Tuesday, January 31, 2017

5 Ways to Turn a Christian Adult Novel into a YA

By Cynthia T. Toney
Is your novel YA—or is it actually a clean adult novel with a teen protagonist?

This question often comes up in writers groups I belong to. And there’s nothing wrong with writing a good, clean or Christian adult novel that can also be read by teenagers. But before you think that having a young protagonist between the ages of 14 and 18 will allow your novel to fly as YA (Young Adult), consider the following differences.  This short list is the result of reading hundreds of novels for teens, writing a few, and hearing what other YA authors and editors have to say on the subject. If your adult novel has some of these characteristics, maybe it could be—or should be—YA.

1. Voice.  Not only should the voice in a YA novel not sound adult, but it also must sound like the age of the protagonist, and that differs greatly between ages 14 and 18. It can be the difference between the voice of a beginning high school freshman and a graduating senior. In any instance, sentences tend to be shorter than in an adult novel and often incomplete or phrases, just as a teenager speaks. Note: In spite of trends in secular YA, Christian YA does not usually contain profanity.

2. POV.  Most good YA novels are told from a single point of view. Teens typically want to place themselves inside the head of the protagonist and stay there.  Rarely do I see POV in a teen novel switch to a parent or other adult, even an antagonist, and then it often detracts from the story. If there is a second POV, it’s usually that of a love interest or a teen antagonist.

3. Not as much religion.  I’ve read many good Christian YA novels, but morals and life lessons are most often conveyed to the reader through the teen characters’ words and actions, especially how they deal with their struggles and overcome their mistakes. Unless a priest or preacher character is important to the plot, teen readers will likely view a scripture reading, sermon, or religious discussion coming from a religious leader—or any adult—as an intrusion. In YA, teen characters are supposed to find their own way and solve their own problems as much as possible. Good examples demonstrated by adult characters, along with a small amount of verbal guidance when necessary, go a long way. Christian teen characters pray, read their bibles, attend church, etc. but young readers want to learn the teens’ perspectives on religious or moral matters, not those of fictional church leaders.

4. More narrative, lots of angst.  Most teens worry about everything in spite of their faith. They sometimes forget to rely on faith until the going gets really rough. They must think through a lot of choices that adult experience has eliminated for the rest of us, although sometimes teens forget to think when we want them to. Dialogue shouldn’t outweigh the narrative containing their thoughts, which can include non-vocal communication with the Lord. Note: Let your teen protagonist express his emotions, even inappropriately, and more inappropriately than an angry Christian adult would.

5. Focus on specifically teenage problems.  Many more such problems exist than when I was a teen, and YA authors must pick and choose those to address in fiction. For example, I don’t want to write about self-mutilation such as cutting. It happens, and some teens want to read about it, but my personal feeling is that if I knew of a teen engaged in cutting, I’d notify her parents immediately, if not call an ambulance. And that would kill the story. So far, I haven’t encountered any YA Christian novel that addresses confusion over gender identity, although the rate that topic appears in secular YA seems greater than the rate it appears in society. The topic of teen sex and pregnancy, if handled well in Christian YA fiction, can benefit readers. Fortunately, YA authors can still write entertaining stories about timeless subjects of first love, innocent dating, cliques, school problems, planning for college, and understanding oneself.

A book that taught me early on some of the characteristics of YA is Wild Ink by Victoria Hanley. Other such guides exist that can help.

If your story is too mature for YA, look into New Adult (NA) to see if it would be a better fit. Living independently, forging a career, and getting engaged or thinking about marriage are topics in NA, a relatively new category in fiction with possibilities for all the genres we enjoy. Protagonists are in their early twenties.

Are you being called to write for a young adult audience? It’s an endeavor worth praying about and can be both satisfying and rewarding.

About the Author

Cynthia is a former advertising designer, marketing director, and interior decorator who holds a BA in art education with a minor in history. While employed by a large daily newspaper, she tried to rewrite some ad copy without permission and got into trouble for it. At that point, she knew she was destined to become an author.

Learn more about Cynthia at her author page at the Write Integrity Press website.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

God's Perfume by Peggy Cunningham

How’s the new year going for you so far? For me, it brought a novelty to our city down under the equator––Cochabamba, Bolivia. This modernity is huge. And, it’s the first of its kind where I live. What is it?

It’s a mall! Could it be a real mall? We have a few shopping centers that pretend to be a mall. I had to see it for myself. Driving up to the entrance, I gasped, much impressed. It’s real. It towers above buildings nearby, and clean and shiny is an understatement. Quite the contrast from our marketplace where bathrooms are few, dust and dirt cover the streets, and aromas aren’t pleasant.

I ventured up the clean, shiny escalators––all five of them. After I’d visited four floors, I arrived at the top floor––wow, a food court. Finally, fifteen minutes into the tour, I returned to the front entrance. Done. No shopping. Many baby stores, but I have no babies, and sports stores galore, but I’m not athletic. And, I don’t need furniture. So I found a comfortable chair (unique also) and waited for my husband’s arrival.

Glancing through a store window to a street outside returned me to reality. Seated in that humungous
modern building, I mentally bolted back in time. The picturesque view out the window captured Bolivia’s charm––a typical, tiny store, horns honking, and the simple life. I welcome change, but
nostalgia comforts me. Just then, a familiar aroma engulfed me. I identified it immediately and followed the aroma––donuts, another novelty. Now those were worth buying. And, I did!

In my new book, Dancing Like Bees, I write about change. We should constantly be changing to become more Christ–like. How? The Honeybee gives us a clue. Each Honeybee has a distinct odor for each member’s identification. How do we identify as Christians and change our world? “For we are the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing”
(2 Corinthians 2:15).

A mall provides a pleasant change to my routine, and a whiff of donuts entices my appetite, but reaching the odorant receptors of those around me with a distinct godly aroma is the change I hope for this year.

How about you? Will you be God’s perfume this year?

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Impress an Editor in 9 Steps: Part 5

Dear Editor,
Here you go. Talk to you soon.

No, this isn't a real cover letter. However, some proposals have come through our offices with nothing at all in the email, not even a signature. 

It's hard to say if a cover letter/email like that is being used to force an editor to open the proposal or from an author who is too busy or too shy to actually use the skills they want to sell.

When you write to an acquisitions editor… WRITE to the editor. After all, you are a writer. This is a person you’re emailing. Engage him or her just like you would if you met on the street. An e-mail is a letter after all. Take a moment to introduce yourself and share a little about why you're righting.

Not only is the email a letter, the person to whom you are writing is representing a business. Professionalism is always a plus. Talk to them in your initial email. Tell them why you’ve chosen to email them. Give them a little background on your story that might not fit into part of the proposal attachment.

Publishing companies, even small ones, receive hundreds of proposals every year. Sometimes, they receive hundreds of proposals every week! It’s easier for them to reject a project than it is to accept one. Especially from an author with no publishing experience. Show how well you can engage your audience by engaging them. Give them every reason to pick you.

My best advice: Show, through that initial email, the passion you have for your topic or the enthusiasm you have for your story. Enthusiasm is contagious and can go a long way in moving your book through to publication.

And if you have a question about publishing, queries, proposals, or what type of publishing is right for you, drop a line right here! Our executive director, Marji Laine Clubine, might use your question on her radio show, February 7 at 7PM Central (Publishing Laine). If she uses your question, she'll send you a free book.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

NEW BEGINNINGS by Harriet Michael

Are you a morning person or a night one? I’m a morning person. I love mornings! They always beckon me with the promise of a new beginning. Mornings have a freshness to me as if they hold a secret promise of great things that might happen as the day unfolds.

Some years ago as I was researching and writing my book on prayer, I came across so many passages in the scripture where one Bible character or another rises early in the morning to do something God had called them to do that day, or to seek God in some way. Here are some examples, just to list a few:

Abraham rose early the day he planned to offer Isaac as a sacrifice according to Genesis 22:3. He rose early again the day after Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed and he hurried to a place where he could look down on the cities to see if they had been destroyed or not. (Genesis 19:27-28)

Joshua rose early to travel to the Jordon before he crossed over. (Joshua 3:1)

David rose early to obey his father Jesse and take supplies to his brothers in battle. (1 Samuel 17:20)

God instructed Moses to rise early when he was to stand before Pharaoh and tell him to let God’s people go. (Exodus 8:20)

… and on and on it goes. If you look for this pattern in the scripture, you will find it.

So, what’s the lesson here? Is this bad news for those of us who do not care so much for mornings and need a little time and maybe a cup of coffee before we can even begin to embrace the new day? I don’t think so. I don’t think the biblical point is to love mornings as much as it is to get on with whatever God has for you to do in life. In the Bible times, before electricity, if they were going to apply themselves in whatever action they felt God had asked of them, they’d better not waste any daylight; they better get on with it.

Today, doing what God has asked of you may require staying up late instead of rising early. But the point remains--embrace the day! Or rather, embrace what God is calling you to do, and get busy doing it, whether that means getting up early or sleeping late because you stayed up late the night before.

And since it is now January, the new beginning of a brand new year—embrace that too.

About the Author

Harriet Michael is the author of over 150 articles and devotions along with her recent release, PRAYER: IT'S NOT ABOUT YOU. Born on the mission field of Nigeria, she has a passion for the Lord and sharing His words.

You can learn more about Harriet at her author page on the Write Integrity Press website HERE, and buy her book in print or e-book HERE.