Advice from Published Authors


I’ve been quiet the last couple of weeks. It’s been busy! I’ve been absolutely neck-deep in edits on my YA fantasy, which has kept me from writing yet another post about how you shouldn’t get your book-hating best friend to proofread your novel.

But I have been making use of Susan Dennard’s Resources for Writers. And it. Is. Amazing.

Susan Dennard is the author of the Something Strange and Deadly and Witchlands series. And while it’s always fascinating to see how people write, I love that there’s a whole section on fear. Want to read about tossing out hundreds of pages and rewriting a book that sucks? Or being afraid that what you’re writing is garbage? Well, here’s a NYT bestselling author who has an agent, and she has tips for dealing with this, too!

It’s glorious. Go read it.

Otherwise, I’ll be up at the SCBWI New England writing conference this weekend! It should be a ton of fun!

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I hope you all are having a wonderful November! I’m closing out the month with another guest post from a published YA author–Christine Potter, author of In Her Own Time and Time Runs Away With Her. Today, she’s sharing some of the lessons she’s learned on the road to publication.


Cover of In Her Own Time by Christine Potter.So, how do you get started writing young adult fiction?  I think there are, as the old saying goes, many roads to Rome.  And to continue the journey metaphor—because why the heck not—we’re all trying to get there from different places.

I started out a poet.  Dirty job, but somebody’s to to do it.  I taught poetry in the public schools. (I also taught lots of other language skills, but I was indeed the pet hippie poet at the high school where I worked for many years.)  I published a lot of poems in small literary magazines.  I still do.  I have two poetry collections, Zero Degrees at First Light, and Sheltering In Place: mostly serious and kind of literary, although some of my poems are funny.  I moderated a poetry workshop online back in the Wild West days of the early internet.

My poet friends used to sniff at poetry that was too “narrative.”  But I found myself yearning to tell stories.  And then, just before I aged out of teaching, I reread Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, and it blew me away.  I wanted to tell that kind of story.  (But I was a poet!  I couldn’t be too…sniff…narrative!)

Several years later, I was on Prince Edward Island, home of all things Anne of Green Gables—and birthplace of its author, Lucy Maud Montgomery.  I actually had grown up without reading that sweet book, and so I remedied that problem as I sat in the cottage my husband and I had rented.  Anne cast her spell on me, and I plowed through everything else I could get my hands on by Lucy Maud.  (Incidentally, I like the Emily series even better than the Anne series, but I digress…)

When I got home to New York, I no longer yearned to write stories.  I had to write stories.   And because I taught for all those years—and probably because I’ve still got an emotional age of about sixteen—I knew I had to write for kids. I was on fire to create a book that bucked the contemporary trends: wizards and vampires,  dragons and dystopias. I wanted to write something a young reader could get lost in that would be as cozy as falling asleep in her bed at…okay, at Hogwarts.  I wanted a happy ending.  I wanted to swing for the fences.  And I didn’t want to have to write about cellphones!

So I set my books in the past (like Lucy Maud Montgomery).  And I wrote time travel (like Madeleine L’Engle).  And I took L’Engle’s dictum about not writing down to my audience very, very seriously.  I put together the first draft of Time Runs Away With Her, starring my main character Bean Donohue, an aspiring folk-rock musician and a time traveler, who lives mostly in the year 1970 with a disapproving mom and  (eventually) very loving boyfriend.  The book contains the essential elements of 1970, which is to say it does not shy away from pot-smoking track stars, Grateful Dead concerts, and wanting to go to bed with your boyfriend…while time traveling.

The universe yawned.  I had a year of go-rounds with agents: near misses, more rejections than I can remember.  I was fortunate enough to get accepted to a week-long retreat on Whidbey Island to study with Karen Joy Fowler, who wrote The Jane Austin Book Club.  She took a tough pen to my first draft, and I spent the next months at home reworking and rewriting.  And then I hired an editor to have a look and took some of her suggestions, too.

I was considering going to indie presses sans agent when I bumped into a poet friend online who is an acquiring editor for Evernight Teen.  And so I nervously sent her what was by then draft one zillion of Time Runs Away With Her.  I was back on Prince Edward Island, reading the Emily of New Moon books by Lucy Maud Montgomery—and actually staying in a cottage owned by her family—when I got the acceptance from Evernight.  I told them I wanted to do a trilogy of Bean books.  They did not say I was nuts. I rejoiced.

I wrote another book about Bean Donohue and her boyfriend Zak last year.  In Her Own Time (Bean 2) was published in the late summer of 2016.  And I’m just now finishing the third book in the series: working title The Time She Forgot, with my characters all in college, circa (mostly) 1972…and also 1893 and the early 1960’s…

So here’s what I’m going to tell you: have other writer inspirers, and accept their inspiration and learn.  Write hard, and do it every day if you can.  Write the book that would have healed you at sixteen.  Start referring to the time you spend writing as “working.”  That last thing might seem obvious, but I have found that friends and family respect “I need three hours to work” a whole lot more than they respect “I’m going to write for three hours.”  Have faith in your story and let your characters talk to you.  And revise like a fiend.  Don’t think you have to have an agent, and consider indie presses. And one last thing: never, ever give up.


Christine Potter is a young adult novelist and trying-to-be-grownup poet. She’s the author of The Bean Books–Time Runs Away With Her (Book One) and In Her Own Time (Book Two) available on Evernight Teen. You can read more on her blog, Time Travels.

It’s time for more advice from a published YA author! Today’s guest post is from M Pepper Langlinais. Her latest novel, CHANGERS: MANIFESTING DESTINY, first in a new YA fantasy trilogy, is now available from Evernight Teen. You can read a summary–and an excerpt–on the Evernight Teen website.


Cover of Manifesting Destiny by M. Pepper Langlinais.

Elizabeth asked, in a sense, what I wish I’d known when I started writing. And the truth of the matter is, you can read every blog and all the advice that’s out there, but at some point you just have to sit down and write. Don’t let the advice scare you, paralyze you to the point that you’re so afraid of putting a foot wrong that you don’t dare write a word. Because that can happen. It happens to me, even now, some seven or eight books into my career. I freeze up because I’m afraid it won’t be perfect—or even “good enough.” I forget that it doesn’t have to be great on the first try, it just needs to exist somewhere other than my own head.

So that’s my first bit of advice: Get it on paper. Do that before you read any writing advice, any how-to books, anything else. Just write it.

Once you’ve got something written, that’s the time to start figuring out what to do with it. The answer is NOT to send it to agents and publishers. Sorry, but no. The answer is to find people whose feedback you trust—people who ideally know something about writing—and get their opinions. This is the part where you find a writing group, whether in person or online. In fact, ideally you joined one even before you finished your manuscript, and now you know how they work, and so when you’re ready to bring them something it’s not, “Hey, I just met you, call me crazy, read this maybe?” You want to give your work to people with which you have established relationships. They’re more likely to be honest if they know you already, and you need honesty. You want to hear, “This is great! Wow!” but that’s not what you need. Remember that. Then thank them for tearing your work apart.

Also remember to take into account the sources of that feedback; are these people who know anything about writing? What are their credentials? Maybe none of them have worked in publishing, but there should be something about them that inspires confidence when it comes to writing and critiquing. Do they write well? Have they been published anywhere? I’m sorry to say that a bunch of newbie writers may not be terribly helpful. Supportive, yes, but not helpful. Ideally you have a mentoring aspect—someone more established helps those trying to find their way. Then, some day you will hopefully return the favor by helping out yet another new author.

All right, let’s say you have trustworthy feedback in hand. Now what? Rewrites! Revisions! You go through this cycle as often as necessary: writing, getting feedback, changing and fixing and revising, getting feedback . . . Until one magical day you feel like there’s nothing else you can do, or at the very least that any changes you make are only for the sake of making them and not actually helping the story.

And that’s when you query.

Not every agent all at once. Just one or two at a time. Or one or two publishers at a time if you’ve decided to go that route. But don’t query agents AND publishers. I, for one, started with agents, and when that didn’t pan out (or, to be honest, when I got impatient) went on to publishers. I now have two books out by small publishers and the rest were self-published because, did I mention, impatient?

Don’t be like me. Be patient. Send out your queries and while you’re dying to check your email every two minutes instead focus on your next project. Start again at the top of this article and just write, not worrying about it being “correct” in some way. There is no right in writing. There’s right in spelling and grammar and so on, but not in that first draft, no, there’s no right or wrong there, so just get on with it. Everything can be fixed later. Say it again: EVERYTHING CAN BE FIXED LATER.

That’s how you do this. Book by book, story by story.

I hear you asking questions like, “Where do I find a critique group?” I found mine on Meet Ups. You can check with your local library, too, or on bulletin boards at coffee houses. You can start your own. Or if you’d rather hide, you can go online to sites like Absolute Write and share your work in the forums there. I believe there is also a forum specifically for people to find beta readers.

And now you want to know about agents and publishers. I use Query Tracker to keep track of the agents and publishers who might be interested in my kind of work. And again I can recommend Absolute Write as a place to look up which agents and publishers are good and which should be avoided.

If you have any other questions, feel free to ask me on my Goodreads site or on my Facebook page.

The truth is, you can’t learn writing from reading a bunch of blogs and books. You learn it by doing, and you only get better with practice. So write. And keep writing. That’s the way to excel.


M Pepper Langlinais is the an award-winning screenwriter, produced playwright, and author. Her latest novel CHANGERS: MANIFESTING DESTINY, first in a new YA fantasy trilogy, is now available from Evernight Teen. Find out more about her and her books at PepperWords.com.

Hey there! This week, I’m doing something a little different than usual. Rather than post about how I write, I’ve invited another Evernight Teen author, Sarai Henderson, to talk about how she writes her novels! So let’s get to it:


The cover of HUNTER by Sarai Henderson.Hello everyone! My name is Sarai Henderson, author of HUNTER, published by Evernight Teen, a YA Urban Fantasy/Paranormal where telepaths hunt down criminals and work for the government. If only they could figure out which side is the good side… If you would like to learn more about Hunter’s world, check out an excerpt here. Also check out HOUSE of CHAOS, an epic fantasy where magic runs wild though the different houses, but not all who have power want to share it.

Elizabeth and I have decided to do a blog swap and reach out to each other’s followers about how we went through the process of writing our most recent novels. This is going to be a wild ride, so hold on tight.

The Club…

There are a lot of different resources for writers out there these days. Editors, query help, plot generators (of all things), Twitter pitch parties… Some work and some don’t. The one that I used a lot while working on Hunter was Sub it Club.

Sub it Club is a webpage and Facebook group where writers can come together and ask questions and receive feedback on their queries and ideas. As a first time author, there are a lot of dos and don’ts in the industry that you can’t just search Google for. Should I submit my novel to simultaneous publishers? What are the ups and downs of first person vs. third person? These are all questions I had at the beginning and they were all answered in the club.

The Pitch…

My favorite part of the club is the monthly post about all the upcoming writing contests. Pitch Wars, Pitch2Pub, SFFPitch, The Write Club, Son of a Pitch… there are so many and I’ve learned a lot through participating in these contests.

I’ve heard a lot of authors on Twitter bashing others who participate in pitch contests. They think that they’re for those who can’t put in the hard work with querying and that it’s a cop out… You know what I say to people like that? I’ve tried both sides and contests are more fun. And it was how I landed my publisher, so it can’t be all bad.

The Community…

It’s a small community that we live in. We support each other and lift each other up when we receive our one hundredth form rejection letter. We need to pull together and find a place where we can ask the seemingly stupid questions and have a treasure trove of answers to choose from. Find a community of authors. It’s the most important thing you can do.


Thank you for listening to my rants. Come join my community at exballerina.com for upcoming releases, appearances and announcements. Pick up your copy of Hunter or House of Chaos today…