How to Write Irresistible Kidlit

kidlit_cover_small

Cover of Writing Irresistible Kidlit by literary agent Mary Kole (http://kidlit.com)

Stars:
Genre: Writing Tips
Author: Mary Kole (Literary Agency) (Personal Website) (Kidlit.com)
Recommended? Yes. If you want to write YA or MG, I really, really, really recommend it.

I’ve read a lot of How To Become An Awesome writer type of books. I’ve also attended conferences, webnairs, and followed a lot of writer blogs, and out of all of those great tools and resources, kidlit.com has always been a favorite of mine. It’s run by literary agent Mary Kole. At my regional SCBWI conference, I was lucky enough to attend a seminar hosted by her and meet her briefly. It wasn’t the first time I heard about her book (she’d mentioned it on her website) but it’s where I finally got to order one. I really loved it, even though I’ve read all the archives of kidlit.com, I felt I learned plenty of new things or insights. The book is broken down into the important things you need to know when writing for the YA or MG marketplace.

It starts with an overview of the Kidlit Market then moves to describing the MG and YA reader’s mindset. I’d like to think I’m well educated with both, but Kole gave insights I hadn’t thought about. She then talks about the importance of a Big Idea in stories, the foundation of storytelling, how to make a great YA or MG character, how to structure plots, and she talks about advanced skills (such how imagery, voice, theme, author authority and authenticity.

In case you haven’t considered the traditional publishing route, the last chapter breaks down everything you need to know about it. The role of literary agents, the query letter, submitting your work, and a few more bonus tips and tricks. Again, I’m well versed in those areas but Kole brought a new point of view and a very interesting one since she’s a literary agent herself.

Reading this book was fun. It forced me to think about my own writing and gives exercises to help you find problems with my plot or characters. Editors, YA and MG authors, and other literary agents give bonus tips and insights throughout the book as well. Kole reinforces everything she says by showing examples from popular YA and MG books. She gives plenty of time to both sections of the kidlits.

Writing the Breakout YA Novel

When I first started to write my manuscript, I didn’t think about what genre it would fall into. I didn’t really care, I just wanted to tell my story and knew I could figure out the rest later. I don’t think it does anyone any good to write a story with a specific genre in mind, or a lesson they want to teach someone, or to follow a current trend.

Trends change, it’s pretty much impossible to guess what the next trend will be and the current one will probably be dead before you can publish the novel you are working on right now. No one likes to be taught a lesson by a novel, particularly teens, but we all learn something anyway. If it’s a good story then we enjoy it and when we think about it later we realize we learned something. But have you ever read a story that was blatantly trying to teach you a lesson? Like “Don’t do drugs, kiddos!” those aren’t fun. I think a perfect example of this is the movie Charlie Bartlett. It was funny, entertaining, and interesting… until the end became a blatant moral lesson about how kids shouldn’t do drugs.

Yeah, I agree, doing prescription drugs when you don’t have a prescription is a bad idea. Duh. I figured that out from the rest of the movie, being blatantly reminded that at the end just made a five star movie fade to a three star one. I’d rather read/watch a great story that has a moral lesson to be learned subtly on the side.

Plus, if you write your story without any of those things in mind, you open up the possibility to surprise yourself with what your finish product turns out to be.

I’ll admit, I got into researching the market place and the publishing business later than I would have liked. I wish I had started it years before I did. When I first started to test the water and see what was going on I invested a lot of time in Writer’s Digest. Reading their blog, their magazine, their writing books, and all that fun stuff. I’ve bought a tutorial or two (which used to be WD webinars) but they always came with a package deal, so I didn’t intentionally buy just one of them.

But last week I signed up for a live webinar event and it finally happened today. It was an hour and a half webinar called Writing the Breakout YA Novel and it was hosted by literary agent Holly Root. By the way, that’s a name you should know. She’s an extremely active, high up, literary agent. You’ll probably want to query her if you write adult or young adult fiction. I wasn’t sure what I was going to get out of the webinar (other than a query critique by Holly Root — which I’m so excited about!) since I had done a lot of research in this area already.

I’m glad I attended it, though. It was nice to hear how the YA market is growing and there are still a lot of opportunities in it now. Even though the traditional publishing business is in the midst of change because of technology advances and such (and no one is for sure what will happen to it). Most of the fellow writers I talk to on a regular basis are indie self-published authors and they aren’t that reassuring when it comes to the traditional publishing place. I love all you indie writers, of course, but usually you went indie because you have little or no faith in the traditional publishing market (or you are disenchanted by it). To each their own, as I always say, but going indie isn’t what I want. I’m not ruling it out, but I’ve always wanted to go the traditional route.

A third of the webinar was new and interesting to hear about, another third I already knew but it was still nice to hear Mrs. Root’s take on it, and then the last third of it… I may or may not have gotten distracted by interior design ideas. Of course when I got distracted I was still listening and taking in what was said (I’m brilliant at multitasking at least that’s what I tell myself). I don’t know what it is, but if I’m not multitasking I feel like I’m wasting time. Except, of course, when I’m writing. Though, I’m always listening to music/watching a movie/tv show at the same time… In less I’m revising, then I’m usually just listening to music (if anything).

I digress, my point is this: the YA market is a live, thriving, and to hear that makes me happy.