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

 

Writing a Query

So you’ve finished your novel. Hot-diggity, that’s amazing! Pour yourself a drink first because you, my good fellow, deserve one.

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Next step on your list is querying agents. Precious few writers ever get to this stage, so pour yourself another drink. Literary agents are the magical gateway to publishers and that contract you need to swaddle your brain child. Some publishers, usually small and indie ones, accept unsolicited manuscripts, but for big ones like HarperCollins or Penguin or Bloomsbury, you need an agent. Editors often have lunch dates with agents, talk about what they’re looking for, then the agent—you see where I’m going with this, right?

Even if you’re planning on reaching out to publishers directly, you still need a query. Queries are basically the blurb on the back of a book. They need to hook readers in.

People, even professionals, have different opinions on what the first line should be. Should it be “I’m writing to query Super Awesome Novel, which is a 90, 000 word YA Paranormal” or “If you think your job is bad, try torturing souls in Hell for all eternity. Without pension.”

Personally, I lean towards the second. (FYI, that’s a line from my own query letter for a YA Paranormal.) It’s something you’d see on the back flap and more inviting. Remember agents read hundreds of queries a day. Hook ’em in early. Don’t make them work for it.

The body is what your manuscript is about—and what’s at stake. This is very important. Something has to be at stake in your novel, or it’s just a discourse of events. Take Harry Potter: if he doesn’t defeat Voldemort, the Wizarding World will be doomed. Even fluffy contemporaries have stakes, like will the boy get the girl, or will the MC achieve self-peace. Stakes are what keep readers turning pages.

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Don’t make it too complicated. The blurb of Veronica Roth’s upcoming book confused me to no end and if she wasn’t Veronica goddamn Roth, I’d click away. You do not have that luxury. You are a nameless author in a sea of aspiring writers. Keep it simple, keep them wanting more.

Try to stay away from words you invented within your manuscript. If they’re an essential plot point, explain them. A good rule of thumb is three foreign words maximum. A query is no longer than a page and you have to add in word count, the genre, comp titles (published novels that are similar to yours, like The Maze Runner was marketed towards The Hunger Games fans), and maybe why you’re querying this particular agent especially. The last part is honestly up to you. Some agents like the personal touch, some agents don’t care. The actual blurb should be no more than 200 words. All that stuff I mentioned, including a one-sentence About You, should be put at the very end.

Now you’re probably shaking in your boots. 200 words? My manuscript is 100k! How do you expect me to condense that to the price of a good steak dinner?

Well, you can. Look at all those titles on your shelf. They don’t have mile-long synopses, yet something attracted you to buy them. True, that back flap was probably put together by a marketing team, but they had to go through querying, too. If they can do it, so can you.

If you’re looking for an example, here’s the rest of mine:

Matt is bored. Stoking the fires of Hell is a nice gig and all, but anything gets old after a couple of centuries. So he comes up with the most brilliant plan to pass the time: possessing a human. Soon, Matt’s having the time of his life: munching down cheese, taking joyrides on wheelchairs, experiencing high school—the works.

There’s just one little catch: he’s technically not supposed to go body-snatching, and certainly not allowed to stay long-term. If he gets found out, there’ll be hell to pay.

Yet Matt can’t bear to leave his host—or his new life.

But whatever his decision, he better make it fast. An Archangel’s already on his tail and his demon siblings are getting suspicious. And to top it off, he might, quite possibly be falling for an atheist with muscular dystrophy and an attitude.

It’s time to decide once and for all: is he a man—or a demon?

Did it do well? That, my friends, is a question I’ll answer in another post. Stay tuned for step two of the querying process: The Checklist. Or as I like to call it: Stuff To Do Before Pressing Send to Every Agent in New York.

Ciao, darlings!

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

Make Writing TOP PRIORITY in Your Life.

Gosh guys, it feels like I’ve been gone for a super long time! Everything has been super busy I, along with some other members here, had to sort through a lot of LIFE stuff. But we’re all back and happy to jump back into it!
HAPPY
As a fair warning, just letting you guys know that this post is going to be kind of short. 😉 but it’s still an important post and I hope you guys take a lot out of it like I did as I wrote it. ♥♥
Well, what are we waiting for??

Let’s get to it!


So today I wanted to share with you guys something that I found in one of my emails (it was from one of the many emails I sighed up for bettering my writing)

It was a message that was really powerful to me and the best part about is that what I’m about to share, you guys  can use in their life. (Whether it be centered toward your writing or your own personal lives). Whatever floats your boat 😉 I originally got this AWESOME-CAKES idea from the lovely ladies over at Go Teen Writers, (if you’ve not yet subscribed to them and you call yourself a writer, YO, OMG WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR??) Any who, what they talk about is basically about a mason jar, some sand, and some super huge rocks. 

Am I making any sense? Calm down, calm down. I know. But shh, listen. All of this is about to make sense.

They talk about setting your priorities to make sure you’re not stressing and that you never lose sight of what’s important in your life. (family, job, friends, etc.) So, remember how I talked about that sand, mason jar, and rocks? Well, the example they gave, talked about going through life and being able to decipher/remember the difference between the filter things, or “the sand.” This is how it works: You get a jar, fill it with rocks, then add the sand and watch as the sand particles ease their way between the rocks, navigating their way to the bottom, A.K.A. the “big” things in our life, or the more important things. 

Isn’t that just the bestest thing EVA??

Also, I have absolutely no idea if I made any sense just then because I, Kei Lei, am a total fail whale at explaining things. I kid you not. Don’t even try to get me to explain directions to you. I’d half you somewhere in Hong Kong by the time we’re through. 

So, anyway, Go Teen Writers’ post is super freaking awesome and if I have you the slightest bit curious about what they’re all about and you’re a writer then PLEASE, PLEASE go check them out guys!


I don’t know about you guys but this message really helped me out a lot! It really changed my perspective on a lot of things in my life. So, let go of all of the stress of life (whether it be with writing, school, work, etc.) and just remember to let the sand slip between the rocks today. Decide what is is the most important at that moment. Soooo, have fun, plan it all out. You’ll be happier for it.

Let the sand fall between the rocks. ♥♥


Now it's your turn 2

Any other quotes that you guys have come across that have really changed how you look at things? Or helped you to see things differently ehen you were going through tough times? I’d love to hear them, yo!

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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

Why You Should Set Your Book Somewhere Unique

In my extensive reading of YA books, I’ve realised that the vast majority of the books are set somewhere in the US, with a few in the UK or Europe now and again. In fact, the only ones I’ve read set in my home country of Australia were written by Australian authors. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the US—it’s so vast that stories can be completely different depending on what state they’re set in. That being said, I long for books set somewhere different.

If there’s one thing you should know about me as a writer, it’s that I like to set my books in unique places. I have one book set in the US, and that’s in a ghost town. My other books are set in Copenhagen, Cape Town, Budapest, and most recently, New Zealand. I haven’t been to all these places (yet), but I’m interested in the way stories can change depending on their setting.

Today I’m going to talk about why I think you should set your story somewhere different.

It draws the reader in.
I don’t know about the rest of you, but if I see a book set in Norway, for example, I am almost 95% more likely to pick it up. I know absolutely nothing about Norway, but I’d love to hear about what life if like there, and your book has just given me that chance.

The research.
This is for you as a writer. A unique setting will give you the chance to research this incredible place, maybe you live there yourself or maybe you’ve been there and just fell in love with the place. You’ll learn about the history, the people, the streets and everything—it’s one of my favourite parts of writing. I actually got to sit in cafes in Copenhagen where my characters would hang out, and it was just incredible.

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My character’s favourite place, and mine too!

A new perspective.
Think about Norway for a second again (I don’t why I picked Norway, but roll with it). How many books do you know set in Norway? How much do you know about the Norwegian way of life? Writing about somewhere different gives you the chance to give the place a new voice that people wouldn’t have heard before. What’s not cool about that? Think about how different a regular character could be if they’ve lived their entire life in Norway. What different live experiences would they have?

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Isn’t this beautiful?

So those are a few of my reasons as to why I think unique settings are they way to go. I’d like to know where your books are set? Or maybe there’s somewhere you’d like to write a book about?