Tag Archives: YARWA

What is ARWD in YA Lit?

PJ Sharon, coming to you on this fine Tuesday from the Northeast Hills. I hope you’re all well and ready to celebrate Thanksgiving. Today, I’d like to share a few new tidbits I learned last week. I just finished taking a YARWA sponsored online workshop , Sex in YA, with the fabulous and talented Heather Howland, editor at Entangled Publishing, who cited ARWD as one of the main problems she sees with YA manuscripts. So what does this strange acronym stand for?

Adult Romance Writer’s Disease. That’s right, it’s that inadvertent adult voice that seeps into YA manuscripts, especially when writing sex or sexual tension scenes. She noted that this seems to happen most often when writers of adult romance make the leap to writing YA. She also noted that she sees this as a problem in many indie-published YA titles. I would agree, and think this is possibly due to the fact that indie-authors are not working with “commercial” editors and aren’t worried so much about fitting into the trad-publishing mold, which has some pretty strict standards about what is marketable fiction. It may also have to do with the fact that YA has a huge cross-over market with adult readers these days, so the language has become more sophisticated. Whether this is intentional or simply an oversight because of the ARWD problem is anyone’s guess.  

There are many levels of steaminess in YA, and Heather has seen it all. But what separates YA from adult romance is the subtle, or not so subtle nuances in voice, word choice, and knowing how far is too far for the story. I saw many awseome examples during the workshop and Heather’s critiques were invaluable.

For instance, if you’re writing about a teen pregnancy, as I did in ON THIN ICE, you’ll likely have to account for the “deed” and will want to make it real to readers…along with the consequences. But we as authors might just need to be sensitive to our audience and take some responsibility for HOW we make it real. Of course this is up for debate, but in my opinion, you have to consider whether you want 12-14 year-old readers (the lower end of the demographic for YA these days) getting a head full of “on the page” description of body parts and anatomical functions the way we see it written in most adult romances. Or is it oh-so-much better to be in the character’s head, experiencing not only the physical, but the emotional impact of the scene from that “first” time POV, which is usually less about the act and more about the feelings involved and all the crazy thought processes that interfere with the actual event.

 I thought I had handled this pretty well when I wrote about Penny and Carter’s first time, but alas, Heather rightly diagnosed me with ARWD. I submitted this particular scene, because it was the steamiest I’d written in any of my books–the only time any of my characters have gone “all the way,” and I knew something wasn’t right. Heather was kind enough to critique our scenes and underlined the sentences that came across as “adult” language. It’s been two years since I wrote this passage and I’ve learned a lot since then, but when she pointed out the problem, I saw it clearly for the first time.

Like any good critique, she started with a positive:

My first impression was that you have a strong, smooth voice. Very easy to read. I can definitely appreciate this as an editor who sifts through a lot of submissions!

Thank you so much for saying so, Heather! And here’s the part of the excerpt that she found problematic, followed by further critique:

As for the intimacy itself, there are some ARWD moments:

A large sleeping cat awoke deep inside me, ready to make its escape. My body purred in response to his flushed face and blazing eyes. His fingertips scalded along my cheek. He wanted me. I could see it, feel it—even taste it in the air.

 As our lips touched, my heart fluttered madly in my chest. I felt the power of his desire, the confidence of his touch. He wasn’t like any other boy I’d known or kissed. He was gentle and sure, and he knew what he wanted. He laced his fingers into my hair and pulled me closer, his lips parting. His tongue felt soft and warm against mine, not demanding, but giving and taking equally. Beyond the saltiness of potato chips and the shared bitterness of Budweiser, I tasted a unique flavor that was his and only his. I wanted to drink him down until I was drunk with it. I wanted to drown in the sensations and smells, the sounds of our mingling sighs and the feel of his hands on my skin.”

Heather’s critique:

With minor exceptions, these are the exact descriptions I’d expect to find in an adult romance novel, not the observations of a 16yo virgin. That’s problematic in and of itself. Your heroine is very aware of her body, his body, her body’s reaction to his body, and all the back and forth physical actions of the kiss—none of which I’d expect to see from someone with her experience. I think this can be tweaked by remembering how you felt about sex at her age. While times have changed and sexual attitudes have relaxed a bit since most of us were 16, I think a lot of the same fears and maturity issues are the same. Teens really do think of everything in a self-oriented light, and when they experience something like this for the first time, it’s hard to be in the moment for them. Their minds are rioting with new information and observations. (There was some confusion about Penny’s age…she was actually 17 in the story, but I agree with this critique on all counts).

This was enormously helpful feedback and made me wish that Ms. Howland was one of my editors. I’d love to see what she would do with my more recent work. Hopefully, I’ll manage to avoid the ARWD trap now that I know what it is and can hopefully spot the signs and symptoms.

Do any of you YA writers out there have this problem? Have you seen it in the YA lit you’ve read? How do you like your YA sexiness…sweet or spicy?

 

 

Top Three Reasons to Take and Teach Workshops

How is it Tuesday already? PJ Sharon here, bringing to you my top three reasons to both take writing workshops and give them. Of course my main reason is that I’m a firm believer in lifelong learning. I also think we owe it to ourselves and others to pay it forward when we learn something useful. After all, sharing ideas is the reason we write.

I just finished taking an online workshop called YA Heroes Journey, offered by my YARWA buddies Jennifer McAndrews and Linda Gerber. It was excellent! I loved how they were able to give me immediate feedback on my WIP and help me to improve my grasp of plot, character archetypes, and the deeper motivations of my hero and heroine.

Over the past six years, I have taken dozens of online workshops through RWA’s individual chapters, Savvy Authors, and YARWA (young adult chapter of RWA), and have never been disappointed. In addition to these online workshops, I’ve had the privilege of attending the RWA National convention five times, CT Fiction Fest four times, and a Romantic Times Booklovers Convention for the first time this year. All of these venues offer incredible workshops and endless opportunities for networking—not to mention tons of fun!

 Here are my top three reasons why you should take writing workshops:

1)      To hone your craft. When I began writing down the crazy stories in my head, I had no idea there were so many rules to writing. From point of view and plot, to balancing dialogue and narrative, I felt as if I could study the craft for the rest of my life and barely scratch the surface of all there is to know. I make it a point to take workshops as often as I possibly can.

2)      Feedback on your WIP. This is probably one of the most valuable parts of taking a workshop. So many times, we struggle through the rough patches of our stories and suffer alone, feeling as if we can’t see our work objectively or find the forest through the trees. It’s great to have critique partners, but it’s also good to have objective individuals give you a fresh perspective on your work.

3)      Affordable and focused education. It takes about $30,000 and more than a couple of years of your time to obtain an MFA. During that time, you spend a considerable amount of energy focusing on literary critique of published works, reading and writing poetry, and working to earn grades rather than working on your own projects. Not that this is entirely a bad thing, but if you are planning to write genre fiction, it might not be the best use of your time and resources. The workshops I’ve taken range from $10-$25, are taught by talented and dedicated writers and published authors, and last anywhere from a couple of weeks to a month. A very wise and doable investment in my opinion. You can take the workshops you need, when you need them, and take them for a fraction of the cost of college courses.

In addition to all of this fabulous learning, I’ve come to appreciate the benefits of teaching. Over the years I’ve taught ice skating and yoga classes, done personal training with individuals and groups, and given workshops on health and fitness related topics. I’ve hesitated to jump into the arena of teaching writing workshops, mainly because I still feel like a newbie in so many ways. It probably doesn’t help that I teach a monthly writing class to a group of teens who constantly make me aware that they are much smarter than I am.

 But after doing a craft corner last year for the CTRWA group about writing fight scenes, I realized that indeed I do have something to offer by way of workshops. I know about martial arts, I know what makes a good fight scene, and I’ve taken a few workshops on the topic. So by popular demand, I’ll be offering my very first workshop, “Fun with Fight Scenes,” at the upcoming CT Fiction Fest conference on May 12th. Other presenters include Kristan Higgins, Jessica Andersen, Toni Andrews, and Jennifer Fusco, just to name a few. We also have the fabulous Sherry Thomas as our keynote speaker. Incidentally, there will be plenty of opportunities to pitch your story to some of the best agents and editors in the business. You won’t want to miss it! 

Here are my top three reasons to give a workshop:

1)      Share knowledge with other writers. If you’ve been working to hone your craft for a few years and have worked hard to complete a few novels, you know a little something about writing. Even if you don’t feel up to the task of teaching “on writing,” I’d bet  there is some area of expertise you could share with your fellow writers that would give them a leg up on their WIP.

2)      Networking. There is no better way to get exposure to new people than to teach a workshop at a conference or online. Getting our faces and our talents in front of industry professionals is an incredible marketing opportunity. If you are in the “business” of writing, setting yourself apart as an expert or authority on a sought after topic is a great way to get some notice.

3)      Public speaking experience. Again, if you are planning a career as a writer, there will be many occasions where you will be required to present yourself publically. Whether it’s pitching your story to an agent or editor, or doing a radio or TV interview, the more experience you have with public speaking, the better prepared you’ll be for whatever opportunities come your way.

 If you haven’t been to a conference in a while (or ever), there is still time to sign up for CT Fiction Fest. I’d love to see you there!

 What was the last workshop you took? Have you ever taught one? I’d love some tips on how to make mine stand out.

My “Visibility Experiment”

Every day since I began writing toward publication, I’ve sat down to my computer, rubbed my palms together in preparation, and stated the affirmation, “I am an excellent writer. I am a bestselling author.” That was six years ago when I was a decent writer with a lot to learn, and the idea of being a bestselling author seemed miles away. But I’m a firm believer in the power of affirmations. When I hit the Kindle top 100 list yesterday, I thought, Holy cow! I did it! After a moment of grinning like a loon and jumping up and down, I came back to reality and looked at what that really meant and analyzed how it happened overnight.

As I mentioned last week, one of the key ingredients to achieving my goals is to create visibility. I spend a lot of time on Indie Romance Ink, a yahoo group where indie authors share ideas and information about all things indie. I also follow WG2E (Writer’s Guide to E-publishing) blog site where numbers are reported, analyzed and manipulated on a daily basis through creating a solid backlist of products and precise placement of advertising. D.D. Scott wrote an excellent blog on the importance of creating visibility and talked about bestseller lists and what they mean. View her blog here.

 I’ve been hearing for months about review sites, promotional opportunities, and what has worked for others. The candid communication and exchange of information on WG2E, IRI, WANA Minions and YARWA has been incredible–thank you very much ladies and gentlemen. So I decided to take what I’ve learned and do my own Visibility Experiment.

 Two of the promotional opportunities that are frequently mentioned are Pixel Of Ink and Kindle Nation Daily. Both are paid advertisements, but have reportedly garnered excellent results for many authors. When I finally decided to pay for the Pixel Of Ink spotlight ($119 for a one day ad), I knew I was taking a leap of faith. I had lowered the price of Heaven Is For Heroes to .99 cents and figured that I would have to sell 340 books to recoup the cost of the ad. I had no epectation that this might actually happen, but I was hopeful. I was also taking into account the long term effects of this kind of visibility and how the added exposure would fit into my overall marketing plan for the next month during my release of ON THIN ICE. I decided the cost was worth it, even if I didn’t make back my cash investment right away.

When the ad went live at 2:00 Sunday afternoon and stayed up through 2:00 on Cyber Monday, I was blown away by my results. I didn’t sell enough in one day to pay for my ad, but I did sell 170 e-books in twenty-four hours, which propelled me to #68 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Fiction > Genre Fiction > Romance > Contemporary. Technically, being in the top 100 on any list puts me in the bestseller category, but THE top 100 in the Kindle paid store is a bit tougher to achieve. I would need to sell about 300 books in a day to get there, and staying there is the real trick. After the Pixel Of Ink ad came down today, sales went back to just above their normal trickle and my overall ranking in the Kindle paid store rapidly dropped from #638 to #1,219—still nothing to sneeze at in the bigger pool of 750,000 e-books. Was a day on the best seller list worth the $119 investment? You bet! Heaven Is For Heroes was viewed by about 80, 000 readers. That kind of visibility is bound to create momentum for my next book. I’ll be saving my pennies for a Kindle Nation Daily ad (about $199) in the near future and I’m not stopping there. I have a blog tour scheduled, (My first appearance is today at http://clovercheryl.blogspot.com/ where you can meet my main character, Penny from On Thin Ice). Beginning December 4th, I’ll be participating in a Blog Hop with several other authors, and I’m part of a Book Lovers Buffet .99 e-book blowout–all scheduled for December.

To further create visibility, I’m taking yet another page from Jennifer Fusco, Market Or Die guru, and working with other authors to cross promote. Starting this Friday, I’ll be giving up my personal blog through my Blogger site and joining four awesome indie YA authors at www.yabeyond.com. We go live December 1st. I’m excited for the opportunity to blog every Friday about Healthy Teen Tips, while my new grog partners cover topics like music and movies, dating, love, school, and all things YA. Cool, huh? I’m hoping to reach out to my target audience and really start using my knowledge about health and fitness to make a difference in the lives of teens. No worries, I’ll still be here every Tuesday passing along writing and publishing secrets to all of you wonderful Scribes followers.

Everything is slowly falling into place and I owe so many thanks for help along the way, I wouldn’t know where to begin, but one thing I do know, is that setting goals is the first step to any good marketing plan and that believing in yourself is an essential ingredient in achieving your dreams. Here’s to getting on and staying on the Kindle Top 100 list.

Sharing your goals can help you by holding you accountable. It can also help others by motivating them and giving them ideas. As December knocks on your door, have you set any goals for the first quarter of 2012? Any ideas about increasing your visibility?

Writing Success Doesn’t Happen in the Vacuum of Space

 I joined RWA and the CT Chapter in 2007 when I realized I needed to reach out to people who knew how to do this writing thing. I was immediately aided by published authors, budding newbies like myself, and everyone in between. I don’t think I’ve ever been involved in an organization where I’ve been so readily accepted and supported, and for that I am forever grateful.

Then I joined YARWA (Young Adult chapter of RWA) last year,  and I felt like I had found my people. I couldn’t believe there were others who sat around thinking like a teenager and re-writing history.

 Being a part of a writing community has afforded me the ability to share my work with critique partners and open forums where I’ve had tremendous help in learning every aspect of the craft. Although I’ve gone through four critique groups and probably six or eight critique partners, I’ve left each relationship on good terms and it is accepted that as our writing style changes and grows, our need for different perspectives comes naturally. I value each person I’ve worked with and hopefully they feel the same about me.

Crit partners, Susannah, Casey and Katy Lee

Another highlight of being involved in RWA is that I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to attend conferences and workshops with some of the most talented writers and best teachers around. The CT Chapter has outdone themselves by bringing in the likes of Michael Hague, Margie Lawson, and our upcoming guest, Laurie Schnebly Campbell. At each of the four Fiction Fests and National Conferences I’ve attended, I’ve had the opportunity to meet some amazing people, (including my favorite author, Diana Gabaldon). I even got to fondle, covet, and admire Kristan Higgins’ RITA statue and once shared a room with Jessica Andersen. I considered myself lucky on all counts. The best part of all of it, has been the friends I’ve made along the way. 

Also, thanks to the RWA and its tireless volunteer members, I’ve had the privilege of entering numerous writing contests. The feedback and acknowledgement I’ve received has been inspiring, interesting, and enormously helpful. Contests serve many purposes, not the least of which is that it gets you in front of agents and editors and you can use feedback to judge your own readiness for publication. Contest finals and wins also look great on your writer’s resume. What I found over time and with persistence was that, as my writing evolved, my contest scores and placement improved. It was tangible evidence that I was gaining ground. The same can be said for the dreaded query process. As painful as it was, after thirty or forty rejections, you start noticing that comments get more personal, useful and encouraging. That’s when you know that publication is around the corner. As an indie-published author, I am ineligable for entering the RITA Awards, but I can still enter the Golden Heart. Odd but true, and so I’ve entered Heaven Is For Heroes. Wish me luck!

With the shifting sands of the publishing industry, my choice to independently publish my YA novels may seem either foolish or brave, depending on your perspective. Only time will tell if I am successful without the assistance of an agent and a publisher. But I can say without a doubt that I couldn’t do it without the assistance of the RWA, my CT Chapter, and my YARWA and WANA (We Are Not Alone) peeps. Without your support, none of it would be possible. Thanks everyone! I’m proud to be among you. 

If you could meet your favorite author and ask them one question, who would it be and what would you ask?