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Top Ten Tips from “Women Write! Pushing the Limits of YA Fiction”

The panel that I participated in at Wright State University on March 5 happens to be one of my all-time favorites, for many reasons. First was the setting. Wright State University is my alma mater, so I felt a little like I was driving home when I pulled off the highway and made my way toward campus. Second was the panel of authors I was honored to be part of, including Sharon Short, Katrina Kittle, and Trudy Krisher. Each are talented and wonderful and so very willing to share all their knowledge of and experience in the industry. Third was the lovely moderator, Stephanie Bange, who led the four of us as we opened up and got down to the nitty-gritty. Lastly, I so enjoyed our audience, which consisted of several different classes of English and Education majors. We fielded questions about research, our writing process, the difficulties of isolation when we are submerged in a book, and so much more.

 

 

Because my nickname happens to be “Listy Kristi,” I think the best way to share the insight from our discussion would be to list a my top ten favorite tips. So, here goes . . .

10. Read. Read. And read some more. Paying attention to the things that work (and also the things that don’t work) within the genre of what you are writing is one of the best learning tools you can utilize.

9. Befriend your local librarians (even if they might embarrass you by sharing over the loud speaker that the book on pedophiles you requested has arrived, which actually happened to Katrina Kittle!) and spend an ample amount of time on research to make your story credible.

8. Don’t bother forcing yourself to follow a trend. By the time your book is completed, the trend will likely have passed. Instead, write what inspires you most, whatever that may be. Trudy Krisher highlighted this point by saying that the books that come from the heart of who we really are tend to be the most powerful.

7. Hurry up and wait. The waiting game in the business of writing is terribly difficult to handle. It’s common for years to pass between an author typing “The End” and an actual book hitting shelves. Have a plan to use your waiting time wisely . . . a back-pocket project, for instance, that you can work on in stages, might further hone your skill and will give you an additional chance at publication.

6. Have a plan for rejection. It’s one of the hardest and most prevalent aspects of this business. Most authors face a multitude of rejection before they ever connect with the right premise/book/agent/editor and take the next step toward publication. Yes. You read that right. There is rejection at every stage of the game. Even after you are published. My plan is simple: I allow myself a specific number of days to mourn the rejection – the number appropriately corresponding to the weight of the rejection. And I eat all the chocolate my broken heart desires. After the allotted time passes (usually no more than two or three days), I move on. Which means I get back in the game and start writing again.

5. Writers Write. You can talk about writing all you want – and lots of people do – but writers sit down and they write. It’s that simple. All writers have a different process, sure, but no writer will get anywhere without actually putting ideas down on a page. These ideas are often messy and disorganized during a first draft. But that’s okay, because the only way to reach a finished draft is to get through all the drafts that come before it.

4. Ignore that ugly voice of doubt. We all face doubt, hearing different versions of it as we move through the stages of the writing process. Sharon Short pictures her doubt as an ugly little gnome sitting on a very large couch, his fat gnome legs swinging back and forth, which diminishes his size and the importance of what he’s saying. (For the record, I’m working on creating my own mental picture of this large couch and offensive little gnome.)

3. Be prepared for revision. Nothing is perfect as it flows from your mind to the page during that first draft. But you can’t fix a scene or chapter if it isn’t there. So ignore your nasty little gnomes, sit down, write, and allow yourself to be a little messy. Once you have it down, you can work it, like clay, molding the story into exactly what you’re aiming to write. (Another excellent visual offered up by the brilliant Sharon Short.)

2. Pay Yourself First. This direct quote comes from Katrina Kittle, and is an especially crucial point to mention. So many of us are weighted down by the pressures of the outside world, we are often too tired to take care of our own desires. Time and again, I hear of authors who wake early to get their writing time in before the start of their day. Honor your writing time. Don’t allow anyone or anything to encroach upon it. If you take your writing seriously, others will be forced to follow suit.

1. Write what you love. Follow your heart. Be true to yourself. These might sound cliché, but the sentiment was repeated throughout our discussion and all four of us truly believe it’s the key to success.

 

Stephanie Bange and Amber Vlasnik

Katrina Kittle, Trudy Krisher, Kristina McBride, Sharon Short

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