The YA Novel Recipe

Hello writerlies, and welcome to today’s cooking episode with me, Olivia-Savannah. Today we are going to be making the ultimate YA novel that any reader should be able to enjoy.

Step 1

First things first. You need to make a genre decision. Whether you want to end up with the fantasy baked cake, or the contemporary love pudding or either the crazy sci-fi planet cupcakes, the first step is always to choose. Sometimes your readers will even be able to appreciate when you mix genres together. Who said you can’t have a little paranormal biscuit with your mystery pie?

Step 2

As soon as someone bites into your cake of a novel, you’re going to want them to fall instantly in love. We’re going to add some exciting spiced jam to the mix. You want to kick things off with excitement, with mystery or maybe with something sadly beautiful in order to hook your readers.

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Step 3

In these modern times, a novel isn’t a novel without something crunchy in it too. Readers crave deep tough themes thrown into your novel for them to chow on for a while. Family issues? Mental health issues? Physical disabilities? Friendship problems or maybe self-acceptance? The truth is, whether it’s something more related to yourself or more to do with other people or situations, everyone in life goes through a hard time and your readers need a deep tough theme to be able to relate to. To let them know there are others out there who understand too.

Step 4

We need some chocolate sprinkles in here to serves as our beautiful descriptions. Readers fall in love with these, but only if they aren’t too long! Too much will make them sick. Take the lovely descriptions of food in The Wrath and The Dawn by Renee Ahdieh, for example. I mean, I’ve seen YA readers trying to eat the book itself.

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Step 5 (Optional)

Throw in some eggs. It’s cliche and necessary. But for some reason, YA seems to be full of cliches. If you want something readers are familiar with, go for the love triangle egg, the insta love egg or the damsel in distress egg. Personally, I detest this step and bake my cakes with as few eggs as possible.

Step 6

It’s time for us to add a bit of flavour! Every YA novel, whether the main character is male or female, needs one kick-butt character who has sass, spunk and WON’T be defeated. Make sure you show ’em whose boss.

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Step 7

 

Pink food colouring is next. Trust me, EVERYTHING is better with a little pink. A little romance never hurt anyone. It doesn’t have to take the front seat of the novel. But many readers love when there is some romance thrown in there. Or at least, a hint of the possibility of one happening. Fangirls can go wild in terms of shipping two characters.

Step 8 

Because we’ve thrown things of all sorts into this cake here, we’re gonna have to water it down. And that means some tears have to be shed. Probably because you’ve just issued the death of a character. Or maybe some other kind of sadness. I don’t know why, but YA loves to break readers hearts. Or is it the readers that love to have their hearts broken?

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Step 9

Time to shove it all into the oven. We’ve got the get the ending just right. Whether it’s going to be a jagged cliffhanger that is a burned black and blue cake to make readers scream with frustration, or if it will be perfectly whole and neatly wrapped up, is up to you.

Step 10!

Now for the final step of all. Decoration. Whatever it tastes like, don’t worry. If you top it all off with a gorgeous cover you’re highly likely to get readers anyway. Why? Because probably 95% of readers will see a shiny cover and fall for it. Don’t worry about the actual writing.

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And there you have it! Your 10 step guide to making the best novel cake any reader will have eaten 😀

Do you agree with my steps? Do you think there is an ingredient I am missing for making a good novel? What do you think is a MUST in YA novels?

Olivia-Savannah x

 

Autobiography Writing Competition – OPEN!

Hey everyone!

Welcome to our autobiography writing competition 🙂 If you want some tips on what we’re looking for, make sure you go and check out my previous post all about autobiographic writing! We would love you to join in. So here’s how everything is going to work:

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WHAT TO SUBMIT

It’s a either a chapter of your autobiography or an autobiographic short story… the word limit is 2500 words! We won’t be reading beyond that. And make sure it’s a true story (I mean, we can’t prove that but it would really be appreciated.)

HOW TO SUBMIT

Email us your submission at thesewriterly@gmail.com

In the subject please include your name, and the title of the chapter/piece you are submitting. Microsoft word submissions can be attached or the chapter can be copied into the body of the email. Make sure it is maximum 2500 words because we will not read any further than that mark. In the body of the email make sure to include how we can reach you if you are a winner as well.

WHEN DOES THE COMPETITION END?

All submissions must be sent before the 25th of June. Anything received after that date will not be entered into the competition.

WHAT CAN YOU WIN?

Read about the prizes in detail below. The wonderful author Ruta Sepetys who has recently released her novel Salt to Sea is sponsoring the competition! Here are the prizes below:

1st Place: A paperback copy of Sathnam Sanghera’s The Boy in the Topknot, an autobiography that has to do with schizophrenia and culture, as well as a Salt to Sea bookmark. Also, your winners certificate!

2nd Place: Salt to Sea bookmark, a Shakespeare and Company bookmark and also 2 Into the Dim by Janet B. Taylor temporary tattoos. Also, your winners certificate!

3rd Place: Salt to Sea bookmark and a Into the Dim by Janet B. Taylor temporary tattoo. Also, your winners certificate!

MORE ABOUT HOW EPIC RUTA SEPETYS IS

25614492Winter, 1945. Four teenagers. Four secrets.

Each one born of a different homeland; each one hunted, and haunted, by tragedy, lies…and war.

As thousands of desperate refugees flock to the coast in the midst of a Soviet advance, four paths converge, vying for passage aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that promises safety and freedom.

Yet not all promises can be kept.

Inspired by the single greatest tragedy in maritime history, bestselling and award-winning author Ruta Sepetys (Between Shades of Gray) lifts the veil on a shockingly little-known casualty of World War II. An illuminating and life-affirming tale of heart and hope.

About Ruta: Ruta Sepetys was born and raised in Michigan in RUTA SEPETYSa family of artists, readers, and music lovers. As an author of historical fiction, Ruta is drawn to stories of strength through struggle. Her award-winning debut novel, “Between Shades of Gray” was inspired by her family’s history in Lithuania and is published in 45 countries. Her second novel, “Out of the Easy” is set in the French Quarter of New Orleans in 1950, and her third novel “Salt to the Sea” exposes one of the greatest hidden disasters of World War II. Ruta lives in a treehouse in the hills of Tennessee.

Stalk her here: On her Website, Twitter, Youtube, Facebook, Pinterest and Goodreads.

So will you be submitting and joining in with the competition?

All About Me, Myself and I…

Hey guys!

Today I wanted to discuss the art of autobiographic writing. I know that sometimes it can be a bit hard to imagine. You? Writing about yourself? No one is going to want to read that, you think. Especially when I haven’t gone through some miraculous self-finding journey, I’m not funny, or I’m not famous (because sometimes famous people do write autobiographies that include nothing much but their life. It only sells because they are famous). But the thing is…

YOU don’t have to be any of those things.

Anyone can write an autobiography, or even a short story that is autobiographic. I’m going to give you some of the main tips you need to make writing about yourself more interesting for other people. And then it’ll be up to you whether or not you want to do it.

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So, first things first! All books have a beginning. The difference with an autobiography is that you don’t have to start with when you born. You can choose a different beginning and that is completely up to you. Make sure the beginning you choose is where your life story starts becoming relevant to your overall message. If your childhood has something to do with it, then you can start there. If you want to include a bit of your childhood and then skip along to the adulthood part where other things should be the focus, then make use of the power of prologues. 

The MOST important thing in writing an autobiography has to be your voice. It can’t be the voice of another person, like in fiction. It has to be original, it has to be yours and yours alone. Which is why some writers do find it easier to write an autobiography after going on a self-finding journey. Then it because easy to write as you. But you don’t need to go on some kind of self-discovery-Kung-Fu-Panda-movies-esque kind of journey. All you need to do is think about what makes you YOU and then chuck it into the mix. If you’re someone who uses a lot of made up words in their speech, then do so in your writing too. Do you like lists? Use lists in your autobiography. Do you listen to music? Maybe match a song to each situation. Little things like this let the voice show through your writing and molds a style that no one else can match.

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The next thing you need to make sure you is a story. If you are writing an autobiography there has to be some kind of reason for it. If you did go on a self-discovery trip, that’s what you would talk about. If it has to do with family history and drama, that’s another story. It could be anything from the way to survive-high-school with funny stories of your own in it, or how to overcome embarrassing moments with a personal touch. Just don’t forget that like any kind of fiction novel, there has to be a storyline and it has to be enough to grip the reader as well.

In line with the storyline, every book needs to have a message or a lesson. Something that the reader can take away with them for the future. It can be said that every book has this if you look deep enough, and I would agree with that myself. So in par with your storyline, there should be some kind of lesson that is important enough for you to want to know about it.

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And last but not least… the end. Now because you’re alive and writing the autobiography, it’s impossible for you to end the book with your death. Unless of course… you want to put a fictional spin on things. Choosing where the end should be is vital to your autobiography. Once the story is done and the lesson is learned you don’t want to drone on and on and let it drag. You want to wrap it up on the perfect note. So be careful where to you choose to end things!

NOTE: The best tip I can give you is to read other autobiographies and memoirs with a massive range in genre and try and catch the patterns. See what you like and don’t like and adjust it to your own.

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What about you? Have you ever thought of writing an autobiography or something like it? Would that interest you? What’s one exciting thing that has happened in your life?

Olivia-Savannah x

I Have Commitment Issues

Hey everyone!

So These Writerly Conundrums has been on a bit of an unexpected hiatus… which is largely my fault >.> But this month we have some things in store for you, and I am looking forward to getting this blog back up and running again.

Now… the main reason this whole hiatus happened is because sometimes, I have commitment issues. I decided I was going to commit to this blog but then I got a little lazy and had the mindset of ‘I’ll add this to my list and get to it later.’ Which, evidently, I didn’t do. Until now.
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But that’s not the point of this blog post. Because, ladies, gentlemen and all my fellow writers – We all have commitment issues!

They come in all different forms and sizes. I’m going to run through a couple of them here, and then I will mention the solutions too.

The I’LL DO IT LATER Commitment Issuei-dont-procrastinate-i-just-do-things-later

Situation: You have your story all planned out. The research has been done. The character profiles are ready to jump out of their mold and come to life on the pages. The world has been built brick by solid brick. But there’s just one issue – you sit at the desk, fingers poised over the keyboard and suddenly…

You remember that you have an essay due next week, the washing machine needs fixing and you need to clean the inside of the car one more time before your best friend visits for the weekend. “I’ll do it later,” you promise, as you shut everything down and head off to do all the other chores.

Solution: Remind yourself that later is going to be just as busy. When it comes to writing, there is no later. There is only NOW. In the mornings try and make a list of things you need to do for the day, and then spend the morning writing for a set period of time – 20 minutes to an hour. Try to avoid writing in the evening because you’ll feel bombarded by all you need to do. Mornings are your writing go-time.

The WRITE ALL THE THINGS Commitment Issue

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Situation: Your brain acts like it has just been struck by lightning… all the time! You have about three light bulbs going off at once. Plot bunny after plot bunny are constantly pummeling against the side of your brain and you just want to write them all. However, that’s clearly impossible when your mind is darting from one thing to the next, and in the end you up writing a big fat total of zilch words.

Solution: Notebooks are your medicine! Make sure you always have one by your side, and I mean ALWAYS. You need to write down every single idea – no matter how ridiculous (Greek Gods riding horses on the motorway while chugging back vodka shots, you say?) – they turn out to be. Then when it comes to your writing time, highlight the one idea you’ll be working on. It’s much easier to focus that way and you might even be able to meld some of those plots into your focus novel.

The RESEARCH IS MY BFF Commitment Issue

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Situation: You love writing books set in foreign countries or in a fantasy world. But of course, to make this realistic you need to do your research. You need to know what kind of traffic lights they would have. What wood is that made of? And what plants would there be around? Once you’re done with the world though, you need to work on your characters. Give them personalities. Facial features. Now that you’ve done all this… it might be good to research some more. Because if we’re going to make this story realistic we need to look into how brunettes really think… how they move… how they feel being a brunette. LOOK UP EVERY DETAIL POSSIBLE!

Solution: Research is an important part of writing but you also need to know where to draw the line. Otherwise, you’ll never get to the actual writing bit! You need to give yourself a week and a week alone to do all the research your mind can think of. It’s up to you how much you cram into that single week. After that, you have to start writing! If you don’t know a detail you want to know, make something up, highlight it in another colour and then when you go and make edits once the first draft is completed… then you’re free to look it up!

The I WISH I ACTUALLY KNEW HOW TO WRITE Commitment Issue tumblr_li6g18KtQV1qh01r8o1_400

Situation: You love reading and you have a shelf of books purely dedicated to your favourite authors. Among the likes of Harry Potter, Shadowhunter books and some good Jane Austen too, are authors like Stephen King and others who have made it. You read the books again and again, loving their writing and wanting to dive into their books. When it comes to writing time you stop at the computer and freeze up. “I wish I knew how to write like them,” you say. “I’ll never be good enough for this.” And then you promptly shut down your computer and put everything away.

Solution: You need to be you! Uniqueness is the best thing about each of those author’s you love, and if you don’t have the power to be yourself through your writing it isn’t going to work either. You need to leave post it note reminders of how well you can write and about being YOU so that when you get down to writing, you can read them and find your own novel forming right at your fingertips.

The WRITER-BLOGGER-READER Commitment Issuewait_for_ittumblr_n7tfl3iXlm1t52mf4o1_500

Situation: You write. You blog. You read. So you spend all of your time being productive and acing life. But then you realise that at some point you just continued saying you do all of those things… while actually doing none at all. You take a holiday, and it doesn’t work. Hiatus. Read some light-hearted books. But nothing is catching your eye. What do you do?

Solution: You just start writing a blog post about other people who procrastinate and feel a lot better about yourself. Therefore, in turn, you’ve also started blogging and before you know it, you’re write-read-blog mojo shall have returned.

DISCLAIMER: The last one may just be me speaking to myself. Or not >.>

So how about you? Which one of these do you feel applies to yourself? Were the solutions helpful? Or do you not have any commitment issues at all?

Olivia-Savannah x

Writing Prompts Galore

At times, we all get a little bit stuck in the mud.

When I say at times, I mean a LOT of the time. The day I meet a writer who says, “I always have ideas. I never get stuck with my writing or had to face writers block before,” is the day the Doctor comes to whisk me away in his TARDIS. Because I know that all writers have a moment in their lives when they honestly have no idea how to put one word on that clean white sheet.

BUT I have the cure. Yes, writerlies, I am talking about writing prompts.

Writing prompts are usually just a sentence or two long, and they are an idea that you can have for free to get you back onto that writing wagon. You can try and put your own spin on them as well, because anyone with access to internet has access to these. So if you are intending to use them for a long run project, you may want to twist them a little.

I’m going to share a few of my favourite writing prompts and hope they can help you escape a difficult writing period of your life.

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I hope some of these inspire you!

Olivia-Savannah x

Writing 101: For Beginners

Hey everyone! Happy leap year day 😀

I’ve actually started a series of videos on my youtube channel which I am going to be gearing towards writers or those who want to write. I’ve decided it might be a good idea to share those videos here for those who want to watch a video version. And for those who don’t, I am going to have a written version in this blog post as well!

This is a post for beginners, but even our advanced writer selves need a recap of the basics from time to time. So let’s begin!

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I know what you’re thinking. Really, Olivia, starting with grammar? But the truth of the matter is that grammar and punctuation are pretty important! No one can really enjoy a story when it is incredibly hard to read and you need to jump through hoops to understand the message alone. Even though lots of writers like to skip over this step, it can be incredibly valuable to take the time to learn the basic grammar rules. I’ll be doing an extensive post on this in the future, so make sure you look out for that one!

Read, Read and… you guessed it! READ.

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This is probably the advice I would give to most writers. I may love reading but that is not the only reason why. Reading is incredibly important if you want to know what works and what doesn’t  work in a book. You learn about common tropes and once you know what you like/don’t like in a book, you can make sure you do/don’t include those elements in your own book!

And let’s just agree, reading is fun right? Natalie wrote a lovely post about the books she reads to get inspired which you should check out for more information!

Settle Down in your Writing Zone

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Every writer needs a writing zone. A mental one as well as a physical one. Your mental writing zone is the time of day that you give yourself to write. Try and set aside a standard amount of time each day which you can fully dedicate to your writing so you make sure you are always making progress.

For a physical writing zone, I’m more so relating to place! Where is it that you write? What is comfortable. Do you need a playlist? Silence? A pile of handy writing prompts for when times get rough? Make a little writing huddle zone just for yourself.

Plot Bunnies and Stereotypes

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No one can write without an idea. Some people get visited by the plot bunnies on a daily basis. Some of us have to go hunting and drag them out from the depths of their rabbit holes by their tails. It’s kinda different for everyone. Either way, try and find ways to get inspired and sprout those plot bunnies!

One way that I do this is by knowing my stereotypes. There are plenty of different kinds of tropes that happen in books. Knights in shining armor, damsels in distress… etc. But what YOU can do is take those common tropes that everyone secretly loves and put a spin on them to make them original and like something no one has ever seen before!

Research

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This one might seem pretty straight forward – and that;s because it is! Most of us write about things that we can relate to. But that doesn’t mean we know everything there is to know about that particular subject, emotion, or setting. Further research is needed to create the best writing about it that you possibly can!

*Pesters*

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Every writer needs at least one person to pester them about their writing. Someone who they can possibly write with when they want to, or someone who just cares enough to ask them if they have written today! I have someone like that… actually quite a few now. But what about you? I’ve mentioned how YWS is a great place for it, and have even made a whole post about why we need to partner up as writers.

So that’s all the advice I could give to a newbie writer! What advice would you give? 

Olivia-Savannah x

How to Edit a Poem

Hello everyone!

Editing a poem can be hard. I know a lot of people who struggle with it. But really, I wanted to give you a little bit of advice especially as Valentines is coming up and you all want to be writing those love poems right?

When it comes to poetry there are five things which should be the key focus of your editing. You need to look at the rhyme and rhythm, the word choice, the message, the punctuation and the structure.
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When it comes to rhyme and rhythm, the best thing to do is read the poem aloud. Reading the poem aloud will help you know if it sounds smooth when it is spoken. Are there too many syllables in a single line? Maybe a word in there needs to be cut, or another word needs to be added to make the line work. It is a little bit of a cheat sheet but sometimes I count the syllables in each line of my poem and if they roughly have the same amount, then usually, but not always, the rhythm is done well. Rhyme is another thing. NOT all poems have to rhyme! But if this one does, does the rhyming sound natural or forced? Is there a pattern to it?

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What is most important about the poem is the message that the poem brings across. Every poem has a message. Whether it is just to make the reader laugh, or to carry across a deep theme, share an opinion or just to highlight the small joys of life – there is always one there. Look for the message in the poem, and if you can’t find it then it is evident that something needs to be done to make it more clear. This is the vital part of the poem! Also, try and have other people read your poem. They might interpret it differently, but if they understand the general message, then you’re good to go!

Hand in hand with the message of the poem is the word choice. Poetry has limited words to it. Sure, it can be as long a poem as you like, but there are fewer words than in a novel so you have to be even more careful with your choices. The word choice should reflect your theme or at least be gearing towards helping get that message across. Also, don’t be afraid to make the effort of looking into beautiful words that could make your poem extra special. Having just the right word in just the right place makes for the best poem.

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Lastly, we move on to the punctuation and structure of the poem. This is something a lot of poets struggle with. Even though poems don’t always have to fit a formal structure, there needs to be a general meaning to the structure. Just like with paragraphs in novels, they have a method to them. A single part of the message should be in one stanza. You can isolate one liners to bring across more effect. The best way to nail structure is to experiment with it. The same pretty much goes into punctuation. When it comes to punctuating your poem remember there doesn’t have to be a capital letter at the start of every new line, and a comma at the end of every line. Take the structure out of your poem and then make it into prose. Put in the normal punctuation where you would – the full stops and the commas and all that. Then put it back into poetry form. That’s a handy trick to get the punctuation right. But remember, also experiment with punctuation because it can add more to your poem!

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This is a good place to start when it comes to editing/writing your poems! Hopefully, this will be of some use to you.

Do you like to edit poetry? Or write your own?

Olivia-Savannah x