Tag Archives: YA

Teaser Tuesday ~ WIP

12 Feb

It’s weird to have a website/blog about my writing when you haven’t even read any of it yet, hmm?

Here’s a little snippet from the opening of my current Work In Progress. It’s a contemporary thriller in first person present, with a male protag – completely new territory for me! *wibble*. It’s also pretty rough around the edges at the moment. But I like the style so far and I love writing this bad boy main character!

***

In the heart of the chase, I am alive.

I’m just a few metres ahead of the cop. His breath rasps. Old man will get tired soon; I can keep running all afternoon.

I smile to myself. You’re dealing with Boy Wonder now, I think.

I glance round for Nat, but she’s already out of sight. Good girl. I need to keep his attention now, in case he wonders where the other one’s gone, so I weave between two cars and into the road, then cross to the other side. He follows, of course, red-faced but determined.

The soles of my feet kiss the pavement again and again. My lungs burn. My rucksack, holding the stash of games I swiped from the shop, slams into the base of my spine with every step I take – but I’m alight with the thrill of it all. The entrance to the Meade Estate – my home – is just round the corner. If I can get a bit more of a lead on him, I might make it in there – and he’s unlikely to follow me in alone, not with Meade’s reputation. By the time he gets back-up, I’ll be well hidden.

I put on a burst of speed and vault over a ramshackle fence into the garden at the end of the street to make a diagonal route across. I have to dodge a rusting shopping trolley and a grungy mattress lying in the middle of the lawn. South London life. Real.

Copper takes the long route, so I’m round the corner way before him. The stark blocks of the estate rise before me, finally. I skid into the main driveway. The kids are sitting out on the scabby, patchy ‘green’, probably skinning up ‘cause they just got home from school. I feel their eyes on me as I zoom past. Then, so I can take stock of the situation, I make a sharp right and take the steps up to the first level of Nat’s building.

From there I can see the entrance. As predicted, cop’s leaning on his knees, wondering if he should dare to come in unaccompanied. He lifts the radio at his shoulder and mouths something into it. I don’t think he’s gonna come after me. Haha! Boy Wonder wins again. I take a second to bask in my victory, but I know I’ve gotta get moving again before a panda car rocks up and spoils my fun.

I slide down the railing of the stairs and jog off towards the estate’s back exit. I’ll meet Nat in the corner of the park, like always. Then we can divide up the swag. I’ve got my eye on one of those sweet shoot-em-ups, the latest edition. Since I left school last year, those babies have been almost my sole occupation. That, and getting my hands on more.

I’m so caught up in my own thoughts I don’t see what’s coming towards me from my left-hand side…

Newbie Mistakes #2: Dialogue Tag, You’re It!

21 Jan

On one side of my classroom I’ve got a display, inherited from the lovely lady who used to own the room, of words to use instead of ‘said’ when you’re writing dialogue. You know the deal: hissed, guffawed, shouted, cried, croaked etc. etc. Maybe you can hear the voice of your teacher now:

“Make sure you use varied vocabulary! Don’t use said all the time! Look at the list of alternatives!” (she exclaimed).

Let’s just pause a minute.

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Newbie Mistakes #1: Let’s start at the very beginning…

13 Jan

On a couple of occasions recently, a student has asked me: ‘Miss, what qualifications do you need to be a writer?’

Unfortunately, I reply, it’s not as simple as getting a certificate and magically becoming ‘a writer’. There is really only one way to be a writer and that is to write.

That’s not to say there’s nothing to be learned about writing – on the contrary, there’s a lot to get your head round. Having spent a few years now on the YA scene, I’ve seen a lot of new writers make the same mistakes – and made them myself. So, in a small series of posts, I’m going to discuss some of these classic newbie errors – and how to avoid them.

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In the immortal words of Maria Von Trapp, let’s start at the very beginning…the beginning of your book…

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Why I write YA

28 Dec

I’m a YA writer. That means I write for teenagers, approximately 13-19 years old, who come under the umbrella term ‘young adult’.

To be honest with you, I’m not sure how it happened.

When I finally stopped dreaming about writing, got my bum in the chair and just did it, I wasn’t thinking about markets, genres or publication. All I wanted to do was get this damned idea out of my head and on the page. It was just one of the hundreds of stories I’ve dreamed up over the years, but it was more insistent than the rest – like a little bee buzzing away at the back of my brain. Plus, I was alone in a drafty bungalow in a tiny Greek village where I couldn’t go out for fear of being mauled by wild dogs (I exaggerate…just). I had time to spare.

afidnes

Afidnes, which is actually a lovely place, as you can see

It was only later that I realised I’d written something that might fit into this category ‘YA’. I had a teenage protagonist, a fast-moving plot and, somehow, I’d managed to tag onto the underworld/Hades/grim reaper mini-trend that was happening in 2009-10. When I thought about all my other ideas too, they were also a good fit. YA seemed perfect for the adventurous and action-packed (yet romantic) stories I was coming up with.

By another stroke of good fortune, I’d come to YA at a brilliant time for the genre. We may slag off Stephenie Meyer till the cows come home, but she (and, to some extent, J.K. before her) made teen fiction a booming business – and not just for Twilight rip-offs. I realised that, in this genre, there was a really good chance of getting my books published – and reaching an eager audience, both of teenagers and, increasingly, adults.

As I did more research, I found there were so many great books that had been published in the eight or so years since I’d moved on from teen-lit myself. My choice was a little limited while I was in Greece (restricted to the Eleftherodakis English section), but I would pick up a few and sit in the top floor of the bookshop reading for the afternoon. I soon realised that I not only loved writing YA, I also loved reading it! Well-written YA books are absorbing, heart-stopping and brilliant escapism. With teenage protagonists, emotional conflicts become magnified and every decision feels like it has universal significance (and indeed it might, given YA’s proclivity towards the fantastical and speculative). What’s more, your story has to grab attention from the very first page to even stand a chance of wresting young readers away from their phones or PSPs.

That first novel is now snoozing soundly in the trunk, but I’m still writing for teens. YA lit is going strong, and I can’t wait to add my own books to the shelf!

A Year of Books

20 Dec

A few years ago, my mum bought me a cute little notebook designed for ‘book notes’. I’ve been noting down everything I’ve read since 2008. Yes, I know the cool kids are using Goodreads these days…but sometimes you can’t beat good old pen and paper!

Anyway, it’s fascinating to go back and look at what I’ve read over the years. This year I’ve racked up more than ever (well, since records began), mainly down to my Kindle, which has meant I’m never short of something to read, and I can take it on my commute. I’m definitely not one of those ‘anti e-reader’ bores (‘Oh, but I just love books! I couldn’t possibly abandon paper!’) – not to say you can’t prefer one over the other, but I’m tired of people telling me I don’t love books because I’ve got a Kindle. Words are words, and my shelves are very small!

The range of genres for this year is fairly broad, although kid-lit/YA is heavily represented, for obvious reasons.

1. The Dolphin People by Torsten Krol (one of the weirdest books I have ever read!)

2. A Woman of Substance by Barbara Taylor Bradford (everybody loves those emerald eyes)

3. Larkstorm by Dawn Rae Miller

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Exciting News

3 Dec

I’m delighted to be able to share with you that my novel ‘The Twain’ has been shortlisted in the Guardian Hot Key Books Young Writers’ Prize 2012 .

I found out last week but wasn’t allowed to tell anyone until it was officially published. Safe to say I have had my head in the clouds for the last seven days. I mean, my little book? Top five? REALLY?! Somebody pinch me!!!

The winner won’t be announced until March, so meanwhile I need to get myself off Cloud 9 and back onto terra firma – i.e. school, school and more school. Thank you so much to all my cheerleaders – your support means everything. x