As a writer, it’s important to study your craft. The best way to do that is to read. Read, read, and read some more. Before I started writing picture books, I must have read a few hundred. It’s important to see the structure, to get a feel for the word count, and to study how much the words say as opposed to the illustrations. Since as writers, we tend to overwrite, we can lower word count for picture books by allowing the illustrations to say what we cannot in the short text.
I have also been writing a young adult fiction book for a few months now. So naturally, I’ve been reading quite a bit of this genre. I have found that publishers are allowing writers to really push boundaries on sexuality, gender identification, diversity, and so much more. It’s such an exciting time to be a writer. Plus, it does seem that editors and agents are more accessible thanks to Twitter and other social media platforms.
As exciting as it is, it also seems harder than ever to break through. Of course, self-publishing is an option. One that I have already accomplished for my non-fiction book on divorce for my readers of my website www.afterdivorce.net. I didn’t attempt the traditional publishing route, since my purpose was to finish as soon as possible to have something to offer my readers on my website. However, more and more writers are taking the self-publishing route since the traditional route takes such an agonizing long time, with many rejections dotted along the way. But being quite determined, I am persevering and not giving up. In fact, I see it happening in my not-so-distant future.
So, in my quest to read as much YA as possible, I have stumbled on some really good ones, to some not so good ones. Naturally, like anything, there are hits and misses, but some are just plain out there that I shake my head and wonder how did this get published? Thankfully, that doesn’t seem to be the norm.
The YA market welcomes innovators to forge new paths and once taboo subjects are welcome. A YA book I recently read THE LAST TO LET GO, by Amber Smith tackles family domestic abuse as well as a young girl discovering and embracing her identity. I thought it was extremely well-written and Smith showed how the abuse manifested in the main character and her siblings, instead of telling the reader abuse stories.
Also, when you read books about writing or go to writing conferences there seems to be an extensive amount of time spent on the many dos and don’ts to know. But just as there must be a framework of sorts to follow, it’s also good to know that it’s just that: an outline to follow that is not set in stone. For instance, I read that in YA there should be limited point of view, yet the book ONE OF US IS LYING, by Karen M. McManus has four main characters, each having their point of views. It was exciting to read, and the different characters kept the story moving at a great pace.
During this innovative time in writing, it’s also important to settle into a rhythm of sorts and find a critique group. During a conference I went to last year, one agent mentioned that she would never even consider taking on a client if he/she wasn’t in a critique group. At first I thought that was a bit harsh, but after being in one, I get it. I find I am held accountable to a higher standard with my writing to someone other than myself. I believe it has improved my writing and I am more prolific than ever before.
As writers we must study our craft by reading, writing and getting critiqued regularly. It’s the only way we learn and grow. It’s also important to keep up with publishing trends, and one helpful, informative way is through Publisher’s Weekly.
As always, keep up the good writing and reading. Wishing you many successfully writing blessings to come.
I write Picture Books, Chapter Books and YA.