32 Tips For Newbie YA Writers

Monday, March 22, 2010

Okay, so if you count how many years I've been seriously writing (um... one and a half) it does seem an awful lot like I'm a newbie myself. But I have been writing for the past decade, if you count that short story I wrote when I was six. Which I totally do. It was awesome.

Anyway, ages ago there was a YA Lit Chat on Twitter about advice for newbie writers. I'm sharing here the things I tweeted then! Obviously you shouldn't feel obliged to take writing advice from a 16-year-old, but these are mostly things I've picked up from elsewhere, so they might come in handy!
(By the way, I set up a Steph Bowe Facebook fan page! Should you feel like becoming a fan, here is the link.)
  1. Be polite and professional with everyone. You never know who will turn out to be a great contact down the road.
  2. Learn to sell yourself, starting with your query. You'll need to be a salesmen when your book is published.
  3. After a rejection, don't email back and ask why they rejected you. Just don't.
  4. You can have the most amazing query in the world, but it's no good if your book falls flat.
  5. Develop a thick skin. Rejections won't hurt as much.
  6. Always be professional online. Always. Agents will google your name.
  7. Tack your first page on the end of your query. Make it an amazing first page. And an amazing novel, naturally.
  8. Agents are not evil. They don't hate writers. They aren't a higher life form. But be respectful.
  9. Previous publications or degrees aren't necessary. The writing/book is what counts.
  10. Believe it or not, there actually are teenagers that aren't obsessed with sex.
  11. Have someone else read your query letter - other writers, family to proofread, etc.
  12. Don't query until your novel is well and truly finished.
  13. Don't write YA because it's 'hot'
  14. Never, ever badmouth other writers/publishing folks online or anywhere else
  15. Read your dialogue out loud. It has to sound natural. Adding 'like' as every second word doesn't work.
  16. Don't sanitize your writing because you're afraid of the YA gatekeepers - parents and librarians.
  17. To teenaged writers: Don't think you can write YA well just because you're a teenager.
  18. Editing isn't just running a spell check, FYI.
  19. Avoid cliche characters like the plague. Hot myserious bad boy, popular blonde cheerleader, etc.
  20. Make sure the reader can relate to the protagonist. Totally shallow teenaged characters aren't good.
  21. Don't use slang. Becomes dated very quickly.
  22. Teenagers are awkward. Remember this.
  23. Never ever write what's trendy. Trends will be outdated by the time you start querying.
  24. Don't assume writing for teenagers is easier than writing for adults. It isn't.
  25. Don't write a million prologues. One is fine.
  26. Don't compare yourself to other writers. Thoughts like, 'That person is so much better a writer than me' gets you nowhere.
  27. Don't rush into publication. Writing is not a race.
  28. Don't let your family or friends critique your work. They will lie and tell you it's great. Always.
  29. Don't put in tons of sex or drug use solely for the sake of 'edginess'.
  30. Finish your book before you query. And by finish I mean edit until your brain explodes.
  31. Don't write books solely on a 'message'. Characters and story come first.
  32. Don't start a book with the weather. No teenager gives a flying fish about the weather.
Share your own tips in the comments!
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