked to have been dragged onto the floor.) Footprints, bloody or not, and which direction(s) they are going. What kind of shoe. If there is more than one show print. How many different ones. Which directions are they going? Is there furniture dislodged? Might that show a struggle? Bullet holes in the walls? Blood spatter. Directions of drops of blood to indicate movement. Things like that.

2. Smell- Smell can tell a detective a lot. And it's very important that the detective make note of these things right away because smell doesn't last. Does the body smell? This could give some hint to how long the body has been there. What else can your detective smell? Perfume? Gun smoke? Food cooking? Cigarette smoke? Sweat?

Then the detective would ask himself, "Is there a relationship between what I see and what I smell?"

3. Sound- What does the detective hear when he arrives at the scene? Does he hear anyone speaking excited utterances? What is the person saying? Note the reaction of the spouse, other witnesses, or animals. Does he hear footsteps? Breathing?

4. Touch- The detective is always wearing gloves, but that doesn't discount what he feels. What does he notice about the temperature at the scene? Is there a breeze? What does the scene feel like? And what does this tell him?

5. Taste- A detective will also note if there is a taste in the air. For example, maybe there was a cologne that was so strong he could taste it.

The next thing Ray talked about was the crime scene log that tells who came to the scene? at what time? and when did they leave? Then he taught us was how to take evidence and how very important it was not to make any errors. If mistakes are made, good defense attorneys can get the evidence thrown out. So this is a very important job and must be done correctly for every item numbered in the sketch.

He also explained that the body and the evidence belongs to the police department until it is released. And once it is released, the detectives can't have it back. So they must be sure to get everything they need during their investigation.

And then Ray passed out the rubber gloves, gave us all a CD to hold, and taught us how we'd fingerprint the CD if we were collecting it as evidence.

1. We logged in the CD as evidence on a Police Department Property Invoice. Since there was only the one piece of evidence, we put a slash across the form so nothing could be added to it. We filled in our officer name and badge number, which Ray said is usually 3-4 digits long. We put in the date and time, marked the CD as evidence, added the reporting district, and numbered the evidence by starting with the last two digits of the year and then using the next evidence number available. We also noted where we got the evidence. (We didn't have time to finish by signing the thing.)

2. Then we used black fingerprint powder and the cool feather brush to dust our CD for prints.

3. Then we used special tape that's extremely sticky to tape over the prints. You have to do this carefully because you can ruin the prints.

4. Then we peeled off the tape and stuck it to a card, circled which print or prints we wanted the crime lab to run, filled out the info on the back of the card, and placed it in the yellow envelope along with the CD and the pink layer of the Property Invoice. Then we used the special evidence tape to tape up the evidence envelope and put our initials badge number, and the date on the tape. If this is tampered with before it's opened, the evidence is ruined.

Me and my pal Angela Ruth Strong and our evidence.

Pretty interesting, huh? Any questions? I might not be able to answer, but I'll try.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Pitch Us Your Story Finalists

We're so excited to announce the finalists for the Pitch Us Your Story contest!

As a reminder, these pitches had to be 25 words or less. There were many that we liked, but Jill and I finally narrowed it down to these favorites: (These are listed in no particular order)

1. A home-schooled teen thinks she has her life figured out, until disaster strikes, and she has to survive in the real world of high school.

2. A young herbalist is flung into a world of deceit and mystery when she inherits an insolvent estate that someone doesn’t want her to have.

3. A futuristic prosthetics experiment saved the lives of two rival teenagers, but now they must join forces to escape the next chilling step.

4. Two best friends survive a hurricane that devastates the east coast. Alone and desperate, they journey cross-country seeking normalcy, safety, and a new life.

5. Two teens become mutants in a world that will condemn them for their animal instincts unless they can prove they’re human inside.

6. Briar unintentionally journeys to an altered past and views Abraham Lincoln murdered before Gettysburg; those assassins from the future then chase down the witness: her.

7. Lenora Hood, daughter of Robin Hood, had three successful years thieving. Stealing the prince’s fortune should have been easy, but then she fell in love.

8. When Trenton awakens centuries in the future on an artificial planet, he’s imprisoned. For “murdering” plants.  And the government’s respect-all-life policy doesn’t apply to people.

9. A young woman who rides the Underground Railroad to escape an unwanted marriage only adds to her problems when she befriends her “fiancé’s” escaped slave.

10. In medieval France, a timid monk races to hide the bishop's illegitimate daughter before the bishop disposes of her, the only evidence of his sins.

11. It’s a mass kidnapping with seven intended victims, but when it happens, eight people are taken. Trent is the eighth and he has no ransom.

12. Harvey was just an Aryan Nazi before he fell for a Jew; Elsie. There’s one problem – He's supposed to turn her family into the gestapo.

13. A teen boy caught between the world of gangs and a life of faith. When the girl he loves disappears, he'll have to choose sides.

14. Killing is a game to the Underground, but assassin five-one-nine is a pawn determined to escape, to protect the city aboveground, to change the game.

15. None fears the emperor more than his own niece—yet when a silent elder faces death for rebellion, she must choose between interference and life.

16. When 17-year-old school pariah Stephanie is befriended by the boy she used to bully, she never suspects he’s her half-brother. 

17. A regretful high school senior attempts to right a wrong she made by befriending the school outcast, with a little help from her guardian angel.

18. Tasked with killing herself, a prodigious hunter must hide her condemning new status while stalling her hunt of herself or be killed by her brethren.

19. When a villain realizes he is a stereotyped bad guy, he sets out with a clichéd superhero to defeat their true enemy. The author.

20. Mistral’s an experiment in an experiment lab that’s trying to make a Bioweapon. The newest problem to add to her list? Bioweapon just got out.

21. In the future children are controlled by remotes for their whole childhood. Julius, sets out  to destroy the Dictator and find the truth about life.

22. In a steampunk world, a new energy source is discovered by a young female pilot; but her discovery could have deadly consequences.

23. Four writers. Four novels. One premise. They have six months and a prize to dream of: representation from a prominent literary agent. Who will win?

24. Fleeing an unwanted marriage, Eden Trenton stows away aboard a pirate ship. Terrified, yet determined, she sets sail with a notorious captain into the unknown.

25. In a country where twins are outcasts, identical princesses masquerade as one girl - Rylie, heir to the throne. A secret not even their father knows.

If you recognize yours, please send me an email and tell me which one is yours and what the title is so I can verify that you are indeed the author.

Now you get to vote for your 5 favorites! Voting closes Thursday at 12:00pm CDT and winners will be announced on Friday.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Collaborate: a story by Go Teen Writers

by Jill Williamson

Don't forget - your entries for the 25-word pitch contest are due TODAY by 1:00pm CDT.

Collaborative writing is when two or more authors come together to work on a project. Stephanie and I did that with the Go Teen Writers book. But I'm not going to talk about how to collaborate on a project today. Stephanie wrote an article about it, which will be available soon.

Instead, I wanted us to try collaborating on a story in this blog post as an experiment to see how it would work and where the story would go.

This will likely get a little messy. (And I have no idea if it will work!)

Rules: Keep each comment to a few sentencesone to five, perhaps. I want you to look at what was written in the comments that came before yours and think about how you can add to the story or make it stronger. Also, try to leave your contribution in an interesting place for the next commenter to pick things up. You might have to be a little fast, though, as someone might post his comment before you get a chance to post yours.

It's all in good fun. So let's do the best we can. And you're welcome to come back and add more to the story, if you'd like. Just make sure to let others write sentences in between.

I'll start. The first person to comment gets to go next and so on.


 a story by Go Teen Writers

Hand in hand, we walked along the trail that led into the dark forest ...

Thursday, March 14, 2013

5 Things I Learned on My Writing Retreat

by Stephanie Morrill

It's hard to believe that I've been home for a week, but I haven't yet had a chance to talk about my writing retreat. But with

Me, Just Different being a free download on and,
the Go Teen Writers paperback becoming available,

I just haven't been able to squeeze it in until today.

Two weeks ago, I caught a plane to Baltimore for a writing retreat with Roseanna White, who's a frequent guest blogger on Go Teen Writers, my critique partner, and my best friend for the last 5ish years.

Roseanna rented us a cabin in the mountains of Maryland, pretty close to where she lives.

After lunch at Five Guys and a grocery run, we basically barred ourselves in the cabin and wrote.

And wrote.

And wrote.

And wrote.

And wrote.

And then got up early on the day of my flight home and wrote some more.

After Friday night, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday morning, we had both written just over 35,000 words. And we had learned that very odd muscles in your body start to ache when you've been typing for that long. 

Here's what we learned from our writing retreat experience that might benefit you should you plan one:

  1. It was totally worth it. I tend to be kind of a loner when I write (I'm not a #1k1hr girl, nor am I real chatty about my first drafts) so I honestly had some questions about how well I would work across the table from someone - even someone I love as much as Roseanna. While I could have holed up in my office all weekend for a much cheaper writing retreat, I know I wouldn't have gotten as much done because:
  2. The encouragement and motivation is unbelievable. On our first full day, we discovered that we write at a similar pace (Roseanna's a bit faster than I am) and we could do about 10,000 words. On the third full day, I thought I might even be on pace for a 12,000 word day because it was only 8:30 and I had over 9,000 words already! And then I realized I counted wrong, and I really only had 8,000. Which is obviously a fine word count for a day, but it knocked the momentum out of me. Had I been alone, I would have called it a day and grumbled about it the rest of the night. Because Roseanna was there and was on pace to hit 10k, I pushed myself to brush it off and go for 10k too.
  3. It's ideal to go with someone who works in a similar environment as you. Roseanna and I both have small kids to take care of and looming deadlines, which means both of us were very motivated to work. We also both prefer working in silence, so music and the TV stayed off the entire time.
  4. Set goals and a schedule ahead of time. Neither of us knew how much we could actually write in that amount of time, but we knew we wanted to do a lot. We had discussed ahead of time that we would eat most our meals in the cabin (we had a kitchenette) and that maybe we would take a walk and brainstorm sometimes but that mostly we would write. I think it helped a lot that we went into the retreat with the same expectations.
  5. Reward yourself for a job well done. On our last day, my flight didn't leave until about 4. We wanted to drive to the city in time for lunch, though, so we decided to get up early and have one last writing sprint before loading up the car. We both wrote around 2,000 words that morning before 8:00, and then we drove to Annapolis, where we had a guilt-free lunch and stroll around the very cute downtown.
Roseanna was kind about letting me take a thousand pictures of the boats and the bay and everything. I'm a Kansas girl. We don't have this stuff.

Our lunch place. It's in Roseanna's book Love Finds You in Annapolis, Maryland  so of course we had to eat there!
Next year it'll be Roseanna's turn to come out my way. There won't be a beautiful bay or mountains, but there will be coffee and lots of words, so I think we'll still manage to have a good time.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Journey with Gillian: 5 Tips to Surviving a Writers Conference as a Teen

by Gillian Adams

Hanging out with Jill at the conference!

This past September, after months of researching, praying, and gathering all the courage I could muster, I took a deep breath, ignored the butterflies in my stomach—butterflies? It felt more like an elephant doing somersaults!—pasted a confident smile on my face, and attended my first writers conference.

When I first learned that the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) annual conference was taking place in my home state, I was thrilled! I’d planned on attending a conference for some time, so I signed up before I had a chance to chicken out.

But by the time the conference rolled around, I had done enough research to feel somewhat prepared . . . and even more nervous.

Here I was signing up for appointments, attending workshops, and sitting at the same table as multi-published authors, agents, and editors! What was I thinking?

A conference can be a daunting experience for anyone, and I think it can be even more so for teen writers. But there are a few things I learned that I think can help you enjoy a writers conference and make the most of the opportunity.

Have fun

Don’t be so nervous, that you miss out on an awesome time!  I got to hang out with Jill. I met Stephanie and Roseanna face to face, as well as dozens of other authors whose books I’ve read and loved, and even a few writers my age that I still keep in touch with.

A writers conference is an opportunity to meet people like you—crazy people who understand things like difficult plots and obstinate characters, and don’t mind talking about them.

Step out of your comfort zone

Going to the writers conference was a thousand-foot jump out of my comfort zone. But it stretched me, I grew through the experience, and I had a great time.

So step out of your comfort zone. Talk to people you wouldn't normally talk to. Engage adults in conversation. Being comfortable carrying on a conversation with an adult is an invaluable skill to have as a teen—and not just in the writing world.

Confidence is Key

Confidence is one of those things that you have to fake until you make it. Walking through the door with a smile on your face, looking people in the eyes, and taking the first step to introduce yourself rather than waiting for others to come up to you, are all good ways to appear confident and professional.

But at the same time . . .

Don’t be afraid to ask questions

Everyone there was in your position at one point in time. They know what it means to be a first timer and a new writer, and they want you to succeed. So if you’re unsure of something, don’t hesitate to ask! Expect to have questions, have a teachable spirit, and you'll get the most out of the conference.

You don’t have to prove yourself

Because you’re a teen stepping into the professional world, you may feel like you have to prove yourself. Don’t. Yes, it’s a good idea to act professional if you want people to treat you like one. So running up and down the hallway like you’re being chased by zombies, or sneaking around humming Mission Impossible theme music is probably not the best thing to do (although if you claim it’s book research, you might be able to get away with it . . . just kidding).

For the most part, everyone is extremely encouraging. But there will be a few people who will treat you differently because of your age. One lady told me I was just just adorable and looked like I was twelve. (I’m not by the way.) But don’t get defensive. Don’t feel you have to prove yourself. A humble and gracious attitude goes a long way.

It’s not You vs. Them

I tried to get appointments with both editors and agents, and wound up with two editor appointments where I had the chance to pitch my novel. Before the conference, I hunted down and devoured every bit of information that I could find, but as I walked into my first appointment, out of everything I'd learned, two big tips stuck with me:

1.     It's not you versus them. Editors and agents are seeking talent, not trying to prove that you are a failure. So don't expect to hear the executioner drums rolling as you march into your appointment. It can actually be fun!
2.     Editors and agents are people just like you . . . Okay, it sounds a bit silly put like that, but it's easy to read about editors or agents and mentally set them on a pedestal like some marble statue. But they are real people with ordinary lives, families, pets, good days/bad days, just like you. So approach your appointment prepared to have a conversation with a real person. Once I got over my initial nervousness, I enjoyed my appointments and had a pleasant chat with both editors.

At the end of the day, a writers conference is a wonderful time to learn your craft, improve your skills, get feedback, make friends and meet others who are just as passionate about writing as you are!

Are you planning to attend a writers conference in the near future? What are some things you're nervous about? Any questions about writers conferences in general?

I’m off on a grand adventure at the moment—probably canoeing down a river at this moment, or probing the depths of unexplored caverns—so I won’t be able to answer any questions or comments right away, but I will get to them once I get back!

Gillian Adams blogs over at Of Battles, Dragons, and Swords of Adamant where she writes about anything relating to books, fantasy, villains, and costumes. Her book Out of Darkness Rising will be published Fall 2013. She loves interacting with other writers and readers on her blog or facebook page.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

What's a Platform and Do You Need One?

by Jill Williamson

There have been quite a few questions lately about platform, so I thought the topic needed to be talked about where everyone could participate.

What is a platform?
A platform is who you know (have access to) and what you know (can offer the people you have access to). Your skills, accomplishments, education, awards, reputation, what you stand for in life … When all this is communicated to others so that people come to know who you are and how you can help them, that’s platform.

Some might define an author platform as your ability to sell a product to your chosen market.

And literary agent Chip MacGregor says that platform is simply a number that indicates how many people you can reach.

Do you need a platform?
In this day and age, all published authors need a platform of some kind. But do unpublished authors need one? Yes, Then when do you start? Now. Is it ever too early or too late? Nope.

Just do it.

But don’t freak out. This doesn’t have to be stressful. The important thing is that you will showing an agent or editor that you’re willing and capable of marketing yourself in some way. Also, the sooner you register a blog or website and start putting in time on it, Google starts your ranking credit (my term, not theirs). I’ve owned my domain name since 2002. That’s over ten years of me being online in some way, proving that I am Jill Williamson. If you Google my name, I’m not only the first name you see, I’m all over the place. I’ve done a good job of putting myself online. And Google knows who I am. You want your name or platform to be in the number one spot when an agent or editor Googles you.

But how do you know what to do?
Chip MacGregor says that the trick to good marketing is “to figure out where the readers who would be interested in your story are gathering, then go stand in front of them.”

I think that says it best.

You might not be able to stand in front of people in person, but you can be findable online. Fiction authors often get frustrated with platform since it seems like most everyone is either writing a blog for authors or doing book reviews. And, yes, it’s true that those things have been overdone by fiction authors, including Stephanie and me. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do blog about writing or books if that’s your passion. You simply have to find a unique approach or angle that sets you apart and attracts your potential and unique audience.

Here are some steps that should help you brainstorm what types of platforms might work for you.

1. Pinpoint your audience
Do you write science fiction, fantasy, mystery/suspense, Amish romance, books for teen girls, books for middle grade boys, or steamy romance novels? Whatever you write, that’s the audience you should be seeking to connect with. And if you’re writing for kids of any age, you might consider parents or teachers as part of your platform. But a blog for parents likely will be a blog that teens don’t visit. So you have to choose which audience to go after based on who you are and who you best relate to.

2. Figure out where your audience gathers
Where do the readers in your genre hang out? Are there any professional organizations they like to join? What magazines or blogs do they read? Are they on Facebook or Twitter or YouTube? Know them enough to find them.

3. Do you already have access to people?
Are you famous? Have connections with celebrities? Are you an officer in a big organization? Do you work for any type of media? Do you teach or speak to a large group of people regularly? Do you appear on TV? host a radio show? have a newspaper column? write a popular blog? have a regular column in a newspaper, magazine, website, or e-zine?

4. What interests you? What are you good at or an expert about?
Are you funny? Smart? Do you have a unique skill? Do you like a certain topic enough to become an expert? For example, Gillian Adams knows a ton about horses. She could start a blog about horses that, over time, could make her an online expert. And as long as there are always horses in her fiction books, that might work well.

Consider writing a mission statement for your life to help you pinpoint goals, what you stand for, and what message you hope to share with the world so that your platform. I wrote one once. Click here to read about how I did it.

Here’s a list of ideas of things you could do:
-write articles for newspapers, magazines, newsletters, blogs, or ezines
-lead online discussions groups
-develop educational or entertaining resources (mp3 downloads, YouTube tutorials, radio shows, podcasts…)
-give away your content via audio or video recordings (short stories, chapters from a novel, cut scenes, cool research, drafts of work-in-progress that invite comments, extras like maps and drawings. You could deliver this through your blog or places like ScribD or Smashwords)
-create YouTube videos like Rachel Coker does
-Partner with peers to share the work and create a bigger platform

All of these activities have a number of potential readers associated with them. Be creative. But always offer something of value. And don’t rave about how awesome you are.

5. Choose a home base for your platform
Yes, platform is the number Chip MacGregor talks about. To get that number you add up all the places you appear before people. For example, if I talk to one school with 400+ students each month. That’s 4800 students a year. I have 2400 Facebook followers. So I add those two numbers and now my platform would be 7200 people. Add to that my ezine subscribers, Twitter followers, blog followers, YouTube followers, the Go Teen Writer’s blog followers, etc, and I get one big (hopefully) number.

But there is a place where I should be spending most my time. (And I’m still struggling to identify this, which is why my platform is weak.) Do I point people to my website? My Facebook page? YouTube? I still don’t know. And that’s bad. I need to figure it out, and so should you. Once you do, pour most your efforts there, and all other online platforms should feed into that main one. For example, Julian Smith is on Twitter and Facebook. But YouTube is his home base. And his Facebook and Twitter point people to YouTube, where his real platform is.

So think about your strengths and which online location could best display those strengths to the public. You don’t have to have a blog. If acting is your strength or singing or music, you could start a YouTube channel or podcast stories or discussions on your blog or iTunes. Think about how famous people can get on YouTube. Justin Bieber is a great example. And Julian Smith (1,255,698 YouTube followers) with his funny videos. My favorite is I’m Reading a Book.  Or the Piano Guys (1,444,542 YouTube followers) with their clever videos. I like so many of them, but one of my favorites is the Cello Wars (Star Wars Parody) Lightsaber Duel that has 11,777,184 views. Now that’s a successful platform.

How can you attract these kinds of numbers? What are your strengths? What can you do that will get people talking and sharing links to your stuff. That’s what you need.

Chris Kolmorgen and his friend Jacob Parker have a gift for making people laugh on YouTube. They did some videos about the word wars they had writing their novels. This could easily become their platform. Check out these two: Jacob loses and eats grasshopper. And Chris loses and must sing the song Jacob wrote.

6. Include your personality
If someone likes you, he will likely buy your book. He will want you to succeed. So be authentic. Be you. Let your personality come through in whatever you do. Let people know what you’re good at, bad at, love, hate. You will attract people who like you and repel people who don’t. And that’s a good thing.

7. Be consistent
If you only blog once, no one will find you. Chris and Jacob’s fun videos aren’t really a platform because they only made two of them! You have to be consistent at whatever you do. You could do it once a month, once a week, or daily. But your followers will come to expect that you follow through on your promise. If you don’t, they’ll find someone who will.

8. Never ask
Platform is not about self-promotion, calling attention to yourself, bragging, or yelling “Here I am! Pay attention to me!” It’s not about telling people they should read or buy your book. That’s annoying.

Instead, draw people to you by offering them something they want. Platform is about giving away something of value for free. It’s about sharing and helping others. Be entertaining or offer valuable information. Make friends.

Some people are better at platform than others. That’s life. And there is no list of rules I can offer that will ensure a successful platform. You can’t buy one, either, nor can you create one overnight, even if you had a Harry Potter wand. Platform takes time. If you start now, it will add up eventually.

What are you doing to build an author platform? And if you’re not doing anything, what could you do?

Monday, March 11, 2013

A New Contest - Pitch Us Your Story!

by Stephanie Morrill

The paperback version of Go Teen Writers: How to turn your first draft into a published book is finally available! You can find it on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and while it likely won't be on the shelves of your local bookstore, they can order it for you, if you like.

To celebrate, Jill and I are launching a contest. We want you to pitch your story to us! You have 25 words or less to tell us about your story.

Your pitch should create a compelling mental picture that implies an entire story. It should say something about who your characters are, what kind of dilemma they're facing, the tone of the story, and a clue about the intended audience. (A one-line for a regency novel will sound different than a one-line for a romantic comedy.)

Be sure that you're pitching us your story and not giving us a tagline. A tagline is something you might find on a movie poster. The tagline for my upcoming release, The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet is, "Don't just get even - write a novel." A pitch, however, would be, "A teen writer uses storywriting to cope with her cruel friends, never dreaming that they’ll find out and make her pay." See the difference?

Here's how the contest will work:

1. Sometime between now and 1:00pm (Kansas City time) Friday, March 15th, you can fill out the form below with your pitch and the title of your manuscript. If your manuscript is not yet titled, please make up a title. The title is going to act as your password, basically, because you won't be putting your name on your entry. Since Jill and I are the ones doing the judging, we want this to be anonymous.

2. After the contest closes, Jill and I will read through the entries. We will pick our favorite 10 to 20, depending on how many entries there are.

3. On Monday, March 18th, Jill and I will post the pitches that finalled. You will not be receiving an email that you finalled, you'll need to check back on the blog to find out. We will not be posting titles though, so when you claim an entry belongs to you, you'll have to confirm the title with me so I can be sure.

4. To determine the top three entries, we will open up voting for four days. (From Monday the 18th to Thursday the 21st.)

5. On Friday the 22nd, we will announce who the top three are. The top three will receive a copy of the Go Teen Writers book. If they already have a copy of the book, we'll work out an alternate prize.

This contest is open to all ages and all countries. One entry per person please.  

Questions? Leave them in the comments section or send me an email.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Get my first novel for FREE!

Stephanie here. I'm super excited that my publisher is offering my debut novel, Me, Just Different as a free download for a limited time. 

If you've already read the book or own a paperback, it's still helpful for me if you download it. That helps get the book up higher on lists, which broadens the visibility of the book. (I'm saying that because I used to feel guilty about downloading free books. You shouldn't!)

If you've read the books and you don't mind writing reviews, that's very helpful too. They don't need to be long either, just something simple is great.

My publisher has also put the other two books in the series, Out with the In Crowd and So Over It on sale, so if you've already read the first book, you can read the rest of Skylar's story for super cheap.

Click here to get So Over It for your Kindle.
Click here to get So Over It for your Nook.

I know a ton of you are swamped with school work at the moment, but the season of poolside reading isn't too far away, so it's a great time to load up your ereader!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Historical Periods

by Jill Williamson

Today is our last freebie printable post day. *frown*

When I start thinking about writing a new story, I think about history. I ask myself what time period might I set the story in? Even if I'm writing fantasy, and I usually am. Not all fantasy stories have to be medieval. My Blood of Kings fantasy was medieval. And many popular fantasy books are set in that type of a storyworld. But I'm working on a Regency fantasy right now, and I'm having so much fun!

Here's a list of historical periods that are primarily from Europe and the Americas. But the inspiration doesn't end there. Our earth has a rich history. Think of all the time periods and locations you could model a story in. Asia. Australia. Africa. There is a lot of history to use for brainstorming a storyworld. And if you write historical, that's cool too.

Click here for the printable link: Historical Periods

The Stone Age - The Beginning to 2000 BC
The Bronze Age - 3600 BC–600 BC
The Iron Age - 1200BC–400AD
Barbarian Invasions - 300AD–700AD
Medieval - 400AD–1500AD
Renaissance - 1500AD–1700AD
Elizabethan (UK) - 1558AD–1603AD
Jacobean (UK) - 1603AD–1625AD
Caroline (UK) - 1625–1649
Interregnum (UK) - 1649–1660
Restoration (UK) - 1660–1688
Georgian (UK) - 1714–1830
Napoleonic Era (FR) - 1799–1815
Regency (UK) - 1811–1837
Victorian (UK) - 1837–1901
Edwardian (UK) - 1901–1910
Colonial - 1492–1775
Native American - 1492–1900
Revolution - 1775–1800
Turn of the 19th Century - 1795–1810
West - 1800–1890
Regency era in Europe/Federal era in the US - 1811–1820
War of 1812 - 1812
Antebellum - 1820–1861
Victorian UK/US - 1837–1901
Frontier - 1845–1916
South - 1860–1920
Civil War - 1861–1865
Reconstruction - 1865–1887
Turn of the Century - 1890–1915
World War I - 1914–1918
Interwar period - 1918–1939
Roaring Twenties - 1920–1929
Great Depression - 1929–World War II
World War II - 1939–1945
Post WWII - 1945–1950
Atomic Age - after 1945
Post-war era - 1946–1962
Cold War (Soviet Union and US) -1945–1989 or 1991
Space Age - after 1957
The Sixties - 1960–1969
Turbulent 1960’s/War in Vietnam
Post-Modern (Soviet Union and United States) -1973–present
Information Age - 1970–present
The Seventies - 1970–1979
The Eighties - 1980–1989
The Nineties - 1990–1999
The 2000s - 2000–2009
The Social Age - 2004–present
The Tens - 2010–2019
The Big Data age - 2001–present

What era intrigues you?

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Character Freebies

by Jill Williamson

Today's freebies are all about characters. You've likely seen these here before, unless you're new to Go Teen Writers. But we've updated these and made them printer friendly. When you're stuck with a flat character, read over these lists and see if you can come up with some ideas that will make that character come to life.

Click on each link for the printables.

And feel free to pin our cool author quotes to Pinterest, if you've got a page. Have fun thinking about your characters today!