Friday, February 17, 2012

From the Trenches: Taryn has an Agent!!!

Hi guys! Some of you probably follow my blog and saw this post on Monday, in which I announced that I am now represented by Vickie Motter, thanks to a contest here. All sorts of yay-ness and the whole story can be found in the aforementioned blog post.

Over here, I just want to talk about the whole teen aspect of the agented thing.

I only queried 15 agents, received 8 full requests, and ended up with more than one offer. Most of the agents who passed said things like "I'm so impressed by the things you've accomplished at your age."

(On the other end of the spectrum, I got one pass from an agent who clearly didn't know my age. She said "YA is definitely your nail the teen voice...")

But part of being young has nothing to do with writing. When did you write your first full length novel? I was 11. When did you start looking seriously at publishing? I was 16. It's a common saying that you aren't publishable until you've written 1 million words of fiction. Whether it's true or not, I've definitely hit that threshold.

In writer years, I'm mature.

Just because someone else is 28, that doesn't mean they're somehow more deserving of being a serious writer. Writing takes practice, just like anything else.

There are freak stories out there in which someone writes a novel, fixes some typoes, sends it out, gets an agent, and gets a book deal (Michelle Hodkin comes to mind), but most people? Most people are like Natalie Whipple and Beth Revis and the countless other authors who work really really really hard and face many many many setbacks before finally getting to where they are, where we would consider success.

If you're here, reading this blog and learning more about publishing, you're already steps ahead of most adults. Doesn't that feel great?

Friday, February 10, 2012


I really hope all of this makes sense. I have no idea what I sound like to other people when I blabber…

As I prepare to go on sub for the first time in my life (!), I’ve been thinking a lot about the best tool a writer can have, and it isn’t material, like a spiffy laptop (I dealt with a laptop for months that shut off every five minutes and demanded its own personal fan, and I was extremely tempted). In my book, it doesn’t even involve other people.

I think the best tool a writer can have is a good attitude.

I mean, when you think about it, your attitude can affect your success as a writer in a ton of different facets.
If you don’t have the perseverance, you may never reach that one agent who falls in love with your work, no matter how much work it might still need, because you let those rejections bog you down.

If you’re not open to critique and correction, you might never reach your full potential as a writer, and your writing might not be as good as it could be. There are enough people out there resting on their laurels. Being one of them doesn’t really get one anywhere.

On the other hand, if you’re willing to leave your ego at the door, keep your head down and work hard, asking for opinions and thoughts on your writing, you’re going to be a much better, and much more humble, writer.

I know that my writing has improved tons since I’ve dropped the whole “I don’t need crit partners” crap and really buckled down and seen my work in an unbiased light. Now I wouldn’t want it any other way.

I know how much hard work and persistence can pay off, guys. With aikido—my seven month anniversary is this weekend, and I couldn’t be happier—I work extremely hard, and when I say I work hard, I mean I WORK HARD.

I’m there every week, for every class. I get there early and I practice, practice, practice. I ask my fellow students (who are above me) and my sensei to nit-pick me and to constantly tell me what I can improve on, because I WANT TO GET BETTER. I’m willing to lay my faults out there and have someone tell me how terrible something was, and then how I can fix it.

The best part is that all of my hard work’s paying off. I’m 6 months ahead of schedule with rank testing, and I pretty much know everything below black belt because of how hard I’ve worked. Not only does it make me feel good, but it gives me an advantage on future tests.

I give all of the credit to my success in the martial arts to my hard work, and nothing else.

My point, guys, is that the only thing you really need to worry about with your writing is your state of mind. Everything else will take care of itself.

Does that make sense?

Author Interview -- Kate Constable

It's TIME! Another wonderful author has agreed to an interview, sharing insight and encouragement. WOTeens, meet Kate Constable!


"Kate Constable was born in Victoria but spent much of her childhood in Papua New Guinea, without television but within reach of a library where she 'inhaled' stories. She studied Arts/Law at Melbourne University before working part-time for a record company while she began her life as a writer. She has had stories published in Meanjin, Island and other literary magazines. The Singer of All Songs, The Waterless Sea and The Tenth Power form the Chanters of Tremaris series and were her first books, published by Allen + Unwin with very successful overseas sales, followed by a stand-alone novel set in the same world, The Taste of Lightning. She has also written a junior fiction book, Cicada Summer, as well as two books for the popular Girlfriend Fiction series - Always Mackenzie and Winter of Grace. Kate lives in West Preston, Victoria, with her husband and two daughters. She blogs HERE."


MAGGIE: You're the published author of more than one book. Tell us a little bit about the inspiration for your stories, in particular the Chanters of Tremaris trilogy (which I've read, and adore!)

KATE: The Singer of All Songs (the first book in the Chanters of Tremaris trilogy) was my first attempt at writing fantasy. I'm not a big fantasy reader though I loved fantasy books as a child, so I really came to the whole genre without much baggage. Having said that, there were three big influences on the world of Tremaris:

1) The Earthsea books of Ursula Le Guin. I read these in one big gulp just before I started writing Singer, and it shows (at least I hope it does). I absolutely loved Le Guin's complex world-building, and her thoughtful and compassionate philosophy. I deeply admire her writing, with its serious, spiritual core.

2) The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley was a favourite book for me as an adolescent and young woman, and I reread it several times. I loved the whole idea of the Arthur myth being retold from a female perspective, and I was very attracted to the notion of a women's community dedicated to the learning of magic. Calwyn's walled home, Antaris, was strongly influenced by the descriptions of Avalon and its priestesses.

3) Blake's Seven was a cheesy British sci-fi TV series which I adored when I was a teenager! It was very dark, very witty, but very cheap... all about a gang of space outlaws on the run from the evil Federation in a dystopian future. For ages I flirted with the idea of writing my own space opera with a similar rebel gang, who eventually morphed into the characters of Calwyn's motley crew in Singer. Darrow was actually named for the actor Paul Darrow, who played the character of Avon, who I swooned over in Blake's 7, though my Darrow is LOT nicer than the cold and calculating Avon!

Chanters of Tremaris trilogy
MAGGIE: Super awesome! You've created such a beautiful world. How do you worldbuild? What are your tips, tricks and methods for bringing the places in your mind to life?

KATE: I decided quite early on that Tremaris would be a society without literacy, so no written language, and also no accurate time-keeping. So instead of writing 'a second later...' I would have to write 'a heartbeat later...' or 'In the space of a breath.' I think having to remind myself about that as I wrote helped to preserve the 'otherness' of Tremaris. I worked out the Nine Powers, or different kinds of magical chantments, before I did anything else, which was fun, and that dictated some of the shape of the story as it unfolded. I'm the kind of person who likes to make rules and stick to them!

I also relied quite heavily on a fascinating book called The Year 1000, by Robert Lacey and Danny Danziger, which describes what daily life was like for English people in the year 1000 - a largely pre-literate, pre-industrial society not unlike Tremaris. So I picked up a few tips from there too.

I tend to have a very vivid mental picture of the places where I set my characters - sometimes based on real locations, or places I've seen on TV - but tweaked for my own purposes. But many of the place-names, cultures and architecture of places in Tremaris drew on worlds and countries and cities I'd dreamed up as a teenager and written down in notebooks when I was supposed to be doing my maths homework - so all that daydreaming wasn't a waste of time, after all.

MAGGIE: You have one of those casts of characters that we as readers fall in love with. (Or at least, I did!) What are some pointers on bringing characters to life? And what inspires your characters -- people in real life, movies, etc.?

KATE: I guess I put my characters together with little bits from everywhere - characters I've seen on TV or known in books, people I know in real life - though I try not to base anyone too closely on someone I know, because that can get embarrassing!

To tell the truth, I'm not too sure exactly how characters come to life for me. I think this might be part of the writing process that happens unconsciously in my case! One thing I do try to remember is that no one ever believes they are doing the wrong thing - everyone has a reason for acting the way they do. But people's reasons clash and conflict. That's what makes the world interesting.

MAGGIE: So true. Most of us here on Write On! are not (yet) agented. What's your finding-an-agent story? When did you decide that it was time to stop fussing and start querying? 

KATE: I must admit that I didn't ever actively hunt for an agent, in fact I'm not entirely sure what a query letter looks like! I was very lucky that an agent contacted me after I'd won a prize in a national magazine's short story competition. At that time I had only ever written short stories, but she took me out for a coffee and said 'If you ever write a novel...' It was a wonderful encouragement and when I did later finish a novel manuscript, I sent it to her. That novel ended up unpublished, but my next one was The Singer of All Songs. I was very, very fortunate to be spared that whole gruelling process, it all happened very organically for me.

MAGGIE: Wow! How awesome and lucky! So, you have a very sumptuous writing style. Does it come naturally or is there a trick?

KATE: Ooh, sumptuous! I like that, thanks very much! In fact, as time has passed, I have worked on paring back my writing style, so Singer is about as sumptuous as it gets for me. Almost the first thing that my first editor said to me was (quite sternly), 'Too many adjectives, too many -ing words.' I try to write quite plainly now and not let the scene get too cluttered with 'describing' words - you know what writing teachers always tell you -- a strong verb can do the work of ten adjectives, or something like that... But I do love my adjectives and adverbs and I have to be careful that they don't take over! So I guess the answer is that it does come naturally - maybe too naturally!

MAGGIE: Good advice! It's true adjectives are easy to over-use. What are some of your favorite books and authors?

KATE: [Here Kate listed 12 wonderful books*, and then proceeded to choose one (or some) to focus on.] I'm thinking I might pick the Green Knowe books, partly because they're fresh in my mind as I'm currently reading them to my ten year old daughter and loving them all over again. They are gently magical, written with a wonderful sense of poetry that really benefits from reading aloud, and a lovely awareness of the way history runs through a place - in this case, a very old house and its garden and river - which is a particular favourite theme of mine. In fact a few of the books on my favourites list share that same theme.

MAGGIE: Awesome! I'll add them to my to-read list. What's the hardest part of writing for you (i.e. editing, drafting, huge revisions, etc.)? How do you tackle it?

KATE: Actually I really love redrafting and editing! That's my favourite part of the process, polishing and chipping and recrafting to make the material as good as I can. What I find most difficult is coming up with ideas - is that peculiar? I'm certainly not one of those writers who has notebooks overflowing with ideas for books and can't choose between them! I am quite methodical, I like working my way through one project from beginning to end, then moving on to the next thing.

What I enjoy most is the part where the hard work of thinking up and structuring the story is all done, I have a rough draft in front of me, and I can concentrate on just seeing the action in my mind's eye as it unfolds, and describing it as best I can.

MAGGIE: Neat! Are you writing anything now?

KATE:  I'm working on a YA novel set in Papua New Guinea in the 1970s, just before the country gained independence from being an Australian-run territory. It was an interesting time, historically, but not many people in Australia know much about it. And of course I'm interested in it because my family was there (though I was a lot younger than my main character). I've been working on this novel for a long time but it's finally starting to come together. It's tentative titled Independence.

And I've just had a new book come out in Australia called Crow Country, which has been pretty exciting!

MAGGIE: How exciting! And now, to wrap everything up, what's the best advice that you can give to young aspiring authors?

KATE: The only advice I have is to read as much as possible, and as many different styles and genres as you can -- try not to get stuck always reading the same kind of book. If you normally read fiction, try non-fiction. If you usually read fantasy, try some sci-fi. If you only like realism, try some fantasy -- mix it up a bit!

And of course, write as much as you can. Apparently you have spend ten thousand hours practising any skill before you can hope to become really good at it, and I suspect writing is no different! So start clocking up those hours! And good luck. Everyone needs some.

*The Green Knowe books by Lucy M. Boston
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge
The Ghost of Thomas Kempe by Penelope Lively
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
The Railway Children by E. Nesbit
A Vicarage Family by Noel Streatfeild
Tom's Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce
The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S.Lewis
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


One year ago, Write On! emerged from its shell and jumped out of the nest to fend for itself in the big, bad World Wide Web. To our delight, it was received with warmth, open arms, and excitement, growing from an empty blue and green blog to a tight-knit community of young writers -- all in the course of 365 days.

As we celebrate our first birthday, we'd like to thank YOU for making us what we are today. Without your tweets, forum posts, blog comments, Facebook likes, participation, enthusiasm and support, there would be no Write On!. So today is really a day to celebrate you-- our community.

Here's to another year of more growth, change and excitement. If you have any ideas for the future of Write On!, or would like to help in any way this coming year, head over to the Contact page and drop us a line. We read every email we get.


And never stop being awesome, Write On! teens.

Happy Writing! (And reading.)

Monday, February 6, 2012

From The Trenches: Maggie -- Comparing Writers to Shoes

I feel like I apologize a lot on the internet -- usually for my lateness for something or another. Well, this is one of those times. I am late to post this, but this time there is a real excuse; I've been out of town twice this month, and everything normal and organized in my life has gone out the window and been chopped to bits in a jet engine.

All (slight) dramatics aside, I'm writing today on the uniqueness of writers, because it's something I've thought about at length, and I feel like I may have something for a few of you who need to hear this. With that incredibly long sentence out of the way, I'll jump right in with italics, to emphasize my point.

Every writer is different.

You've probably heard it before. Or thought it before. Or something. But I'd like to elaborate on just how true this is.

Let's compare writing to shoes.

Think about all the different feet in the world-- big feet, little feet, (here I ignore the temptation to quote Dr. Seuss), narrow feet, wide feet. Then think about all the different styles of footwear-- sandles, chucks, boots, flats, heels, vibrams. Now think about everyone you meet. You're bound to meet more than one person that share a particular size, or prefer one kind of shoe. But at the end of the day, everyone is different in what they wear and like-- what fits their style, yet is comfortable or effective in one way or another. I believe it's the same with writers, and the way that we tell stories.

There are some basic 'sizes': Pantsers, plotters, in-between-ers.

There are some basic 'styles': Speed writers, organized drafters, slow writers, fast writers, scrambled writers

And, just like shoes, there is a size and style for you. However, I think the most important thing is NOT finding where you "fit in", or trying to map yourself to a specific "writer personality type." While that's fun, it has the potential to drop a couple boulders on your path of creativity. Trying to conform to one size or style isn't, ultimately, going to yield original, stylized, personality-infused novels.


My advice to you, O Writer Who Needs To Hear This, is not to go Perfect Fit Hunting, but to try on several pairs and find what's most comfortable, while still being effective. Something that gets the job done, but does so in a way that doesn't hamper with your creativity, or dampen your personal flair.

That's all I've got for today-- and it's been a long one!

For the comments, what gets the job done for YOU? Do you like to draft in a week and tear it to shreds later? Do you write in 100-word chunks? Do share! Your words may encourage someone else. It helps to know you're not the only one out there.

Enjoy the rest of your Monday, and KEEP WRITING!