Tag Archives: Marie Lamba

More tips from the masters: On POV, character & vocabulary

As I near the end of my Write a YA Novel in 9 Months class led by authors Jonathan Maberry and Marie Lamba, I thought I’d share you with what I’ve learned along the way.

Here is part 2 of techniques and tips I’ve learned on writing for the YA or MG market.

Which POV?
1st person can be limiting. It’s a challenge to not break the one character’s POV. With 1st person you must remain in the same voice throughout the story.  Check to make sure that only the thoughts of your MC are delivered.

There are benefits to writing YA/MG in 1st person. It brings us directly close to the character, and we all know that kids are self-involved. Second, you can create internal exposition which allows for us to discover what’s going on beneath the MC. Third, it keeps us in suspense as we can’t see all that is going on.

Tip: Use dialogue scenes to give us other character’s POV without breaking from 1st person voice.

Writing in 3rd person can also be limiting. It doesn’t present the opportunity to give us all of the MC’s thoughts. The benefits are that you can hold back secrets and we can see the story from different angles. It can create suspense as we can see other parallel events happening that the MC is not aware of.

Tip: Pull off books from your book shelf and see how characters are introduced. Does it work for you? Copy what that author did.

Exercise: Write a passage where you introduce a character.

On Creating Character
Don’t name two characters starting with same first letter. For example,  David, and Deena. Or Jack and Jill. “Jack and Jill ran up the hill to kill the zombie.” We laugh instead of feeling scared for our characters because their names are so silly.

Got Character?

And please don’t use any of these names: Fred, Ted, Ed. “Howdy,”  Fred said. “Howdy yourself,” Ted said.” You get the issue here.

Have the MC describe how he sees or feels about other characters. In doing so it reveals his own character.

Show us character in the details the MC sees. The hardness of a chair beneath him, how he feels about an object, a photo the MC carries around, or the smell that reminds him of his dog back home, etc.

Stay away from clichés such as labeling a character a bully. Go deeper than that.

Simple gestures can say volumes. For example, “Josh took two steps back while Amy took two steps forward.”

If writing in 1st POV, how does the MC see the other characters through his eyes? This tells us volumes about the other characters and also about the MC.

Exercise: Write down your major and minor characters then list how they would describe themselves through their own eyes.

Exercise: Describe something from your MC’s perspective.

Vocabulary for YA/MG
Write smart. Don’t dumb down the language for kids. Kids read up.

Make sure your language is appropriate for the age. Try not to write “trendy” language. For example: “That’s fat. Cool. Rad.” It could make your book outdated later.

Exercise: Revive memories of being the age of your YA characters. Draw a picture of the neighborhood you grew up in, pin pointing details. Remember what you saw, what you felt, and how you reacted to events there.

Tip: Take a scene and strip out all words but the dialogue to see how your character’s talk. This reveals the beat of character’s words and speech. Then flow it through your book.

See tips to writing a YA Novel from the masters Part 1


Filed under Writing Techniques, Young Adult

Write a YA Novel in 9 Months: Tips from the masters

As I near the end of my Write a YA Novel in 9 Months class led by authors Jonathan Maberry and Marie Lamba, I thought I’d share you with what I’ve learned along the way. I’ve met a great bunch of writers across genres in this class and I am happy to report I finished my book in 7 months!

Here is part 1 of techniques and tips I’ve learned
on writing for the YA or MG market.

Getting started. Before you write…

Recent trends in writing for YA/MG audience
MG horror is hot now, especially 2-4 books deals in a series running about 40K words each. Think Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book or R.L. Stein books.
Books are released in e-book first, then if good show doing a print run.
YA e-anthologies are hot! Allows kids to read a story in class and review real time vs. a novel. (Adult anthologies more for small press). Check out Campfire Weenies tales on this.
Pitching is on now year round to agents,  no usual slow times in August and after Thanksgiving. Agents continue to seek next best book.

Genres (YA = Young Adult MG = Middle Grade)
Remember kids ‘read up’
Younger YA – 12-15
Older YA – 15 -17
MG – 8-12

Outline your book
Write a chapter outline with bullet points for each chapter.
Create doc for revision notes so you can fast draft without stopping to edit.
Write a preliminary synopsis of 1-3 pages of prose, single spaced. This is where you talk yourself through the plot. This isn’t the finished synopsis so don’t worry, just for plotting purposes.
Write book logline, that 1 sentence pitch.
TIP: Write 1st and last chapter first. Write to the end of the book so you know direction to go in.

Promo copy
Write back book jacket. Review similar books to get an idea.
Write 1 paragraph description of possible next 2 books in the series.
Create submission list (sub list) of a dozen books that are similar to yours. This is where your book would fit on a bookshelf. Books must be recent successes and in print and in age range to your book. Check out LibraryThing for authors in your genre where you can search by genre/sub genres.

Critique Partner
Find a partner who writes similar to you and once you’ve written the first 25 pages, swap out with each other

Check out verlakay.com message boards, a place for children’s writers and illustrators to gather and share information, help each other and have fun while learning the business of writing and illustrating for children.
Books – Rotten Rejections, 20 Master Plots and Exercises, Writing Treatments that Sell.

Now start writing!

More tips to write a YA novel from the masters Part 2


Filed under Writing Techniques, Young Adult

I celebrate becoming a published novelist

I am excited to have author Donna Galanti on today. Oops! That’s me!

Doing the happy jump

Because today is the day I can announce that my paranormal suspense novel A HUMAN ELEMENT is being published by Echelon Press! Catch what it’s about  here on my writing page.

I’m pretty dizzy about it. Yep. Due to release March 15th, 2012 as an ebook and in paperback on Amazon. (Note to self: put Kindle on Christmas list). Echelon Press believes in my story and I am thrilled to be publishing with them.

Hungarian Hussar. Imagine fighting in that get up?

It’s just fun to mention that March 15th is a Hungarian Holiday commemorating the Hungarian Revolution of 1848 and their independence from the Hasburg Empire. I just love that my book will be associated with a revolution. Even a bloodless one. I have some Hungarian in me. I can feel it.
Back to excitement. EEK! Did I mention being dizzy?

What’s funny is this month I was a guest on Author Tony Eldridge’s blog Marketing Tips, a wonderful resource for authors. I highly recommend it. And my topic? Utilizing a career in marketing and business to get a book to market. Stop by here to read my article.

I didn’t get this book to market alone though (as I mention in my article above). Once I came out of my writing cave and quit speaking in grunted oohs and ahhs, I ventured out in the writer universe and met some wonderful people.

These are the kind of people that want other writers to succeed by sharing their experiences and techniques. People like authors Marie Lamba and Jonathan Maberry, teachers in my Write a Novel in 9 Months class. And my developmental editor, Kathryn Craft, who went above and beyond in her critiquing! The many workshops I took at the Philly Writer’s Conference led by the wonderful authors in the Philadelphia Liars Club.

Thanks to Karen Syed, President with Echelon Press who was the first publisher I ever met at my first writer’s conference, The Write Stuff. She spent time above the call of duty in reading, reviewing and recommending changes to my novel before I even signed with her. Stacy Green, who pointed out my head hopping, among other things! And my amazing pilot readers who took the time to read my book.

And then there are the countless number of new writer friends I have made along the way.

Supportive husband = happy writer

Too many to list here! You all know who you are 🙂

Oh, and let’s not forget one supportive husband who gave me time to write (happy 10th anniversary this week, Mike).

So, follow me on the path to publication. I’ll share it here. What’s your path to publication?


Filed under Authors, Book Marketing

Write On Wednesdays with Jim Kristofic. Personal to Published

I’m am thrilled to have  Jim Kristofic on today, author of Navajos Wear Nikes, an endearing, colorful, funny and sad memoir about growing up on an Indian reservation. Jim and I are classmates in Write a YA Novel in 9 Months led by Jonathan Maberry and Marie Lamba. Today Jim talks about his process of going from personal to published.

Jim Kristofic

Personal to Published: Writing Memoir
by Jim Kristofic

So I got the email yesterday. My memoir, Navajos Wear Nikes, a memoir about life on the Navajo Nation in northeastern Arizona, released this spring from University of New Mexico Press, just sold out its hardcover run. It’s going paperback.

Two years ago, I wasn’t sure I’d find a publisher for the book. So I was asked to talk about how I got from there to here. Here it goes.

Start Small
Writing the memoir began in small projects. I had memories and stories to tell. They were experiences that were valuable to me, that happened in a place that was more than 2,000 miles from where I was living at the time in Pennsylvania.

It started in a creative writing class (as do many books, I’m sure). We were asked to write a “creative nonfiction” essay about a “fantastic reality” in our lives: something that seemed ‘other-worldly’ to us but also actually happened.

So I wrote about my eighth grade geometry teacher butchering a sheep in the middle of the day at my middle school.  I remembered it all very clearly: the smell of the sagebrush caught in the sheep’s wool, the mud clinging to its hooves when the sheep was carried in, the sounds of its throat cut, the respectful quiet of the students, the way we all worked together to collect the organs after the sheep was skinned, the feel of the sheep’s stomach while I picked it clean of fat in the kitchen of our school cafeteria so that it could be used to bake blood sausage.

Write about what you know
Something clicked. And in writing about a place that I’d loved so dearly – Diné Bikeyáh, the Navajo Land – that place became more vivid and alive for me than before. This was no longer nostalgia. This was truth. This event actually happened. And now – if someone read it – it would happen again.

I graduated from college just a few months later, got married, and found myself still living in Pennsylvania. And still homesick.

So I wrote another essay, this one about how I’d caught a hawk and held it. The next one about saving dogs from a dogcatcher. The next one about encountering Navajo witchcraft and being chased by a Navajo witch. And so on. I understood that these were stories I wanted to pass on to my close relatives and my wife. And I was writing for myself.

Write from example
I tried following the best examples I could. I kept in mind the sharp observation and keen intimacy of essays and short stories like Flood by Annie Dillard, Greasy Lake by T.C. Boyle, and Jesus Christ’s Half-Brother is Alive and Well on the Spokane Indian Reservation by Sherman Alexie. These were authors who had nurtured me in my high school years. Now they were helping me put together these valuable memories.

Eventually, I had so many of these memories written out that it was really approaching a book length. So I contacted some publishers and some literary agents, hoping that the book could be something to reach out and create some meaning of the “Rez life” for my friends who were also living off the Rez  (about 60% of Navajos end up leaving the Rez to look for jobs).

Publishers and agents were initially fascinated by the idea of the book, they felt they were “interesting stories told by a unique voice,” but they weren’t really approaching a “greater sense of meaning.” So they passed.

What were they talking about? A greater sense of meaning? I finally understood what they meant when one agent wrote me and suggested I try reading a few memoirs in order to take the collected essays in a more fluid direction.

My response? What’s a memoir?

Learning a greater sense of meaning through others
So I read memoirs. I studied authors whose memoirs of culture, identity, and place, have become celebrated and loved. I read them with a pencil in hand, made notes, and dog-earred important passages that revealed that “greater sense of meaning” that my own ignorance of the craft hadn’t allowed me to explore yet. And I also had a lot of “Rez humility.” Still do.

I learned about exploring the emotional landscape from Azadeh Moaveni’s Lipstick Jihad, relating the minute to the universal in Annie Dillard’s An American Childhood, and spacing small episodes in Haven Kimmel’s A Girl Named Zippy: Growing Up Small in Mooreland, Indiana. Christopher de Bellaigue’s In the Rose Garden of the Martyrs taught me how to explain a foreign world to the American reader; Bill Bryson’s The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: A Memoir taught me some cool tricks about writing about childhood; and Dr. Lori Alvord and Elizabeth Cohen Van Pelt’s The Scalpel and the Silver Bear gave me a clear path to follow in writing memoir specifically about the Reservation.

And in the meantime, I got to know the landscape of the Rez. I did an oral history project. I picked up freelance work from western publications like High Country News, Arizona Highways, and The Navajo Times. I built my writing chops. I tried paying my dues as best I could.

I also found out that memoirs are pretty popular. Memoirs had sold well throughout the decade and propped sagging sales of hardcover fiction. The nation’s fascination with memoirs had spilled over into television with reality TV. And – not surprisingly – Indian life and culture had been a popular feature.

Morgan Spurlock’s 30 Days series featured an episode titled “What’s Life Like on an Indian Reservation?”, where Spurlock lived for a month in a Navajo hogan. Likewise, Billy Luther’s PBS documentary Miss Navajo – which chronicled the entrees of the famous pageant on the Navajo Reservation – won the Special Founders Prize at the 2007 Traverse City Film Festival and was an Official Selection to 2007 Sundance Film Festival. And you better believe I included that information in my book proposal. I learned to write a book proposal by reading How to Write a Book Proposal by Michael Larsen.

Keep looking for a home for your book
Then I took the book back to the agencies. Most thought it was too “regional” and some really liked it and wanted me too expand it to include other Reservations like the Lakota or the Mohawk or the Tlingit (as though they’re all the same tribe or something). But I wasn’t going to do that. I was writing about this particular place, a place where sheep were butchered in school, where human hands could catch hawks, and where you didn’t go out at night because you might get cursed by a witch.

Eventually, I found a wonderful home with University of New Mexico Press, who loved the book from the start and who have championed it in the bustling literary scene of Santa Fe and beyond. Where it grows from there, I do not know. And I don’t really care.

What has moved me most is the really positive response from the people from the Rez and the Navajo living off the Rez. By marketing the book through Facebook, I’ve been able to make connections with people from New Mexico to Ohio to Ireland.

One reader had just picked it up in a library outside Flagstaff, Arizona, and sent me a message via Facebook as she and her mother were driving up to their sheep camp near Sheep Springs, New Mexico, just to tell me how great it was to see a book about the Rez life.

All I can say to her – and to all the authors who helped me and all the people who’ve read the book – is Aheehee. Thank you.


Filed under Authors, Memoir Writing

Marketing & Brand: Tips from Philly Writer’s Conf.

Still hot writing business and craft tips to report on from the Philadelphia Writer’s Conference this month.  Here is more of what I learned during that weekend from a round of excellent presenters.

Creating Your Brand and Marketing Your Work presented by Don Lafferty and Marie Lamba.

ID your reader and market
Are there special qualities, issues or setting in your book that appeal to certain groups? Hikers, teens, mountain climbers, veterinarians? Find those groups on Twitter and listen to their conversations. Mention your book when relevant.

Do you offer readers something they need in your book? Can you do a workshop or talk? For example, is your book MG or YA? Hook up with Scout organizations to do a workshop on your book so they earn a reading badge and your earn readers (for your sequel too).

Does your book feature a certain locale? Post photos of those places along with mention in your book on a blog post.

Who are the gatekeepers to your book? Librarians, parents, bookstores, conventions, etc. Find a way to access.

Connect and be found
Be on Facebook, Twitter, GoodReads, LibraryThing, IndieBound, LinkedIn.
Start a blog.
Add tags (keywords) to bottom of your blog posts so they can be found in a web search by keyword.
Keep blog posts to 300 words.

Brand look
Create author bio/photo/brand image/press release templates

We all know what brand this is

Create one look for yourself (photo, image) and carry over into all marketing pieces to create “your brand”.

Create a short and long bio, with photo.

Create business cards you can change as needed to print out for special events.

Band together with other authors
Start a blog with a group of authors and expand your publicity. Good example is here and here!
Collaborate with your author group to do  community outreach together related to literacy.
Do signings together.

Share the love
Don’t let your social networking be all about you. For each tweet about your work/success post 12 tweets  about the success of others or valuable information.
Post reviews of book similar to yours online and email the author your reviews.
Find authors similar to you and check out their blogs, blogs they’ve been a guest on and any published articles.
Write articles for industry publications/blogs sharing your knowledge.
Always include your bio in any post/article so folks can link back to you.

Build brand through family/close friends
Invite family and close friends to be your “street team”.
Have them:
Attend signings
Do online reviews
Request your book from local library
Hand out bookmarks
Plant your book card in similar books in the bookstores positioned halfway through the book
Face your book out on the shelf (publisher’s pay for that space)

Constantly re-evaluate your marketing!

Download Don Lafferty’s marketing guide!


Filed under Book Marketing, Social Media, Writing Conferences