If your house is anything like mine, weekends are for reading. Well, errands and housework and the occasional night out, but weekends are when we are typically looking for something new to read. And for me, it’s hopefully when I can get a few hours of writing time in.
Welcome author Jeanne Bannon who’s not only got a new book out, but she’s here with some writing tips.
Take it away, Jeanne!
Ten Top Tips for Writing YA
1. Don’t worry about guidelines for word count. The rule of thumb for YA novels is to write at least 50,000 words, but my advice is to write until the story is done. Don’t get too stuck on word count. You’ll know instinctively when your story is complete.
2. Be authentic. Teens will recognize a phoney narrative or character right away. Don’t hold back on language either. If a character is the kind who swears, then write them that way.
3. Don’t be preachy. If there is a message in your novel, sprinkle it in and don’t be too in your face. Watch for author intrusion. You don’t want your teenage audience knowing a 40-year-old is writing the story, lol
4. Try to remember what it was like to be a teen. Put yourself in their shoes. If you have teens in your life, talk to them and listen to them. It will help with authenticity.
5. Let someone in your target audience read your novel and take their advice to heart.
6. Read, read, read. Read other YA novels.
7. Join a writing critique group for input. I find this to be extremely helpful. Having other sets of eyes on your work will help you find things you’ve missed.
8. Don’t make too many of your characters sulky and complaining. Be sure to make your main character likeable. He or she can, and should, still have their flaws, but on the hole you want your readers to like and identify with him or her.
9. Leave your chapters off on a cliff hanger when possible. Make your readers want to turn the page.
10. Enjoy the process. Have fun. And leave your readers wanting a sequel.
Now, no new book release would be the same without a premise and an excerpt, right?
Lola’s not pretty. Lola’s not popular. Lola wishes she could disappear … and then one day she does just that…
For seventeen-year-old Lola Savullo, life is a struggle. Born to funky parents who are more in than she could ever be, Lola’s dream of becoming a writer makes her an outsider even in her own home. Bullied and despised, Lola still has the support of her best pal Charlie and Grandma Rose.
Not only is she freakishly tall, Lola’s a big girl and when forced to wear a bathing suit at her summer job as a camp counselor, Lola’s only escape from deep embarrassment seems to be to literally vanish. Soon after, she discovers the roots of her new “ability”.
Slowly, with Charlie’s help, Lola learns to control the new super power. The possibilities are endless. Yet power can be abused, too…
Then, when tragedy strikes, Lola must summon her inner strength, both at home and at school. She has to stand up for herself, despite the temptations and possibilities of her newfound super power.
A coming-of-age story that will warm the heart.
“Lola, get your suit on and help supervise the pool. The more eyes the better,” Justine, the athletic, sun-kissed, twenty-one-year-old camp director orders once we’re off the bus.
Immediately my heart takes off in a sprint. “What? Why?” I try to hide the wobble in my voice.
Curious, expectant gazes turn to me as my fellow counselors wait with evil half-smiles for my reaction. Although I haven’t told a soul, except my best friend Charlie how I feel about wearing a bathing suit, they know my private horror. It’s the horror of every fat girl.
Justine flips through the sheets on her clip board, running a finger down the column of names. “No campers will be sitting out today.”
The impossible has just happened. Not one kid is sick, or has left their bathing suit at home. In my three summers as a counselor, not once has this happened.
For a long, awkward moment, I stand frozen in place wondering how to get out of this. A sudden migraine? My period? My mouth opens, but no words come. Justine leaves and with her, my chance for escape. I’m left teary-eyed, searching through my bag for my black one-piece. Stuffing away the panic, I march past the onlookers, who I’d never consider my friends despite working with them the entire summer. In the change room, I find an empty stall and with great reluctance, pull on my suit.
It’s my last day of work as a camp counselor at Inglewood Day Camp. My group of kids consists of eight six-year olds — four boys and four girls. On Thursdays we take the campers to the local outdoor swimming pool. It’s a short ride, only five minutes on the creaky old school bus and my job is to watch the kids who won’t be swimming, either because they don’t feel well, or they’ve forgotten their swimsuits. Believe me, this job suits me just fine, as a matter of fact, I volunteered for it.
Not only am I fat, I’m freakishly tall. God only knows why, since Mom’s petite and Dad’s on the short side. My older sister Eva is the spitting image of Mom, fair and fine boned. I take after Dad’s side, bulky, dark and thick. Dad says I must have gotten some of Uncle Sammy’s genes, the giant of the family, who tops out at 6’ 4”. Anyway, I’m sure you’re getting a good mental picture right about now.
My insides drop as if I’d placed a foot on a step that wasn’t there when I peer down at the coarse dark hair creeping from my calves to just past my knees, where it gradually peters out. Then I run a hand across the tops of my thighs. The triple bulge of my belly prevents me from a good look at my sorely neglected bikini area. Even in the blazing August sun I wear baggy cotton Capri pants, never exposing more than an ankle. There’s never been a reason to shave. My eyes mist with tears, but I pinch them away. It’ll be hard enough to go out in public like this, but I won’t give them the satisfaction of seeing me cry. I lift my chin in resolve and open the door.
The whistle blows, signaling the beginning of the session. Screams of delight fill the air, as the kids begin jumping into the pool to find relief from the 90-degree heat.
I fasten a towel around my waist as best I can. Towels never seem large enough to wrap completely and comfortably around the bulge of my belly. To the pool I go, treading silently so as not to draw attention.
“Where’s Lola?” Sonia, a fellow counselor, asks.
At first I think she’s joking because I’m right in front of her. I toss her an annoyed look and don’t bother to answer as I trudge past to the edge of the pool, where I pull off my towel and slip into the cool water.
“She’s probably taken off,” Jerod replies. He’s a year younger than I am, but looks older with his muscular build and chiseled jaw line. The girls love him. “I hope she doesn’t show,” he continues, “who wants to see a hippo in a bathing suit anyway?”
Sonia laughs, a little too hard and places a hand on Jerod’s shoulder.
Puzzlement and anger compete on my face. I’m standing not more than three feet away from them. I’m used to rude comments and know what everyone thinks of me, but this is way beyond mean. The tears standing in my eyes spill down my cheeks and I slip under the water, hoping to wash away the evidence of my pain. Not that anyone would care, but crying could give them more ammunition; just another reason to taunt me.
Kids bounce around me, laughing and playing. Justine stands like a sentinel, looking like a Bay Watch babe in her red suit, one hand gripping an emergency flotation device. Her steel blue eyes are focused on the activity in the pool.
Jerod jumps in, nearly landing on my back. I barely have time to leap out of the way. My anger boils; blood rushes to my temples and pounds there, giving me an instant headache. I hurl myself at him, pushing with all my might, elbows aimed at his chest. I hit nothing but air and fly into the rough concrete wall of the pool, scraping a hole in my one-piece and rubbing raw a patch of skin. Blood pin-pricks to the surface.
“Hey,” I scream, bewildered about how he’d maneuvred out of the way so fast.
Jerod slips under the water and emerges at the other end of the pool in one long, slick glide.
The steel in me comes up, anger replacing humiliation. I pull my bulk out of the water and march over to Justine.
“Did you see what that asshole just did?” I bellow.
Justine brings the whistle that hangs from her neck to her lips and blows two sharp blasts, making my ears ring. “Stop horsing around,” she calls to a group of boys, who offer sheepish grins and stop instantly.
I step forward so she can see me. “Justine?” I reach to touch her shoulder but impossibly, my hand falls through her.
“Justine?” I call again, louder, my voice panic-laced. With both hands, I grab her, or try to. Again, it’s as if she’s not there. My mind is swept along in a current of anxiety. What’s happening?
Then it hits me . . . it’s me who’s not there.
I’ve worked in the publishing industry for over twenty years. I started my career as a freelance journalist, then worked as an in-house editor for LexisNexis Canada and currently work as a freelance editor and writer.
I’ve had several short stories published and won first place in the Writes of Caledon Short Story Contest. My novels, The Barely Boy and Dark Angel were finalists in the 2010 and 2011 Strongest Start Contests. One of my short stories “Thom’s Journey” is part of an Anthology entitled A Visitor to Sandahl and is available at Amazon.com.
Invisible, my debut novel, is about a teenage girl who isn’t happy with herself and wishes she could disappear. And one day she does. Invisible is available on Amazon, Smashwords, and the Solstice Publishing website.
When not reading or writing, I enjoy being with my daughters, Nina and Sara and my husband, David. I’m also the proud mother of two fur babies, a sweet Miniature Schnauzer named Emily and Spencer, a rambunctious tabby, who can be a very bad boy.
FB author page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jeanne-Bannon/182120961844916
Solstice Publishing: http://www.solsticepublishing.com/products/Invisible-%252d%252d-Print.html