Monthly Archives: August 2013

… Said No Teen, Ever

Yes, Mom, I’d love it if you came to the concert with us!


… said no teen, ever.

* * *

A strong teen voice is probably the one ingredient most likely to make or break a YA novel. So how does a writer get it?

While “voice” is one of those qualities that can be hard to define and even harder to develop, there are some basic things writers can do:

Avoid overly manufactured “teen talk.” Teens have highly sensitive fake-o-meters. Adult-manufactured “teen talk” sets those meters spinning. Yes, each new generation of teen-age speech has its own slang, its own cadence, its own set of cultural references. But a little bit goes a long way. Overdo it, and you come off as unrealistic at best and grating at worst.

Listen to how teens (and people in general) talk. This is especially important for writing dialog (which is different from voice, but which does contribute to your writer’s voice). People don’t speak in complete sentences. They use contractions. They interrupt each other in conversation. They use shorter sentences when they’re excited and longer sentences when they’re waxing poetic. Your characters should, too.

Don’t generalize. I hope this goes without saying, but … teens are people, too! Not all teens are alike. In fact, no two are alike. So give them their own personalities, dreams, failings, and flaws.

Think like a teen. Writing with a teen voice is less about using the latest “hot” phrases and more about seeing the world and responding to it the way a teen sees it and responds to it. Remember how it felt to be a teen? Good. That’s all you need! Drawing on your own feelings and experiences is the best way to make your teen voice real and believable.

* * *

And now, just for fun, some things teens would NEVER say, as contributed by real-live teens (and a few former teens) from my church’s youth group:
I wish my curfew was earlier.
I wish there was less food in the house.
I wish I didn’t have a smart phone.
I wish my internet connection was slower.
(Kyle Snoich)

I wish school was 10 hours a day.
The school lunches are so yummy! I could eat them all the time!
(Andy Vest)

I wish I had to wake up every day at 6 a.m.
I wish there was no such thing as football.
I wish there was no such thing as summer.
(Thomas Crowson)

Video games are boring.
I wish teachers were super mean.
TV shows from the ’90s are so boring.
I love paying for textbooks.
(Teresa Artigas)

All high school girls are really nice to everyone.
No one is ever insecure.
I just love doing chores.
I’m not attached to my cell phone.
(Emily Gallihugh)

Yes! Another essay assignment!
(Andrew Dietz)

I wish the driving age was 21.
I wish we had year-round school.
I wish texting had never been invented.
My parents need to be more strict.
(Billy Vaughan)

I wish I had more homework.
I really enjoy cleaning my room.
I sure hope I get to wake up early tomorrow!
Let’s go to the library! (Aw, that one makes me sad.)
I hate it when people text me.
(Nick Yother)

I want to be a telemarketer when I grow up.
(Laurie Cummins Morris)

Why I Said ‘Yes’ to the (Small) Press

There’s been a lot of talk in the publishing world this week about the advantages and potential disadvantages of signing with a small press. For those of you who aren’t as familiar with the publishing world, a “small press” means any company that isn’t part of the Big 5–Harper Collins, Penguin Putnam, Random House, Simon & Schuster, and Time Warner. Some have gone so far as to suggest that in today’s environment, where self-publishing is such a readily available option, there’s no point in signing with a small press.

I can only speak for myself and my book, but here are the Top 5 things THE FUNERAL SINGER would lack if I’d decided to self-publish rather than sign with Swoon Romance:

  1. A main character who remains likeable even at her worst. Mel becomes quite the diva about two-thirds of the way through the book. She’s hot, she’s famous, and she is oh, so much more than a mere funeral singer. But the reader can still root for her because Mel also is vulnerable. And that, my friends, is because my editor, Amy Garvey, pointed out ways I could make her vulnerable even at her worst. Had I self-published, I would not have had that editorial guidance and the story would not be as strong.
  2. Its gorgeous cover. Have I told you how much I love the cover? Not sure what would have happened had I self-pubbed. I’m not a designer, so I would have had to hire one. Would he or she have come up with something equally as striking? Perhaps. But one thing is for sure: I would be poorer right now.
  3. Cool promos. Such as having my first chapter published at the end of Lizzy Charles’ EFFORTLESS WITH YOU. A lot of people are reading Lizzy’s book. Within the first 24 hours of its release, it ranked within the top 2,000 books in the Kindle store and within the top 100 “coming of age books” within all of Amazon. As of this posting, it is all the way up to #69 in that category. That promotion, along with the mention of my book on USA Today’s romance blog, my cover reveal, and the blog tour that is scheduled upon the release of my book on September 24, are all publicity efforts I could not have achieved on my own.
  4. The support of an amazing publishing family. I daresay this is something Swoon offers that not even the Big 5 can top. Its listserve is so full of author encouragement and advice, some days I worry that my inbox might explode.
  5. A new manuscript that is about a third finished. I hit 18,000 words this week on my next book, meaning I’m about a third of the way through. No way would that have happened if I had decided to self-publish THE FUNERAL SINGER and had to deal with formatting it, hiring a cover designer, placing it on Amazon, doing all my own promotion, etc., etc. Having a publisher behind me to do all that allows me to do what I most want to do: write!

Please don’t get me wrong. I am not saying there is anything wrong with self-publishing. Many people are doing it and doing it well. Nor am I saying signing with a small press always offers advantages. Some small presses offer better services and better distribution than others. The key is to know what you’re getting into and to make an educated decision.

For THE FUNERAL SINGER, signing with Swoon Romance was a marriage made in heaven. And that’s why I said “yes” to the (small) press.

A Funeral Singer Word Cloud

UntitledThere you have it … THE FUNERAL SINGER in one compact little cloud! Thanks to the magic of Wordle, we can see which words appear the most in my book.

Perhaps the thing that most pleased me when I pasted my manuscript into Wordle’s cloud-formation machine and hit “Go” was seeing that the word “just” didn’t appear in 400-point font, dwarfing all the other words. We all have our crutch words, and “just” is certainly mine. I have to work hard to avoid overusing it.

What’s your crutch word? Not sure? Try pasting your work into Wordle to find out!

Debut: Effortless with You

Effortless WIth You CoverCongratulations to my fellow Swoon Romance author, Lizzy Charles, on today’s debut of her young adult romance novel, EFFORTLESS WITH YOU!

In less than 24 hours, Lizzy’s book is already ranked in the top 2,500 in Kindle sales and had seven 5-star reader reviews … impressive! And I can understand why:

School is out and Lucy is ready for the perfect summer: lazy days at the pool, invitations to the most exclusive parties, and romantic dates with her hot new boyfriend. That is, until she lands in trouble one too many times and her parents issue the ultimate punishment: a summer job. Suddenly, the summer can’t end fast enough.

To make matters worse, the job is painting houses with Justin, the most popular, egotistical guy in school. Spending all summer with Justin might be other girls’ dreams, but definitely not Lucy’s. After all, Justin is cocky, annoying, and a jerk. So what if he’s the most beautiful jerk Lucy’s ever seen? Or that his grin makes her forget she’s mad at the world? Or that maybe, just maybe, there’s more to Justin than Lucy realizes. Only one thing is certain: it won’t be the summer she wanted, but it might be exactly the one she needs.

Sounds fantastic, doesn’t it?

You can buy Lizzy’s book here on Amazon. And get to know her on her blog, her Facebook page, and her Twitter account.

(P.S. At the end of Lizzy’s book, Swoon is running a promo for THE FUNERAL SINGER … the full first chapter! So if you want a preview of my book, you should download Lizzy’s!)