Notes From A Fun #Writing Event and a #ROW80 Check-in

Photo from thoughtsonpages.blogspot.com

Happy Sunday, y’all!

Yesterday was my monthly writer’s group meeting, which always gets me a bit fired up. I get to hang out with my gals from Writers In The Storm and fellow ROW80 teammate, Kate Wood, belongs to my chapter now too! Squeeeee!!!!!

Yesterday’s meeting was very thought-provoking with:

  •  a POV (point of view) refresher in the morning by a writer who’s sold 90+ books
  •  an afternoon discussion with two agents about the current state of the publishing market. Plus, they gave their opinions on what’s hot and what’s not.

I’ll admit, I always need a good POV refresher. My standard rule is that each scene should be in the point of view of whichever character has the most to lose. I try not to switch POV in a scene very often, even though I’ll confess that I yearn to head-hop.

My 5 favorite POV tips from yesterday’s meeting:

  1. Make sure your observations are true to a character’s profession, age and gender.
  2. Don’t bleed too much of yourself and your  reactions into the story.
  3. Make it fun for yourself.
  4. Be in the head of the person whose perception is going to change the most by the end of the scene.
  5. For those that love to head hop (oooh-oooh…pick me!) – make sure you write an entire scene in one person’s point of view, just to make sure you can. You can switch back and forth once you’ve mastered the single POV.

5 points that stood out in the agents’ talk:

  • Women’s Fiction, cozy mysteries and YA are strong sellers right now.
  • Chick Lit and Literary Fiction are tough to sell right now.
  • Romance continues to dominate the market.
  • The market has gotten smaller. Writers used to be able to send their manuscripts to editors in different arms of the same companies. All of them could bid for the book. Apparently nowadays, if you send to NAL and Berkley (both arms of Penguin Group), they cannot bid against one another. Basically, the editors get together and see who wants it more and an offer is made. Auctions are rare.
  • They also had a person from a major publisher (who shall go unnamed) tell them that they’d been told to acquire books only if they felt the initial print run could go over fifty thousand. (Yeah, you heard me – 50,000) Dang.

I’d say the item of biggest interest to me was not only how much YA is growing (way more than any other genre) but how much is allowed in these books. The basic rules, according to the agent who spoke:

  1. Ages of your main characters is 12-18: They must be high school age or lower, or interact with people who are. If they’re in college, it isn’t considered YA.
  2. Length guidelines: 65-85,000 words.
  3. They said, most publishers are pretty over “creatures.” And no angels!! (though that might have been a personal preference for this agent)
  4. You can have sex in YA books. Not only can there be sex, there can be threesomes if it’s essential to the story (ex: Weetzie Bat). This was a complete shocker to me.
  5. They are looking for gritty fiction, and it seems like just about anything goes as long as it’s essential to the story. (that phrase was mention a lot)

I’m now delighted for all of my friends that are writing YA fiction! Not because I want them to turn their characters into sex maniacs, but because there are less rules for them than I thought.

p.s. If you need help on writing sex, here’s my post on Using the 12 Stages of Physical Intimacy To Build Tension in Your Fiction. Trust me, if it helps ME write sex, anyone can do it.

ROW80 Update:

I’ve been sick all week and now Baby Girl has it so I don’t have a lot to report. One exciting thing is that I did get to read a bit in bed.

I finished Tawna Fenske’s MAKING WAVES at the recommendation of my pal (and ROW80 teammate), Julie Glover. I also started on Kait Nolan’s RED. (You know RED is up for the DABWAHA award, right? Click here to vote!)

I’m on the mend so I’m hoping to finish the round strong over the next few weeks. I’ll be writing today, and that is an exciting thing.🙂

To support your ROW80 team members, or to check in yourself, click here!!

The Dirty Fighting Contest entries are slooooowly coming in. I know some of you are sitting on those entries. Naked Editor, Tiffany Lawson Inman is going to be here this Tuesday. Don’t make me sic her on you to get your 300 word scene!!

Send ’em in to jennyhansensmail [at] aol [dot] com as soon as you can. Deadline – March 17th.

In the meantime, I want to hear what’s up with all my ROW80 pals! How are you doing in these final few weeks of the round? Are you pumped up or limping along? Enquiring minds always want to know here are More Cowbell!

Jenny

About Jenny Hansen

Avid seeker of "more"...More words, more creativity, More Cowbell! An extrovert who's terribly fond of silliness. Founding blogger at Writers In The Storm (http://writersinthestormblog.com). Write on!
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46 Responses to Notes From A Fun #Writing Event and a #ROW80 Check-in

  1. Sounds like you had a great writers meeting. Hope Baby girl gets better soon and this week is a great one.🙂

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    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Thanks, Nicole! I’m crossing my fingers that this cold doesn’t go to her chest or her ears like mine did. I do NOT want to be up all night with a screaming baby.

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  2. Yay Jenny! Thank you so much for posting some tips from your group yesterday.. you are such a swell gal!🙂
    Hope your baby girl is feeling as wonderful as ever soon. It really stinks when kids are sick.
    And I did vote for RED! 🙂 Squeeee!!!!!

    See you around RowTown.

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  3. Gene Lempp says:

    Glad you are on the mend, Jen – take care of Baby Girl, somehow I bet you make a great nurse.
    Thanks for the tips – the YA rules surprise me a bit (maybe I’m just a bit old fashioned in some ways) but cool that they can enjoy a bit of flexibility in their content.

    Have a great week and write, write, write🙂

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    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Gene, we were all completely shocked. I know that many kids are “doing it” younger than their parents did. There is a lot of angst that comes with making adult decisions before you’re ready. This agent stressed that the YA market wants these issues addressed.

      In fact, she said an author had a scene that was pivotal to a book (date rape in a hot tub) and the author wrote the scene two ways – the editor chose the more explicit scene. At least 50 jaws hit the floor over that one (and mine was one of them).

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  4. LauraDrake says:

    Oh no, Baby Girl has it now? I know you were hoping to dodge that bullet…so sorry.

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  5. Shah Wharton says:

    Thanks for those tips Jenny. Cuddles for poorly babe though.😦 Hope its all change next week. X

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  6. YIKES! St. Patrick’s day seemed eons ago when the Dirty Fighting Challenge first went out. Did I just read 300 words? Really? WOOT!

    So glad you’re feeling better, Jenny. So sorry to hear about baby girl. I’ll face that Naked Editor woman on Tuesday. Hopefully, with submission in hand versus head.

    Row On!

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    • Jenny Hansen says:

      You DID hear 300 words!! Y’all complained so bitterly about the 150 word limit that I doubled it.🙂

      I told that Naked Editor lady that you were ready for her!

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  7. Gina says:

    hi jenny! thank for posting such a digestible rundown of your conference. the tips are terrific.

    feel better soon!
    gina

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  8. Sounds like a great meeting! It’s always good to get a refresher on the basics every now and then. I had to dial back my goals this past week, but it worked out well for me! Glad you’re feeling better and hope the little one is soon.

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  9. Oh boy Jenny, you have your hands full. I’m glad you’re feeling better, but now baby girl is sick. Poor thing. And they can feel so miserable and yucky.

    Okaaay. I’m with you and Gene on this one. Say what? You know they are made to put a rating on movies so parents can direct their children, but not on books. I think this subject belongs in one of the things that make you go hmm?🙂

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    • Jenny Hansen says:

      I can see both sides of this one. My reading was never censored and I think that’s important. If I book was too much for me, I’d usually lose interest and put it down. But the world was in books for me and I was reading adult books by the time I was 10-12.

      When I think about it that way, I could argue the “no big deal.” EXCEPT – those were ADULT books. They were supposed to contain more mature themes.

      It seems so wrong to me to target the YA market with these issues. That being said, I can understand that kids are facing these issues at school and these books have the chance to show the results of bad decisions or at least strong characters that could be emulated.

      It’s interesting because the agent said that they absolutely don’t want books with overt moralizing or preaching. If you can sneak it in as part of the story, fine. Sorry to go on and on – this was a big shocker for me.

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  10. Marcia says:

    Sounds like a great writer’s group meeting! I’d love a group a like that! Great tips, too. I was aware of the sex allowed in YA (have a couple of friends writing YA) but being able to add anything that works for the story is surprising. I hope some people don’t get too carried away. We are talking about kids, for goodness sake.
    Hope you and Baby Girl get better soon!

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    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Marcia, I’m very blessed by geography. The Orange County Chapter of RWA has 80-120 people meeting the 2nd Saturday of each month and the meetings really have great speakers. We get spoiled because it’s like a mini-conference each month.

      If you read my comment to Karen above, you’ll see I’m on the same page with you. I can see both sides of the issue though. Anyone who thinks kids don’t have to deal with really big issues isn’t listening hard enough.

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      • Marcia says:

        As long as moralizing isn’t overdone and the theme of the whole story, I think a certain amount of it should be allowed. I’m afraid parents are now going to have to check the books their kids want to read for “too much too soon”. Kids today are more advanced in a lot areas, compared to the 50s and 60s and 70s, but they still shouldn’t be reading about sex at 12 yrs old!
        It will be interesting to see how this develops. Thanks, Jenny.

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  11. I’m sorry to hear you’ve been sick, but it looks like you’ve still had a very busy and informative week! Hope Baby Girl is better soon🙂 Thanks so much for sharing some insider stuff – the YA market is interesting to me as I have 2 story ideas that fit into that category. Now to find the time to write them, lol.

    I hope your next week is smooth and productive. 🙂

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  12. Stacy Green says:

    Sounds like a great meeting, and WOW on the only acquiring if they thought they could sell over 50K. That’s higher than most midlist authors, I think. Just reinforces my decision to sign with a small pub right now.

    As for the advice, I loved the POV ones, especially this: Be in the head of the person whose perception is going to change the most by the end of the scene.

    That’s a great point you don’t see in a lot of the POV basics. Thanks for sharing!

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    • Jenny Hansen says:

      I know! We’re all aware that a 10K print run to start is not uncommon. Apparently that just isn’t enough for some of the houses that are going for big numbers. Several big houses have apparently cut staff as well.

      Glad you liked the POV tips!

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  13. Debra Kristi says:

    That sounds like a great session Jenny! I almost wish I lived closer to your area. I’ve been following the “edgy YA group” on Goodreads for a while now. Sex has been in young adult fiction for some time. There is a lot more going on that people probably don’t know about because the books don’t become as well-known as say, “The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer” or “The Hunger Games”. But I’ve read plenty with sex. The thing we need to think about is the kids are at an age where it’s a big question in their mind. They are going to seek it out and find it whether we present it to them or not. It is best to present it to them in a manner that is tailored to them. Wouldn’t you agree? That is the age when many start experimenting, or at least, have the urge.

    So sorry you were sick and now your baby girl has it. That is No fun. No fun at all. The little ones never understand and it makes everyone miserable. Best wishes to you all in a speedy recovery.

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    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Debra, we have members that come down from Ventura for some of the bigger meetings. If you ever need a carpool, there’s members who live all the way from where you are down to Brea – LOTS in the SF Valley.

      Thanks on the well wishes…we need them!

      On the YA themes – I completely understand. I know sex was a hot topic from about age 13 on up and the questions got bigger around the 15-18 range. But as a parent, I sure wish she’d grow up slow.🙂

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      • Debra Kristi says:

        I hear that, about your girl growing up. I don’t have to face that issue yet, but I’m sure I will before I want to. I already face things I wish I didn’t need to.

        I’ll keep that carpool in mind. Thanks Jenny. I just joined RWA as well and go to the meetings with Christine.

        I love the fact that you’re a head jumper. I have resisted that in my current project, but hear them all talking to me all the time. It can drive a person batty.

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  14. Kate C. says:

    Love the tips. It’s always helpful to have a nice set of rules to refer to about characters. Also very interesting about what’s happening in the book industry. Not very surprising, however! I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of JA Konrath, but his blog has been talking about those very things for several months.
    I would say the rules of YA fiction are even less than that. “Creatures” are paranormal YA fiction. There are so many many other sub-genres out there to write in. Also, I would say the wiggle room can go all the way up to 19-20 year olds as characters. Although, judging by the market, most books seem to feature 16-17 year olds as the magic age. Angels are REALLY big right now, as are dystopian novels (thanks to Hunger Games).

    I’ve seen lots of sex in YA books, but most of the ADULTS who write about it, don’t do so very responsibly, in my opinion. Which is sad. It’s also sad when some of the MOST APPALLING, SEXIST, MISOGYNISTIC writing is by women writers. Yay. (sarcasm alert)

    Sorry, I could go on and on about YA fiction. It’s something of an obsession for me.🙂

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    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Kate, I’m SO glad you took the time to leave such a detailed comment! You’ve explained why the agent was so vehement about “NO dystopians, NO angels, NO creatures.” They’re all hot right now, so nobody’s gonna buy anymore. I didn’t realize. Thank you so very much…we were all kind of looking at each other at our table because none of us write YA.

      I don’t know why anyone would write a sex scene in a YA that communicated anything but love and respect.

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  15. Ali Dent says:

    Jenny, this report from the agents is helpful. My story is for 12-18 year olds and lately I wondered if this market is strong or not. Glad to know it. If you go to my blog today you’ll see I have a change of goals for a short period. The change is based on things that are going on regarding the public school system in at least 48 states. As I understand it the percentage of fiction in school will be less and non fiction more. I have some education administrators checking on my faces. All this to say, my goals have shifted and your information here today is useful to me too. Thanks for your hard work to write things that help others and for the example you set with your goals.

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    • Jenny Hansen says:

      They said that YA is growing and growing. The one thing this agent stressed was that whatever you needed to complete a deep and complex well-told story was acceptable. BUT. The characters must be no older than high school.

      I’m going to have to go check out your blog today (I usually swing by on Sundays anyway) – I have yet to see a change in the public school system that I liked over the last several years so I’m curious.

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  16. Whoa! Sex scenes are now allowed in the YA books? That is a major shift. I don’t complain since I am comfortable writing those (*shrugs and grins*)

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    • But seriously, I still don’t think sex scenes should be in the YA books. I can joke as much as I want, but the bottom line is that I prefer to save those for my Adult novels.

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      • Jenny Hansen says:

        I tend to agree, Angela. I don’t think I’d be comfortable writing a sex scene for that age group. I wouldn’t be able to relax. (Hell, I can barely relax into them anyway!)

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  17. Hope Baby Girl is on the mend! Your writing group sounds great and is lucky to have such great speakers come in. The YA advice was fascinating to me since I know nothing about the market. YA back when I was growing up was so tame and circled around repeated themes, that I wandered into the “adult” book section around fourth grade. Not so much to look for naughty stories, but to look for more real to life stories. So I like the idea that authors in this genre now have more leeway to keep things real, but do hope that people don’t get all gory just because they can. Have a great writing week, Jenny!

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  18. Hey Jenny – the one thing I don’t like about the lines moving with YA is that those standards move down to MG. MG stays clean, but I see a trend where it is losing a lot of its wholesomeness which is a bummer for me. I just don’t like to see certain topics reach down to that level. Oh well, let the buyer beware, I guess.

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  19. So glad to hear you are feeling better but sucks that Baby Girl has it now. Here’s hoping this week your house will clear of the “virus” and y’all will be feeling way better. You still got a ton done and LOVE your report from your Chapter meeting – soooo cool and good to know info!

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  20. Karen Rought says:

    Thanks for the information on YA, Jenny. Very useful. I *thought* I was writing YA, but my characters are in their mid-twenties. So, what would this be? Just straight up fantasy? It’s funny because I think the material is more relevant to the YA crowd than the adult crowd. Shouldn’t that be what matters most?

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    • Karen Rought says:

      Also wanted to say that I was shocked sex scenes were allowed. I mean, I can sort of figure “off camera” scenes would be somewhat acceptable, but for an editor/agent to pick a more explicit scene? Even as a youngin’ (23 yo) I’d be pretty surprised to read something like that in something that was considered a YA book.

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    • Jenny Hansen says:

      If your characters are in their mid-twenties, this agent indicated that’s not YA – it’s adult fiction of whatever type. I was very surprised by everything she had to say, Karen.

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  21. Wow, such a nice writer’s meeting!
    I’m more of a NA writer (protags who are 19-24yo), which isn’t very popular … yet (I hope). BUt it’s nice to know that the YA market is still huge😉
    Hope your Baby Girl gets better soon!

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  22. Julie Glover says:

    Thanks for sharing your take-aways! I hope you enjoyed MAKING WAVES. I liked it! I am also reading RED right now; started last night. Have a fabulous week, Jenny!

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  23. It’s so hard to write when a child is sick! I lost a whole week to my son who had an illness which developed into an ear infection. And of course it burst–after he had been on antibiotics!! Poor guy missed his regional swim meet!

    I hope your little one is feeling better!

    I think the biggest rule in YA is that teens don’t hang around out of curiosity–so you have to grab ’em on page one and keep them hooked…

    Good luck finding the writing time!

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  24. All this action makes me want to jump into action! I’m psyched.

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  25. Great POV tips. I have a tendency to head hop. Having major trouble with editing my first chapter. It has no umph. Going to try sticking totally with one pov and see what happens. Hope you feel better soon.

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