Sunday, November 15, 2020

Why your Teen Protagonist Should Kiss and Tell


The young adult years are filled with wondrous and magical new moments, including first jobs, first time driving, and first time falling in love. It’s a time of figuring out what you like in a person, what “type” of boyfriend or girlfriend works well with your personality, and of course, it’s also a time of learning what types of relationships fail. It can be difficult for a teenager to experience love and then lose it, or to act on feelings that are not returned. In short, this is a period of time where hormones rock the boat and emotions and romance are in the spotlight. 

In writing YA novels, it’s often important, for a well-rounded teen experience, to include your main character’s feelings about romance. While it doesn’t have to be centralized in the story unless it’s a romance novel or a novel with strong romantic elements, there should be some mention of where your teen falls when it comes to the rollercoaster of romance. This is important for many reasons, so let’s take a look at why your teen protagonist should kiss and tell in a story. 

 1. Romantic feelings are normal for teens

The teen years are a time of raging hormones and moving from child to adult. It’s normal for teenagers to have strong feelings for the same or the opposite sex, and to act on those feelings or at least feel their tug strongly. Writing these feelings normalizes your teen protagonist, gives the reader an extra something to root for in the story, and can even add an extra layer of tension in the novel. 

2. Your reader wants to know!

Teenagers read YA and share the same feelings as your protagonist. If you introduce a love interest or even a back-burner crush, your teen reader is going to want to know where this leads! It will pique your readers’ interest, and they will want to know every detail as curious readers with shared sensations. They also might want to know how your teen handles their crush so they can gather ideas on how they can address this in their own lives. If they are declined in love, for example, it might help to see how your protagonist handles being turned down. 

3. Love makes for poetic writing

Something takes over when writing love scenes. As a writer, when your teen has their very first kiss in a story, you’ll suddenly want to add shining silver moonlight, red roses, white swans, and scents of flowers and chocolate. Well, maybe you won’t go to this extreme, but it’s definitely a good time to expand your writing wings and add in some poetic imagery.

4. Your main character is a human with real emotions to share

Readers want to connect with your main character, and most readers connect best when they can identify with real feelings and situations. In the Twilight novels, protagonist Bella Swan lets the reader in on her private feelings after her breakup with vampire Edward Cullen, and the teen reader understands those empty feelings and those moments of crying and despair. If you want a reader to connect, have your main character tell all without holding back. 

5. The girlfriend, boyfriend, or crush can bring out new character traits in your protagonist

This is an important one. In my own writing, I never feel I truly know a character until I know how they love. The love interest often acts as a reflector, and through them your teen might  understand more about themselves and share that with the reader. This is the person your teen tells all their secrets to, and the person that will hopefully strengthen them and lift them. 

For tips on writing using a romance plot structure, visit my blog post:

Crystal Moods: Using Crystals as Inspiration to set the Mood in YA Writing


When beginning a new writing project, the first writing elements that come to mind are usually plot, character, and setting. These are crucial elements to a book’s success, so we tend to focus on them in those early stages of novel writing, and rightly so. But there is also another important element to consider, which is the mood of the novel. Many of the YA novels that stand out to me had a mood that carried through the entire book and felt as though the writer wrote the manuscript in one sitting (Eleanor and Park comes to mind). If you’re new to writing, mood can best be described as the overall atmosphere and emotion in a story (not to be confused with tone, which is how the author uses words to convey an attitude). If you’re an established writer, you might be looking for inspiration when it comes to setting the mood of a story and keeping it going over the course of the novel.

When I write a manuscript, I try to keep something on my desk that reflects the heart of the novel. For example, when I wrote my novel The 12 Keys of Winterville, about magical keys in an old New England town, I kept a small silver key on my desk. When I was writing Leap Year Reincarnates, which was a YA sci-fi novel about a world event set into motion by a rare crystal, I kept my inspiration for that novel, a crystal called Moldavite, on my desk (it was a pretty expensive little crystal!).

 I thought about the different types of crystals and how they might inspire mood, because each crystal has different properties that can have an impact on our emotions. So, why not keep a small crystal by your side while you write to remind you of the specific mood you’re shooting for in your novel?

Here is a list of crystals and the moods they portray, so that you can not only use them for inspiration, but hopefully gain a connection with your crystal and be guided by their power and healing properties as you write away. 

Rose Quartz

Mood = Romantic

Rose quartz is connected with romance, the arts, love, relationships, and female energy. It’s a wonderful crystal to use as inspiration if you’re writing romance, especially with its beautiful pink hues (rose quartz has always been one of my favorite crystals). Place it on your desk while you’re writing and concentrate on a mood of romance. 


Mood = Courageous

Jade would be a good stone to use as inspiration when writing a hero’s journey story. Your teen protagonist inspired by this crystal might be confident, solve problems easily, or be concerned with themes of justice, as these are all properties of Jade. Keep Jade by your side while writing and pick it up occasionally to help guide and strengthen you. 


Mood = Hopeful 

Aquamarine is a gorgeous blue-green crystal with properties of peace, calm, and hope. It would be terrific when used to inspire a hopeful mood in a story. Make sure to keep aquamarine near your writing area to remind you to carry on a hopeful mood in your manuscript. 


Mood = Cheerful

Citrine is a yellowish crystal that carries with it a mood of happiness. This would be a good stone to keep by your side as you write, as it will encourage you to keep your mood cheery. On a side note, it’s also known for bringing abundance, so if you’re battling writer’s block, you might want to meditate with this stone to bring on a writing spree.


Mood = Melancholy

Because crystals are known for healing powers, it’s difficult to find one that will inspire a down mood, but sometimes as writers, we do need to portray sadness in a story. Anhydrite is not a very well known crystal, but its somber gray tones and connections with letting go of a dying situation do help us when considering this stone for “sad” writing. As a crystal of acceptance and coping, it reminds us to keep up the gray atmosphere but carry on. Keep it on your desk and glance at it regularly while writing.


Mood = Whimsical

With its beautiful green waves and earthy tone, malachite is perfect for inspiring a mood of whimsy. Malachite is known for a relaxing effect, so you can place the crystal near you while you write to keep yourself relaxed and open to creativity and imagination.  

If you’d like a Part 2 of Crystal Moods, please let me know in the comments!

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Pick up the Pace: Keeping it going for a YA Audience


When asked about the differences between YA writing and writing books for an adult audience, the main answer, outside of the intended reader age, is pacing. This is why many YA books are considered crossover novels, because some adults prefer a quick pace rather than a slow build-up. Pacing is important in YA writing as teenagers have so many draws on their attention, including the internet, Netflix, schoolwork, social media, and socializing. Reading time may be limited, so most teens want to pick up a book and get right into it. So how do we keep up the pace when writing for a YA audience?

Plot Structure 

As a YA writer, you want to choose plots that lend themselves to action and a quick pace. You want your plot structure in order so you can see fluctuations in pacing, which usually means plotting in advance or at least having a general idea of where your plot is going. This is especially crucial in fantasy and sci-fi writing, where you might have world-building to do, which takes up time and keeps your protagonist from getting to his or her inciting incident. 

Cutting the Fat

This is most often done in the editing and revision stage, where you are zooming in on excess material and cutting words and passages if need be. Specifically, you'll want to look for areas that drag on, scenes that are not important to the plot, dialogue that has no purpose, or words that are redundant and unnecessary. It might sound odd, but if you, as the writer, grow bored reading back your own work, there's some cutting to be done.

In Medias Res

Another way to grab teen readers is to start in medias res, or in the middle of things. With this method, you'll want to open right in a scene, especially one of high action. You will have to do a fair amount of showing your character here, because you won't have time for telling. After, you can weave in some backstory, just try not to slow down the pace. 

Teen Feedback

Finally, ask your teen readers for their help. You might want to find some family members or teens online who would be willing to read over your MS and raise a red flag when they are feeling the pacing slow down and their attention wander toward social media. Don't be afraid to ask for their honest opinion of your work, as they are your intended audience.

Your Tarot Journal


There’s more to tarot reading than meets the seer’s eye. Indeed, tarot cards have many uses outside of predicting the future, such as help for specific situations and guidance for moving through a difficult time. Outside of that, tarot cards can also be used for meditation, writing, inspiration, and daily musings. As someone who collects tarot cards for the artwork and inspiration, I’ve found many uses for them over the years. One such use is journaling. 

I’m the type of writer who loves the idea of journaling and buys a lot of journals, but when I actually sit down to write in my journal, I literally draw a blank. To that end, I thought it would be a good idea to connect journal writing with tarot cards, and I came up with a few ideas that require nothing more than a deck of tarot cards and a journal. Here are some ideas for using your cards to construct your tarot journal.

Writing Prompts

One fun idea for journal writing is designing your own writing prompts using your tarot cards. To begin, open your journal, grab a colorful pen, and draw a tarot card from your deck. What do you see? What’s happening on the card? Think of 5 writing prompts that have been inspired from the picture on your card and write them into your journal for safekeeping. You can share them or refer back to them as needed!

Writing Inspiration

How about using a tarot card as writing inspiration? These tiny pictures are like artwork and can inspire us so much! Open your journal and grab a card from your deck. What’s happening on your card? Is there a scene that inspires you? A character depicted that seems interesting? What’s the setting? The mood? Jot down your ideas about the card so that you can refer back to them when writing.

Daily Musings

If you’re not looking to use your journal for writing inspiration, you can use the tarot cards for daily meditation and musings. For example, you can draw a card from the pack and think about what that card says to you. Write down your thoughts: What emotion do you feel looking at this card? What do you think about the scene? Is it happy or sad? How can you connect this with what you’re feeling right now? Is nature shown in the picture? What can you write about nature as shown on your card?

Recalling Daily Moods

For this one, you’re going to fan out the cards face-up and then draw ones out of the fan that speak to you. What cards are you drawn to, based on your feelings that day? Try going over the cards and making connections. Are they all happy cards? Are they showing scenes of anger or fear? What does that say about your day and your current mood? 

Starting your Day with Imagination and Creativity 

Of course we go into tarot reading with a bit of imagination and a little creativity. The cards say so much to us, but we’re also making links to life using our deepest thoughts and intuition. As you draw a card in the morning, think about what you can add to the card and/or what story you can tell from the picture on this card. Let your mind wander until you feel a spark of creativity, and jot all of this down. This should jumpstart your creativity for the morning and throughout the day!

Tip: If you can, purchase themed tarot cards, as they often have stronger artwork than the original Rider-Waite tarot. Here is a link to a buying source:

See my Wizard of Writing blog for an article on writing inspiration using the tarot:

The Taylor Swift Effect

(Google Images)

Taylor Swift blasted into the music scene as a teenager, connecting with young fans through her songs about teen crushes, love loss, and fairytale romances. While Taylor’s image and persona changed as she moved from teenager to adult, her fanbase remained stable and strong, following her growth, cheering her on, and buying up every album. This past summer Taylor sprung a surprise album on her fans—the haunting Folklore—which quickly rose to the top of the charts, despite the fact that Taylor has been in the music business for over fourteen years. So what is it about Taylor that keeps her fanbase so rabid, so strong after so many years? How does Taylor continue to connect with young fans and teenagers?

First and foremost, Taylor is a gifted writer. She excels at similes, metaphors, poetic imagery, and relatable stories. Her heart and soul is evident in everything she does, and she connects nearly every song to the truths and troubles in her own life, including her many rocky romances. Because her fanbase is mainly teenagers and young adults, at an age where romance and drama are spotlighted daily, her songs about romance are relevant and her fans are able to easily identify with her lyrics. Add in some of the fairytale romances, magical backdrops, and whimsical narratives, and you’re at the root of all teen and young adult hopes and dreams. 

Second, Taylor is a creative force and knows how to change up her persona while still maintaining her base personality. Like many successful females in the music business—Madonna, Lady Gaga, and Beyonce—Taylor started in one place and changed over time. While teenagers tend to shy away from older pop stars, Taylor keeps her persona modern and fresh, raising new political interests, helping the LGBTQ+ community, and in her last incarnation, going for an alternative, new age, natural look and sound. This change not only keeps her current fanbase interested, but also brings in new fans as teens might relate to any one of her many changing images. Teenagers in a new era understand and applaud diversity, so they gravitate toward Taylor and her messages. 

Finally, Taylor connects with her fans on many levels, including social media posts, giveaways, offering free albums to indie record stores, hiding “Easter eggs” in her songs and videos, surprising fans with visits, and dropping new albums. She is aware of the many ways to reach her fanbase through these avenues, using Twitter (she has a huge following and fan clubs there), Instagram, and even Facebook. She uses YouTube to her advantage by posting her music videos, and she also breaks down personal themes in her albums and posts songs related to those themes on Spotify and Apple Music. She is visible on all mediums that teens touch on a daily basis. 

As a writer of YA, it’s important to look at how Taylor connects to her teen fanbase and how she stays relevant in an ever-changing music industry. It’s a blend of many elements that writers and musicians alike should take note of, finding what interests her fans, writing toward those interests, writing honestly and from her heart, and writing about topics relevant to teens. This also gravitates outside of the creative realm, in finding ways to constantly keep in touch with fans and changing up images to stay fresh and interesting. Taylor connects the way we all should—with honesty, passion, and heart. 

Planetary Alignment: Using Astrology to Develop Characters in YA Novels


As YA writers, we are always looking for inspiration when it comes to developing our teen characters. Sometimes it comes easy, and a character will burst into our minds, fully formed. Other times, and particularly with side characters, it can be a little more challenging. There are many articles written about using astrological signs to inspire characters, such as the fiery Aries or the egocentric Leo, but I thought it might be fun to go a little further and look at how we might use the planets to draw up and flesh out our teenage characters. 

While the signs themselves are linked to traits, like the tidy Virgo and the eccentric Aquarius, the planets, in astrology, are connected with specific zodiac signs and are called “rulers” of those signs. For example, Mars is the ruler of Aries, which is why both are associated with hot tempers and violence. Mercury is the ruler of Gemini, making them both connected with quick-thinking and communication. Here is a list of planets that I hope you can draw from when creating your characters. 


Mercury is the thinker of the zodiac. You might consider a teen character here who is studious, overthinks things, or perhaps gets themselves into trouble because of their quick wit when dealing with teachers. Some traits of Mercury include:

  • Aware
  • Intelligent 
  • Communicative


This is an easy one for most of us to remember, as we often hear that Venus is the planet of love. You might have a teen character inspired by this planet who is constantly falling in love, is boy or girl crazy, or pays too much attention to their own looks and outer appearance. Some traits of Venus include:

  • Vanity
  • Jealousy
  • Charm


Mars is the planet of action. In using this planet for inspiration for a teen character, you have many options. You might consider a rebellious teen (is there another kind?), one who is stubborn, or one who is courageous and impulsive. Some traits of Mars include:

  • Destructive
  • Violent 
  • Independent


Jupiter is the planet of expansion and abundance. A teen character inspired by the planet Jupiter might be lucky, generous, or be quite ambitious. They may also be the type of teen that others can look up to. Some traits of Jupiter include:

  • Inspiring
  • Optimistic
  • Confident


Saturn is the lesson-teaching planet and is often associated with a serious nature or overcoming difficulties. Teens inspired by Saturn may tend to come across as older than their years, or may be the “parent” figure that another teen can turn to. Some traits of Saturn include:

  • Cautious
  • Wise
  • Conventional


Uranus is associated with fast change and surprise. It is also linked with technology and huge awakenings in society. A teenager inspired by Uranus may be tech-savvy, and they would also seek to make positive changes in the world. Some traits of Uranus include:

  • Humanitarianism
  • Intuitiveness
  • Radical


Neptune is the planet of dreams and illusion. With Neptune, all is not always what it seems, so a teen inspired by the planet Neptune might tend to be secretive, mysterious, or even very sensitive. Some traits of Neptune include:

  • Creative
  • Clairvoyant
  • Mystical


While no longer considered a planet, Pluto still remains important in the astrological world. Pluto is the underworld planet, associated with power, transformation, and secrets. A teen inspired by Pluto might have secret obsessions or even be destructive. Some Pluto traits include:

  • Forceful
  • Intense
  • Quiet 

The Sun

The Sun is the heart of the Solar System, so of course any character inspired by the sun would tend to be self-absorbed and think he/she is the life of the party. This teen might be confident and come across as arrogant, but they can also be generous as they like to spread light around. Some Sun traits include:

  • Loyal
  • Dignified
  • Charming

The Moon

Finally we turn to my favorite celestial body, the moon. While technically a satellite of the earth, it’s still a very powerful force in astrology and is linked with the astrological sign cancer. The moon is associated with our moods, so it could definitely inspire a moody teen. It’s also connected strongly with water, which would be fun in creating a teen character who is drawn to ocean or beach life. Some moon traits include:

  • Psychic ability
  • Emotion/Drama
  • Sensitive 

For tips about what genre you might be best writing based on your astrological sign, see my blog article: Astrology for Writers: What Should You Write Based On Your Sign? 

Why your Teen Protagonist Should Kiss and Tell

  The young adult years are filled with wondrous and magical new moments, including first jobs, first time driving, and first time falling i...