Questions from Another Time: Writing

I started going through all my threads that I started on AW since I joined all the way back in 2008. I was fresh off the finish of my very first novel ever and convinced that I was going to take the publishing world by storm with my fifteen-year-old self and my 100k YA fantasy.

In the four years since then, I've learned a lot. The questions that I asked back then make me hang my head and want to smack my younger self. I thought it might be fun to take a look at my questions -- commonly asked by many other new writers -- and answer them.

Today I'm going to do a post with all the writing-related questions and next week I'm going to answer the publishing ones. 

Are sex, violence, etc okay in YA? 
Everything goes, especially if it's realistic. Fiction should represent real life and young adult is no exception. Sex, violence, or drugs are extremely relevant to today's teens. It's okay to explore that from a realistic perspective. That being said, nothing should be included because of the "shock factor." Stay true to the personality of your characters. Or...if your normally straight-laced character is doing drugs, turn that into conflict. Why did they do drugs? How do they feel about it? How does it affect them?

What is the optimum length for chapters? 
There isn't one. The only rule here is do what works. There are 250-page books with only ten chapters and there are books where each chapter is two or three pages long. Though, if you're going for the shorter route, be careful. Short chapters can make a book feel choppy.

Can you split a novel in half and sell it as a two-book series if it gets too long? 
No. Series don't really work like that. In a good series, there needs to be one large arc uniting all the books in the series and then each book has to have its own individual, smaller arc that advances the larger one.  For example, in Harry Potter the overlapping arc is Harry's battle against Voldemort, but each book has its own smaller arc. Sorcerer's Stone being Harry discovering that he's a wizard and that he needs to stop Voldemort once more. Chamber of Secrets being the mystery of the students that are being attacked. Prisoner of Azkaban being Sirius Black. And so on.

What are some dialogue tags that can be used in place of the normal ones (said, answered, replied, asked)? 
When it comes to dialogue tags, less is more. Make sure that it's clear who's speaking, but go more for action rather than tags. Don't get exotic with the ones you choose either. Strange tags can throw a reader off. Use a decent variety, but keep it simple.

Are prologues okay? 
On very rare occasions prologues are acceptable. They're not acceptable if they're simply gigantic world building info dumps or contain information or events that could be worked into the story. If you can avoid using a prologue, then don't use one.  


LM Preston said…
Oh my gosh! I asked the same questions. And you know what? I'm glad I did or I wouldn't have learned all I have today.

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