Writing for Teens: How to Keep it Real

A short essay on writing for teens, and how I keep my fiction real.

I’ve written a lot of Young Adult fiction, sure, it’s not as much as some people have written, but it’s enough that I’ve learned what to look for when crafting a young adult novel. Now that I’m in my thirties, high school feels distant and trivial. Did I really get that upset when my best friend didn’t invite me to a party? Things that upset me then, wouldn’t upset me now. The trick is remember how I acted in my teen years, and not force my adult learning on my characters.

The above mentioned party happened sometime in my senior year of high school. When I found out about the party late that night, or possibly the next day, I was in tears. Did my best friend at the time (we aren’t friends anymore, unless Facebook counts), mean to hurt my feelings? Probably not. She probably just wanted a break from me, wanted to have fun with someone else, or thought it wasn’t my thing. I don’t believe she was vindictive (she seems like she’s a nice person overall). But I do believe that she didn’t have the words to express why I wasn’t invited, or why she lied instead of telling me the truth.

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Thinking back on my teen years, and about the teens in my life now, it is very common at that age to ‘read too much into things’. By the time adulthood rolls around, most people have stopped taking every look and every word dished out personally. We’ve begun to accept our differences, our path, and our identity. But this is something teenagers struggle with.

One of the ways I stay in touch with my teen self is by keeping my teenage diaries and occasionally, when I feel strong enough, by reading the terrible, painful entries: here’s an example.

“I finally talked to Red. I don’t know how it is. We’re talking tomorrow after school. That’ll be hard. It was hard enough on the phone. I think she was crying. I’m not sure. I almost felt like it. But I don’t cry. It’s too hard. I almost said, “I can’t stand Blue”, when she said she couldn’t stand Green, but I couldn’t. This is hard. I mean, we have a circle. We work together and I told her we shouldn’t. That was hard. I don’t know what to say. Tomorrow we have to talk and I have to tell her my happenings and feelings….”

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See, everything is hard when you’re a teen. So hard in fact that I reused that word five times in that one short paragraph. And this was just about having a simple conversation with the friend about why she didn’t invite me to a party! Nowadays, I’d just go up to my friend and be like, Yo, You didn’t invite me b-! And my friend would either apologize and offer a reason that may or may not make sense, or we’d just laugh about it and move on. It wouldn’t be as difficult for me now that I’m older.

What about you? Did simple things seem more difficult for you when you were a teenager?

JEH

Update, Update, Update!

I have not been blogging, I know. Admission: I’ve been in hibernation mode getting The Circlet: Artifacts of Avalum Book 2 ready to go to my editor. I can’t wait to release this book near the end of May, beginning of June, I think you will really enjoy it.

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Otherwise, I’ve been working on my collection of short stories thanks to the Saskatchewan Arts Board grant I was awarded at the end of the year. I enjoy having this time to write and explore creativity more than I can say.

So what does that look like exactly? Well, I’ve been spending a ton of time trapped in my ‘basement office’, which is as cold and sometimes lonely as it sounds. But I find a few candles and a hot cup of tea are often enough to ward of the chill. But on the days it gets to be too much, I go out to one of Saskatoon’s beautiful and plentiful cafés to enjoy one of my favourite treats. I think I might actually blog about my favs sometime in the next week or so. Now that The Circlet is pretty much done from my end, I shouldn’t be as busy as I switch my focus to just my short stories. So you should be hearing more from me soon.

JEH

The Torc Cover Art Reveal

I’ve finally got to a good place with my new project, The Torc, and I’m hoping it will be ready for readers in a couple of months. Do you know what else is ready? The cover! Isn’t it beautiful? The art work was once again done by Leah Keeler. I love it, it might be my favourite so far, though the Twisted Currents cover is tough competition!

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The New Thing I’m Working On: The Torc Progress #2

This past week I was focused on getting Under Jupiter up on the Kindle store. So, for a few days, I stopped writing The Torc. And I missed it! But now that UJ is up, I can get back into writing my new obsession. I’m around 1/3 finished the draft, and while I have a general outline, there are enough places where I can’t wait to be surprised by what the characters do. I’m still really excited by this idea. And I’m also very excited for the cover art. See the tiny preview below.

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This week I’m giving you a preview of the colour scheme being use. I love it. I adore purple. My absolute favourite colour is orange, but purple is a close second. And probably makes for a better cover. Which do you think is better? I remember as a kid that a lot of little girls hated orange. Like made that sour lemon face whenever they were forced to accept orange as the last option (only marker left). But orange reminds me of fruit, flowers and sunsets, all beautiful things. Purple reminds me of flowers too, but also luxurious fabrics and amethyst, one of my favourite stones.

Writing this week is going to be focused on word count. I’ll give you an update regarding my goal tomorrow, and then you’ll know why.

JEH

A Brief Review of the Kindle Scout Program

If you’ve been following along on my self-publishing journey of my latest novel, Under Jupiter, then you already know that I submitted it to Kindle Scout. Well, the news is in and Under Jupiter was not selected for publication by Kindle Press. In all honesty, I didn’t expect it to be. Why? Because during my 30-day campaign and scout participation, I came to a firm conclusion on one thing: Kindle Press prefers highly popular fiction. And guess what, a teen novel about colonizing the solar system is not popular fiction.

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Overall, I had a good Scout experience. It was fun and addicting to follow along with my daily page views, and I liked seeing my book at the top of the Hot and Trending list. Also, I nominated books like mad during my 30 day sprint, since I was on the website anyway, and I ‘won’ three new e-books, which should be released sometime in the near future. I found Kindle Scout to be a fun website as a reader, since it takes no time at all to scan and nominate your favorite proposed titles.

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As a writer, I found Kindle Scout to be slightly beneficial to my exposure. My books had slightly more downloads while my latest work was up on Kindle Scout (which I think is partially due to more readers who don’t know me seeing my name). I’m planning to release Under Jupiter this weekend, at which time Kindle Scout will send an email out those people who nominated my book and let them know it is for sale. I’ll post an update after I’ve done this to say whether or not I get a sales boost from that feature.

As for what’s next, I’m working away on The Torc. Would I submit it to the Kindle Scout website? Probably not, because I felt Kindle Scout mostly just added a bit of a delay to my release schedule, and I’m too excited to share The Torc with the world.

What do you think? Do you like reviewing book previews on Kindle Scout?

JEH

Submitting to Kindle Scout

I did it! I pressed submit! And now for a little rundown of what I thought about the whole Kindle Scout submission process.

If you’ve never heard about Kindle Scout, you can read more about it here, and sign up to preview and vote for submitted books. For readers, Kindle Scout is a way to earn free books, because if a book you nominate is chosen by Scout for publishing with Kindle Press, then you get a free copy. For writers, it’s a chance to earn an advance for your book and get a little bit of extra marketing.

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So why did I decide to try Kindle Scout? Mostly because I’m always on the lookout for new things to try, and, well, that advance does sound nice. So far, everything has been simple and straight forward. I opened a Kindle Scout account, prepared my files (cover, manuscript, blurb, a short bio, and answers to some questions. The Kindle Scout Website says you can submit in fifteen minutes, but it took me longer than that to prepare the question answers and the bio, because I wanted them to be good.

The cover had to be submitted in jpg or png format, and the manuscript (yes, you have to submit the entire manuscript even though only the first 5,000 words or so will be used as an except), has to be .doc or .docx format.

I uploaded everything, pressed the button, and now Under Jupiter is under content review (which means Kindle Scout is checking that there isn’t any inappropriate content or trouble with the files). Next, I should receive a confirmation and a campaign launch date, which I will share as soon as I have it. I’m excited to share this preview of Under Jupiter with everyone, and I can’t wait to hear what people think.

So, what does this mean for the release of Under Jupiter? Well, in the case that the book is selected by Scout, the release date will be up to Amazon (usually within a month of selection, so likely July 2017), and in the case that it isn’t selected, I will have Under Jupiter released by the end of June 2017.

Either way, Under Jupiter is set to land soon!

JEH

Under Jupiter Plans For World Domination (on attempting Kindle Scout)

Okay, maybe that title is a bit extreme, but I like it! I’m working away through the fourth or so revision of Under Jupiter, and making pretty good progress. But once it’s ready, I’m not going to release it right away, as I did with the Black Depths titles. Instead, I’m going to try Kindle Scout.

What is Kindle Scout? you ask. Good question. Kindle Scout is Amazon’s on-going “competition”, where you mostly compete against yourself. Under Jupiter will be up for a 30 day compaign. During which readers can review the blurb, and the first 5,000 words of the book (around 3 chapters). Then, you can nominate the book, and if I ‘win’, (if Amazon selects to publish Under Jupiter with Kindle Press), then you get a free copy of the ebook.

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I want to try this to do something different. I think it will be a fun way to let more people know about Under Jupiter, and a good way to share part of the book. I’ll let you know when Under Jupiter is up, but until then, here’s a link to the Kindle Scout website in case you want to check out other books that are currently up for nomination.

https://kindlescout.amazon.com/

JEH