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I am thrilled to welcome author Gayle Krause to my blog!  Gayle stopped by to share some helpful writing tips and offer a critique giveaway for a YA, MG, or picture book to celebrate the launch of her young adult novel RATGIRL: Song of the Viper.  I’ve been studying pitches lately, and absolutely love hers:  When streetwise orphan, Jax Stone, discovers her singing voice has a hypnotic effect on rats and children, she uses her gift to outwit the tyrannical mayor of Metro City and his corrupt corporation.  Gayle is also the author of ROCK STAR SANTA—a rhyming picture book about a 'rockin' Christmas Eve.
Gayle Krause                       Gayle - RatGir

It takes a special creativity to write a story that will capture and hold a teenager’s attention. It must compete with smartphones, video games, and social media.

If you are interested in writing for the YA market, here are some writing tips, with examples from my story, RATGIRL: Song of the Viper, that will help you create a good young adult novel. You can adapt these to MG novels, as well.

1.Immerse your reader in a world they can recognize, but make it unique enough to be different from their lives.

Okay, you’ve got fantasy and realistic stories, and a combination of both. Teens live in either the city, with large populations, or the country, with less people, and more animals.

If your story takes place on Mars, the same rules apply – a largely populated space city or a lonely space station floating in the universe, somewhere.

In RATGIRL, I chose the setting of a large city in the future, but what makes it unique is:

Only the homeless and poor live there because global warming has affected the earth, and the rich have fled to the New Continent (Antarctica, which after the snow and ice melted revealed a fertile, temperate land).

The population can only venture to the surface at night because of the intense sun.

There are more rats than people left in the abandoned city.

2.Teen readers understand love triangles. Everyday at school, someone is having a “love” crisis. Use this in your story to grab their heartstrings.

Love triangles don’t always involve adults.

The triangle of love in RATGIRL involves Jax Stone, the main character, Colt Conrad, the young man who captures her heart, before she’s even aware he has, and her 5-year-old brother Andy, whom she protects with her life against the evils of the dying city.

Jax struggles with her love and need for both of men in her life.

3.Always have a struggle between “good and evil.” More than one villain is encouraged.

In any good story the villain has minions, but in RATGIRL the villains are not related, and the environment is the biggest villain of all.

Sylvannis Culpepper, the tyrannical mayor of Metro City is greedy and selfish in his efforts to rid the city of the homeless. His plan for the children is diabolical, and Jax refuses to let Andy fall prey to the mayor’s plan, even sacrificing herself to save him.

Otto Hoffmann, the pawnbroker who deals in trades for both money and food, has his own designs on escaping the city. He tries to swindle Jax out of more than a few scavenged trinkets and insinuates himself in her plan to save her brother.

And the biggest villain is Mother Nature. Global warming has overtaken the earth. Humans can only surface from their underground hideaways at night to trade for food and sell their services. The daytime sun is deadly.

4.Describe your character though their emotions and actions, don’t tell us about their emotions and actions.

This is a hard one to give examples for, but what I tell my critique partners, and it works for me, is to NEVER use I see, I hear, I smell, I feel, I taste.

Yes, it’s the 5 senses, and yes, you’re supposed to use them, but you must SHOW them, not TELL about them, and you do this through a character’s actions, emotions, and dialogue.

Excerpt form RATGIRL: Song of the Viper:

I race to claw my way through the debris that was once the door. Images of what could have happened flash before me. I gasp for air. “Oh, God. Andy!”
Dashing up the steps to the roof, my heart beats triple time. Air pumps through my lungs like a turbine. The door, at the top of the stairs, is wide open. I reach the roof, and fall to my knees. The sound of my wails, as I pull my hair, sound foreign to me, like I’m listening to someone’s lament, but it’s mine. “Nooooooooooo.”

5.Don’t be afraid to use a vocabulary word that teens may not know. If the sentence it is used in is written well, the reader will garner it’s meaning from the scene.

Teen readers love to figure out challenges as they read, not just be told everything they need to know. I write what I like to read, and I’ve been an avid reader my whole life.

I tend to set up a situation that has a mystery or question to it, so that the reader can connect the clues to solve the problem as the story goes along. Advanced vocabulary, or foreign words are favorites of mine. Sprinkled throughout the manuscript, they work to enhance the reader’s knowledge.

As a former teacher I can’t get away from my teaching mantra. “leave a student knowing more than when you met him/her.” Hopefully, I do that with my stories. J

Thanks for spending time with Jax Stone, and me. Please enter using the Rafflecopter link below for a chance to win a first chapter critique of your YA or MG novel (up to 5 pages), or a full picture book critique. Random.org will select the winner on Sunday, February 24.

You'll receive one entry each if you:
*Leave a comment on this blog post
*Tweet about the giveaway
*Follow Gayle Krause on Twitter
*'Like' the RATGIRL: Song of the Viper Facebook page
*Spread the word on Facebook
*Spread the word on your blog or other social media

Thanks again for stopping by my blog, Gayle, and congrats on your new YA!  Good luck to everyone who enters the giveaway.  Gayle is a professional critiquer.  She has tons of experience with YA, MG, and picture books (and for those who write in verse--she's a master at rhyme!)  I can't wait to see who wins the critique on Sunday. :)
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( 24 comments — Leave a comment )
Becky Fyfe
Feb. 22nd, 2013 05:05 pm (UTC)
Great advice! :)
Great advice! :) I spend time reading some of my 10 year old's books (for MG) and my teenagers' books to remind myself of my target audience's tastes. :)
Feb. 22nd, 2013 05:12 pm (UTC)
Re: Great advice! :)
That's great, Becky! I've learned so much from reading books aimed at my target audiences (I write MG and PB).
Feb. 22nd, 2013 05:26 pm (UTC)
Love Gayle's advice and examples! As an editor, I regularly cut writer's use of "I thought," "I saw," "I heard," "I felt". Just show their feelings. This technique is called deep point of view (works just as well in third person) and it really helps create a nice sense of immediacy with the character.
Feb. 23rd, 2013 01:18 am (UTC)
Re: Oooh
I'm glad you enjoyed the advice and samples.
Feb. 22nd, 2013 05:37 pm (UTC)
Great Information!
Ratgirl sounds like such an intriguing book. And Gayle's short, sweet list of writing tips are so helpful. Thank you so much! Jill
Feb. 23rd, 2013 07:04 am (UTC)
Re: Great Information!
You're welcome, Jill. :)
Feb. 22nd, 2013 05:44 pm (UTC)
Great post!
Sounds like a fabulous book, and thanks for the invaluable advice! I'm making the jump to include writing a YA novel along with my picture books, so it really hit me at the right time. Thanks so much!
Feb. 23rd, 2013 07:06 am (UTC)
Re: Great post!
You're welcome. I'm glad that Gayle's writing tips came at the perfect time for you. Good luck with your YA!
Feb. 22nd, 2013 05:45 pm (UTC)
Super advice/giveaway
Number 5 is the DANG best advice. I wish I'd read this a few years back when I first began my journey (to the center of the writing earth:)) Everything would have been much easier. Can't wait to grab this book this weekend. I entered the giveaway.
Feb. 22nd, 2013 05:47 pm (UTC)
Re: Super advice/giveaway
This is really me,^ Robyn Campbell. Dang computers. :-)
Feb. 23rd, 2013 07:08 am (UTC)
Re: Super advice/giveaway
I love Gayle's advice, too! Thanks for stopping by my blog and helping Gayle celebrate the launch of her YA. Good luck on Sunday, when the critique winner will be chosen. :)
Feb. 22nd, 2013 07:41 pm (UTC)
Love Gayle's advice, especially #5! This applies to middle grade and elementary school students as well
Feb. 23rd, 2013 07:10 am (UTC)
I love her advice too, Sharon--and I know why you especially love #5.;)
Feb. 22nd, 2013 10:22 pm (UTC)
blog post, contest entry
Hi, those are great tips. I like #4. Janet Smart Would love to win the edit.
Feb. 23rd, 2013 07:12 am (UTC)
Re: blog post, contest entry
I'm glad you found Gayle's writing tips helpful, Janet. Thanks for stopping by, and good luck with the giveaway. :)
sharon mayhew
Feb. 22nd, 2013 11:18 pm (UTC)
Great interview! I'm not going to enter though...it's my first time to visit your blog. Robyn Campbell sent me over. :)
Feb. 23rd, 2013 07:13 am (UTC)
Thanks so much for visiting, Sharon. I'm glad you enjoyed Gayle's writing tips. :)

And thank you, Robin, for sharing my blog link with Sharon!
Feb. 23rd, 2013 02:32 am (UTC)
What great ideas and what a terrific giveaway.
Feb. 23rd, 2013 07:14 am (UTC)
Thank you, and thanks for stopping by my blog today. :)
Feb. 23rd, 2013 04:44 am (UTC)
Thank You from Gayle C. Krause
Glad I could inspire some of you in your writing journey.

Thanks, Mindy for allowing me to meet with your readers.

Looking forward to working with one of you. :)

Edited at 2013-02-23 04:45 am (UTC)
Feb. 23rd, 2013 07:16 am (UTC)
Re: Thank You from Gayle C. Krause
You're welcome, Gayle. And thank you for sharing your wonderful writing tips, offering a critique for the giveaway, and letting us all celebrate the release of RATGIRL: Song of the Viper with you. :)
Feb. 23rd, 2013 09:26 am (UTC)
Great advice Gayle and thanks for sharing it Mindy. Looking forward to reading the book :-)
Feb. 24th, 2013 05:49 am (UTC)
You're welcome, Yvonne. I'm glad you enjoyed Gayle's writing tips. Thanks for stopping by my blog. :)
Feb. 25th, 2013 05:41 pm (UTC)
Love triangles definitely seem to be the money maker when it comes to YA. I think this is great advice.
( 24 comments — Leave a comment )


Mindy's head shot
Mindy Alyse Weiss
I write humorous middle-grade novels with heart and quirky picture books.

I'm an Administrator on the SCBWI Blueboard, the FL SCBWI Newsletter Editor and Critique Group Coordinator, and a proud member of From The Mixed Up Files...of Middle-Grade Authors

I've been married for twenty years and have two beautiful daughters, an adventurous Bullmasador adopted from The Humane Society, and an adorable Beagle/Pointer mix pup who was rescued from the Everglades.

I've been published in Highlights three times and placed in the 80th Writer's Digest Competition.


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