Five Young Adult Fiction writers and a book agent shared writing advice and stories at the University on Tuesday, March 11.
The writers were Jessica Brody (Unforgotten andUnremembered), Jessica Khoury (Origin and Vitro), Amy Christine Parker (Gated), Anna Banks (Of Poseidon and Of Triton) and Christina Farley (Gilded). The book agent was Lucienne Diver who is a Y.A. author as well.
While the authors discussed and read from their novels, the focus of the evening was for the audience to ask questions and learn about what life is like as a writer. Each author told their stories of how they became writers. Some of the women started writing very early in life.
Jessica Khoury wrote her first book when she was four years old. Because her classmates loved it so much, she decided to keep writing for the rest of her life. When she was in college, she was concerned because she had not published anything yet. But then one day she was inspired to write Vitro. After sending an unedited first draft to an agent, they were able to get a book deal in three months.
“It’s more uncommon to have your first novel published, and it usually takes more than three months to sell a book to a publisher. Never compare your path to others,” said Lucienne Diver.
Anna Banks had a more typical path to getting published.
“I read Twilight and said: if she can write a book, I can write a book,” said Banks.
Her novel, Of Poseidon, received four offers and 56 rejection letters before it was finally published.
Since all the writers now write for young adults, one would expect that they were all avid readers as children. Some of them were.
“I would hide my book in my math book,” said Khoury.
“When I was twelve, I read adult romances behind my mom’s back,” said Banks.
However, not all of the writers liked to read as kids. Brody hated to read until college when her friend gave her Bridget Jones’ Diary while she worked out at the gym. Farley had trouble reading until she was about 12 or 13, then she started reading all the “classic” novels.
The writers also discussed the business side of the writing industry, particularly marketing books. All the writers and the agent agreed that social media is essential to reaching Y.A. audiences. Diver said that it is essential for books to be on Goodreads and agreed that social media is important, but word of mouth is still the best marketing.
“It’s got to come from the readers,” said Diver.
One member of the audience noted that almost all of the books have one word titles. According to the writers, this is a new trend in writing caused by social media.
“Those 140 characters in a tweet get wasted on long titles,” said Brody.
The discussion finished with insight into the writing process. When asked if the writers knew how their books were going to end when they began writing, many of the writers agreed that they did. Brody said that an essential tool for writers is a website called savethecat.com. It explains every way a plot can twist, a character can grow, and conflict can be resolved.
The writers also gave advice on what to do when a writer feels unmotivated to write. Brody learned a technique where if a writer writes only five words, with no pressure to produce anymore, then more words generally come out; before the writer knows it, he or she has written several pages.
“Just write five words and maybe you’ll write more,” said Freshman Emma Reimer.
“I liked the five word suggestion, and I think it’s ironic that a couple [of writers] weren’t avid readers when they were young, but they write for young people now,” said Junior Lorie Jewell.