I have a row of ‘how to write’ books on my bookcase. I think it’s important to keep reminding yourself of the principles and basics of writing. Yes, the story may flow out of my fingertips straight from my imagination, but I have found honing it and making it into a polished piece of fiction the truly magic part. The characters start to speak for themselves after that, the text is allowed to breathe, the words sort of disappear, until all you’re aware of is the story itself.
Get Started in Writing Young Adult Fiction by Juliet Mushens is an informative useful book. I picked it up as I was embarking on editing Book Two, to refresh my mind on all the things I’ve learnt in the past and help me focus on self-editing. I like the way she sets out each chapter, with a summary of what questions the topic raises and what the chapter will teach you, followed by examples, exercises and insight. Exactly what you need to get to grips with each topic. I particularly like her examples drawn from books I had read or heard about. I loved the original titles some novels once had—amazing how much a good title makes the novel click and pick-up-able. I also particularly liked her chapter discussing the common writing tips and rules, and which ones can be broken. Chapter Eight about editing was also very relevant to me.
I think some of the key things I took away from this book are:
- Have a careful sprinkling of adjectives and adverbs through your novel, they are more powerful in low quantities. This is something I’ve really worked on in the last few years, making the verbs do the hard work instead!
- Don’t get bogged down in beautiful phrases and sentences—think about the story and the characters. Does the sentence work hard enough to earn its place on the page? If not, let it go. I think particularly as I edit Book Two and Book Three I will look out for self-indulgent parts about characters from Book One—I have come across this in other author’s work (sometimes as a reader I don’t mind it as I love the characters so much, but I can see how it makes the story lag).
- Stay inspired. For me, reading the advice throughout and the quotes by authors helped me feel enthusiastic about continuing my editing.
I would definitely recommend Writing Young Adult Fiction – informative, accessible and very readable.