Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Break for Go Teen Writers

Hey, guys! Jill, Shannon, and I are taking a break from blogging over the holidays and will be back January 5th.

Here are some highlights from 2014

A Day In The Life of An Agent

Why I've Decided to Stop Setting Writing Goals

7 Final Steps Before You Turn In Your Book

How To Pace A Big Reveal In Your Novel

Can A Teenager Be Taken Seriously Conducting Interviews

Does Your Character Have Six Things That Need Fixing?

What Does A Writer Do All Day?

Is There More Than One Plot Type?

Images, Animated Gifs, and Copyright Laws for Bloggers

How to Show Your Story Instead of Telling It

10 Ways To Deal With The Love Triangle In Your Book

What I Learned From Deconstructing A Book

Is It Possible To Get Your First Novel Published?

How To Edit Your Novel In Layers

How Can Fan Fiction Help You?

How To Write a Sequel

Write a Novel, Ten Minutes At A Time

8 Details to Notice On A Research Trip

How To Show Transitions of Time In Your Novel

What Is New Adult Fiction?

How Do You Organize Your Story Ideas?

How to Develop Your Story Idea Into a List of Key Scenes and Part Two

Creating Compelling Characters: The Character Chart

How to Effectively Test Your Characters

What Is a Log Line And How Do You Write One?

What Is A High Concept Pitch And How Do You Write One?

10 Things I Did In My Teens That Helped Me Get Published

How To Edit As You Write Your First Draft

Publishing 101: How Do You Get A Book Published?

10 Tips For How To Behave at A Writers Conference

Worldbuilding For A Historical

Creating Creatures for Your Novel

Being Fueled From Within

Questions To Ask When Editing Scenes

Writing A Book Is Hard

Creating The Culture Of Your Story

Suspension of Disbelief

Preparing To Get Your Manuscript Critiqued

How To Give A Good Critique

Does My Book Need A Prologue?

Does My Novel Need An Epilogue?

Where To Start

Intriguing Story Openings

Predictability Creates Opportunity

We'll see you back here January 5th!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Giveaway Day 12: Gotham Writers' Workshop

Stephanie here! I'm invading Shan's giveaway to share the winning entries from our writing prompt contest. Many, MANY thanks to the 33 students at John Adams Academy who helped judge and pick our winners!

First place, by M. P. Reed

        I would need a lot of luck to make it out of this alive.

  I tear through the woods. The world is silent save for the crunching of leaves under my slippers, and the shredding of my dress. I cry out as my head is jerked back. My numb hands fumble to find my hair caught in an unforgiving maple tree's fingers. Gritting my teeth, I tug free; picking up the remains of my wedding dress, I continue to run.

My heart pounds. My arms bleed. My legs burn.

  I trip on a gnarled root five paces on.

“Charlotte, where are you?” David's voice is sing song. He's right behind me. "Found you.”

  I scream.

The feedback: 16 kids selected this as their favorite. And with great details like "unforgiving maple tree's fingers" and the surprise of a wedding dress, it's easy to understand why!

Second place, by Megan S.

        I would need a lot of luck to make it out of this alive.
My stomach churned, and acid burned the back of my throat. I glanced down at the road and watched the vehicles zoom past each other at breakneck speeds. Swallowing, I closed my eyes.
I rubbed my hands against the ropes that bound them, trying to force my mind from the dizzying height. The skin on my wrists burned, but at least the pain was something else to think about.
A gunshot sounded, breaking my concentration
I grinned.
Death by torture was not my fate.
I rocked backwards and toppled over the side of the building.

At least, not that day.

The feedback: 9 kids selected this as their favorite. This opening, especially that last line, raises some great questions! We would definitely keep reading.

Third place, by Alexa M.

Jade would need a lot of luck to make it out of this alive.
She sprinted down the roof and leapt, tucking her knees beneath her, for a fantastic second, flying. Then she slammed and rolled into the next rooftop. Balancing on the rusty shingles, she checked her pocket. Keiko’s crystal? Still safe.
She glanced back. Yup, still after her, their blaring sirens and flashing lights broadcasting her theft to the entire city. Overhead, the whir of helicopter blades alerted anyone who missed the string of cop cars. Jade rolled her eyes. Stupid police. Why didn’t they give up already?
Isn’t it obvious? her alter ego whispered. This time, they can actually catch you.

The feedback: Written with such clarity and precision, we want to know if Jade gets out of this or if her alter ego is on to something.

Now I'll turn it over to Shannon for today's giveaway!

Hey all! On our last day of the giveaway, I'm offering a copy of Writing Fiction from Gotham Writers' Workshop, New York's acclaimed creative writing school. The writing exercises in this book were extremely helpful to me and I hope they'll offer some insight to one lucky winner!

This giveaway is for all writers in all countries. Please be sure to leave us the correct contact info so we can get in touch with you if you win. We will also update this post with the winner's name once they've been selected.

Tell me, what do you want for Christmas?

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Monday, December 22, 2014

Giveaway Day 11: Dark Halo prize pack

Shannon here! I get to wrap up the 12 Days of Christmas. Today, I'm giving away a Dark Halo prize pack. It'll consist of the last book in my Angel Eyes trilogy, two Dark Halo bookmarks, and a Dark Halo poster.

This giveaway is for all writers in all countries. Please be sure to leave us the correct contact info so we can get in touch with you if you win. We will also update this post with the winner's name once they've been selected.

Tell me, who is your favorite fictional villain?

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Sunday, December 21, 2014

Giveaway Day 10: Write Your Novel From The Middle by James Scott Bell

Stephanie here. I'm giving away an ebook of James Scott Bell's Write Your Novel From the Middle.

I read this book over the summer, and I found it to be a really fresh view on creating a story. Bell talks about the importance of having a "midpoint" in your book and gives several great examples of how this is done well in successful stories. 

What I really liked about this is that it's a tool that can be used, as the subtitle says, regardless of if you're a plotter, pantser, or hybrid

This giveaways is for writers in all countries. Please be sure to leave us the correct contact info so that we can reach you should you win. We will also update this post with the winner's name once they've been selected.

Is the beginning, middle, or end of the story your favorite to write?

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Saturday, December 20, 2014

Giveaway Day 9: Orphan's Song by Gillian Bronte Adams

Update: Congratulations to our winner, Bethany!

Stephanie here! Gillian Bronte Adams is our guest today. She's sharing about her experience with cutting her debut novel from 120,000 words to 80,000, and we're giving away a paperback copy of it to one lucky commenter! Details are at the end of the post.

Gillian Bronte Adams is a sword-wielding, horse-riding, coffee-loving speculative fiction author from the great state of Texas. During the day, she manages the equestrian program at a youth camp. But at night, she kicks off her boots and spurs, pulls out her trusty laptop, and transforms into a novelist. Orphan’s Song, the first book in her fantasy trilogy The Songkeeper Chronicles, is now available. Hang out with Gillian on her blogTwitter, or Facebook page where she loves chatting about all things related to fantasy, books, villains, and adventures.

When I signed with Amanda Luedeke as my agent, she told me that she really liked the story and characters of Orphan’s Song, but thought it was too long. I needed to trim it down to get at the true heart of the story.

At that time, Orphan’s Song clocked in at about 120,000 words.

My new goal was 80,000 words.

So I tore into my novel with sword in hand determined to cut 30,000 words from my story. At the beginning, I didn’t think it was possible. There was absolutely no way I could cut 10,000 words from my story, let alone 30,000. I would give it my best shot, but come on, those 30,000 words were necessary!

But I drew up a plan and held to it like a lifeline as I dove into the turbulent waters of my novel, and it wasn’t long before I was treading water and headed toward shore.
I decided I would…

1.Be intentional about every word I allowed to stay

This meant that I often read and re-read and re-wrote sentences and paragraphs at least ten times before deciding that I’d said exactly what I meant to say in the best words I could choose to say it in.

Now, the best words are not always the fewest words. I’m a lyrical writer. I love using cadence and rhythm and varying short and long sentences to develop vivid word pictures and suck the reader into the emotion of the moment. But knowing how to balance your love of words with a desire to keep the plot moving is key.

And a great descriptive phrase that’s bogged down in a massive paragraph full of description won’t have as great of an effect, so learning to minimize words for maximum impact is a great thing.

2. Ensure that every scene added to the story

Once I realized I needed to trim my scene count, I started boiling each scene down to its bones to figure out what really needed to be in my story. Each scene needed to move the story forward, whether it was advancing toward a key plot point, laying the grounds for conflict, revealing an important piece of information, or simply pushing my characters toward who they needed to be by the end.

If a scene didn’t accomplish at least one of those goals, and preferably more than one, it was voted off the Island.

This was where I learned to combine scenes to keep the story moving and amp up the conflict between characters who were focused on accomplishing different goals in the same scene.

3. Cut unnecessary dialogue

Sometimes once my characters got talking, it was so hard to get them to stop. Especially once those juicy tidbits of backstory started floating to the surface. But I found that I had to curtail my characters’ talkativeness to the important bits or wind up with scenes that were nearly as longwinded as a bagpipe.

It’s really important to do this with internal dialogue too. It’s easy to fall in love with being in your characters’ heads and being privy to all of their thoughts and emotions. But it’s also easy to slip into using internal dialogue as a means of telling what’s really going on, rather than letting the audience see it.

So if the internal dialogue is just telling, cut it. And if your characters’ conversations start getting out of hand, reel them back in. Cut to the chase. Focus on what’s important to further the plot, build character development, and give your story that flavor that makes it uniquely yours.

In the end, I cut my 30,000 words from the story and wound up with a novel that felt a thousand times cleaner and sharper. I still have a tendency to write long, but keeping these three things in the back of my mind has helped me reel in my crazy first drafts to something much more manageable and easier to edit later on.

Stephanie again. Here's Gillian's book:

This is the actual copy I'll be mailing to you. After Christmas, because the idea
of going back to the post office before... *Shudder*

Due to the unfortunate price of international shipping, this giveaway is only available to U.S. residents. When leaving your information, please make sure to be accurate so we can reach you should you win! We will be updating this post with the winner once we've selected him or her.

Most writers tend to "write short" or "write long" like Gillian does. Which one are you?

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Friday, December 19, 2014

Giveaway Day 8: Your Choice of a Stephanie Morrill Novel

Update: Congratulations Pamela L.! You're the winner!

Stephanie here. Today's giveaways is your choice of any of my novels:

Click to read more about The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series

Click to read more about the Ellie Sweet books
Joking :) This one is always free on my website.

Due to the unfortunate price of international shipping, this giveaway is only available to U.S. residents. When leaving your information, please make sure to be accurate so we can reach you should you win! We will be updating this post with the winner once we've selected him or her.

When I was in middle school, I created a character named Skylar Lynn Hoyt because my initials were SLH. I wrote several Skylar stories before she landed for good in what became my debut novel. If you could rename yourself, what would you pick?

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Giveaway Day 7: 2k to 10k by Rachel Aaron

Update: Bianca C. is our winner! Congratulations!

Stephanie here, and I'm continuing the 12 Days of Giveaways here on Go Teen Writers with a craft book I read this fall.

I stumbled upon 2k to 10k: How to write faster, write better, and write more of what you love a few months ago. Because I was already in the middle of edits for my project, I haven't been able to try out her first draft strategies, but I'm eager to with my next manuscript.

Rachel's book isn't some fancy system for writing your novels, but rather it's ideas about how to maximize the writing time you have using three simple tools:

Knowledge: Know what you're writing before you write it.

Time: Use your most effective hours for writing and writing only.

Enthusiasm: You write better and faster when you like the scene you're writing.

After some trial and error, once Rachel had all three of those things clicking, she went from writing 2,000 words everyday to 10,000 words everyday. This book was born out of a blog post she wrote on the matter, so you can check that out too.

She has some really great editing advice in the book too. It was a really worthwhile read, and some of you writers who are at the place where you're taking writing more seriously or pursuing it as a career would find it helpful, I believe.

Warning: There's some language in this book. I don't think it's anything that would have shocked my high school aged ears, but I want to be respectful of sensitivities and let you guys know before you enter to win.

This giveaway is open to writers in all countries and will be up for 24 hours. Please make sure you leave the correct information for us so that we can contact you! We will also update the posts with the winners, so you can check back.

How much time do you have for writing on a regular day or in a regular week? Generally speaking, do you feel like you use your time well?

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Giveaway Day 6: A critique from editor Rachelle Rea

Update: Our winner is Naomi Downing! Congratulations!

Stephanie here! I'm super excited that we have Rachelle Rea with us today to share 5 Tips for A Successful Self-Edit. 

It's a little surreal to me that my little Rachelle is a qualified guest poster these days. *Sniff, sniff.* Rachelle has been around Go Teen Writers basically since it began, and it's been such a joy to watch her grow and mature. Not only is her writing beautiful - her debut novel releases next summer with WhiteFire Publishing - but she's building a reputation as an amazing editor too. I've heard both Roseanna M. White and Lisa T. Bergren sing her praises. 

We're so touched that today Rachelle is giving away a 25 page critique to one lucky writer! You'll be in excellent hands.

SwitchedRachelle Rea writes novels by night. By day, she coaches others in the craft as a freelance editor. As a homeschool and college grad, her favorite subject was always history. So, until time travel is possible or a Tardis lands in her front yard, she writes about times gone by. She wrote her debut novel and first historical in one summer between sophomore and junior year of college. That novel will be released by WhiteFire Publishing next summer.
 Hi, I'm Rachelle, and I edit for other people. 
I correct typos and punctuation, check to make sure tense and point of view remain consistent, and suggest changes that ensure clarity. I enjoy my job. I also edit my own novels. Do you expect me to say I don't enjoy that job? Well, I do. 
But it's a lot harder to edit my own writing than it is to take the words of other people and push and pull until they're perfectly in place. Why is that? Why do my own words look pristine on the page until someone else finds a typo or points out that the scene I deleted is referenced in Chapter Three? 
Because I think I know what I'm talking about. 
When I sit down with my own document and make it a goal to power through a set number of pages before I fall into bed, I go in knowing what to expect. I have an image in my mind of what the heroine and her hero look like. I hear what they sound like. I may miss the reference to the deleted scene because I remember that deleted scene (and may forget that it's, um, deleted). It's part of the story in my mind. 
So my pre-first step for you when you sit down to edit your own words is don't. Wait. Stephanie's a fan of six weeks. I've gone as long as a year (I was writing the sequel, okay? Sheesh). When you write The End, revel in it. Throw a party. Give yourself some distance before you start self-editing.
Six weeks is over? Okay, then. Let's get started.

1. Read Your Novel.

A lot of authors recommend this: that you read your entire novel for a big-picture look at how you want to macro-edit before you tackle the micro-edit. Simply, scenes before sentences. This didn't work for me until I discovered you can email documents to your Kindle. Hallelujah. So read your whole novel and...

2. Make a List of Big Changes.

When I edit my own novel or someone else's, I keep a notepad handy. Or sticky notes. Anything. Later, I compile all my story notes into a document named just that and I look at the list as a whole. What do my notes deal with? Shades of suspicion. Wherever I doubt a character's motives (or where there seems to be little motive at all), wherever I'm confused about the timeline (and, alas, this happens often in my historicals), wherever I question whether a scene is really needed or can be summarized. I note all of it, make a list, and study that list until I decide how I'm going to go about removing every shade of suspicion. Next up...

3. Make a List of Small Changes.

This is often regressive for me. For instance, my novel's heroine is near-sighted and wears glasses (did I just hear some of you cheering?). In an early draft, she lost her glasses yet conveniently possessed a second pair. On her person. In the middle of a voyage across the English Channel. Yeah. This didn't make it onto my List of Big Changes, but it did seem contrived to an early reader. So I made it more realistic: she just lost them. Doing that, though, enabled me to make her more vulnerable later. Win. Don't be afraid to make small changes and see how that shifts your character's development or the plotline of the whole novel.

4. Editing is No Longer Optional.

This stage is not the final polish, but treat it like it is. Treat this like your mother, grandmother, or an agent you aspire to work with one day is going to read this draft. A note to speed-readers: refrain. Instead of glancing at the sentence, comprehending, and moving on, sound out the words in your head as you read. Slow going? Absolutely. Worth it? Every time.

5. Polish Until It Shines

This looks different for different writers. Some ideas:
  • Hand out copies to your friends.
  • Let your critique group read chapters.
  • Email your writing partner.
  • Ask a trusted mentor to tell you what she thinks.
  • Hire an editor.
Then? Implement their suggestions. Sift through what they say for what feels right to you, the author, but remember they have that distance you will never have with this story and they may make suggestions you don't want to make but perhaps need to. Finally, make sure you read that manuscript over again, catching the reference to the Long Since Deleted Scene in Chapter Three. ;)​

Lots of writers have a favorite part of writing the first draft. Do you have a favorite part of the editing process?

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Giveaway Day 5: A Time to Die by Nadine Brandes

The winner of the copy of A Time to Die by Nadine Brandes is Emma Davis.

Congratulations, Emma! Contact to claim your prize!

Jill here. 

To celebrate the coming holiday and vacation, we're hosting the 12 Giveaways of Christmas. That's 12 giveaways, 12 days in a row

It's now time for Day 5.

Each giveaway will run for 48 hours, so be sure and check back each day to see what giveaway is next and who the winners are.

Today, I'm giving away a copy of my friend Nadine Brandes's dystopian novel A Time to Die. She also has some writing advice to share with you.

Advice for Teen Writers

Ah, you’d like advice? *ahem ahem* Build good writing habits now in your life. Being a teen has its demands and busyness (don’t you know it?), but those demands and busyness grow the older you get. Add a hubby to the mix, some kiddos, and homemade dinners every day? Ack! When will you write? Well, that’s where habits come in (just ask Jill!) If you form writing habits right now, even if it’s just a small word count per week, then you will always be progressing in your writing in the future, whether it’s word count, diligence, or honing your craft. Now is the time to start.

And a second piece of advice (because I can’t just give one) is to go to a writer’s conference! I attended my first one at age 17 and it drop-kicked me to an entire new level of writing. (Painful, but totally worth it.) Even if it’s a small conference, try to attend. You won’t regret it!

Thanks, Nadine! That's great advice. As mentioned, I'm giving away a copy of A Time to Die by Nadine Brandes. International entries are welcome. If an international person wins, I'll ship the book from The Book Depository. 

Here's a little bit about the story:

How would you live if you knew the day you'd die?

Parvin Blackwater believes she has wasted her life. At only seventeen, she has one year left according to the Clock by her bedside. In a last-ditch effort to make a difference, she tries to rescue Radicals from the government's crooked justice system.

But when the authorities find out about her illegal activity, they cast her through the Wall -- her people's death sentence. What she finds on the other side about the world, about eternity, and about herself changes Parvin forever and might just save her people. But her clock is running out.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Giveaway Day 4: Winner's Choice of a Jill Williamson Novel

The winner of the copy of the Jill Williamson novel is Carilyn E.

Congratulations, Carilyn! Contact to claim your prize!

Jill here. 

To celebrate the coming holiday and vacation, we're hosting the 12 Giveaways of Christmas. That's 12 giveaways, 12 days in a row

And heeeeeerrrrrrreeeeeee's Day 4!

Each giveaway will run for 48 hours, so be sure and check back each day to see what giveaway is next and who the winners are.

Day 4 is the Jill Williamson FICTION winner's choice giveaway. International entries welcome. Choose any one of my novels or novellas. I'll sign it and mail it to you. And if you live outside the USA, I'll mail the book via The Book Depository.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Giveaway Day 3: Go Teen Writers/Storyworld First Two-Pack and a Guest Post from Raychel Rose

The winner of the copy of the Go Teen Writers/Storyworld First Two-Pack is Linea Marshall.

Congratulations, Linea! Contact to claim your prize!

Jill here. 

To celebrate the coming holiday and vacation, we're hosting the 12 Giveaways of Christmas. That's 12 giveaways, 12 days in a row

Day 3 has arrived.

Each giveaway will run for 48 hours, so be sure and check back each day to see what giveaway is next and who the winners are.

Today we have teen author Raychel Rose, whom I met at this year's ACFW conference.

Raychel began writing at a young age and has been writing ever since. She is the aspiring author of Flee The Cage, a young adult dystopian. When not writing, Raychel jams to too much Nirvana and piles way too many books to her to-be-read shelf. She writes young adult fiction, in several subgenres. Her other activities include, living it up for Jesus, procrastinating on Pinterest, and fangirling. You can learn more about Raychel on her blog.

My Writers Conference Experience

by Raychel Rose

With shaky hands I signed up for the ACFW conference. In the days that followed, doubt settled in my belly. Days before the conference, I was sick to my stomach because I dreaded having to pitch my novel.
      Stress weighed heavily on me as I began preparation. I tried to figure out what in the world a proposal was, revise the last chapters of my book, and faced many computer and printing difficulties.
      The only thing I was concerned about was those meetings. Not until the day before did I really think about what else the conference offered. I would end up making friends, learning my craft, and opening opportunities. So I prayed, a lot, and took a step forward. I tried as much as I could to shake the nerves away, and mostly succeeded.
     The first thing I did was register. That’s where I met Jill for the first time. I was so excited to meet her because I had been following the Go Teen Writer’s Blog for about two years now.
      The first timer’s orientation followed. It settled down a lot of anxiety to see other people there for the first time. Near the end they separated us into what genre we wrote, so I got to meet other young adult writers.
     The next day, the nerves of going to my first agent meeting began. I sat with my mom and we waited and prayed. Then the time came and I wobbled down to meet with Amanda Luedeke. Though the wobbling might have been from the new heels I was trying to break in (seriously don’t do that at a conference, I have blisters to prove it).
       After entering the wrong meeting room, I found Amanda, shook her hand, and sat down. My pitch started with, “What if a book told you you lived in a world based on lies?” Amanda was kind and smiled during the whole meeting. She read my work and gave me some feedback. She said I had great talent but there were things I needed to work on. I left the meeting, smiling and happy, even though she didn’t ask for any of my story. I loved the feedback she gave me. Before I knew it, the fifteen minutes whizzed by.
      After the meeting, I felt calm so I signed up for more appointments. Why had I worried so much about them? 
      Right after my first meeting I had another with Ann Byle. She took my proposal and gave great feedback as well. That night I met with two more agents: one wanted the full and a short story (I had to pitch that one from scratch!), the other offered great advice. The next morning would hold my last meeting, and this agent asked for my full, a short story, and a list of any other story ideas I had.
        Even though I missed half of two workshops and one all together (I was too excited when the agent offered to see the full), I learned a lot, and not just from the workshops.
      I met so many amazing people: Linda Farmer Harris, Cara Grandle, Braxton DeGarno, Diana Sharples, Jill Williamson, and other writers. They were friendly, willing to offer advice, and take time to ask me how everything was working out.
       Are you thinking about going to a writer’s conference? If so here’s some advice:

  • If you’re signing up to meet with agents, just remember they’re human and they might be just as nervous as you!
  • Do your research before going. Google “writing conferences” and take notes.
  • Make sure your manuscript is done and polished before you go, so if you get any requests, you can email it right away when you get home.
  • Break in shoes before the conference.
  • Order business cards. (I brought fifty with me and only had four left at the end of the conference).
  • Make sure you have a blog or social site, so people can contact you.
  • And most of all remember to smile and relax.      
I plan on going to many more conferences. They’re a great way to skip ahead of other writers in line with query letters and to build your networking platform. Remember that it’s okay to be a little nervous. I hope you all can one day go to a conference and make great connections. Just remember to pick a conference that’s right for you and your writing.

Are you planning/hoping to go to a conference in the future? Or have you already attended one? If so what is your advice? Share in the comments.

Thanks for that post, Raychel! Today we're giving away a 2-pack. The Go Teen Writers book and a copy of Storyworld First, both in paperback. Enter on the Rafflecopter form below. USA entries only on this one as these are copies in our homes that we'll be sending out. Thanks!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Giveaway Day 2: Running Lean by Diana L. Sharples

The winner of the copy of Running Lean by Diana L. Sharples is Lisa Canfield.

Congratulations, Lisa! Contact to claim your prize!

Jill here. 

To celebrate the coming holiday and vacation, we're hosting the 12 Giveaways of Christmas. That's 12 giveaways, 12 days in a row. 

Welcome to Day 2.

Each giveaway will run for 48 hours, so be sure and check back each day to see what giveaway is next and who the winners are.

Today, my friend 
Diana L. Sharples is giving away an autographed copy of her novel Running Lean. She also has some writing advice to share with you.

Advice for Teen Writers

You’ve no doubt heard the old story about the tortoise and the hare. The hare thought he could win the race by running as fast as he could, and he was so far ahead of the tortoise that he felt he could take a break. While the hare was napping, the slow and steady tortoise made it to the finish line.

At times I’m reminded of this story when I see some people rush to publish their work, either by submitting it too early or by jumping into self-publishing. And many times the result is one rejection letter after another, or a book that cost a lot of money to produce but isn’t selling. So many teens have asked me, “How do I get published?” My heart goes out to them, because I understand that desire so well! But it’s really the wrong question. I feel a better question should be, “How do I hone my craft so my work is worthy of publication?”

That can be a slower, even harder road, but that tortoise pace may be what’s needed to win the race … because having patience and staying the course will make you a better writer, whether you choose to self publish or submit to a traditional publishing house. Stay the course, and learn to love the journey. You’ll be rewarded with a win in the end.

What fabulous advice! Thanks so much for that, Diana.

Like I said before, Diana is giving away an autographed copy of her book, Running Lean. USA entries only on this one, please. Here's a little bit about the story:

Equilibrium. That’s what Stacey and Calvin found in each other. He is as solid as his beloved vintage motorcycle and helps quiet the constant clamor in Stacey’s mind. She is a passionate, creative spirit—and a lifeline after Calvin’s soldier brother dies.

But lately the balance is off. Calvin’s grief is taking new forms. Voices of self-loathing are dominating Stacey’s life. When struggles with body image threaten her health, Calvin can’t bear to lose another person that he loves. Taking action may destroy their relationship, but the alternative could be much more costly.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Giveaway Day 1: Drift by Former Teen Author M. K. Hutchins (Winner announced!)

The winner of the copy of Drift by M.K. Hutchins is Selah Bell.

Congratulations, Selah! Contact to claim your prize!

Jill here.

To celebrate the coming holiday and vacation, we're hosting the 12 Giveaways of Christmas. That's 12 giveaways, 12 days in a row, starting today. 

Each giveaway will run for 48 hours, so be sure and check back each day to see what giveaway is next and who the winners are.

M.K. Hutchins is the author of the YA fantasy novel Drift (Tu Books, 2014). Her short fiction appears in Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show and Daily Science Fiction. She studied archaeology at BYU, which gave her the opportunity to compile histories from Maya glyphs, excavate in Belize, and work as a faunal analyst. Visit her online at to learn more.

Welcome to Go Teen Writers, MK! Tell us about yourself and your novel.

I'm a boardgame-addicted, bread-baking mom of three boys. I've also got a degree in archaeology, so I enjoy studying really, really dead people and their trash heaps. Drift is a YA epic fantasy inspired by Maya mythology and set on the shores of hell.

Ooh, sounds intriguing. You were a teen writer. Can you tell us about your journey to publication?

Getting published took me a long time. I didn't really have a critique group until I was twenty, and I think that slowed down my learning process (on the other hand, by the time I had a group, I was super-excited to have other people tear my manuscript apart, instead of being crushed by criticism...maybe that's an okay trade-off). I started Drift when I was nineteen, but I knew it wasn't working. I kept writing other things, occasionally coming back to poke at it as my skills grew.

In 2011, I submitted Drift to Tu Books. I'd heard Stacy, the editor, speak at a conference and I thought she might like it. Also, I stink at query-writing. Stink. I'm glad they had open submissions at the time so I could just send sample chapters.

Stacy asked for a full. Lots of revisions followed, eventually the book was accepted, and now Drift is out!

Congratulations! How many books did you write before Drift was published?

Before I submitted it, I'd written six or seven, including Drift--Drift is in the middle of those. Before it was published, I'd written twelve.

Wow! That's a lot of time respecting your dream and honing your craft. I love that you built worlds on the backs of turtles. Where did you come up with that idea?

One of my archaeology professors was talking about how the Maya viewed the world as being on the back of a turtle, surrounded by a watery hell. I latched onto that image and began imagining how a world of drifting turtle-islands would be different from our own.

So awesome. What advice would you give teen writers?

Focus on what you can control. You can't control agents, editors, or reviewers. But you can more or less control how much you write and how much you submit. When you collect the inevitable rejection letters (everyone gets rejection letters--lots and lots of them), be proud of them. They're tangible proof that you wrote something, and that you had the courage to submit it.

That's great advice! Thanks so much for sharing that. What's next for you? Is Drift a stand-alone novel or is there a book two?

Drift is a stand-alone, though I've contemplated writing some short fiction in this world, both before and after the novel. I'm getting ready to release a collection of previously-published short stories. And of course, I'm working on writing and selling new novels...hopefully I'll have news there in the not-too-distant future, too!

Thanks for visiting Go Teen Writers, MK! 

As part of the 12 Giveaways of Christmas, we're giving away MK's novel Drift. Enter on the Rafflecopter form below. International entries are welcome---anywhere The Book Depository ships.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

C. J. Cherryh on First Drafts

by Jill Williamson

I've said many times, I love writing fast, messy first drafts. Now that I'm in the throes of edits, I see just how terrible my story is... right now. But editing is my favorite, because I can take the skeleton of my story and breathe new life into it. This takes time, though. And the more time, the better.

What's your editing process? How do you begin? Share in the comments.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Create a List of Memorable Scenes to Help You Plot

Jill Williamson is a chocolate loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms. She writes weird books for teens in lots of weird genres like, fantasy (Blood of Kings trilogy), science fiction (Replication), and dystopian (The Safe Lands trilogy). Find Jill on FacebookTwitterPinterest, or on her author website.

If you're in the middle of writing a book, hopefully you know your characters very well. You should know their likes, dislikes, hobbies, hopes, fears, goals, etc.

You can use the information you've created to help you plot by creating a list of scenes or moments from scenes that will fit who your characters are, what's happening in the story, and your story's theme. Here's how:

1) Brainstorm a list of feelings. For example: love, hate, disgust, joy, fear, curiosity, anger, excitement, boredom, nervousness, etc.

2) Brainstorm a list of circumstances that would bring out one of the above feelings in a very strong way from one of your characters. Not just "he hates broccoli and there's some on his plate for dinner." You want something that will cause your character to act. Remember, what might bring about a strong reaction from you, might not do the same for your character. Work hard to make the circumstance relatable to him.

To give you an example, I'll use Prince Trevyn, who I've talked about before. He's one of my characters from my work in progress (WIP) King's Folly. Trevyn would react strongly to:
-being told what to do, especially by his mother or father (anger)
-seeing an innocent person killed (anger)
-discovering someone has manipulated him (hatred)
-being confined to his room (boredom)
-sailing (joy)

3) Write down your story's theme or variations of it. The theme for King's Folly is: Freedom. Also, I created this phrase as a Moral Premise theme: Carelessness leads to chaos and death, but wisdom leads to order and life.

4) Create a list of scenes that are in line with your story's theme(s), and give the corresponding reaction.
-Trevyn's mother tries to force him to marry. (anger)
-Trevn learns that someone is trying to kill him. (fear)
-Trevn's mentor dies. (sorrow)
-Trevn finds a rune that matches one drawn by a murdered woman. (curiosity)

5) Decide how your character would react to each situation.
-When Trevn's mother tries to force him to marry, he would do anything to get out of it, including running away. This would be a somewhat careless choice (in regard to his mother) and would only make more trouble for him when she gets home.
-When Trevn learns someone is trying to kill him, he would publicly align himself with someone stronger. This would be a wise choice that could save his life, as it would make the bad guys hesitant to come after him.
-When Trevn's mentor dies, he would become determined to find out the cause of death and he would also think carefully about the man's last words. This would cause Trevn to seriously consider things he never had before. This would be a wise choice that would eventually set Trevn's life and his country on a better path.
-When Trevn sees that his cousin carries a stone etched with the same mysterious rune drawn by a murdered woman, he would investigate at once. This would be both careless and wise because while Trevn would be wise to seek the truth, he would carelessly risk his backman's life by sending him to investigare alone.

Now it's your turn. Share in the comments:

-A circumstance and the strong reaction it would bring out in your character,
-The theme of your story,
-A possible scene that would fit the theme of your story. Give the corresponding feeling that would result from the scene.
-How your character would respond to the situation.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Honesty, Encouragement, and Community for Writers

by Stephanie Morrill

Stephanie writes young adult contemporary novels and is the creator of Her novels include The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series (Revell) and the Ellie Sweet books (Playlist). You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and check out samples of her work on her author website including the free novella, Throwing Stones.

Yesterday I changed the banner on the Go Teen Writers blog. It once read "contests, encouragement, and community for young writers" and has been tweaked to "honesty, encouragement, and community for writers." Here's why:


This is some of the feedback we receive the most about our blog, and it's my favorite thing to hear. Jill and I have both run into dishonesty in this business. Some from your typical sources, like companies that masquerade as a traditional publisher when they're nothing more than a vanity press. But we've also seen a lot of writers and freelance editors misrepresent their experience or their fan base. Being honest about who we are, how we view writing, and what we observe around us is at the core of every post we write.

Honesty is great, but we both feel that encouragement is equally important. Just like Shan talked about on Friday, there's a way to be honest with people that is also kind and encouraging. We never want anyone to walk away from a blog post on Go Teen Writers feeling more discouraged than before.

Jill and I don't think that we make Go Teen Writers a special place. We think you make it one. That's why we love creating places for you to connect with each other (like the critique groups, the Facebook group, or even in the comments section on the blog. As someone who was once a very lonely teen writer, it sometimes brings tears to my eyes when I see the way you all support each other.

For Writers
While our focus will continue to be young writers, many of you are growing up and we want you to know that we're mindful of you when we prepare posts. Since our blog title reflects that we exist for teen writers, I wanted our description to be more inclusive.

Does this mean Go Teen Writers is done hosting contests???
Not at all! Contests play an important role in carrying out our mission to be honest and encouraging.

If you feel like sharing, we'd love to hear how you found Go Teen Writers!

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Beginner's Guide To Writing A Mystery

by Stephanie Morrill

Stephanie writes young adult contemporary novels and is the creator of Her novels include The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series (Revell) and the Ellie Sweet books (Playlist). You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and check out samples of her work on her author website including the free novella, Throwing Stones.

Several writers have emailed me saying they know I've been working on a mystery, and they wondered if I had advice for writing one. I've always loved mysteries, and I always wanted to write one, but I was too intimidated to try it for real until this last year. (Same goes for historicals, and as a way of making myself insane, I decided to  throw myself into deep water and write a historical mystery.)

Since this is the first mystery I've written, I won't claim to be some brilliant mystery writer, but I'll share what I've learned along the way.

You've gotta know who your villain is.

When I told my husband my idea for my story (which was originally Veronica Mars meets Downton Abbey and morphed into Veronica Mars meets 1920's Chicago) he said, "I don't think you'll be able to plants your way through this one."

As is often the case, he was totally right. I had an idea or two of who I thought the villain might be as I dove into my first chapter. Four thousand words later, I thought, "No. That's not my villain. I don't know who my villain is!" 

When I told Roseanna about my problem, she said, "That's the thing about a whodunit. Eventually, you have to figure out who did it." We set up a brainstorming chat and talked through who all my potential villains were and why they were motivated to commit their villainous actions. 

Then I sat down and wrote out exactly what happened when the villain did their thing. (Pardon my vagueness.) Even though it's off stage and will never be shown in the book, I've learned that it's helpful to me as the writer to know exactly what happened so that I'm consistent with all my clues.

I mean, you've really gotta know who your villain is.

So after I'd finished the first draft of my book, taken my break, and started revisions, I realized my villain was a total moron. They were behaving like a villain, not a person who was trying to get away with something. And when I tried to rewrite my villain behaving like a person who was trying to get away with something, I realize I knew very little about why my villain was the way they were. 

I used James Scott Bell's character journal technique, which always works when I need to unlock a character. I asked my villain about their childhood, and three pages later, I knew more information than I would ever need for the story.

The foreshadowing can happen in the rewrite.

Sometimes as you write your first draft, you'll see places to drop in clues about the answer to your mystery. For me, most of that happened in the revisions stage. I always re-read my book in as few sittings as possible before I edit, and when I did that, I saw all kinds of places that I could slip in foreshadowing.

Build in more red herrings than you think you need.

Red herrings are a literary device that refer to something, most often clues, that are included to distract the reader. While you don't want your main character constantly chasing bunny trails (that wears on your reader) those red herrings give you lots of material to work with. And sometimes, if you're creative with it, those red herrings can help draw your main character close to the answer without them realizing it until the end. 

They can also be very helpful if you're writing a series. Later you might find ways to draw a red herring into the answer to the problem of book two or three.

How many is too many? Critique partners can help with that. I think they're easier to cut than to add.

Do the timeline thing.

When I started edits, I discovered my villain had a lot of unaccounted for time. If I had made a timeline from the beginning, it would have saved me some rewriting.

There needs to be a sense of surprising logic.

The best moment of reading a mystery is getting to the big reveal and thinking, "No way! It was him?" And then as you think it throughor as you flip back through the book in search of how you'd been misled, as I did with Susan May Warren's Find Stefanieyou realize the clues were there and that this ending, while surprising, is also logical. 

How do you know if you've achieved this? Others have to read it and let you know. I don't think there's another way to know for sure. 

Even books that aren't categorized as mysteries often have an element of mystery to them. Hopefully these tips will help even if you're not writing a whodunit!