What do you like about writing for teenagers?
Overall, I enjoy giving teen’s material they can relate to. I personally like the components of YA books because it highlights love, relationships, and the self-discovery and innocence aspects of growing up. It’s a very interesting phase in life that I love to try and capture with various plots and characters.
What are your Writing Tips?
1) Write!!! Sounds simple but a lot of new writers only think about ideas or think about writing. You can’t be an author without writing something. I love what Whoopi Goldberg said in Sister Act (from Letters To A Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke) “If when you wake up in the morning and you can think of nothing but writing, then you’re a writer.
2) Attempt to fully plot the story idea out – especially if it’s a series. Remember the plot is not stuck in stone once it’s written down but at least you have a blueprint. If you can only think of book one in a series then write book one and the story will evolve (I promise).
3) Ask yourself questions when writing and plotting to try and poke holes in plot/ideas so there will be no holes left to poke. Ask why, how, what if, does that make sense? Are there any leaps in logic, growth in characters or time with no explanation.
4) Make reachable goals for writing. And reach them. Reward yourself when you do because you won’t be rewarded by anyone else for a while.
5) Don’t be afraid to skip around and write out of order based on what parts excite you most at any particular time. But keep in mind that if you are bored when you’re writing, then you may want to rethink what you’re writing.
6) Figure out a writing rhythm. I like to edit while I write (several times over) but that slows down the process and some would argue the creativity and spontaneity. And sometimes I have to remind myself—to just get it out. Just Write!
How do you find an agent?
1) Match your book with an agent who does deals in your genre. If you don’t do this you are wasting their time and yours. This is a huge reason why authors get rejected.
2) Your agent should be just as excited if not more excited about your book.
3) Don’t be rude at any point in the process. Remember you’re making connections in the industry including other authors, publishers, agents, editors, and even fans, so treat everyone with respect and stay true to yourself.
4) Seeking new literary agents is sometimes the way to go because these agents are building their client lists and you have better odds of landing with someone who is in the beginning stages of their career.
5) Queries should follow the simple 3-paragraph format of the hook, the book, and the cook. The first paragraph should include the title, genre, word count, and maybe why you’re querying that particular agent and a brief introduction – the elevator pitch with comps if you have them (recent titles similar to your book and why (if needed). The second paragraph should be your blurb that should read like back cover copy. The third paragraph is about the cook, so your writer’s bio. Check the other submission materials, which are different per agent. The ground rule is no attachments unless they are specifically requested.
What were some of the books you loved as a teen?
I think we are all influenced by most things in our lives, whether it be music, books, art, people or experiences. As far as authors/books are concerned, I liked books by Dr. Seuss (Green Eggs and Ham), Roald Dahl (James and the Giant Peach, Matilda, The BFG), Shel Silverstein (Where the Sidewalk Ends), Orson Scott Card (Ender’s Game), Tuck Everlasting (Natalie Babbitt), I could go on and on. Of course Harry Potter, Hunger Games and Twilight were also loves of mine as an adult. Since I am a real movie buff, movies that really influenced me were Four Feathers, Count of Monte Cristo, 10,000 BC, Sister Act, Five Heartbeats, All John Hughes films…
What do you use to jot down ideas when you’re on the go?
My iPhone—the notepad app is my go to and on occasion, a Post-it or napkin. I constantly email myself after adding anything new to a note because I have lost notes or parts of notes before. From email, I copy and paste into a Word document when I am ready. I also bought two keyboards (Anker Ultra Slim & Logitech Keyboard K480) to hook up wirelessly so that if I don’t want to pull out the laptop, then I can type on a keyboard.
What tips do you have for authors querying?
You will get plenty of No’s because finding an agent is based on finding someone who believes in your work and who is the right fit. It’s based on opinion, and we all know all opinions differ. So far, I’ve racked up over 100 rejections+ across my queried novels. Check out this blog post where I talk about getting a good “no” and what that means to me.
1) Read all submission guidelines for the agents you submit to, these are specific! What do they want in the query letter? Your credentials, plot summary, synopsis, word count, is it a simultaneous submission? Most do NOT want attachments, unless requested, breaking this rule will usually get you in the trash folder. If you don’t do this, you are wasting their time and yours. This is a huge reason why authors get rejected. This and querying before their work is ready.
2) Once you get an agent you might be asked to revise, don’t take as an insult. Think about it, is the criticism valid? Most of the time it is. It probably will make your book better.
3) Give yourself a time limit and look at your options, if you’ve been asked to revise and it could be a good deal then go for it. If you’ve gotten nothing but rejections then look at other options or buckle down and keep sending queries. It’s a process and it all takes time no matter what option you choose.
4) Don’t jump at the first offer; jump at the one that’s right for you. You should love your agent and they should love your book, otherwise they won’t get you the deal you deserve.
5) The writing process takes time from inception, to agent to publishing. Don’t give up or get discouraged! Even after you are set to publish, you have to ramp up to market yourself and your book in order to get a good buzz.