On Writing the YA Voice

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It's no secret that nailing a great voice is absolutely essential to YA. Whether lyrical or quirky, casual or full of gorgeous imagery, voice can make or break the reception of a manuscript.

An issue I frequently see with unpublished YA manuscripts is the attempt to make a voice sound YA is there, but it falls short and ends up sounding like an adult who is trying to sound like a teen (I'm sure you've all seen this at some point; it's noticeable). I understand why this happens—getting the voice right can be especially challenging in why—so today I'm sharing some tips on getting the YA voice to sound authentically teen.

  • Read (a lot) of voice-y YA. There's a reason it's essential to read what you write—and this is a big part of it. The best way to get a sense of voice in a category is to read—a lot. A while ago I asked Twitter for recommendations for YA with especially good teen voices, and this is what they came up with:

  • Listen to teens (and keep listening). TV shows and movies can help, but even better is listening to actual teens in your life, because they'll be way more up to date with how teens actually speak today. (Remember, it often takes over two years to make a movie.) Don't have any teens in your life? Go to your local mall, or park, etc. and listen to people speaking around you.

  • Don't rely on outdated clich├ęs or stereotypes. Teens don't really text like "R U going tonite? C U l8r!" anymore. I'm not entirely convinced most teens ever did, but now in the age of autocorrect, it takes a lot of extra effort to text like that and it's lost its cool shine, so most don't. That's just one example, but basically, pay attention to the changing world and don't rely on stereotypes.

  • Pay attention to word choice. Remember to ask not only "are these words a teen would use" but "are these words this particular teen would use?" An art student might know that bike is vermillion blue, but one less oriented in the arts probably would just say blue (or bright blue, or intensely blue, but blue nevertheless).

So those are just a couple tips on getting YA voices right. What would you add to the list?

Twitter-sized bite:
Struggling to get the voice right in your YA? Author @Ava_Jae shares some tips. (Click to tweet)

Fixing the First Page Winner #27!

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Quick pre-post post to announce the winner of the twenty-seventh fixing the first page feature giveaway!


And the twenty-seventh winner is…


Yay! Congratulations, Magdalyn!

Thank you again to all you wonderful entrants! If you didn't win, as always, there will be another fixing the first page giveaway in October, so keep an eye out! :)

1,000 Blog Posts and Counting

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Yesterday I published Writability's 1,000th blog post, which happened to be, somewhat perfectly, a vlog about getting traditionally published. When I first began blogging almost five and a half years ago, I was petrified and had pretty low expectations. I honestly wasn't sure I'd come up with enough material to blog for a year, let alone ever make it here.

It's amazing and I'm so glad I took that step and hit post.

A lot has happened in five and a half years:

  • I've written ten manuscripts.
  • Overcame my photo-on-the-internet phobia. 
  • Hit a bunch of blogging milestones. 
  • Switched majors from Film/Digital Media to English.
  • Took a year off of college.
  • Got an agent. 
  • Began (remote) interning in the industry.
  • Began vlogging. 
  • Went to my first writers' conference.
  • Got a book deal. 
  • Saw my debut published. 
  • Presented at two conferences. 
  • Graduated college.
  • Began freelance editing.
  • Reached 5,000 subscribers on my YouTube channel. 
  • Got a book deal for two sequels.

Writing out that list honestly made me kind of emotional. It's so easy to forget the steps you've taken and milestones you've hit along the way. When I first began blogging I didn't dare to hope half of those things would happen—and I certainly didn't imagine many of the others. 

I started this blog figuring if it helped one person, it would be worth it. Now, five and a half years later, I have more readers than I ever imagined making it worth it every day. 

Thank you all for reading—and here's to another 1,000 posts. 

To celebrate, I'm giving away a signed copy of my debut, Beyond the Red, along with signed swag (US only). You have until the end of the month to enter. Good luck! :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Vlog: How to Get a Book Deal

Last week I shared the simplified steps to getting an agent, and this week I'm moving on to the next milestone toward traditional publication: getting a book deal.


Twitter-sized bite:

Want to get a book deal but not sure where to start? Author @Ava_Jae continues her how to vlog series. (Click to tweet)

Discussion: Do You Plan to Participate in NaNoWriMo This Year?

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So we've flown past the September halfway mark, which means October is on its way. This means, of course, that even though it's a month and a half away, I've been thinking about NaNoWriMo.

I've known for a couple months now that if I'm able to, I plan to participate. I have a project I'm really excited about that I already fully plotted (I've been calling it #MagicMurderMayhem on Twitter), but I haven't had a chance to draft yet because I've been too busy with Into the Black drafting and revising, which takes precedent for obvious reasons. My goal, then, has been to get ITB through two CP/beta rounds before sending it off to my agent, and in order to participate in NaNo, the deadline I set for myself is November 1st.

So far things are going well—I blasted through the first CP round and finished my revisions quickly enough to send the manuscript earlier than expected to round two. But given that this second round has way more readers than the first, I'm expecting those revisions will take me longer.

Thus, I still don't know if I'll be participating in NaNoWriMo this year—it depends on a lot of things, like when I get notes from everyone back, how long it takes me to implement those notes, and how much energy I'll have left to jump right into a new manuscript. I'm hopeful, though, because I've been dying to draft #MagicMurderMayhem since I finished plotting it a couple months back. So we'll see. :)

I'm curious, however, about how many of you plan to or are thinking about participating, and I think it'd be a fun discussion.

So let's discuss! Do you plan to participate or are you thinking about participating in NaNoWriMo this year?

Twitter-sized bite: 
Are you thinking about participating in NaNoWriMo this year? Join the discussion on @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet)

Fixing the First Page Giveaway #27!

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I was pretty stunned to realize this week we're already halfway through September (!!!), which means October is almost here, which means NaNoWriMo is nearing and, happily, it's time for the twenty-seventh Fixing the First Page feature!

For those who’ve missed before, the Fixing the First Page features is a public first 250 word critique. Using the lovely rafflecopter widget, anyone interested in winning a public (as in, featured in a post on this blog) first page critique can enter.

For an example of what this critique will look like, here's the last Fixing the First Page post.


  • ONLY the first 250 words will be critiqued (up to finishing the sentence). If you win and send me more, I will crop it myself. No exceptions.

  • ONLY the first page. I don’t want 250 random words from your manuscript, or from chapter 3. If you win the critique and send me anything other than the first 250 words of your manuscript, I will choose someone else.

  • I will actually critique it. Here. On the blog. I will say things as nicely as I can, but I do tend to be a little blunt. If you’re not sure you can handle a public critique, then you may want to take some time to think about it before you enter.

  • Genre restrictions. I'm most experienced with YA & NA, but I will still accept MG and Adult. HOWEVER. If your first page has any erotic content on it, I ask that you don’t enter. I want to be able to post the critique and the first 250 in its entirety without making anyone uncomfortable, and if you win and you enter a page with erotic content, I will choose someone else.

  • You must have your first page ready. Should you win, you need to be able to submit your first page within 48 hours of my contacting you to let you know you won. If 48 hours pass and I haven’t heard from you, again, I will choose someone else.

  • You’ll get the most out of this if it isn’t a first draft. Obviously, I have no way of knowing if you’re handing me a first draft (though I will probably suspect because it’s usually not that difficult to tell). I won’t refuse your page if it’s a first draft, but you should know that this critique will likely be of more use if you’ve already had your betas/CPs look over it. Why? Because if you don’t, the critique I give you will probably contain a lot of notes that your betas & CPs could have/would have told you.

  • There will not be a round 2 (unless you win again in a future contest). I hate to have to say this, but if you win a critique, it’s NOT an invitation to send me a bunch of your revisions. I wish I had the time available to be able to look at revisions, but sadly, I don’t. If you try to break this rule, I will nicely say no, and also remember to choose someone else should you win a second contest. Which would make me sad. :(

So that’s it! If you’re okay with all of the above and would like to enter to be the twenty-second public critique on Writability, do the thing with the rafflecopter widget below. You have until Thursday, September 22 at 11:59 EST to enter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

5 (More) Ways to Support Your Favorite Authors

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NOTE: Sometimes, when you write nearly 1,000 blog posts, you forget you already (re-)covered a topic. Realized this morning this is actually the second time this year I've re-covered this topic, but there are still a couple new suggestions in this one. Consider the rest a reminder. ;) 

So way back in 2013, I wrote a 5 Ways to Support Your Favorite Authors post. Since then, I've learned lots more about ways to support authors whose books you enjoy, so today I thought I'd share more. In no particular order:

  1. Pre-order their books. Confession: I did not realize just how important pre-orders were until after I got my book deal and saw other authors talking about it. As it turns out, pre-orders are really important—they help determine print runs, how much bookstores will order, best seller lists, and so much more. Lisa Schroeder wrote a really great post, "The power of the pre-order," which I recommend if you're curious about the details.

    Long story short, if you plan to buy a book and are able to pre-order, it helps authors a ton. :)

  2. Cross-post your reviews. I see this all the time: a book will have hundreds of reviews on Goodreads, then only a handful on Amazon and even less on B&N. But reviews on consumer websites help a lot, especially on Amazon where books are ranked differently after they hit the 50 review milestone, largely most consumers aren't on Goodreads and many still like to see reviews before they purchase a book.

    Related to this, reviews don't have to be long: even a sentence can be useful and bump those review numbers. So consider this your friendly reminder to cross-post your reviews on retailer sites—which reminds me, it's been a while since I've done a cross-post check on my reviews...

  3. Suggest their books to your local library. I'm still trying to figure out how to do this at my local library, but this is a thing that helps a lot! Library check outs are totally helpful for authors, both because publishers see library purchases and because it can be great exposure for a book. So if your local library doesn't have some of your favorites—suggest them! Bonus: this is free. :)

  4. Don't wait until the series is over to buy. I get why this happens—binge reading is a fun thing and waiting for a sequel when you're in the middle of a series can be painful. But unfortunately, this buying habit has been known to get series cancelled mid-series. Remember that a dip in sales in the middle of a series, even if it's just because many readers are waiting for the last book to release, can spell doom for a series—so make sure you buy books in your favorites series as it publishes.

  5. Tweet/Instagram/Snap/Tumbl their books. Word of mouth works wonders for books, and social media can especially boost visibility. Whether it's an Instagram pic, a post on tumblr or just a tweet about books you're enjoying, even the little things can be very helpful. I can't tell you how many books I've discovered solely thanks to social media—which is pretty darn awesome.

So those are five (more) quick ways to help your favorite authors! What tips would you add to the list? 

Twitter-sized bite:
Want to effectively support your favorite authors? @Ava_Jae shares 5 (more) ways to do so. (Click to tweet)
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