Monday, April 14, 2014

Romance in YA--How Far Can You Go?

Yes. This is really me. Yes, I have
bangs now to cover up my
spotted forehead!

How far can you go when writing about romance in young adult novels? What kind of love are young readers looking for? Is sex allowed? How graphic should it be?

It's a big debate for some writers, as well as, some readers.

Remember when the Twilight book series first came out? Keep in mind, I'm talking about before all the craziness of the movie versions. Most of the people I talked to about this series were really into the romance of it, the lingering looks between the two main characters, the blatant yet unsatisfied desire, the sexual tension! This is the type of romance that many older YA readers(20s-30's) remember experiencing in high school or really wanted to experience. It's just one of the reasons they like romance in young adult stories.

But then comes the sex.

I recall sitting around with a group of women at lunch and one of them was talking about how Edward and Bella were getting to the point of having sex in the book. This woman didn't have a problem with the progression of the relationship, but she'd decided that she would not allow her daughter to read any further in the series until the daughter was much older. She also felt like once the writer brought sex into the book, the romance factor was gone. To me it sounded as if the story had taken a turn into adulthood that the reader wasn't willing to follow.

I think that's an interesting phenomenon and really very personal to the reader. And as a writer, it's something you have to be aware of. Romance and sex can make or break your young adult book depending on how you use them. Sometimes it’s the factor that sells books. Sometimes it’s the factor that turns your audience off. It all depends on how you weave those things and what style of YA book you are writing.

When I write YA, I don't intentionally set out to have a romance in the story. However, because of the age group, because of the hormone factor, because it's virtually impossible to put two teenagers in the same room and not have them notice each other, some sort of relationship usually develops. That's life though. That's reality. That's what YA readers cling to.  When it comes to sex, I only let my characters get there if its part of the natural progression, but it's still something I'm cautious about. In my young adult novel, Bayou Myth, sex is a factor in the story, though it's not something my main character is doing. However, we do learn a lot about my protagonist's thoughts on the subject! Though my book is mainly a YA horror novel, it does have a romance in it that helps drive the story along.


Going back to Twilight, think about when Edward and Bella finally consummated their love. After they got married. Very traditional and something that probably satisfied lots of mothers in the fan base. However, is that realistic? I'm not asking is it right or wrong, but is it how most teens think today? Hmmm….not for most of the ones that I know! In comparison, I've also read the House of Night series by P.C. and Kristen Cast. Their characters definitely are having sex and dealing with the norms (like them or  not, parents) that occur in many teen lives. The same could be said for many other book series like Gossip Girl or The A-List.

In the end, a writer should let the romance and sex angle develop how it will. What would be the natural progression for your character? Put aside the audience you are writing to (yeah, I know lots of people will contradict me on that one) and allow your characters to just develop!

Mary Ann Loesch is not only a contributor to All Things Writing, but the author of Bayou Myth and Bayou Scar, a YA horror novel series about voodoo, Greek myths gone wild, and a dash of betrayal. She has also written an adult fiction urban fantasy, Nephilim, and contributed short stories to the anthology, All Things Dark and Dastardly. Visit her website at

Friday, April 11, 2014

Nothing Sucks Worse Than An Editing Scam!

It’s like a stab through the heart. Just when you thought it was safe to plunge into the publishing waters, your literary masterpiece—the great work you’ve slaved over for months—becomes shark bait. In a conscientious effort to produce a polished manuscript, you’ve become a victim of fraud. Editing fraud.

How did it happen? The scenario usually goes something like this:

You revise and proof your book until your eyes glaze over. Your first readers—friends and relatives—hardly unbiased, praise it. But deep inside is a small niggling of doubt. Something doesn’t feel right, but you can’t quite put a finger on it. You need a professional opinion. To avoid submitting “sloppy copy” to an agent or publisher—or embarrassing yourself with a self-published blooper—you take the next step: Hiring a private editor who will help polish and perfect your work. You Google “private” or “independent” editors. Hundreds of names pop up. You narrow your search to the classifieds of writing magazines. Not so many. You shotgun emails to a bunch who advertise cheap rates and promise—no, guarantee—your publishing success. Responses pour in. You jump at the cheapest with the quickest turn-around. Because, after all, how hard can it be to give your 400-page magnum opus a quick read-through, fix your typos, and offer a few tweaks? Many weeks later, after much delay, unhelpful suggestions, and a significant outlay of cash, the process stalls. Your emails go unanswered. Like a thief in the night, the so-called editor has cashed in and slithered away. You’re worse off than when you started. And you’re kicking yourself for being the world’s biggest doofus.

Like any business, publishing has its share of scammers. How can you protect yourself?

1.     If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. It’s been said a million times but suckers still fall for perceived bargains. Editors advertising “Cheap rates!” or “Quick turnaround!” or “Publication Guaranteed!” are yanking your chain.

2.     Don’t fall for ego stroking. Beware of editors who flatter you with outrageous praise, comparing your book and style to best-selling authors. We all love to hear compliments about our work, but smooth talk and sucking up are only tactics to lure you in and take your cash.

3.     Talk about the work first. A legitimate editor is more interested in what your book is about, the intended audience, word count, and your skill level. Before taking you on, an editor should ask to see a sample of your writing, or a synopsis and a few chapters. No professional editor wants to waste time and energy working with amateur writers who lack basic grammar, punctuation, and sentence construction skills. No matter how much money is involved.

4.     You get what you pay for. The going rate for a professional private editor is currently about $40 – 50 per hour. (Copy editors generally charge per page.) After reviewing the details of your project, the editor will give you a rough estimate of the amount of time involved. You might be required to upfront some cash as a “retainer,” as you would when hiring an attorney. Some editors work with clients on a pay-as-you go plan, with installments payable at intervals. You should be allowed to terminate the working relationship at any time. This assures that you will never exceed your budget.

5.     Check out references and edited books. Ask the editor to provide links to edited book samples. Or ask for a satisfied client’s contact info in order to verify and discuss their editing experience.

Not all private editors are out to take advantage of you. But how do you find the good guys? Your best bet is through a professional writing organization like the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators ( which publishes a Freelance Editors directory. LinkedIn ( also categorizes freelance editors and posts their endorsements. Check out names on Preditors and Editors ( for fraud activity and general bad-mouthing. And you can’t beat writing listserv groups for word of mouth contact info.

Before you entrust your masterpiece to a stranger, do your homework. Use reliable sources, name check, and ask for references. Stop the sharks from taking a chomp out of your wallet.   

Jacqueline Horsfall is the author of over 20 books, a college-level writing instructor, and a 15-year freelance editor (not of the shark variety). Visit her booklist at

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Stuck in the "Emerging" Phase: Coming to terms with a label that makes no sense!

Today's guest post comes from Rosemary May Richings. Her insight on labels and the "emerging" writer are intriguing and right on! Thanks for joining us today, Rosemary!

People often refer to me as an emerging artist. Whenever I hear this term I often ask myself the following: what does it really mean and is it really necessary to articulate an artist’s level of experience and identity? The Manitoba Arts Council website ( defines the term emerging artist as the following: an artist who is at an early stage in their career, who has specialized training in the art form, and who has created a modest body of artistic work. The only distinction that’s made between the emerging and the established artist is renown and recognition. The Manitoba arts council online glossary uses the words ‘has produced a modest body of work’ in their definition and that leaves me with two questions: 1) isn’t that in itself something to be proud of and 2) is this label really worth living with and passively accepting?

In the literary community and also in all other arts related communities as well, there’s this tendency to put the emerging artist on a pedestal through arts festivals, publications, and government-funded grants exclusively for the romanticized, emerging artist.  Unfortunately this creates an assumption that falling under the category of someone that’s an emerging artist comes from nothing but inexperience and misfortune and creates an impression that the emerging artist needs more assistance than the established artist. Literary magazines are a perfect example of this because they endlessly stress their hunger for new, emerging talent but, because this a popularly known fact and the emerging artist is also competing with established writers who may of found an ‘in’ with the magazine it’s an extremely competitive market to reach out to.

To clear up a misconception that some readers may have at this point I’m going to go ahead and say that there’s nothing wrong with encouraging new, ‘emerging’ talent. Encouraging new, emerging talent to flourish is a great thing to do and I have a great deal of respect for festivals and publications that welcome the emerging artist with open arms. The problem with these programs is the notion of the emerging artist is exoticized and some programs are in place specifically for emerging artists, which are more intensive in terms of financial and/or mentorship based assistance. The life of an artist of any discipline is unique simply because you never stop learning and it’s unpredictable so this high level of financial support and/or mentorship based assistance that’s commonplace in programs for emerging artists (especially emerging youth artists under 30) should be accessible to all artists equally regardless of whether or not the individual is what grant language defines as ‘emerging’ or ‘established’.

Workshops and financial assistance does in fact exist for established artists but there’s a lack of equality in terms of how much assistance is available. These programs should be in place, with an equal amount of assistance regardless of an artist’s renown.  This lack of equality in terms of people’s perceptions towards the emerging vs. the established artist exists in the attitudes that exist towards the popular notion of mentorship based apprenticeships, where the established artist is the mentor and the emerging artist is the one being mentored. The benefits of this exchange come not just from the established artist’s experience as a professional and the skills they’re teaching the emerging artist apprentice. Although the established artist will most likely know more in terms of making art professionally, the emerging artist may provide insights on the creative process that the established artist may not of thought of before or introduce an artistic perspective that will impact the established artist significantly, perhaps even challenge their perspective. This isn’t true 100% of the time, but the truly exceptional emerging artist will most likely be capable of making this sort of impact, not to mention the incredible opportunities that arise as a result of artistic exchange for positive, potential, future collaborators and/or supporters.

The term ‘emerging artist’ has a great deal of discrepancy and lack of clarity in terms of what makes someone an emerging or established artist. I realize that the purpose is to make distinctions quantitatively in terms of the level of respect and renown that the person has but the unpredictable, roller coaster pursuit of success that all artists of all disciplines experience which makes the little things that count in order to label someone as ‘emerging’ or ‘established’ a source of continuous debate. The nature of the artist’s life imposes further questions about how appropriate and straightforward quantitative terms based on experiences and renown really are when discussing a particular artist and their background in their craft.

What complicates the differences between the terms ‘emerging’ and ‘established’ further is the existence of a particular type of artist that’s surprisingly common (and I personally have the most respect for) whose recognition and renown is separate from their identity. To examine what I mean by that, let’s momentarily shift to the anonymous graffiti artist that uses the pen name Banksy. He or she has been the most successful at making this balance happen because they’ve continuously made their life and their art into two separate identities and have managed to gain respect and success while remaining anonymous to intentionally avoid fame. Banksy’s real identity is a mystery simply because the face behind Banksy’s work has chosen to keep their identity secret although books of his or her artwork have sold millions of copies worldwide, many people can identify the difference between Banksy’s graffiti and other graffiti artist’s graffiti, and a documentary on Banksy was even nominated for an Oscar.

Artists like Banksy are proof that the terms ‘emerging artist’ and ‘established artist’ are impossible to define and based on nothing but subjective interpretation. As artists we shouldn’t feel the need to define success based on a grant speak standard definition of what it really means to be successful. Success is a debatable term that both the people it is attempting to define and those that are defining an individual’s success from an outsider’s point of view often fail to realize what its true meaning really is. Terms like ‘emerging’ and ‘established’ artist are difficult to pin point since they involve making sense of a term that’s as vague and difficult to make sense of and has no clear answers in terms of when one starts and the other begins as the differences between things like ‘beautiful’ and ‘ugly’ and ‘good’ and ‘bad’. This doesn’t mean that they should be dismissed as ways of explaining where you are at in your artistic career but this quantitative definition of success shouldn’t stop an artist from having faith in their capabilities as an artist or their knowledge of their craft.

About the Author:

Rosemary Richings is an emerging Toronto based writer and university student working on her double major arts degree in English and Drama Studies at York University’s Glendon College. Her work has appeared in some arts festival settings such as the Paprika Festival, The New Waves Arts festival, and some poetry slams in the GTA. She recently completed an internship at The Toronto Fringe Festival where she conducted research for their 25th anniversary project and her essay, The Dysparxic Writer, an essay about her experiences living with Dyspraxia and her point of view on the importance of storytelling will be published in August on Marie Lavender’s blog, Writing In The Modern World ( in August. For more writing and creative project related updates check out her blog: R.M.R’s Writing Space ( 

Monday, April 7, 2014

7 Writing Tips to Keep You Sane---guest blogger, Kate Hawkins

Today we welcome guest blogger, Kate Hawkins! Welcome to All Things Writing!--Mary Ann

    When I am writing, I usually get scenes, short plots, and/or characters in my head. THAT'S what inspires my writing. It might be a single, short, boring scene that inspires me. It might be some movie. Heck, it may even be another author's book. My ideas come from anywhere and everywhere, just like everyone else's. For me, the hard part of writing is plotting the whole story. Occasionally, I'll slip up where the characters are involved. I have to change a few characters and a few relationships throughout the story. I have to add and kill characters fairly quickly. When a writer says that writing isn't easy, they're right. It takes a lot of rewriting and editing and changing your plans to create a piece that sings.

 Most authors know what they're talking about. I've seen a lot of tips for writing, and when I created this site, I added 'and tricks' simply because I liked the sound of it. In reality, there are no tricks to writing. There aren't any shortcuts. You can't wave a magical wand and end up with an amazing story, or even a poor one. Writing takes experience, which I am lacking in because I've learned almost nothing about writing these past few years. (Texas has changed their state tests, and our main focus has shifted to essays. Not a sentence of fiction.)
So, I'm going to give some tips of my own. Honestly, I haven't tested any of them. They're mostly theoretical.

Tip 1: Set a daily word count
I see this one everywhere, and if you've looked at writing T&T before, you probably have too. It's everywhere. Honestly, I've never tried it, but I want to. Personally, if you're like me, a 750 word count sounds good. And don't worry; it's not as long as it seems. It's just over a paragraph or two. Also, most typing programs (Word, Notepad, etc.) have an automatic word counter. This word count, as far as I remember, is just a minimum. However, I wouldn't go over 800 words total. That way, if I still had ideas, I could save them for the next day.

Tip 2: Join a writing group
Most schools have some sort of creative writing club. I've never been to one, and I'm not sure how it works, but I intent to pay a few visits this coming school year. I don't know if they do poetry, fiction, research papers, or fantasy, or a mix of all of them, although I'm hoping for a fiction group. That way, I can promote this website as well as my other one where I post my writings. (

Tip 3: Constructive Criticism
This is EXTREMELY important. Coming from someone who knows what they're talking about, this can help your writing immensely. If you don't have anyone telling you how to get better, you wont improve. I haven;'t gotten constructive criticism in years, and I realized how little I've improved when I found a story I wrote in middle school. There really isn't much I want to change. It's staying almost the same as it was four years ago! So, this is important. This is where your writing will get better and how it will evolve.

Tip 4: Edit and Rewrite
I hate this part of writing. I hate rereading my work. It's awful. But, unfortunately, I know I should do it. In my other work (Again on I haven't edited or rewritten anything outside of Dakota's story, and that was only redone because the story was no longer a collaboration; my partner is no longer available for it. So, I have to change it and change characters and such, even though the plot is staying mostly the same.

Tip 5: Get Good Feedback
This, IMO, is important. If you don't have anyone telling you you're good or that you have potential, you're not going to want to write anymore. This is a big confidence booster. However, don't let it go to your head. Make sure to remember the constructive criticism when you write.

Tip 6: Show off your work
What's the point of writing if no one's going to read your work? Yes, some people may enjoy writing for themselves, but most people I know hate it. Personally, if I'm not getting views for my websites, I get lazy and stop posting. It doesn't have to be many views (I get excited about two unknown people visiting.), but any readers, regular or not, are good. However, try your hardest to get regular readers early on. If you're posting a chapter every other week like I am for three stories, new readers can get overwhelmed fairly quickly.

Tip 7: Run your work by friends
  I do this quite often with one of my friends. She helps me come up with great ideas to help keep my story moving. This step is also important to me, because without her input, I'd have a very, VERY boring story. And I don't even realize it until I hear her opinion! So, this seems to be a great idea to me. It may fall under the feedback category, but it is helpful.

To learn more about Kate, drop by her website