Guest Post: “Why Write YA Fiction?” By Christine Rees

Guest Post

Meet Christine Rees.

CHRISTINEREES_AUTHOR

Canadian teen fiction author Christine Rees is a Western University graduate, Sheridan College alumni, animal enthusiast and lover of all literature. Christine is passionate about helping other writers find their voice and challenging themselves. She spends her free time writing books with a cat nestled in her lap or a large dog encouraging her procrastination. Christine’s debut YA novel The Hidden Legacy and its sequel The Broken Rivalry are paranormal stories filled with romantic inklings and suspense.

Social Media Links:
Goodreads:
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16212352.Christine_Rees
Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/AuthorChristineRees/
Twitter:
https://twitter.com/ChristineeeRees
Instagram:
https://www.instagram.com/christineeerees/
Website:
www.christinerees.com

The Guest Post.

Why Write YA Fiction?

As a teen fiction author, this is the most common question that I’m asked. My response to this is, why not?

YA fiction revolves around the concepts of growth, change, and self-discovery – many of which we are familiar with. The truth is, YA fiction isn’t just for teenagers. Not anymore. Almost 70% of teen fiction readers are over the age of 18. That’s a large number of readers that are outside of the targeted age group, and there’s a number of reasons for choosing this genre over others.

First and foremost, YA fiction either relates to a teenager’s current situation or cultivates nostalgic feels for older readers. Remember the butterflies in your stomach the first time you held your crush’s hand? What about the unbearable pain of your first heartbreak? First time experiences are powerful and continue to remain so in literature.

Secondly, teen stories can implant serious, dark, and highly emotional undertones that relate to readers of all ages. Many YA readers and writers relate to widespread themes throughout the genre because they don’t necessarily view themselves as adults. Growth and change continue throughout our lives. This doesn’t fade as you get older. For example, the feelings and challenges that a teen character is facing can highly relate to what a twenty-something reader is currently dealing with. This may create a bond between a fictional character, a reader, and their situation regardless of the book genre.

So, why do I focus on teen fiction?

Because it is one of the most powerful genres out there. This is the time in a character’s life where they go through tough life changes as well as self-discovery. This is also an opportunity for massive character growth, deep-rooted emotions, and life-learning skills.

Books have the power to impact us and our thinking. They provide a new perspective, a way of looking at things that we might not have considered before, and that can help readers through some of their toughest days.

I write teen fiction because it’s the genre I still relate the most to, and I firmly believe that you should write what you know. Whether that’s about loss, first-time joy, popularity, being an outcast, or failures and successes, YA fiction accepts it all.

Book Info.

If you’re interested in reading YA fiction, check out my debut best-selling and award-winning novel, THE HIDDEN LEGACY and its recently released sequel THE BROKEN RIVALRY:

The Broken Rivalry3D-large2

The curse of premonition follows Faye Lithyer, forcing her to witness death—over and over again.

When Faye moves in with her grandmother in Astoria, Oregon, her visions grow stronger. Faye watches a new friend fall victim to a murder in the not-so-distant future and becomes obsessed with preventing it from happening. However, Faye’s insecurity has her undecided whether she should tell her friend about their impending death or hunt down the murderer before it’s too late.

Faye will be faced with an epic choice that threatens to expose her abilities. Will she choose to save her friend from a monster or risk becoming one herself?

Book Buy Links:
The Hidden Legacy: https://books2read.com/u/47xEeE#!
The Broken Rivalry: https://books2read.com/u/mqvK1v

Guest Post: “The five essential elements of my modern-day fantasy series, THE TAROT SEQUENCE, as told in tarot card imagery” by K.D. Edwards

Guest Post

Meet K.D. Edwards

K.D. Edwards is the author of The Tarot Sequence urban fantasy series. The Hanged Man (PYR; December 17, 2019) is the follow-up to Edwards debut The Last Sun.

Edwards lives and writes in North Carolina, but has spent time in Massachusetts, Maine, Colorado, New Hampshire, Montana, and Washington. (Common theme until NC: Snow. So, so much snow.)

Mercifully short careers in food service, interactive television, corporate banking, retail management, and bariatric furniture has led to a much less short career in Higher Education.

Social Media Links:

Website: kd-edwards.com

Twitter: @KDEdwards_NC

The Guest Post.

The five essential elements of my modern-day fantasy series, THE TAROT SEQUENCE, as told in tarot card imagery.

  The World

Let’s start with the World card, one of the major arcana of the tarot deck. World-building is a massive part of The Tarot Sequence. I created a backdrop to my story that is unashamedly broad and deep; with elements both familiar and completely alien; strange yet approachable. You’ll see iPads and water hags; smart phones and thunder spirits; grocery stores and ghost ships. 

In my series, Atlantis had always existed, once invisible to the eyes of the world. When humanity reached out to space in the 1960s, they managed to finally pierce the illusions that had kept the island nation secret. Once revealed, Atlantis and humanity clashed, resulting in a World War with devastating consequences.

In the modern era, Atlanteans have fled their ruined home and relocated to Nantucket, an island off the coast of Massachusetts. Using powerful magic, the Arcana – the rulers of the city — translocated abandoned human ruins from across the earth and created a new, patchwork, world-class city. The city is now wealthy and safe, and still relatively isolated from the rest of the planet.

The true centers of power in New Atlantis are based on the tarot deck’s major arcana cards, such as the Sun, Death, the Tower, the Hierophant… The hero of my story is Rune Saint John, the last prince of the destroyed Sun Throne. He survived the fall of his court under the protection of his sometime-employer, Lord Tower; and lives now by taking on assignments too dangerous for the average citizen.

Rune lives with his lifelong bodyguard, Brand – a human bonded to him in the crib. 

And that? That’s the world around my story. I spent a great deal of time developing it. For every single detail I put in a book, there are likely 10 pages scratched in a handwritten binder. World-building is a huge part of my series’ identity.

    The Fool

The Fool is the card of a capering man. His is carefree and capricious; he is considered either the weakest or most strongest character in the major arcana class; and, designated the number “zero”, can come either at the very beginning or end of the story.

I chose this card to symbolize an element of my story because humor is one of the main pillars of my writing. I never considered myself a writer who could successfully use humor in a story; but, then again, I’d never created Brand until I started this story.

Brand is sarcastic, snarky, foul-mouthed, temperamental, and massively useful for trying to inject humor into my dialog. Because he shares a telepathic bond with Rune, Rune knows that all of Brand’s sharp wit comes from a place of true caring and love, which allows him to enjoy Brand as a performance and not an antagonism.

I think I succeeded, too. Of all the feedback I get, very little comes close to readers who comment on Brand, and what he brings to the novel.

  The Tower

The Tower is a card of secrets and betrayal. It’s ideal for spies and interrogators; espionage and mystery. In my story, Lord Tower is one of the wealthiest Arcana on the island, certainly one of the most powerful. He appears to have a great fondness for Rune; though readers comment often that they’re not sure whether he’s a good buy or bad guy.

I picked this because it’s a good card for an unreliable narrator. My story is told in first person, and Rune tends to be very engaging with the reader. He holds little back…..except for one thing. He is very cagey about describing what happened the night his court fell. He was hurt very, very badly; he was tortured and assaulted, and the trauma of that still infects every part of his life. But there are details he refuses to share with anyone around him.

As the author, I am very careful with this, because Rune is being unreliable. I’ve left breadcrumbs about this for two full novels. It’s interesting to see what people have guessed – especially on the Discord channel, where there’s an entire reader-created chatroom dedicated to spoilery guesses.

It’ll all come out in TAROT 3, which is the last novel in the first trilogy. After that, I’ll move onto a 3-book arc about the secrets being kept from Rune, rather than what he’s keeping from you. But I’d planned this arc from the start – before LAST SUN was even finished. I can’t wait to see what my readers think of the climax of it.

  The Three of Cups

I’m wandering outside the major arcana now. The 3 of Cups is a good card to denote community or found family. (Thank you to tarot author Jaymi Elflord for this suggestion!) Found family is the third pillar of my writing style – along with world-building and humor. 

There is so much toxicity in our world. From the moment our eyes open, to the moment they close, we’re hit with a steady stream of negative messaging. The news? Social media? Even people’s general impatience in driving on the road, or waiting in long lines. There’s a ton of good stuff, sure; but there are also a lot of frayed nerves in 2020, especially in the U.S.

So I write stories with lots of found family. Misfits who find a home; outcasts who find their people; and strong, noble characters who look over the whole motley collection. When my first novel began, Rune and Brand had each other to look out for. By the end of the second novel, Rune has a boyfriend; Rune and Brand have a minor teenager as their ward; and there are a handful of other strong but misplaced young people needing Rune’s protection. I’m trying to find the laughter and love in this. I want people to come back to TAROT 3 like they’re coming back to their own found family.

And in a way, that’s even been my experience as a published writer on social media. I have so many incredible readers. They share their stories with me. They share artwork inspired by New Atlantis. They make drink recipes base on the character, and cookie recipes, and create image boards. I am so damned lucky to have the support and attention of these amazing readers. They’ve become like a little family to me.

Time

Photo Credit: Alex W @blinkingkills
on Twitter

And last but not least? The most powerful card in my own major arcana pantheon: Time.

I’ve got 9 novels planned. I know what happens in each one. I know the major turning points; the successes; and the defeats. I know the very last scene, and the last thing Rune says to readers. I can’t wait to take this journey with my readers.

Guest Post: “On the Benefits of Staying Busy” by Michael Chin

Guest Post

Author photo.jpgMeet Michael Chin.

Michael Chin was born and raised in Utica, New York and currently lives in Las Vegas with his wife and son. He has three full-length short story collections on the way: You Might Forget the Sky was Ever Blue from Duck Lake Books (available for pre-order from the publisher here: https://catalog.ducklakebooks.com/p/you-might-forget-sky-was-ever-blue.html or on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/You-Might-Forget-Ever-Blue/dp/1943900167), Circus Folk from Hoot ‘n’ Waddle, and The Long Way Home from Cowboy Jamboree Press. He has also published three chapbooks: Autopsy and Everything After with The Florida ReviewDistance Traveled with Bent Window Books, and The Leo Burke Finish with Gimmick Press.

Find him online at miketchin.com and follow him on Twitter @miketchin

 

The Guest Post.

On the Benefits of Staying Busy

One of the more memorable moments of the original Avengers movie sees The Incredible Hulk reveal how and why he’s now able to control his transformation between regular ol’ human being Bruce Banner, and big green super hero—a shift formerly subject to his emotional state (i.e., when he was mad, the Hulk came out).

He casually explains that rather than having to get upset now, and rather than being subject to his emotions, instead now he’s always angry.

Full disclosure: I’m not a big fan of the Marvel movies for the low/contrived/artificial stakes and excessive action sequences that pervade most of them. This moment, however, teaches something valuable in the name of consistency and harnessing that which risks teetering out of control.

I write more than most people I know, which is a part of why this year and a half will see not just my first, or first two, but my first three books launch into the world.

I’m always writing.

Workaholicism is too often celebrated in our culture as people put achievement and money ahead of their families, health, and mental wellbeing—you know, actual happiness. Advocating for the practice of always writing might feel like an argument in this vein, but it isn’t exactly. I’ve found that consistently writing some—say, a half hour, five hundred words a day—is both sustainable for me and enough to have a lot of pages after every few months, every year, even in the typical case that while parenting and working at least one job at a time (usually more), I don’t have a ton of extra time or energy to give.

Staying busy in this style also facilitates diversifying my projects. I first drafted the collection of stories about circus performers that would become my second book, Circus Folk, in 2013. In between drafts, I wrote the stories that would become my first book, You Might Forget the Sky was Ever Blue. In the anything but linear process of drafting, revising, and organizing that manuscript, I wrote other stories and poems, and drafted multiple novels—some of which have been published as stand-alone pieces in literary journals, some I’m still re-working, and of course a fair portion of which will probably never see the light of day. (Though I should also note that those in between times included drafting over forty linked flash pieces that became the backbone of my third book, The Long Way Home.)

I say all of this not to suggest that my way is the way for everyone. Neither can I claim enough success to justify such bold pronouncements, nor does everyone have the same work style, nor resources that I have at my disposal (not least of all, more than one full-time job that has facilitated stealing time for my own work in between long stretches of doing the work I’m being paid for). It’s worth some food for thought, however, for those writers, like myself, who have also spent significant stretches not producing as much as they want or feeling disconnected from their writerly selves. Sometimes, it’s less useful to get busy than to stay busy.

Guest Post: “The Mysterious Teenage Hominid–Writing For Teens” by Christy J. Breedlove

Guest Post

Meet Christy J. Breedlove.

img_1211.jpg

I’m a diehard frantic creator of Young Adult fiction, whether it’s paranormal, science fiction, suspense or fantasy. I believe in pure escapism with unceasing action adventure and discovery. If you want a moral message or cultural statement, you’re apt to get a small one. But let me tell you something, reader, I want to make you laugh until you gag, cry until you’re dry and tear out tufts of your hair. Today, young adult literature needs some support and renewed interest.. How soon we’ve forgotten about Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Divergent and Twilight. Oh, the mania! Where has it gone? Are we losing our young readers? We need something really fresh and new. I and several writers are going to pour everything we have into that end. You are the kindly judge–help us get there and we will deliver!

Christy J. Breedlove, originally born in California, moved to Sylvania, Alabama in 2009. Her occupations have included newspaper editor/reporter, astronomer, federal police officer and part time surfer girl. She has been writing off and on for 36 years, having officially published books beginning in 1988. Today she writes in her favorite genre, Young Adult. She was a finalist in the L. Ron. Hubbard Writers of the Future contest, and just recently took the first place grand prize in a YA novel writing contest for The Girl They Sold to the Moon. She writes the popular blog, Guerrilla Warfare for Writers (special weapons and tactics), hoping to inform and educate writers all over the world about the high points and pitfalls of publishing.

Social Media Links:
Amazon Page:  https://www.amazon.com/Chris-Harold-Stevenson/e/B001K8UUBK
Christy’s Website:  https://christysyoungadultfabuliers.com/
Blog:  http://guerrillawarfareforwriters.blogspot.com/

The Guest Post.

The Mysterious Teenage Hominid–Writing For Teens
There was no question why I wrote YA fiction in the first place. When I got into it, it was a thrilling, lucrative and expressive category. Harry Potter was dominating the charts. The Hunger Games appeared, along with Divergent and Twilight. Writing young adult fiction then was like being on a speeding freight train which had no brakes and a throttle that only went forward.
There are no estimates of how many writers jumped on that band wagon.
I remember my first real YA book, The Girl They Sold to the Moon. That tiny tome sold six times and took the first place grand prize in a YA novel writing contest, which was sponsored by a small publisher. That wasn’t the reason I wrote it. I wrote it because I loved the characters, not the atmosphere, world or environment. Yet again, something clicked inside me. I had a handle on something. I could talk teen. Not spectacularly, but well enough to pull the wool.

The teenage years are restless and oft times reckless years. They are an era in life that explores change, hopes, failures, experimentation, rebellion and growth. Especially growth. Most fundamental truisms are picked up during these formative years–rules or guidelines for life. What appeals to me so much about this time of life is that it can be so unstable. It’s a time when tragic mistakes are made–emotional upheaval is magnified. To me, this gives me a sense of freedom in exploring some deep-felt topics. Unlike an adult that might be more prone to decorum and subtly, a teen might very well blunder into a situation, causing higher consequences and repercussions.
The exploration of the teen mind can offer a ton of latitude in subject matter–life, death, love, hatred, bullying, lawlessness, substance abuse, incest, pregnancy and even murder. The young, let’s face it, are resilient, forceful and courageous with their own convictions. They can take a hell of a lot of punishment, rebound and get their life’s compass back on direction in record time. Sometimes they fail, but the harder they fail, the harder they strive to crush the demons.
My guilty pleasure in writing for, or about teens, is my utter fascination with their nonconformity. Looking back upon my own kid-hood, I can glimpse my errors and snippets of absolute stupidity. This stupidity allows me cartloads of humor and irony in my writing. There is nothing quite like a couple of teens going at it verbally or physically, and in many cases, only to drive a point home. There’s nothing quite like a teen hitting you smack between the eyes with blunt-force honesty. They regularly deal with each other in absolute truth. No words minced. Compared to adults, teens act; there’s no lolly gagging. We do have the quiet, shy and retiring types, but those are exceptions, to what I think is the overall demeanor.
In an action/adventure tale, or a post-apocalyptic story, I can bring teens to the edge of death several times and have them ultimately survive. Physiologically, younger adults are more fit than adults. Have you ever seen a walking antibiotic? They can suffer and endure much more abuse than an older person. I have been known to take advantage of this fact time and time again. Youth–strength–indestructibility.
I think teen fiction offers higher stakes, loftier emotions and grander outcomes. Nowhere is YA fiction better told than in the hands of the teenagers themselves. The young set has a finger directly on the pulse of their own lifestyles. They don’t have to guess or research what they would do in any given circumstances–they know exactly the ways in which they would handle it, along with their own cultural oddities that so confuse the adults. Teens have a language all their own. You need a decoder ring to understand it. Look at their text messages–you need a cypher to crack them! Trust me, teens are not of this Earth!
As a person in my sixties, I cannot understand why I feel I was chosen to write young adult tales. Those years were some of the fondest times of my life. I don’t look back upon them with disdain. Albeit, there were many cringe-worth times. There were stage plays and scenes of stark terror. But I remember them with an awestruck gusto, a bewildering time of adventure and exploration. My over-the-top emotional writing style seems to fit right into the plots and characters. I’m always learning, because there are so many writers out there, both young and old, who are masters at expressing the teen world.
I’m only along for the ride.
I have a lot of reviews that are about to come in for this latest book. The trickle has started. So far everything seems beyond expectations. Yet, all of these reviewers seem to be teen or twenty-something women. I can just about guarantee that if I’ve got something wrong in the text, it’s apt to be flagged. And I welcome that. It just means that I get to learn more secrets.
Christy-red-shifting outta here.
(BTW, blue shift means to come toward you. Red-shift means leaving or going away from you).

Guest Post: “What I’ve Learned From Readers” by K.D.

Guest Post, Misc.

KD.pngMeet K.D.

K.D. lives and writes in North Carolina, but has spent time in Massachusetts, Maine, Colorado, New Hampshire, Montana, and Washington. (Common theme until NC: Snow. So, so much snow.) Mercifully short careers in food service, interactive television, corporate banking, retail management, and bariatric furniture has led to a much less short career in Higher Education. The first book in his urban fantasy series THE TAROT SEQUENCE, called THE LAST SUN, was published by Pyr in June 2018. The follow-up, THE HANGED MAN, will be published in September 2019. K.D. is represented by Sara Megibow at kt literary, and Kim Yau at Paradigm for media rights.

 

The Guest Post.

What I’ve Learned From My Readers.
Everyone tells you the same thing: DO NOT read the reviews on your novel!

It’s crazy…. Literally everyone has an opinion on it. People who’ve never written a book. People who want to write books. People who’ve written lots of books. All of them seemed to say the same thing. Ominously. Like even the act of opening a reader review will cause a pale girl with lots of dark hair to climb through my computer screen.

But I did. From the start. From the first one, to the one that was written yesterday. I’ve read every word that people have taken the time to write about THE LAST SUN.

Anyway, this is me: an urban fantasy author who writes about a reimagined Atlantis in modern day society, built loosely around the theme of the tarot deck’s major arcana, with main characters who just happen to be gay. My novels center around a buddy-duo named Rune and Brand, and their adventures in the sprawling world of New Atlantis. I’m hoping to turn this into a nine novel series – 3 trilogies, actually. The overall series is called the Tarot Sequence, the first novel is THE LAST SUN, and the follow-up, to be published in December 2019, is THE HANGED MAN.

I didn’t know what to expect when the first novel came out. I’m an older writer – old enough, at least, to remember a world that looked a lot different from the one today with regards to casually including gay characters in your story. I didn’t know if my series would be pigeon-holed as simply “Gay Fiction” or if by marketing it as Sci-Fi I’d be enduring the wrath of unnamed straight readers who picked up the book assuming Rune was a red-blooded straight male who would obviously never fall in love with someone named Addam.

The truth? Most people were awesome. My readers rock this universe. They are kind and effusive. They share artwork and song recommendations. 95% of my reviews are overwhelmingly positive. I worked my ass off writing HANGED MAN, largely because these people are so exceptionally great. I owe them a great follow-up.

But for a second….let’s talk about the 5% of reviews that weren’t overwhelmingly positive. I read those too. This is a list of what I learned about my readers (my audience); my writing; and the thickness of my skin.

  • Oh wow did I mess up my portrayal of female characters. Looking back, I thought I was Mr. Diversity because I had an urban fantasy with characters who just happened to be gay men! And while, sure, I think there’s a market for that, I also learned that it’s not enough. It’s no excuse to omit vibrant, strong, interesting, powerful female characters. I literally had none. NONE. Those that I did include were either villains or heavily-flawed people. I am deeply ashamed of this, and worked hard to show a better balance in HANGED MAN. This is, by far, one of the most powerful things I learned from my audience. I can’t wait for people to meet Anna and Lady Death, in particular. And Aunt Diana returns for at least one scene where she kind of beautifully puts Rune in his place.
  • And along those same lines? My character were overwhelmingly white. Part of that originally had to do with my own sensitivity, and not wanting to appropriate other cultures. But I’ve learned that’s no excuse not to include people of color in my story. So I start correcting that in HANGED MAN, and will correct it even more in Novel #3. Lady Death, who makes her first appearance in HANGED MAN, is a strong black woman who will get along well with Rune, and play a huge part in Novel #3. And the Dawncreeks are a family with a bloodline that traces back to the Wampanoag (not unlike Rune himself)—an American Indian tribe I’ve mentioned before in the context of their importance in East Coast history. And the Arcana—the rulers of New Atlantis –are an extremely multicultural bunch. Since they’ve had business interests in every part of the human world, it wouldn’t make sense to have them be anything but diverse.
  • I also learned it’s OK not to have a knock-down, dragged-out action sequence every other chapter. Now this is a much more subtle learning. I think genre novels always have a fair balance of action and narrative; but “action” doesn’t always have to mean a fight sequence. Early in HANGED MAN, there’s a long sequence that takes place in a red light district called the Green Docks, which is comprised of long-lost ghost ships. I learned that I didn’t need to use this as a backdrop for a fight, because the backdrop itself was the action. It was spooky and haunted, and Rune, Brand, and Addam had to be on their toes the entire time they explored it to gather information on a runaway named Layne. I didn’t necessarily need to have more than that. Atmosphere is action.
  • And sure, in reading all of the first novel reviews, I got some homophobia. Shockingly little, however. So little that I actually was able to laugh most of it off. There was one person who gave me a low-star review, but also published their Kindle notes. And in their Kindle notes, I saw the point where their enjoyment of the story turned into a rejection of the gay theme. (The focus of the story isn’t on a gay character; the main character just happens to be gay, and a potential love interest that appears halfway into the story is, indeed, a man.) The reviewer made a Kindle note to the affect: “Oh great, this just turned into another homoerotic bottom boy novel. What a waste.” And most recently, a reader made comments about my pandering to the diversity crowd by having a character who wasn’t a “boring straight white male.” I should note that in both cases, I anonymously reprinted the comments on Twitter with this caption: MORE TO COME!
  • …..BUUUUT I learned, hypothetically, that the person who left that borderline homophobic comment may see that I quoted him or her on Twitter, because the next thing I knew that last 3-star review became a 2-star review, and was immediately followed by another 2-star review by a new reviewer who just happened to have reviewed no novel except for LAST SUN. So…maybe I learned not to engage? We’ll see if that sticks.

OK! Now that I’ve blown this blog entry’s word count request out of the water, I’ll stop here. Lord knows there are plenty of other lessons I’ve learned, but these are the Big Ones. These are the lessons that heavily impacted how I wrote & structured THE HANGED MAN.

Thank you for the opportunity to write this, Rae! I’ve been wanting to put this into words for a while!

 

Thank you K.D. for sharing!

THE HANG MAN comes out in December of this year!

Guest Post: “Tackling the Schedule: The Benefits and Challenges of Writing with a Partner” by Brad McLelland

Guest Post

Meet Brad McLelland.

Born and raised in Arkansas, Brad McLelland spent several years working as a crime journalist in the South before earning his MFA in creative writing from Oklahoma State University, where he met his writing partner, Louis Sylvester. A part-time drummer and singer, Brad lives in Oklahoma with his wife, stepdaughter, a mini-Aussie who gives hugs, and a chubby cat who begs for ham.

Author Website: www.bradmcbooks.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/bradmcbooks
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/bradmclelland/
Amazon Author Central: https://www.amazon.com/Brad-McLelland/e/B07G5N1H6T
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/BradMcBooks

 

The Guest Post.

Tackling the Schedule:

The Benefits and Challenges of Writing with a Partner

 

In February 2016, my writing partner Louis Sylvester and I received the phone call that changed our lives. Our agent, Brooks Sherman, informed us that Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, wanted to acquire all four books in our Legends of the Lost Causes western series.

After thoroughly thanking Brooks, (and picking ourselves off the floor), Louis and I sat down to a long phone conversation about how to proceed. Since we live more than a thousand miles apart (Louis lives in Idaho, I’m in Oklahoma), we knew that writing three more books under contract with Henry Holt would present a host of challenges for our writing schedules. We had started writing Book 1 all the way back in 2010, and had enjoyed plenty of time to tinker and redraft as needed—but now we were staring at real deadlines with a real publisher.

Needless to say, we couldn’t help feeling a bit overwhelmed. Especially when our new editor informed us that the first draft of Book 2, The Fang of Bonfire Crossing, would be given a five-month window for completion. Not five years—five months! The clock would start ticking in January 2017, and the alarm for the draft would go off in May.

After picking ourselves off the floor again, Louis and I talked out the writing schedule that would become an integral part of our lives for the foreseeable future, a schedule that we still maintain.

Here’s what we do:

Because each novel in the Legends series is divided into three major sections—Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3—Louis and I schedule one part per month for drafting. So for Book 2, we wrote Part 1 in January, Part 2 in February, and Part 3 in March (we approached the first draft of Book 3 in the same way, and are repeating the formula for Book 4). That leaves two months to scribble out any remaining pieces, flesh out underdeveloped scenes, adjust any character arcs, and do a lightning-quick edit job of the entire book. Then we turn the manuscript over to our editor, who then works closely with us on subsequent drafts.

Compounding the challenges of writing under deadline and so far apart, Louis and I both hold full-time jobs outside of kidlit publishing. Louis is an English professor; I work as a technical editor for a publisher of fire service training manuals. Our daytime professions keep us hopping throughout a typical week, so it’s vital that we establish a writing routine that not only succeeds for Henry Holt, but also works for our families and our employers.

In order to keep to our one-part-per month drafting formula, Louis and I alternate the chapter writing within each section of a book. A typical Part 1, for example, consists of about ten chapters, which means that Louis and I will write five chapters each, going back and forth with a detailed outline to ensure plot consistency. If possible, we each stick to a chapter a week. Then we switch our respective chapters to perform personal edits and layering for voice, style, and tone.

For me, this means lots of nighttime and weekend writing. Since I work four days a week at my day-job, Fridays tend to be my most productive days for drafting, but I also grab as many Saturday night and Sunday evening sessions as I can. Each week I spend thirty to forty hours on writing, so drafting each book is the equivalent of a second full-time job. There’s little time for Netflix (though I do sneak in occasional episodes of She-Ra and Scooby-Doo with my stepdaughter).

I would not be able to accomplish any of this, of course, without a wonderful support system. My wife and stepdaughter understand the time that I need to co-write the novels, so they provide me the appropriate space and time to get the work done. Each month we carefully plan our family outings and events, and we take summer vacations after first drafts are turned into the publisher. We schedule activities to get excited about, and we celebrate and embrace the simple things (such as going to the movies or playing board games).

By taking a measured, meticulous approach to our writing schedule, Louis and I no longer feel like we have to pick ourselves off the floor. We’ve endured the challenges, we’ve undergone the adjustments, and now we’re finding ourselves in the Book 4 homestretch.

Our biggest hope, at the end of the day, is that our readers see the story and not the schedule. If we accomplish that, we can wrap up the day’s writing with a sense of pride and purpose.

 

Thank you Brad for sharing!

Brad’s latest book, The Fang of Bonfire Crossing: Legends of the Lost Causes, is available now!