How do you like your endings?

A piece of advice often given to writers is to make sure your book can work as a standalone story, even if you have sequels planned. And when a writer queries an agent, or a submission to a publisher, there’s an importance placed on stating the story has ‘series potential.’

While this advice is predominantly from a marketing/sales point of view (there’s no guarantee a publisher will give a multi-book deal, and if the book doesn’t sell well enough there may not be a sequel), I wonder about how readers feel about the topic.

In my Open Heart series, it’s quite obvious there’s more to the story, that there’s more in store for the characters. I wouldn’t classify the ending in DIVIDED (Book 1) as a cliffhanger ending personally, but it may be viewed that way by some. The main thread of the story is answered, with new revelations at the climax offering the series potential.

Other authors take a different tact. ACROSS THE UNIVERSE is one of my favourite YA stories, and it was originally intended to be a standalone novel. Beth Revis worked with her editor and her agent to move it into a series. Then Gayle Forman had IF I STAY that works completely as a standalone, followed by WHERE SHE WENT, set well after the events of the first novel. Other authors have companion novels where the stories are set in the same world, but with different characters. Then other authors focus on books that are truly stand alone.

With so many different way to approach novels from an authors perspective, how do you feel about this from a readers perspective. Do you like cliffhanger endings, or do you want your stories wrapped up at the end of the book? AND do you prefer to read a series or a stand alone novel?

~*~

Sharon Johnston

 

Sharon is a Young Adult and New Adult author from sunny Queensland. Her OCD has resulted in her making far too many bookmarks and pieces of jewellery (her husband is very surprised that the postman has reported her for the number of small packages arriving at the house). She’s a Pitch Wars mentor, and is available to run Pitch Wars Roadshow workshops at events. Her OPEN HEART series is out now with City Owl Press.

Review: Heartless by Marissa Meyer

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Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland and a favorite of the unmarried King, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, she wants to open a shop and create delectable pastries. But for her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for a woman who could be a queen.

At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the King’s marriage proposal, she meets handsome and mysterious Jest. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into a secret courtship.

Cath is determined to choose her own destiny. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

 

I finished this book days ago and it’s taken me until now to get my thoughts together. I’m a mess. The characters are written so perfectly I haven’t been able to shake the mess of emotions they’ve left me with.

Heartless follows Catherine Pinkerton, future Queen of Hearts, as she struggles to accept her role in the patriarchal society she’s grown up in. Right from the opening pages Cath comes across as sweet, ambitious, and with a head full of whimsy. She has great ideas for her dreams, and you really want to believe she’ll find a way to make them happen.

Then she meets Jest. I don’t know how Meyer does it but I was smitten. Quick-witted, fun, and master of impossibilities, the chemistry between him and Cath was addictive. I hung on for every scene they had together.

Between the romance, Meyer filled the book with so many absurdities, it fits perfectly into the wondrous world of Wonderland. Hearts seems to be modelled around Regency England, but with Mock Turtles, and Jabberwocks, and card-filled gentry thrown in. The world building was amazing from the opening pages and felt believable enough to follow the character progression.

And Cath’s progression was perfect. From sweet, innocent dreamer to the Queen of Hearts. It felt so natural and really gave depth to the vicious tyrant the character is normally depicted as.

But it was the ending that really got me. I don’t want to give away too much, but that was the part of the book that stayed with me for days. Though the whole book, I could almost believe that Cath would get what she wanted, that she’d find a way. I read on desperate to see her dreams fulfilled, to see her and Jest make their forbidden relationship work. I was totally, 100%, emotionally invested, and no matter how I feel about the ending, it was exactly what the book needed. I don’t think Meyer could have made it any more perfect.

 

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Heather is rep’d by Carrie Howland of Empire Literary

 

How to Grab an Editor’s Attention and other Unexplained Mysteries

I’ve been following Aussie Owned and Read for some time now, so when they approached me to guest blog, I jumped at the chance. This close to the end of the year, most people are thinking of beach holidays and Christmas shopping. But as much as the year is winding down for me, it’s also revving up. You see, I’ve received an early and much longed for Christmas present: my first publishing contract!

While everyone else is pulling boxes of baubles and tinsel out of storage, I’m embarking on the first round of edits for my debut novel, a YA Paranormal Romance to be published in 2017 by Entangled Teen. To be honest, I’m still in shock, and it’ll take more than one serve of Christmas pudding to process it all, but in the meantime I thought I’d share what it was that propelled my editor to pull the story from the slush.

 

  1. The title: The first thing that grabbed him was the title (which, unfortunately, I’m not allowed to reveal as yet). This surprised me. Since titles are often changed after submission, I didn’t think they carried much weight. But the title really resonated. So think of a killer title!
  2. A well crafted query letter, including a solid pitch: Now, this one’s a no-brainer. If you’re a pre-published author, you’ll have had the importance of a polished query letter rubber-stamped onto your brain. If you’re rusty on how to craft one, check out Rebecca and Heather’s post here for tips https://aussieownedandread.com/2016/08/11/the-dreaded-query-letter/ What clicked for my editor were an interesting story arc, an intriguing MC and voice. It’s not easy, but see if you can infuse your query with a taste of your writing voice.
  3. Pace, tension and great storytelling: Okay, so you’ve hooked your editor with your title and query. They’ve started reading (yay!). They’re pulled into the story (hoorah!). They still like the voice (phew!). How do you keep them turning those pages? Pace and tension is what carries them through to the end. Make sure every scene has some form of tension and / or story question to push the action forward and keep up the pace. In a Christmassy nutshell, good storytelling is the key.

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Now, no two editors (or agents) are the same, so they won’t all be looking for identical things in a manuscript, but it can’t hurt to shine up that title, polish your query and ramp up the tension and pace J

 

So, what makes you pick up a book and keep turning the pages?

 

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Kat is a Sydney-based Young and New Adult author and teacher librarian who writes coming-of-age stories with a healthy dose of humour and heart. She speaks German and hopes to, one day, read one of her novels in Deutsch.

 

Anything but cleaning

Here at AOR this month we’re talking spring cleaning. This would not count in my top… billion… fun past times. Although I do love a clean house/workspace.

Instead I present to you, 5 things to do instead of clean:

  1. READ – this one might be obvious but I’d hate for it to get lost. Think of all the pages to be read instead of bathroom tiles scrubbed
  2. Buy books – this helps with point 1 but might actually add to the mess (e-books?).
  3. Write a story – I know I’m struggling with my story when I clean instead of writing (then it can help clear my head and make me wish I was writing)
  4. Order your bookshelf – this is like cleaning, I admit but it’s fun and you could happily get side-tracked by a fave book
  5. Meet a friend and talk books – this gets you away from the mess and has a fun social element that’s good for your soul

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Anyone else got a good way to avoid cleaning?

🙂

Beck

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I always wanted to write. I’ve worked as a lab assistant, a pizza delivery driver and a high school teacher but I always pursued my first dream of creating stories. Now, I live with my family near Adelaide, halfway between the city and the sea, and am lucky to spend my days (and nights) writing young adult fiction.

Cleaning out your stereotypes from your writing

There is even more emphasis on writers creating realistic worlds in relation to diversity. But with that comes the responsibility for authors to develop real characters that don’t perpetuate stereotypes that are harmful to minority groups. These groups are more than just ensuring cultural representative, but gender identity, sexuality, disability, and mental health, just to name a few.

Think about the world you live in. Everyone isn’t cis white and straight. Then think about the people you know who are from minorities. Do they tick all the boxes for the stereotypes of that group? Probably not.

I’m a classic example of someone who does not fit in the stereotype box. in regards to mental health. I’m diagnosed with OCD, and am still undergoing treatment for it. But you might not know it when you first meet me.

What do you think of when you envisage a woman with OCD?

  • Clean freak?
  • Obsessed with hand washing?
  • Obsessed with numbers?
  • Worried about germs for fear of getting sick?
  • Physical compulsions?

Only one of the above really applies to me, and even then, it’s pretty mild by OCD standards.

  • I’m one of the biggest slobs ever.
  • I do use more hand sanitiser than the average person, but not over the top (I think).
  • I have no deal with numbers.
  • I’m more worried about infecting other people with germs (sometimes I hold my breath when out shopping if I’m sick).
  • I have no physical compulsions. All my compulsions are mental.

Here’s a great article that explains more about OCD myths.

I have OCD, and don’t fit the stereotypes for the condition. Chances are, the people you know in minority groups don’t fit in the stereotype box either.

Push yourself further with your writing. Be more inclusive with minority groups. Be more observant and challenge the stereotypes that society has given you when you people watch.

Write diversely and have a diverse range of beta readers and CPs. Use sensitivity readers, and LISTEN to them. And be prepared to take on criticism and learn from it. (And note that having sensitivity reader doesn’t stop you from receiving criticism).

Also make sure you LISTEN to minority groups. Be present on social media sites, such as Twitter where you can find lots of threads that talk about problematic representation. Research issues around problematic representation and LISTEN to what’s being said. (I’m not going to list anything other than OCD as that’s the only minority group that I have the knowledge to talk about.)

Our country is diverse. Our world is diverse. And that diversity should be reflected in our literature art.

So, if you haven’t already, clean out your stereotypes to make your stories a richer place, and a safer place for your readers who might belong to the minority groups that are hurt by those stereotypes. 13007082_1280076712019775_6555372396011975558_n

Sharon is a Young Adult and New Adult writer from sunny Queensland. Her Open Heart Series is out now with City Owl Press. Sharon loves helping out other writers as a Pitch Wars mentor and Pitch Madness hosts. She occasionally has pink hair, loves cats, makes jewellery and bookmarks, and plays far too much Pokemon Go.

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Review: Dark Secrets By A. M. Hudson

How can you be attracted to a guy who just said he wants to kill you?

Ara-Rose asks herself the same question. She’s been torn away from her old life, thrown into a new one in a new country, and in the midst of death, heartache and depression, she finds herself in love with a vampire—one who kills people with his teeth!

But the vampire is forbidden to fall for this human, and at the point Ara-Rose decides she can’t live without him, he pulls away and leaves her falling back to the darkness he woke her from. She will be caught up in a century-old feud among brothers, and the fight for love becomes a fight for her life.

The only question now is whether her beloved vampire will find her in time, or leave her to face a destiny he triggered with their first kiss.

51qvxqzaeklI bought this book as part of Vampire Chronicles, a Boxed Set of three vampire novels. The beginning drew me in and I easily brushed aside the first hint of Twilight but as I read on the more similarities began to surface. It was quite difficult to ignore them, but that said it did not make this book less enjoyable.

Amara-Rose, aka Ara-Rose, aka Ara – The storyteller, is written well with a clear voice throughout. The epitome of a teen struggling with the passion only a teen can experience. She embraces the ‘Vampires are real’ thing rather quickly and early on considers becoming one herself. Not believable if she were an adult with rational thinking, but for Ara, a teen overtaken by the emotion of her first real love, it is completely believable.

Her struggles to overcome the death of her mother and brother actually brought tears to my eyes, a well written character with depth and real emotion the reader could feel for themselves.meangirls.gif

David Knight – The vampire. Sullen, overprotective, sneaky, overbearing, controlling, and yet still likable… go figure. He doesn’t sparkle, but can read minds – another nod to Twilight I could not shake off, but it is the back and forth between Ara and David that plays on this trait more effectively I thought.

He is not all that complicated a character, wears his heart on his sleeve and is not shy to admit when he is “turned on” a part of the book I could have actually done without. There once was a time that this kind of writing was only seen in adult novels, I wish for that time to return. Yes, teens are doing it, but a hint to what they are doing is sufficient, we don’t need to know exactly where he grabbed her.

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Mike – Ara’s life long friend and the third piece in the love triangle. He is an Aussie, so I like him instantly, he wants what is best for Ara, two points to Mike, but Ara lives in the USA now and Mike’s still down under, so they could never work. Not that choosing a Vampire would have been any easier a path, but the likelihood of Ara picking Mike was miniscule from the get go – if only for his connection to how she lost her Mother and Brother to begin with.

This book is only three stars for me and it is for three reasons;
Number 1 – There is so much similarity to Twilight I felt like this novel was almost all 4 of the Twilight series stories rolled into one long, not quite original enough tale. This lost it a full star taking the score to four stars.

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Number 2 – It was soooooooo long. Like titanic long – and this didn’t have the sexy Leo DiCaprio to drool over in the dull bits. Thirty-six chapters is just way too much! A long novel is not always a bad thing, but this was too much even for me, and this lost it half a star, taking it down to three and a half stars.
Number 3– There was too much mundane information that I did not need. Filler you might call it – that could have been removed and the overall story be unaffected. Except for the relief the reader would have felt for not having had to read it. The overload of information, though written in an exceptional way, lost the last half star taking this review down to a three.

I will probably read the others in this series, if only because I feel like I know Ara, and want to see that she gets her happily ever after.

3-stars

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Rebecca Bosevski is the author of Enchanting The Fey, a fairy tale for grown-ups. She lives on the sunny coast of Australia with her husband and three children. When not writing she will often be found with her nose in a book.

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Clean Out The Crap – how to spring clean your final draft

This month we’re talking about spring cleaning on Aussie Owned & Read. Because I’m sure none of us can spring clean our bookshelves — because there’s no books to clean out, right? Who does that?! — we’re taking a writing approach to the topic by talking about ways you can apply spring cleaning to your manuscript.

For me first drafts are all about getting the story out there. Drafting like tomorrow doesn’t matter and not stopping until I reach those magic words ‘the end’. If I don’t write this way, I get stuck in a perpetual editing loop of perfecting yesterday’s words and never writing any new ones. This means I’m often always left with a hot mess at the end of the first draft.

So how does one clean up that disaster?

By making all the big changes first, of course. Adding, deleting, rearranging scenes. Once that’s all sorted (usually two drafts later) I like to clean up my manuscript by sweeping through and killing all the unnecessary words.

Nasty ‘telling’ words to omit from your manuscript.

See, hear, taste, feel, is/was: these are almost always telling words.

just, only, really: most of the time these are just filler.

that: it can almost always been removed from a sentence without  changing the meaning.

almost, seemed, started, began: Making things absolute makes for a stronger POV.

now: telling word.

stood up / sat down: when used in context it’s not possible to sit any other way than down, thus the word down is rendered unnecessary. The same rule applies to up.

Those are a few of the words I like to spring clean from my final draft. What about you? Are there any words you like to nix?

 

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Stacey NashStacey Nash is the messiest first drafter ever. Lucky she edits and edits and edits some more to make up for it. To find out more about this young adult author or to connect with her on social media (where she tries to be engaging), check out these places: www.stacey-nash.com, instagram, twitter, facebook.