Thursday, April 23, 2015

Teen Writers: 5 Ways to Come Across as Professional in the Industry

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When I began my writing journey five years ago, I quickly learned that being taken seriously as a teenager in the industry was not going to be easy. For some reason, many adults already have a pre-conceived idea of teen writers: that they are wannabes who are only seeking publication for fame and recognition. Or that they will only become published because they're so young. Or that they are trying to rush into publication without first sharpening their writing skills. 

Frankly, I can't blame some of the adults who hold these opinion. Besides, they may have been seeking publication for years ... if not decades. They have studied the craft. They know how the industry works. It might not come across as "fair" to them that a teenager is able to write a book and land a publishing deal without having to go through much effort. 

So what can you, a teen writer, do now to decrease your chances of coming across as the typical teen author "wannabe"? And how can you impress an agent/publisher by becoming a professional in an industry filled with experienced adults?

1. Attend writer's conferences. 

I can't stress how valuable it is to attend a writing conference. Not only do you learn a tremendous amount of information on the craft and business of writing, but you also have the chance to network with other writers, find a writing friend (and potential critique partner), make connections, and pitch your book to agents and publishers. 

The only thing is that conferences can get pretty expensive. However, there are plenty of small conferences that you could attend as well. 

If you are able to attend a conference, trust me: It'll be worth every penny!

The first conference I attended at 16. Pictured with my first writing friend, Author Katy Kauffman
My second year at this conference, when I was 17. Pictured with my mom. =) 
My third year at BRMCWC, when I was 18. Pictured with Katy again.

Fourth year attending BRMCWC, 19. I received 2nd place in their contest's blog category. =)
Fifth year at BRMCWC. Purple Moon was a finalist in the YA Fiction and First Novel categories.
(And that's my publisher standing next to me.)

2. Study the industry. 

A lot of aspiring authors skip this step. However, if you want to become an "author" and not just a "writer", then research is vital in your journey towards publication. 

Writing is an art, yes -- but it is also a business. And by doing this homework, your chances of signing with an agent or a publisher will increase.

Learn the process of how a book is published. Become familiar with the publishing houses and the books/genres/authors they publish. Learn the trends of publishing: Where it has been, where it is, and where it's going. Also, research literary agents. Make a list of the ones that represent your genre. Understand what makes a reputable agent, what the role of an agent is, as well as the author/agent relationship.  

{I've compiled a list of industry blogs on the bottom of this page.}

3. Familiarize yourself with how a book is publicized. 

Even though publishing companies do help authors promote their book -- the truth is, much of the promotional efforts are up to the author. That's why publishers want to sign with authors who understand marketing. In fact, when an author sends a proposal to a publisher, they are to list strategies they have brainstormed on how they will promote their book. 

Here's why: If there are two different authors who have pitched similar stories to a publisher, the publisher is likely going to sign with the author who has the best marketing strategies OR the biggest platform. (Of course, they do take into consideration the quality of the writing and story as well.)

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Being an author requires more than just having a talent for writing. You are selling a product, too, which makes you an entrepreneur. And as an entrepreneur, understanding the ins and outs of how to promote your book is a must.  

4. Study the craft. 

You might ask: "Isn't writing an art? Can't I just rely on my natural instincts to write a book? I read enough novels, anyway; I know what goes into the making of a good book."

Yes, writing is an art. But so is filmmaking. And just because a filmmaker might watch several movies and have a "talent" doesn't mean they automatically know everything about how to make a high-quality film.

Is it okay to write the book that's on your heart before studying the craft? Of course. Reading other books and writing our own is, in fact, the best way for a writer to learn the craft. 

However, if you want to become published some day, you should, eventually, study. Just like you would with any field. And here's why: Acquisition editors (publishers) and literary agents receive multiple submissions per week. They can quickly spot which writers have done their homework and which ones haven't. 

And since they receive so many submissions per week, they usually have a list of things they look for when thumbing through their pile of manuscripts. If you want to stand out in their submissions pile, I'd suggest doing this rather than simply trusting your writerly instincts. 

Besides, if you are really passionate about writing, why wouldn't you want to learn how to better your writing? Why wouldn't you want to learn how to strengthen a scene so that the emotion is conveyed more powerfully? Or learn the techniques that could help your writing to show rather than tell?

As writers, we should want to write the best story that we possibly can. Besides, learning the craft is exciting! Call me a nerd, but I feel like a kid on Christmas morning any time I buy a new writing-craft book.  

Personally, I don't want to submit the story that I created out of natural instinct. I want to spend time with it. I want to make it shine by applying what I've learned. I want to write a book that will resonate with readers, one that will stand out in the midst of a publisher's submissions. 

{Click here for a list of craft-books and blogs.}

5. Grow your platform.

As I mentioned in #3, a publisher is highly impressed when an author already has an established platform. Nowadays, a huge portion of the marketing efforts is done via online. And even though not every author is active on social media, I have noticed that publishers do want to see at least somewhat of a web presence from their authors. 

But remember: A platform isn't grown overnight. It takes much time and effort. And even though growing one will definitely help in the long run, keep in mind that the most important thing you can do as an aspiring author is to write. That should remain your top priority. 

 What are other tips you could add to this list? Which of the ones I listed have you benefitted from the most? If you haven't gotten this far into your writing journey yet, do you find research overwhelming or exciting?

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Monday, April 13, 2015

Monday's Minute Challenge: Writing prompt contest for teens & up!

A quick writing challenge (and contest) to help get your creative juices flowing for the new week.

  1. The entry must be between 150 - 300 words. (In order to see how many words your entry is, write it in Microsoft Word, or you can copy and paste it here.)
  2. The deadline for the contest will be the Thursday after next. 
  3. The winners will receive a badge for their blog, as well as extra points (see the point system below).
  4. The winner will be chosen based on the judges's preferences, as well as the following questions: Does this entry capture my attention immediately? Does it make me want to continue reading? Is the writing clear? They will also take into consideration the writer's voice and style--not necessarily technical issues, such as grammar, punctuation, etc. 
  5. This is only for fun and to stretch your writing muscles--not necessarily to be taken too seriously. =)

Since the point system has caused a bit of confusion recently, I have decided to take a different approach.

From now on, I will host a monthly giveaway, and one winner will be announced every four weeks. 

Keep in mind that you are in charge of your points from now on. If you win a contest, the only way that you will receive your points is by clicking the entry below. 

Also, if you have already liked my Facebook page, followed me on Twitter, etc. then make sure to click those entries as well in order to receive your points. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway


There will be one randomly-selected winner chosen from the above raffle each month. They will have the choice of receiving one of the following prizes:

  • A critique on of one of their MMC entries
  • A blog critique
  • A 300 - 600 word critique on your novel, short story, blog post, etc
  • The opportunity to judge one of the contests
  • A free ebook of PURPLE MOON
  • A special surprise sent to your mailbox (snail mail, not email)


This month's giveaway winner is . . .  TW Wright! Congratulations! Be sure to send me an email to let me know the prize that you have chosen (listed above).

The judge panel chooses these winners based on a point system (not to be confused with the point system mentioned above!).

Keep in mind that the judges are not aware of which entry belongs to which participant until after the judging is complete.

The entries that the judges thought were the most intriguing (based on rule #4) are ... 

Third place winner: 

I slam the door of my car. What am I doing here? Why am I standing on his front steps, about to ask for forgiveness? My black hair brushes my jaw as I adjust my purse strap on my shoulder. I shouldn't do this. I should turn around, never come back. I don't deserve his forgiveness. My fist pauses inches from the wood door, poised to knock. But the door moves away and I stand there awkwardly, my fist as though it were going to knock and my brown almond shaped eyes staring at the person who opened the door. "Kat?" The man asks. His blonde hair is mussed, and he smells like fresh paint. I give him a small smile, moving my hand it my purse strap. "Hi, Landon." I say, quietly. He studies my face.
"Why are you here?"
"I just... I just wanted to say hi." I answer meekly.
"Oh. Well, hi. How are you?"
"I'm okay, I mean..." I look back at my car. The car that I've been living in for three weeks. A tear slips down my cheek.
"Kat, are you crying?" I hear Landon say. Slowly, I turn my head, forcing myself to look at him. I sniff and wipe the tear away, plastering a smile on my face. But it doesn't stay for long. I start sobbing and without thinking, I throw myself into his arms. His arms wrap around me. "Landon, I messed up. Please. You're all I have left. Help me."
Congratulations, FlyGirl! Click here for your badgeand don't forget to claim your points here. =) 

Second place winner: 

Beautiful yet foreboding. Rose-tinged clouds hung tensely above her head, moving restlessly and uneasily into each other, forewarning of the coming storm- as it always was, beauty bringing warning of destruction.

She slammed the door of her car. What was she doing here? Her chest compressed as she leaned against the rusting frame. Too many memories. Horrors she tried to forget. Yet no matter how far or how fast she ran, she was always brought back here. As if she were meant to end here. Blinking, she narrowed her eyes against the wind and moved forward, her feet crunching against the rocky, overgrown ground. Yes, it was all still here; scattered bits of what used to be lives and loves and happiness everywhere, lying on the ground in a cruel, mocking display. 

Her feet moved forward, her eyes unwillingly observing each ravaged item. There was a dress lying on the ground, shredded and torn. Elements had faded the once cheery pattern, and it was impossible to tell if it had belonged to a child or woman. On her right was a moldy, decomposing book. On the front she could just make out the shape of a horse and rider. Probably it had belonged to Mrs. Kohl; she'd always had an affinity for Westerns. And there was a pair of rusting sewing scissors- probably Myra's. Shattered lightbulbs lay in the remains of a dog dish.

She stopped short. Right in front of her, beyond the remains of Mr. Krauswitz's pottery. The piano. Her piano. It was mostly still intact, but being slowly swallowed by the overgrowth. She stared. Fighting the memories. She hadn't touched a piano in years. She wouldn't touch it now. To touch it would make it all frighteningly real again... this nightmare that she wished had stayed only in her dreams.
Congratulations, S. BrightlyClick here for your badge, and don't forget to claim your points here. =)

First place winner: 

      I slammed the door of my car. What was I doing here?
      Del whined from the passenger seat, her ears pressed flat against her head. She stared after me with mournful eyes. I reached in through the half-open window and ran my hand down the fur of her neck. “I know, girl, I know. I won’t be long, ok?" 

     The dog whimpered again. “Look, I don’t like it either. But this is my job.”
      I could feel her watching me as I walked up the driveway. Halfway there I stopped and looked back. Del was pressed up against the door with her head out as far as the window would allow. The breeze clearly carried the sound of her whimpering to me.  
      I shivered, and not from the light wind. I trusted Del’s instincts, she was usually spot on in gauging a dangerous situation. This wasn’t our first job together, but I had never seen her this agitated. 
      With one last glance at the building, I turned and jogged back to the car. Del flung herself onto me the second I got the door open, growling softly as I clipped the leash to her collar. 
      We approached the house together and climbed the steps. My hand subconsciously dropped to the weapon at my side as my eyes darted in every direction. 
      Del’s growling intensified as we reached the door. Her fur bristled, and I felt another chill sweep over me. Standing straighter, I raised my fist and thumped twice on the solid oak door. 
      Then we waited.
Congratulations, Sierra! Click here for your badge, and don't forget to claim your points here. =)

Honorable Recognitions

These winners will receive a badge, as well as 2 extra points:
  1. Morgan
  2. Lace
  3. Maddie/Meredith

Thanks so much to everyone who participated!

  • Submit your response in the comments below, or post it on your blog via InLink (below -- you will receive 2 extra points!). 
  • Your response should range between 150 - 300 words. 
  • The deadline for the contest will be the Thursday after next. 
  • If you'd rather not submit your post in the comments or on your blog, you may email it to me instead.

Choose at least one:

Note: You can always combine the prompts into one entry.

(Optional) Write a passage continuing your entry from last week week (or whichever week you'd prefer). If you can, try to continue it using one of the following prompts.
  • Write a passage using these items: clouds, letter, train (submitted by Maddie/Meredith)
  • Write a passage based on this picture (submitted by Lace)
  • Write a passage either incorporating this phrase OR based on this phrase:  
    The past is the past. But what if someone changed it? (submitted by Ro)
*If your prompt was selected, be sure to claim your points here

Post your entry on your blog!:

If you're posting your entry on your blog (+2 points), please add your link below rather than in the comments. And don't forget to claim your points here!

Submit your prompt idea!:

The prompts that are used for Monday's Minute Challenge are submitted by the participants. Here's how this works:
  • You will be able to submit 3 prompts each week in the same format as above: three objects, one picture, and a piece of dialogue or phrase.
  • On Mondays, I will choose 3 prompts that have been submitted by 3 different people.
  • If your prompt is selected, you will receive 2 points!
  • You may submit in the comments below.

Current Judge Panel:

  • Tessa Emily Hall
  • Kate Petty
  • Caroline George
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