Posts Tagged ‘Writing’

How to Deal With Rejection

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017

As a senior editor for a romance e-publisher, oftentimes, my job is to disappoint hopeful authors, to tell them that their work is not up to par.

I often joke that my job is to tell people their book baby is ugly.

As an author, I know how criticism and rejection can sting. I know the knee-jerk reaction to call that agent, that editor, that publisher a stupid stupidface who doesn’t understand you, your work, the genre, anything.

I get it. I really do.

As writers, we’re passionate about our work! And I think it’s okay to experience that knee-jerk reaction.

With a few caveats.

1. Never, never, never vent in public. ESPECIALLY not on social media. Not even for a second. Not even if you take it down in the next five minutes.

I can guarantee you someone somewhere has a screenshot, and that outburst will come back to haunt you forever.

Why? Because it makes you look like an unprofessional jerk. Rejection and criticism are part and parcel of writing. If you can’t stand the heat, don’t expect your writing to be well-forged.

So vent in private–in private emails, messages, and groups–and only to your Circle of Trust.

2. After you’re done venting in private, go back to the rejection letter and really read it. Look at what it says and what it doesn’t say.

These people are professionals in their field. They’ve read extensively in your genre. They’re also overworked as hell. If they are taking their time to offer you good, solid critique, seriously consider taking it.

Make something out of it.

3. If you find you’re getting rejected a lot, I highly recommend a critique group or beta readers who: a) know your genre and b) will give you honest feedback.

As tempting as it may be to ask your best friend or your mom or your SO to read your work, they may not be the best person. A good crit partner or beta reader is someone who doesn’t have a vested interest in making you happy, but will give you the good with the bad in a detailed and constructive way.

Why do I recommend this? Oftentimes, we can’t see the flaws because we’re so close to the work. Oftentimes, it will take the author 3-4 drafts to figure out a problem when simply talking it out with a crit partner can provide far quicker results.

Not to mention: many of the stories I’ve rejected were ones where the author clearly, clearly, clearly did not have even one person read the work before sending it off to me.

Do you really want that acquisitions editor to be the first one to read your book?

Spoiler alert: No. No you don’t.

As with any advice, your mileage may vary here. Becoming a successful writer is a different path for everyone. I hope my advice helps you on your way!

Slán go fóill!



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What Makes a Pro?

Wednesday, May 24th, 2017

In my role as an author and editor, I am often asked, what do I consider to be the hallmarks of a professional writer? How do you tell the pros from the amateurs? And most importantly, how do you become a pro?

So, I’ve compiled this non-exhaustive-but-pretty-darn-close list based on my personal experiences and interactions on both sides of the publishing industry—author side and editor side.

Being a professional writer means:

  • Being creative when you’re down or sick or hungover or having a bad day.
  • Pushing words onto the page even when they suck. A pro writer knows you can’t edit a blank page.
  • Setting daily goals. Butt + chair = productivity
  • Meeting daily goals. Pros create a habit of writing, and the notion that pro writers spend all their time surfing the internet is largely inaccurate.
  • Writing in the small spaces– in the checkout line, in the bathroom, at an Idina Menzel concert, any time an idea strikes you.
  • Not really understanding those memes like “If you make me mad I’ll put you in a book and kill you.” Good writing is not about petty grudges.
  • Working a job to support your writing career. If you’re writing to “make money,” you’re going about it all wrong.
  • Getting up early and staying up late to make your daily word count.
  • Never getting to level 80 in World of Warcraft.
  • Realizing that “perfect” is the enemy of “good.” You can only obsess over a single word or phrase for so long before the ratio of impact vs. decline in productivity shifts out of your favor.
  • Reading, reading, reading. How can you write in your genre when you don’t read in your genre?
  • Accepting that you’ll be months, if not years, behind in watching the latest TV shows.
  • Being able to take and implement criticism. Treat your book like your baby, but let it get skinned knees, let it play in the dirt. It’ll be stronger for it.
  • Always seeking to hone your craft.
  • Being respectful of other writers and celebrating their successes. One writer’s success does not take away from yours. Leave your jealousy at the door.
  • Accepting that you can’t predict the market. Boy wizard? Sparkly vampires? Who knew? Answer: no one. So write what you’re passionate about.
  • Accepting that house-cleaning will probably have to wait.
  • Plotting, plotting, plotting. Plotting some more.
  • Pantsing at least a little. Even the most strict plotline needs wiggle room for magic to happen.
  • Revision, revision, revision.
  • Being humble and gracious. Without the agents, editors, readers, crit partners, bloggers, reviewers, etc, you wouldn’t be where you are.
  • Realizing there’s no one path to success. You can take every single step JK Rowling did and still not end up at Hogwarts. Own your path. Take whatever it brings and make the most of it.
  • Knowing when to take a break and step back. Writing at the cost of friendships or family isn’t healthy. Know when to unplug.
  • Giving back to the writing community. At some point, someone probably gave you a chance, an opportunity, a critique, a kind word, a good review, an “in.” When it’s your turn, give one back.
  • Making informed choices about your writing. Pro writers know when they’re breaking the rules and why.
  • Realizing you are your reputation and much of that comes from how you portray yourself on the internet. Maintain your integrity in your dealings with everyone.
  • Putting your writing over your hobbies. Do you write once/week but spend 40 hours playing video games or binge-watching Netflix? Maybe it’s time for a change.
  • Not needing a member of the Avengers or Neil Gaiman or anyone to tell you “You should be writing.” Memes are cute, but discipline is key.
  • Hustling and making your own opportunities. (see: there’s no one path to success).
  • Understanding it’s a marathon not a sprint. NaNoWriMo is EvRyDayO.
  • Practicing to condense your book’s plot into 1-2 sentences so you can intelligently answer the dreaded question, “What do you write?”
  • Getting used to disappointment. No matter how good, how thoughtful or engaging your writing is, some people will simply not like it. It’s okay. Let it go.
  • Forging on despite a bad review, a bad cover, or a missed opportunity.
  • Believing in yourself and the worth of your writing. If you don’t, no one else will.
  • Not waiting around for the muse to strike. Want inspiration? Go find it. Hunt the muse down and tie it to the desk.
  • De-ritualizing the act of writing. You don’t need special pens or a special notebook. The magic is inside you.
  • Not waiting for a special place or a special time. The place is wherever you are. The time is now.


As always, with any writing advice, opinions differ and mileage varies. Writing is one of those odd careers where there is no one decisive path to success. I hope some of this advice helps you find your path!

Until next time, slán go fóill!


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Writing Right: Fight Scene Do’s & Don’t’s

Wednesday, April 26th, 2017

Fight scenes! Many writers dread writing them, and who can blame them? Writing a good fight scene is an art in itself.

Here are some of my best pieces of advice. Caveat: this is not meant to be an exhaustive list. Also, for every single thing I’ve said here, I will bet you, dollars to donuts, there is a best-selling author who does exactly the opposite. The key is: use and adapt what works for you, your style, and your book. Writing is about constantly, constantly making smart decisions and breaking rules in purpose.

And now, without further ado, my Top 10 List of Do’s & Don’t’s

10. Don’t: Use an Ace When a 2 Will Do

Blasting the bad guy with a Howitzer when he doesn’t need to be blasted with a Howitzer is overkill. Overkill is risky because it can make your hero look like a bully. Instead, make the punishment fit the crime, and you’ll fulfill the reader’s sense of “rightness.”


9. Don’t: Be Afraid to Hurt Your Characters! No One Likes Captain Awesome

Aragorn’s ceremonial scratch on the cheek is bogus. No one fights off 1,000 Uruk-hai and gets a single scratch. No one. Make your heroes earn their victories. Ask yourself: how heroic is it if it’s easy?


8. Don’t: Restrict Your Chara’s Powers

Don’t give your hero time travel only to take it away every time it might become useful.  Instead, let him use the power successfully at least once to show he’s heroic.  Later, instead of restricting the power, you can make it have dire consequences.


7. Do: Be Careful in Making Your Chara an Expert 

Make sure she can pass as an expert. If your hero is a martial artist, make sure you know about the martial arts. Interview an expert if you must, but don’t ever fake it.  Readers are smart and savvy. The second your expert does something novice, it will destroy the credibility of your fight scene, your hero, your book, and all your hard work.


6. Do: Balance Your Forces

And not just because I suggest it, but because Dwight Swain, author of Techniques of the Selling Writer, suggests it. Your hero is only as good as your villain. If your villain is weak, then having your hero defeat her isn’t very heroic.


5. Do: Keep Your Level of Reality Consistent

If your fight scene is hyper-realistic, then keep in mind that people can take a whole lot less punishment than Hollywood would have us believe. Any fight with a weapon will be over quickly. Any blow to the head can result in a concussion that can take weeks or even months to recover from. Likewise, if your fight scene is stylistic, keep it stylistic.  All that flying is great in Crouching Tiger because it’s part of the style. Consistency is key.


4. Do: Keep Your Magic Consistent

Readers will believe in magic–as long as you keep the rules that govern it consistent. Gandalf shouts, “You shall not pass!” the bridge crumbles, and the Balrog falls into the center of Middle Earth. The next time Gandalf shouts, “You shall not pass!” your villain should check to make sure he’s not standing on a bridge.


3. Don’t: Fake the Facts

Do your research.  Know how a katana cuts, how many times you can fire that SIG Sauer, etc. Know the training involved in handling each weapon, the types of wounds it causes, and the mindset of the culture it comes from. A samurai of feudal Japan is going to think and act much differently than Vin Diesel in a Fast & Furious movie, and a knife fight is going to be more brutal and deadly than a fistfight.


2. Don’t: Be Afraid to Act it Out

When in DOUBT, Act it OUT.  If your hero’s opponent is taller, get someone who is taller to act out your scene with you–safely. Go to museums, Ren Faires, and dueling Meet-Ups, pick up swords and try on armor. Get a feel for what it’s like to swing a katana, a claymore, a polearm. There’s a big difference. How many times can you swing those suckers without getting tired?


1. Do: Use Short Sentences and Short Paragraphs

Describe only what is essential.  I can tell you from experience that in the thick of a fight, you don’t have time to notice that “his eyes were blue, the color of woodsmoke, and he had a salt-and-pepper beard lightly dusted with–” Really? All that in half-second before the guy punches you in the face? No. Long paragraphs signify to the reader that more time is taking place, slowing your fight scene down to a crawl.  They take longer to read and thus, they tend to leech tension.  Short sentences increase tension.


And that’s it for now. My Top Ten Do’s & Don’t’s to writing a great fight scene!

Until next time… slán go fóill!



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See some of my fight scene advice in action in Circuit Fae: Moribund, in September 2017

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Why Write Lesbian Heroes?

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017

I’ve been asked a lot lately why I write lesbian heroes. The answer seems simple: I’m gay and I’m part of the LGBTQ community. Makes sense, right? But the more I get asked this question, the more I think that answer really is too simple.

It’s easy to say “Well, I’m gay,” and just leave it at that. But here’s the thing: Growing up, I never had any heroes who were like me.

Growing up, my favorite heroines were Princess Leia, Buffy, Sarah Connor, Eowyn.

I was a huge Star Wars fan. Epic fantasy has always been in my blood, and I was super excited to see a badass space princess alongside Luke Skywalker and Han Solo. Princess Leia was out there saving the galaxy (and oftentimes, her male sidekicks). She was powerful, both on and off the battlefield, she was smart and sassy and spoke her mind, she was capable, and she didn’t settle for anything less than justice. She was a princess, but she wasn’t afraid to get her hands dirty. In short, she rocked.

Then there was Buffy. I’m dating myself a little here because I’m referring to the movie starring Kristy Swanson (though Sarah MG’s Buffy was also tres cool). Who could forget the Buffster, half girly-girl/half badass slayer? She fought hard, loved harder, and pretty much smashed the patriarchy. She, too, rocked.

Sarah Connor. Who could forget Linda Hamilton’s transformation from plucky, determined heroine to gun-toting, muscle-bound babe? She threw down with Arnie and never gave up. Also, she totally Terminated that mofo.

Then there was Eowyn from The Lord of the Rings. She fought alongside all the fiercest warriors in Middle Earth. She singlehandedly slew the Witch-King of Angmar when no man could even touch him. She even dressed as a man. Then she married one.

And there it was.

I loved Princess Leia and Buffy and Sarah Connor and Eowyn, but at the end of the day, they went all went home with men. In many ways, they were very much like me. But they weren’t like me. Not completely.

Growing up gay, I was disappointed every time my favorite heroine ended up with a man. It seemed like everyone in my life was straight–from my real-life heroes right down to my fictional heroes. If the people I admired most were all straight, who was I to be gay?

So that, my pretties, is why I write lesbian heroes. So young gay women don’t ever have to ask that question.

Thank you for reading!




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Write Right: Dialogue Tags

Wednesday, March 15th, 2017

I’ve been an editor for eight years now, and I’ve noticed that one of the hallmarks of a newer, inexperienced writer is “fancy” dialogue tags.

For some reason, many newer writers feel the need to spice up their tags. Maybe it’s that their creative writing instructors told them that said is too boring or that they should try to be original or shouldn’t repeat themselves.

Whatever the reason, I often feel like these authors go to the thesaurus, look up said, and then pepper their writing with all kinds of fancy tags like postulated, posed, discussed, shared, announced, declared, avouched, promulgated, and other ten-cent words.

Nothing makes an editor or a reader cringe more than this. Why? Because fancy tags are just that—fancy. They call attention to themselves. And thus, they detract from your dialogue.


For example:

“That’s Matt over there,” Joe announced.

“Oh, I know Matt,” Sally shared.

“Let’s go say hi,” Joe stated.

“No!” Sally admonished.


It’s awkward in the extreme, overwrought, and it shows a lack of sophistication in your writing. In short, it screams to your reader that you are an amateur.

The fact of the matter is that said is really the best bet. Said melts into the background and isn’t obtrusive. It doesn’t call attention to itself. It lets your dialogue have the spotlight.

But because writing is a complex art, using said exclusively isn’t the answer either. In fact, you can see that repeating said here would also be awkward.


“That’s Matt over there,” Joe said.

“Oh, I know Matt,” Sally said.

“Let’s go say hi,” Joe said.

“No!” Sally said.


So now what?

Now we use said in combination with what is called a dialogue beat—an action attributed to a specific character.


“That’s Matt over there,” Joe said.

“Oh, I know Matt,” Sally said.

“Let’s go say hi.” Joe took her arm and steered her toward Matt.

Sally jerked away. “No!”


See how the beats actually illuminate the character and the story? Here, we can tell that Sally is upset by what’s happening. Also, the saids here melt into the background. They leave the reader’s focus on the dialogue and action, not on a fancy tag.

As with any technique, using dialogue beats vs. tags is more art than science. A good trick is to read your work aloud to see if it flows well and sounds natural.

As always, thank you for reading!



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Genres Are Like Cornflakes

Wednesday, March 1st, 2017

 A wise author once told me that buying a book is like buying a box of cereal. You walk down the aisle, looking at the boxes like they’re book covers, past boxes of Cheerios, Crunch Berries, Lucky Charms, Wheaties, until at last you find what you’re looking for—Cornflakes!

Yes! You know exactly what you’re getting just by grabbing that box.

Now imagine you get home and open that box, and there are Apple Jacks in there instead of Cornflakes. You’d probably be pretty annoyed. Maybe you even like Apple Jacks—goodness knows, I do—but at that moment when you grabbed that box of Cornflakes, what you wanted was—CORNFLAKES!

Your book is a lot like that. And readers come to your book with two things: 1. Genre expectations and 2. A desire to be entertained, whether that entertainment takes the form of being romanced, terrified, or gaining some escape and wonderment.

So how do we make sure we are delivering on the promise of our genre—that when a reader grabs our epic fantasy, they GET epic fantasy?

One way is the cover. Since that’s often up to your publishing house, I can’t say much except this: a good cover is worth its weight in solid-gold Cornflakes.

What I can speak to are genre expectations and the question we authors so often wrestle with: How do you serve your genre while creating something absolutely brand spanking new? How do you dance to the tune while incorporating your own moves?

Here’s what’s worked for me:


1. Read in your chosen genre

  • There’s no better way to learn the tropes and commonalities of your genre than by reading in it. Read the classics, read the new stuff, read the stuff you’ve heard was terrible but is a big seller. Read it all.
  • CAVEAT: Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you can’t read while you’re writing. All that means is you think your voice isn’t developed enough. If it’s not, the answer is to write more. Not less.

2. Read Like a Writer

  • Many of us read for pleasure or relaxation. Some read to be entertained, to be terrified or romanced or to have our thoughts engaged. But to read like a writer is to look for the technique hidden beneath the words—and, believe me, good technique is 100% invisible.
  • So how do you see technique when it’s invisible? Like this: when you’re reading and you find yourself frantically turning pages or feeling an emotion, ask, How is the author accomplishing this? Then pay special attention to the word choices, the structure, the paragraphing. Is the author creating tension by using short, snappy sentences? Is she evoking emotion by using certain words? Is the dialogue fast-paced? What verb tense is the story told in?
  • CAVEAT: Steal the technique and make it your own. Don’t try to copy

3. Read Outside Your Genre

  • Cross-genre is becoming more and more popular because of its wide appeal. This is why a lot of Hollywood blockbusters have action, romance, thriller aspects, maybe a touch of horror. Because the more universal emotions (love, fear, hatred, jealousy) you can pluck the strings of, the more you connect with your reader–and the more readers you can connect to.
  • CAVEAT: Don’t try to force a genre trope into your story at the expense of the story.

4. Ask a Reader

  • Crit group, crit group, crit group. I cannot emphasize this enough. Have a critique group, a group of people who are responsive, who know your genre, and who are avid readers. Let their knowledge work for you. They’ve read 5,000 romances. They can tell you if you’re hitting the key marks, if your hero is too jerky and pushy, if your heroine is whiny.
  • CAVEAT: Choose your crit partners carefully. Your mom or dad or bff might not be the best person for the job since s/he might be more inclined to only telling you the Good Stuff. You need someone who can also tell you the Bad Stuff.

5. Address the Tropes

  • Address. Not bow down to, not surrender to, not mindlessly adhere to. But address them. Because the reader comes with two things, and the first is expectations.
  • Genre readers like to know what they’re getting into. Most of them buy FOR the genre. I read epic fantasy because I like the epic quest, the battles, the courtly intrigue, the high language. When I buy the book with a LARPing group on the front and some sweeping mountains in the back, it better have most of this stuff in there.
  • Why?  Because when I pick up a box of Cornflakes, I want Cornflakes. If I get it home and there are Apple Jacks in there, I’m not going to be a happy camper.
  • So address those tropes and then shatter them. But don’t ignore them. Hell. No. Stephanie Meyer, whom some tout as writing the worst vampire book ever, still addressed the issue of vampires and sunlight. We’re told why Edward and the other vamps can walk out in the sun. It’s not ignored.
  • By addressing it, she gives a nod to the genre expectations and lets her readers know that she knows what these expectations and tropes are—and she’s choosing to change them. Thus, it’s a matter of choice not ignorance. To fail to address genre expectations without explanation is to risk looking like you don’t know your genre.

6. Twist the Tropes, Turn Them, Break Them

  • All else aside, I think it’s absolutely imperative to do something new. We owe it to our genres to push the boundaries, to give the reader what they want–to pay homage to the old, but also usher in the new.
  • Genre readers are well read. They’ll known in an instant if your elven archer is a knockoff of Legolas or if your child prodigy is Ender in a cheap disguise.
  • Develop your own unique characters. Your own unique voice.

That thing you’re afraid of? That’s what you’ll build your legacy on.

So, how does this whole Cornflakes metaphor shake out? Well, in the end, we write what we’re passionate about, and the best way to do that is to learn our genres top to bottom so we can address genre expectations. Thus, we make it so that when the reader opens our box of Cornflakes, she doesn’t mind if there are a few Crunch Berries in there.  They just sweeten the deal.

As always, thanks for reading!



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Top 5 Mistakes in YA

Wednesday, January 25th, 2017

As a writer, I’ve tackled many different genres from romance to science fiction to urban fantasy, but until a few years ago, I’d always steered clear of YA. It was a genre I felt I knew a lot about as a reader, but very little as a writer.

Strangely though, YA kept pulling me back. On those days when I felt down or like the world was just too dark, it was always those YA books I turned to. The Chronicles of Narnia, The Chronicles of Prydain. A lot of chronicles there! Even the grade-school books pulled me back from the edge of darkness. Blanche the Blue-Nosed Witch was one of my favorites, about a young witch with a blue nose trying to fit in with the elite group of witches in Scurry #8.

But as much as I leaned on YA, I never thought I would end up writing it. And then one day, I was in a critique group—the last of my MFA—and the YA writers there told me I’d written the beginning chapter of…you guessed it—a YA. “The voice!” they said. “This is exactly what a teenage girl struggles with.” The instructor, a YA author herself, confirmed that the story would be a great YA, and so off I went on my merry way, to write in a genre I knew so little about.

As you can imagine, I made mistakes. Boy, did I made mistakes! Writing YA, as it turns out, was every bit as hard as I’d thought it would be. It’s a daunting task, to be sure, so I’m here to pass along my Top 5 Mistakes and how I corrected them.

I made them so you don’t have to.

1. Not Reading in the Genre

I’ll list this first since it was my biggest mistake. How could I expect to write YA when I didn’t have a good grasp on it? I had no knowledge of how to portray believable young adults, and yet I wanted actual young adults to read my book. Fat. Chance.

            How I Corrected It

FaceBook and Goodreads were my saviors here. I friended people who I knew were YA fans, and I asked them what was good. I joined YA groups and engaged in conversation. I asked specific questions and asked for specific recommendations (e.g., solid female characters, non-heteronormative, etc) and I said thank you for their time and answers.

In addition, I searched Goodreads for LGBT YA and came up with a list there. I looked at other people’s reading lists. Then, I went out and bought a Kindle Paperwhite, which is ONLY for e-reading, and I began downloading samples. I read and read and read. I am still reading.

Find me here on GoodReads


  • Friend other YA fans/Join YA groups on FaceBook
  • Ask for specific recommendations
  • Be polite and say thank you
  • Check Goodreads for lists of YA books
  • Read, read, read.

2. Whiny Heroine

Okay, this one was hard to admit. My heroine, while she kicked a lot of butt, kind of whined about it the entire way. That wasn’t my intent, of course. I intended to create a layered character who had real problems and needed real solutions. The problem was, like many people in real life, she complained but had no plan to change anything. This made her unlikable and a complete Miss WhinyPants

            How I Corrected It

I started to read like a writer. That is, I read, analyzing what the authors I liked did. I went back to the heroines I liked. They, too, had real problems. And sometimes they did whine a little bit. I’ll emphasize the a little bit here. But whine or not, they always had a plan. And they always picked themselves up no matter how down and out they were. They were go-getters, not stay-here-and-whiners.

When I went to my manuscript, I did two things. First, I made sure the heroine’s plight was sympathetic. To do that, I made it universal. This is because while very few people can identify with the physical and mental hardships Frodo suffers in Mordor, everyone can identify with fear of failure, fear of letting down our friends, the fear and pain of loss. That’s where to put your focus. On your hero’s very basic internal needs, wants, and desires.

Second, I allowed my characters 1-2 lines max to whine and feel sorry for themselves, and then I made them realize they’re being completely Miss WhinyPants and they need to get up and move forward. These two techniques in conjunction made it so the character was both relatable and likable. Because, it’s easy to like someone who, when faced with failure, picks herself up, dusts herself off, and tries tries again.


  • Read like a writer

  • Analyze how other authors make their heroines likable

  • Do that thing

  • Make the heroine’s plight universal

  • Make sure she has a plan

3. The Stakes Weren’t Evident

While this error happens a lot to writers in every genre, I’m listing it because it came out of my preconceived notions of what YA is.

 I made the mistake of thinking that YA had to somehow be “fluffier” than fiction for adults. Boy, was I wrong! Once I started reading in the genre, I discovered that a lot of YA tackles some serious material—drugs, abuse, rape, teen pregnancy, coming out, transitioning, suicide, loss. Let’s be honest, it’s darn tough to be a teen and pre-teen in today’s world. Kids have a lot of pressures these days, and watching heroes and heroines tackle those challenges in fiction is affirming. We need more stories like this. I’m a firm believer that most young adults would rather hear terrible truths than pretty lies.

            How I Corrected It

I stopped making it fluffy. I let my heroine get hurt. And I showed how she’s stronger for recovering, for never giving up. I let her feel pain, and I let her react to it, but I was conscious that she should be proactive and have agency and consistently adjust to the curve balls that life threw at her.


  • Stop making it fluffy

  • Let your hero get hurt

  • Have your hero make continual adjustments and keep going

4. Purple Prose

Oh, holy cats, this is my weakness in, like, everything. My first draft was seriously waxing poetic—a lot of ten-cent words and imagery, which was beautiful but extremely distancing. In YA, that just wasn’t the voice that would capture my target audience.

For the most part, YA readers want to be in the hero’s head, which means a lot of internal dialogue, a lot of close POV. The problem with that is, purple prose by its very nature is very distancing.

            How I Corrected It

First, I changed the verb tense to first person present tense. Now I know a lot of people don’t like this tense, but you really can’t beat it for immediacy and being in the mind of the POV character. And, honestly? It changed everything. It gave me more immediacy and more of a feeling of being connected to the heroine.

By no means am I advocating for anyone to change their verb tense. Do what works for you is what I’m saying. In my case, it was first-person present tense.

Second, I went for short, punchier prose with a healthy dose of snark and wit, and you know what? It worked. The characters’ voices suddenly worked because they sounded authentic.


  • Don’t clutter your story with long descriptions and overwrought text

  • Stay in the heroine’s mind and let the reader know what she thinks about all of this.

5. Wrong Age Group

So, when I first began writing YA, I thought that young adults wanted to read about other young adults their age. It seemed so elementary, right? Again, I was completely wrong. So very completely wrong. What I learned was that young adults tend to read “up.” That is, thirteen year olds want to read about fifteen and sixteen year olds. Someone once said to me, “Well, you looked up to your big brother, right?” And then it all made sense.

            How I Corrected It

I changed the ages of my protagonists to suit my target audience. In Circuit Fae, I made the primary heroine, Syl Skye, fifteen and a high school sophomore. I’m hoping younger adults see her as someone cool to look up to!


  • Young adults like to read “up.”

  • Make your heroine a few years older than your target audience

And that’s pretty much it in a nutshell. This is by no means an exhaustive list. There are any number of “big mistakes” you can make, but these are my five biggies—the Top 5 Biggest Mistakes I Made So You Don’t Have To.

 If you liked this blog post, please share it! And consider joining my mailing list on GirlyEngine here or right here at Monster House Books.

As always, thank you for reading!


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