YALL Write Cheat Sheet: Day 2

Didn’t get a chance to attend Yall Write? Still hoping to go back and watch the replays? I don’t know about you, but the holidays are already hitting hard and I’m barely finding time to check all the boxes on my mile-long to-do lists. In case you don’t have time to go back and listen to the full replays, I’ve taken notes for you. Skim the day one notes here. For the day two cheat sheet, just keep reading!

Here’s the lineup of what you can expect:

  • Breakfast with YALL Write (aka tips and tricks from the pros) with Brendan Reichs, Soman Chainani, Melissa de la Cruz, Kami Garcia, Alex London, Danielle Paige, & Margaret Stohl
  • Fan Service with Victoria Aveyard & Soman Chainani
  • Love Notes with Kami Garcia, Leah Johnson, Marissa Meyer, Jennifer Niven & Nicola Yoon
  • How Do You Plan a Series? With Brendan Reichs, Stephanie Garber, Marie Lu, Gart Nix,
  • Dark Stories Shine Bright with Marie Lu, Kalynn Bayron, Z Brewer, Jay Kristoff & Adam Sass

Breakfast with YALL Write (aka tips and tricks from the pros) with Brendan Reichs, Soman Chainani, Melissa de la Cruz, Kami Garcia, Alex London, Danielle Paige, & Margaret Stohl

Introduce the romantic character by page 30, even if it’s just mentioning them.

All things suck. Lean in. Hear the hard things.

Always ask yourself, how can this conversation be more uncomfortable? Anyone can have the easy conversations. The value lies in the hard conversations that people aren’t having.

If everyone tells you your book is wrong, they’re probably right. If they tell you how to fix it, they’re usually wrong.

Have a system of buddies to pick you up. Maybe just having someone who pulls you out of the trashcan or forces you to do the thing.

“Onable” build a universe that is only you. Pay attention to how you suck, use it, own it, and make something that is only you.

“I don’t know how to write a book. But I know how to feel like a failure and suck constantly.”

I give myself tiny attainable goals that are bit-sized. I tricky myself into not writing a book. Today I’ll work on my character’s goals, I tell myself. Then I write 1K words a day or if I have kids, just 500 words a day during naptime. When you give yourself a tiny achievable goal every day, you have something to cross out. You feel like a success the next day.

Create an easy fun button. It’s like how slot machines are created. What is it for you? If you like crossing out things create an easy to cross out list for writing. Create something that keeps you coming back. Having a unique world in your book can also help because you’ll want to hang out in it.

At the end of every scene end it with a slap, either metaphorical or literal. The idea being, at the end of each scene you’re building to something. Treat chapters like scenes. Make sure every moment counts.

You can write anything. Write the big crazy thing you cannot imagine.

Once you know who your character is, dig deep. Let’s say you have a girl who wants to be a princess. Why do they want what they want? What’s the deepest level of want there? Maybe she wants to be a princess because her mother died and her step father stopped paying attention to her. She wants to be a princess to be a substitute for her dad’s love.

Fan Service with Victoria Aveyard & Soman Chainani

Create a persona that feels real and authentic and you.

In YA, the audience is on social media. With MG it’s trickier because they’re not allowed to be on Instagram until they’re 13. Think about who your book is really for. What are you serving on your social media?

“We are so dehumanized on social media.”

Sometimes there are even campaigns against a book to try and cancel it. You have to think of your books as children who grew up and are out in the world. They may get bullied but that’s part of growing up.

“You put something out in the world and it’s going to hit every single different person differently.”

Part of servicing fans is giving them access to the stories in new ways. You have to trust talented people to work on stuff like fan art. Fan artist who stand out, can be commissioned to do things for the book. You don’t want to get too nitpicky. It’s a collaboration. It’s cool to get to see the stamp that every other person puts on your book.

How do you maintain the readership for a series and bring them to the next series? They may not want to go with you. Try to think of a natural fade from what they like in one series to the next.

People in YA want more of a friendship than an author relationship. People love tours of office spaces or schedules.

Soman created a fan base by being on the road. For MG, he talked to kids in schools in person. He pounded the pavement meeting hundreds of kids.

Your social media presence online has to be organic. If it’s not comfortable to you, you won’t do it. You also have to be careful what you say. Someone can screenshot or keep anything you say and bring I tup later.

Make your weirdness your strengths because someone else will respond to it.

Tik-tok users are totally different. They’re younger so they may want to see less about you the author, but they do care about questions around craft and publishing. Thirteen and fourteen-year-old kids care about how to become a writer.

Q &A

How do you deal with not taking hate to heart?

Look at good crit as someone who cares. And what’s not useful, just let go. If you’re famous, you will have hate. If you address it, it doesn’t work. Just enjoy the negative feedback.

What are your boundaries to engaging with fans?

Victoria only engages fans on twitter. Keeping the place you respond to fans to just one platform is helpful to her.

How do you balance your social media presence and finding time to write?

Victoria writes social media stuff in her planner. Today she will to post this to Instagram and ask for questions for her Instagram or make a Tik-tock video. If you think of social media as business related, you take it more seriously.

Pre-agent tips?

Find community. Find writers who are querying. It’s a lonely process.

Advice for people who want to stay off of social media?

You can do that but it’s valuable to have a place where you can post updates and get people excited. You don’t have to be involved to the level some people are.

“What makes you weird now will make you successful later.”

Love Notes with Kami Garcia, Leah Johnson, Marissa Meyer, Jennifer Niven & Nicola Yoon

Are there must haves in writing romance?

  • The dialog needs to be sparkly and witty. They should be saying something interesting. Maybe big things like philosophy. Falling in love with each other’s ideas. There has to a be a lot of banter.
  • Respect and love. Sparks. Kindred feelings. There have to be swoon worthy moments. There has to be something to support the kissing. It can’t just be insta-love. Characters who typically wouldn’t fall in love with each other but they find something to bond over.
  • Slow burn. Need growing tension and suspense. “I want it drawn out as long as possible so that I’m pulling my hair out. The almost kisses and angst, I want it to last as long as possible.”

Do you start with a character or a scenario or dynamic?

In fantasy, the world usually comes first. But in contemporary, it could be either. They mostly come up with the story first and then character. The character almost arrives simultaneously. Emotion can also come first.

All romances are about emotion. You have to be able to write emotions. There’s no magic. You have to write about real things in contemporary and romance.

Do you have a magical ability to tap into your teenage years? Do you transport yourself back? How do you tap into those teenage emotions?

  • Everything is terrible and great all at the same time. Everything feels so big as a teenager. That’s how some of them remember it and write it.
  • Being married actually helped Melissa because she was a late bloomer and didn’t experience romance when she was a teenager.
  • As a person and a writer, if you can stay in touch with that child self, that’s magic and that’s where so much of it comes from—in life and in writing.
  • Read other people who are writing teenagers too.

How do you make your readers care about your characters?

Put lots of yourself and your emotions in it. You need to feel the emotions and be willing to put them on the page. Infusing the characters with yourself helps people care about them.

Best writing tip:

  • Let your freak flag fly!
  • Don’t save the best for later. If you’re passionate about something, write it now.
  • Write the story you want to read. Remember that you are the only you there is in the entire world and only you can write the story you can write.
  • Finish the draft. Just finish it.
  • Finish. You can’t sell a whole bunch of chapter ones.

How Do You Plan a Series? With Brendan Reichs, Stephanie Garber, Marie Lu, Gart Nix, & Tochi Onyebuchi

There are many different ways to do this. Always know the ending though. Most of the authors may not have known how to get to the ending there but they knew what the ending was.

How do you keep track of the details as you go through the series?

  • Some keep notes for the future books (exp: remember to put this in, don’t forget this). Or a whole wall of stickies to remind them.
  • Reread the books.
  • In Scrivener, there’s a space in the project called book II that has potential plot points, various character details, all of the details.
  • Book one is more about trying to give readers not a reason to put it down. As the readers go on to book two, it’s more about the feeling of the book. Readers might be more flexible with the world and plot.

How to deal with the saggy middle?

  • When the reader hits that second book, their priorities have shifted. In book one, they usually want a fast read. Book two often becomes more about what characters do. It’s about asking what the readers hunger for and where the readers want their favorite characters to go. You have more room to slow the story down. You don’t have to have an explosion open book two.

How do you deal with people not being happy with your ending?

  • Write the ending you want and don’t worry about the rest.
  • Make yourself happy.
  • You can’t hate the ending of something if you never really loved it. Sometimes you just hate the ending because you hate that the book is over. If people have strong feelings at least they finished it and have those feelings.

How do you deal with industry demands for series, or not demanding for it?

  • The industry changes all the time. Even recently going from demanding trilogies to duologies.
  • You’re better off working out what you really want to write and writing that rather than figuring out what’s selling.

Craft tips?

“Put bread crumbs in your book so that if you want to revisit your series later you can.”

  • Bread crumbs can’t be big enough that if you leave them unfinished your reader notices. They have to be just big enough that if you want to revisit your world, you have some crumbs you can pick up to do that.
  • Do an “id” pass on your book. There are intelligent books but then there are those like Twilight that pull at our heart even though they may not be “respectable.” Put in id moments in your book. Be happy about what you write, even if it’s not “respectable prose”.
  • Put everything that you love in the book that you’re writing. Don’t hold back. Then when you get to the next book do the same thing again.
  • When your book comes out, that’s your author birthday. If your book came out last year, you’re one year old as a writer.

“Don’t compare yourself to someone who’s twenty or thirty-years-old as a writer.”

Dark Stories Shine Bright with Marie Lu, Kalynn Bayron, Z Brewer, Jay Kristoff & Adam Sass

You want the villain to be able to justify everything in their own head. There are two kinds of villains, those you understand their motives and can relate to, and those you just don’t understand.

“There’s a fear about that unpredictability or someone who’s purely logical.”

Cobra Kai is a great example of revealing the making of a villain and maybe a sympathetic character results.

Some people are just evil for the sake of being evil and those are the scariest because you can’t reason with them and you don’t know what to do with them.

“When I go into a dark place in the story, I do it in a way that furthers the story and not in a way that’s grotesque.”

How do you protect yourself as you go into dark places in the story?

  • Remind yourself you know where the story is going.
  • You have to prepare things for after care but sometimes going to those dark places while you’re writing is good self-exploration.
  • Even if you’re in a dark spot of the book, there’s a light of hope somewhere.
  • If it’s too much, step away from it and come back later

How do you know how much darkness to put in for MG, vs. YA vs. Adult?

  • For YA you can go as dark as you want.
  • MG you need to see darkness through a certain lense. It needs to hit not so hard for the younger audience.

And that’s it, folks! I know I’ve missed a few sections and I’m sorry about that. The good news is if you’d like a paleo brownie or some apple crumble, I have plenty extra! But in all seriousness, go check out the recordings as well.

Candace signing off to eat some apple crumble.  

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