So…last week I mentioned my desire to gain some more personal writing time, and my journey of PreWriMoMo began. I had a plan. I was going to write different parts from every project I had running in the background of my head.
There were some complications. Because there are always complications.
Day 1: I started out strong.
772 Words – My blog post announcing PreWriMoMo.
43 Words – Landmarks. I absolutely love this fanfic, and yet, after I wrote a large chunk of it, I’ve been dragging along. This was a two line dialogue exchange. But it was something.
117 Words – A Light So Dim. As I work on my edits for the first half of the story so I’m comfortable moving forward, I’m adding bits here and there. This was a descriptive paragraph, fleshing out scenery.
103 Words – A Light So Dim Outline – Adding bits of plot and dialogue ideas, so I can flesh out the remainder of the story.
A wonderful start! 1035 wasn’t the typical Nano 1670, but I’d take it. After all, I knew I couldn’t do the classic Nano word count.
Day 2: HA HA HA HA HA. That didn’t last long. I didn’t write a word. Between appointments for Logan and a visit to my friend’s house for a party congratulating my friend on passing the Bar Exam, the day went on.
Day 3: Well, I started out early and wrote about 182 words of dialogue for Nightmarescapes. I squeezed it in while waiting to leave my house. Then, I went out, got into a conversation that triggered my depression and anxiety majorly, and got absolutely NO WORK DONE. Nothing. What a waste of a day. For multiple reasons.
Day 4: And I’m not getting much better.
101 words – Jagged Shards Cut Deep. I’m just starting the outlining of this fic. A couple of plot points added.
175 words – Landmarks. This fic is going to be the death of me. I can only write so much of it at a time. *bangs head on desk*
44 words – Living in the Past – This outline is killing me. I’m still really figuring out the plotline. I keep writing one plot point or two and then leaving it alone. *shrug*
Day 5: After thinking quite a bit about some of the edits I got back, I realized that my book needed a new opening and I worked towards crafting one today. Still awaiting edits on my new opening, which I adore.
1201 words: Order Edits.
53 words: I was on a roll, so I added a plot point on Jagged Shards Cut Deep.
225 words: Landmarks. Added a decent chunk to the next scene.
Day 6: I was completely slammed at my day job today, which meant I never got a chance to write on downtime or breaks. So the fact that I pulled off as much of a word count as I did was kind of miraculous.
155 words – Superhero Rom Com Outline. I just added the perfect character attribute for my new sidekick. This adds so much to the plot. I’m excited.
327 words – Blog post. I wrote 90% of this blog post on day 6. The rest is getting written up on day 9. You’ll see why next week.
39 words – A Light So Dim Outline. Added a teensy line of dialogue.
245 words – A Light So Dim Draft. Cleaned up a few lines and added a few explanations to make things make more sense. I think I’m almost ready to start writing new material for this one.
52 words – Jagged Shards Cut Deep. Added a plot point. I’m starting to get a stronger idea of the places this story may go.
Day 7: Oh booooooy. My day was super difficult at work and I was super tired. So when I got home, I fell asleep almost immediately. This amounted to:
59 words – Landmarks – wrote a line of dialogue.
25 words – Living in the Past – literally added one plot point.
Hopefully, next week is much better, but it’s not off to a great start. At the very least, I’ve written more? Baby steps…
It is safe to say that we’re in the era of the Young Adult genre. More and more people, not just adolescents, are starting to read and write YA novels. There are hundreds of sub-genres within it such as fantasy, horror, thrillers, coming-of-age, romance and science fiction, and even more within those such as epic fantasy, futuristic, and chick flicks. However, the one thing they all have in common (as it is the main feature of YA) is that the main characters are teenagers.
I love the Young Adult genre, not only because I see myself and my age group in books, but also because being a teenager is no longer being regarded as a time stuck between childhood and adulthood, but a unique stage of a person’s life. However, something that frustrates me in YA novels is when teenagers aren’t portrayed realistically. So, I’d like to point them out in the following list.
Some of the things I’ll say potentially apply to the New Adult genre as well. I also want to mention that since most young adult novel characters are from the middle class, I won’t touch on issues such as criminal neighborhoods and heavy financial problems. So, my notes may not be relevant in these cases.
Let’s jump right into it!
Whether your teen character is in a fantasy world of powers and magic, in a moon colony after a nuclear disaster on Earth, or has an ordinary adolescent life, chances are, there is an educational system they have to attend. I realize that there are exceptions to this, but the moment it is established that a character goes to school… wait for it… they must go to school. There are entire contemporary novels of the typical life of a high school teenager, except they’re never in school, but always at parties and sleepovers, and the only school-located scenes are in homeroom an the cafeteria. Even someone who doesn’t care about school and skips lessons will get detention, be called to the principal, or parents will be contacted. Even though this is different in all schools, most have some kind of record of absences.
On a related note, something I’ve noticed is that characters who go to school never seem to have homework, or need to study. There are tests. Exams. Pop quizzes. Projects. After-school clubs. How do YA teenagers manage not to repeat grades or drop out?
Having a character mention that a professor was being unfair, or that someone got detention, or that Trigonometry will be the death of them isn’t an info-dump or useless dialogue. It is only adding depth to the story, as well as making the story more realistic and closer to the readers experiences. For example in KEEPER, the story starts with Lainey annoyed because her best friend Maggie made her go with her to a noisy store, when she has to study for SATs. She resolves this issue by reciting the vocabulary while waiting for her.
It is no secret that in YA novels, adults are usually distant, nonchalant, or simply nonexistent. I understand the use of this, to a certain extent: most YA novels focus on the growth of teenagers, making their own decisions and finding out how far they can go to solve whatever obstacle the author has thrown in their way.
But aren’t parents or guardians worried? Say your main character is a superhero, who was given special powers by the Gods but must practice them in secret. Where are their parents in all this? While the kid is going around preventing war and destruction, aren’t the parents or guardians frantically searching for them? Doesn’t the kid have a curfew? An example of a story where this is addressed is in the movie E.T.: the main character is always trying to hide the Alien from his mum: faking a fever, sneaking food, the phone call where he pretended to be sick… and even then, the mum still kept a close eye on him.
Parents don’t usually abandon their children, and if they do, there’s got to be some sort of psychological reason: even an absent parent always on their phone will realize if their child is never home and happens to have a pair of wings.
Even in books where the teen character is homeless without a family, there are always adults somewhere. I can tell you from personal experience to what extent nosy neighbors can factor into a person’s life.
It should be fairly well-known that teenagers wonder about the future, constantly trying to figure out what they do and don’t like. Whether they’re daydreaming about the perfect house, their journey in life, a job, and partner, or wishing they could be different, adolescents try to figure things out. Then why is it, that teens in YA novels always seem to have everything under control, never hesitating? Even the most determined adults can have doubts, and even the couples most in love feel insecure. It is incredibly rare that teenagers know everything they want to do in their lives.
This also applies to teenage relationships, as most don’t make it past six months, let alone staying together after high school. I’m not saying teen relationships cannot work out because some do. But teenagers are in such a chaotic and emotional stage of their lives: call me a cynic, but it’s unrealistic for so many teen couples to think they’ll be together forever. So no, Bella from Twilight, I don’t think you and Edward will be in love for the rest of your immortal lives.
In my opinion, Bebe Rexha perfectly summed this up in her song Call You Mine: “You said, ‘Hey, whatcha doing for the rest of your life?’ And I said, ‘I don’t even know what I’m doing tonight’ ”.
There’s also the issue of teens knowing how to do all sorts of thing. Teens flying spaceships without a second thought, leading entire kingdoms, and murdering expert killers. Too many times are there stories with main characters who can’t even handle running after the school bus for ten seconds, but suddenly they can beat up a thief or fight armed police guards, getting out without a scratch?
When talking specifically of sports, most adolescents fluctuate between being absolutely unfit, doing sports only because Physical Education is compulsory, or they are obsessed with sports and the gym. If your character falls into the former category but then does something incredibly athletic, there’s got to be something huge justifying their newfound fitness.
And last but not least, language. Once again, in my experience, there are two extremes many authors fall into when writing teen dialogue: either really sophisticated, or over-slanged. Unless there’s a way to justify this, a teen isn’t usually going to call up a friend saying “Hello, how are you? I was wondering if you were free for dinner tomorrow evening?” or “Yo man what’s up dinner tomorrow you down?”. Chances are, they’ll fall somewhere in the middle depending on their culture, class, circumstance, up-bringing, and the universe you’ve created for them. In conclusion, “Hey, wanna go out to dinner tomorrow?” can be a good compromise.
Next comes a personal pet peeve of mine: texting. I adore books where characters text. However, I can’t stand when authors make characters text absolute gibberish abbreviations to sound ‘cool’ and ‘modern’. Trust me when I say, nobody ever texts “Hiya how r u, hw rn I got math 4 tmr dyinggggg, cyou 2night @7 yah?”
No. Just no.
Writing teen characters is really difficult: I’m a teen writing YA, and I struggle. This article actually helped me reflect on my own novel, and while writing I made a number of changes regarding schoolwork and parental presence. I added scenes where they were doing schoolwork (or complaining about it), and I removed some scenes with secondary adult characters, making my main character’s parents be there instead.
Of course I realise there are exceptions to my list: it’s merely a general overview of some things I’ve noticed in Young Adult novels. My best piece of advice for authors wondering if their teenage character is accurate, is to give it to some beta readers in the same age group. If they approve of it and say it is accurate, then I wouldn’t worry.
Lucia Brucoli is a high school student, aspiring author and freelance writer. She is now working on her Young Adult sci-fi novel, GOODBYE. In her free time, she enjoys watching t.v shows, reading, and of course, writing!
Last week, I had the wonderful opportunity to guest post on the blog of Jeni Chappelle, editor extraordinaire. I spoke about the agony of the edits.
As a writer that has been edited and an editor that has worked with writers, I’d like to paint you a picture.
You’re a writer, and you just received a massive developmental and line critique from the editor you hired. You open it up and gaze into the glaring image of comments and track changes that have made your once monochrome document into a rainbow of color. Your heart gives a little squeeze. Tears poke at your eyes. You haven’t even read what the editor has to say yet, but you see that rainbow and it evokes memories of literally every test you ever got back from a teacher to find it marked in red. Then you start reading the comments and suggestions. Some make you nod. But some cut to the bone. You want to hurl explanations at the editor. Couldn’t they understand? Why weren’t they getting what you were doing with your words! You’re caught somewhere between anger, sadness, and a sort of numb defensiveness, and you don’t know which direction best serves you as a writer.
And that’s okay. Getting edits should hurt.
To read more of this post, and to check out the rest of Jeni’s blog, click here.
While I was off the radar recently, I wasn’t completely dormant. I’ve been working on a wonderful new event, called Writer in Motion. The experience was a lot of fun for me as an editor, and even more eye opening for the writers involved. The project involved writing a short story based on a prompt and posting it in its most raw form. Then, again, posting it after self-edits, then again after using Critique Partners assigned from within the pool of writers working on the project. Then, finally, the stories were to be posted after edits by professional editors. I happened to be one of those editors, and I am so grateful to have been selected for this project.
Below are the four posts about dealing with working with me (#TeamJustine) and the lovely stories that resulted.
I’ve been very secretive about some things going on in my life, but they have had a profound effect on me, so it felt like time to share. Yep, this is one of those personal, life story blog posts, although it is somewhat writing related. You’ll see why. Sorry if you’re only here for the writing stuff. You’ll have to get to know me a little this time around.
At the end of March, I had a hysterectomy. Now, for some, this would be a traumatic experience, but it truly wasn’t. You see, my reproductive system and I have never been friends. We had a brief truce for a short period of time that brought me a gorgeous child. But other than that, we were bitter enemies. I wasn’t sad to see the main troublemaker go. I was actually looking forward to it.
It’s an odd thing. My womb was gone, and in that same week, I nearly lost the woman who carried me in her womb. It’s a long story, and not one I think my mother is particularly keen to share, but I thought my husband was communicating with my mother during my recovery. He thought I was. By the time we realized, neither of us had talked to her in a week. We all tried to call her to no avail and my husband rushed to check on her. As I recovered from my surgery, my mother collapsed in her home, was unable to get up for a while, and very nearly died. My husband found her unconscious.
She has thankfully pulled through, but the outcome completely changed our lives.
Mentally, my mother is as okay as she ever was. She’s always struggled with some mental issues, but she’s feisty and funny and, after a slight struggle, is 100% back to who she had been. Physically, though, she’s weaker than she was, and since April, she’s been in a physical rehabilitation center until she can get back on her feet.
My mother had lived in the same apartment for 42 years, so the place had managed to accumulate a lot of stuff. A lot of stuff. All of which she kept. But after being stuck in that place as she was, unable to move, my mother didn’t want to go back.
I set about cleaning out her apartment, scoring her a new one, and preparing it for her return home. And in the midst of all that, after visiting my mother regularly, something in our relationship shifted. We’d had this terribly complex relationship, both with our fair share of mental illness that would grind together whenever we butted heads. She has been mellowing out quite a bit as she’s grown older, and in this time, we have repaired a lot of it. Is it still fragile? It may always be.
And then I received the proof for an upcoming anthology I will be published in. My essay in that anthology is about generational mental illness and how my mother’s sometimes abusive behavior impacted my life and informed the way I raised my son. There isn’t a single word I wrote that was untrue, but I find myself feeling horrendously guilty.
In her famous writing book Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, Anne Lamott wrote, “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” And perhaps that’s true. But it’s a complicated feeling.
My relationship with my mother is healing. I’ve cast a discussion out into the world about that relationship at its worst.
The point was important, and I believe that what I wrote will have a chance to help another. In the end, as a writer, I know I must be true to myself and what I’m trying to say, despite the difficulties it may cause.
Still, I cringe whenever I read it. Have any of you ever put something in writing and had regrets afterwards? Share in the comments and make me feel better.
As an editor, a writer, and a vocal member of the writing community, I hear a lot of strange rules that people make up about writing. As a matter of fact, our next CraftQuest discussion will be exactly about that (subscribe to our channel for updates)! One of my absolute favorite ones is this: If you’re writing fantasy, you don’t need to research. You’re writing about things that don’t exist in reality–why would you need to search for clues within reality? No. Just no. As a writer, you NEED to research. It’s a fundamental part of your work. And it doesn’t matter what you’re writing.
In real life, i.e. not your imaginary book land, there will always be things you don’t know. I know that the infamous “they” tell you to write what you know, but I’ve gotta tell you, if I wrote only what I know into every manuscript I work on, my work would be painfully boring. I’ve written about powered individuals who fight monsters. I’ve written about a girl who is best friends with Aphrodite. I’ve written about spiking your brother-in-law’s martini with coolant. I haven’t done a single one of these things, no matter how sorely tempted I’ve been. What have I done? I’ve been terrified for my life and I’ve been in chaotic situations. I’ve been friends with someone who wanted more for me, and I’ve been friends with someone who thought I should be something I was not. I’ve watched someone abuse someone I loved and wished for a way to free them from the neverending spiral of abuse.
So, how do you write about the things you do not know? You have to do research. You have to learn new things, understand different lifestyles, different histories. You have to dig deep. But what about fantasy and science fiction? You don’t have to do research for those, do you? I mean, they aren’t even real! Why would you need to research something when it’s all made up in your imagination?
Because the key to fiction is relatability. We enjoy books because we relate to their characters or their worlds on some intrinsic level. They reflect something about our world. Which means they have to, at least somewhat, feel similar to our world. On a planet where the physics are different? You have to justify that change. Create a world where someone is immortal? Why? How does their body work that is different from how ours do? You can’t just randomly have someone buried alive for a week and have them survive. You have to explain that they don’t need a whole helluva lot of food, water, and oxygen to survive. You can’t just have a dragon without wings fly through the sky. How does he stay up? Is some kind of magic at play? Without that, they wouldn’t be aerodynamic enough to swoop through the sky.
If your character rides a horse-like creature, you have to understand how to describe riding a horse and relate it back, because when we read, we base the adventures on our own somewhat similar experience. Your job, as a writer, is to come as close to capturing a relatable experience while still balancing that with the new and fantastical ways of the world you’ve created in a consistent fashion.
So how do you make sure your world feels relatable to your readers, even if you play with changing some of the rules? You take what you don’t already know and you…research it.