Writing Teen Novels with Kaz Delaney

Yesterday afternoon I had the pleasure of attending an author event with the delightful Kaz Delaney at Wangi Library. Kaz was there to talk about writing for teens and young adults. It was a nice small gathering, just under 20, people who were readers, writers, and book lovers alike. I have seen Kaz speak at multiple events and it is always a pleasure to see to her, as always she was delightful, larger than life and very friendly.

Kaz told us all about how she grew up in and around Newcastle, a Novacastrian born and bred. She also regaled us with stories about growing up and some of the adventures she had. One of my favourite things about author talks is hearing about how they came to be an author. There are always people wanting to know how to get published, but those stories aren’t the same as hearing how an author got published in my opinion. The personal journey of each author is different and fascinating and Kaz’s was no different. One of the things that stayed with me was that she said she had always planned on sending something in but life got in the way. It is reassuring to hear that life pushes its way into the plans of everybody and it isn’t something to feel bad about, especially when it can’t be helped.

With her 20th year of publishing this year Kaz has 70 books under her belt writing across the board, for teenagers and children alike. Her first big lesson learnt was to trust the editor who had critiqued her first submitted story and while she admits her entry into the writing world was a fairly easy entrée, it did not mean it wasn’t hard work and she acknowledges she was very fortunate. But she has also had her share of rejection, and another interesting lesson she gave us was that in her opinion you can’t really call yourself an author until you’ve been rejected. But you must also see the rejection for what it is, nothing against you personally but rather a critique on the work, separate yourself from it and don’t let it get you down.

Kaz spoke about how it is tough to be author, much harder than it was 20 years ago but noted there are more opportunities for writers these days. What was interesting was Kaz’s take on it. She understands that it gives people more chances but it has the possibility of harming the industry. This I completely understand, with the self publishing world taking off, more people can be published but there is a risk that the quality is not at the same standard as the traditional publishing route is known for, reducing the quality of the work that is being released. As Kaz mentioned, there is a lot of work that gets put out there that was rejected for a reason, and with people anxious to get their work out they don’t always do the extra work to make it right, people need to do themselves the best favour they can when it comes to getting their work out there.

Just before she finished up Kaz gave us some great advice on teen writing. She gave us ten excellent tips in making sure the work is authentic, and of good quality, including a few great insights we should remember. I would love to look at these points in more detail but I won’t do it here, but her top ten list is some excellent advice in how to make your young adult novel, any story really, work for you.

  1. See the world through the eyes of a character. Continually remind yourself who is telling the story.
  2. Don’t get distracted by sparkly things, that is don’t be distracted by a great new idea if it doesn’t fit within your story.
  3. Decisions made by characters must make emotional sense, most teen decisions won’t make logical sense but they must make emotional sense.
  4. Popular culture references can ground or not ground a story so you should be careful, and be wary of copyright issues.
  5. Swearing/not swearing, sex, drugs etc cannot be ignored. You can’t write for teens without tipping your hat to it.
  6. Pacing the novel is important.
  7. There is always hope. You don’t need to end with happily ever after but you always need hope.
  8. Know your genre. Read other books in your genre and notice themes, style etc to guide you.
  9. Love your audience. It’s hard to write in and hard to get published if you don’t like your audience. If you don’t like children and teens don’t write for them.
  10. Don’t limit yourself to writing for young adult.

If you ever get to see Kaz or any author at an event it is never a wasted moment. You can learn so much about writing and books, even if you are not interested in creating yourself it is always wonderful hearing from your favourite author and it lets them know they’re appreciated as well. It is truly a great time and yesterday was another one of those great events I was glad to have attended.

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7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Kerri/Kaz
    Jun 30, 2014 @ 18:48:45

    Amy, Amy Amy!!!!! How could I have done this! Can I say though that are a superb blogger? I loved, loved this and I’ve fixed it on Facebook. A thousand apologies and a thousand hugs headed your way.xxx

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  2. Meryl Harris
    Jun 30, 2014 @ 15:23:18

    I agree with all your thoughts, Amy (Jess?). It was good to meet you too. (I sat beside you) I gain from every author talk I attend and especially love hearing Kaz:).
    May I say her latest book, “Almost Dead” is unfolding as a fantastic read.
    Meryl.

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  3. Kerri/Kaz
    Jun 30, 2014 @ 13:24:13

    Wow – thank you so much Jess! Such a generous blog. I loved, loved the group at Wangi on Friday. It was such a warm, relaxed afternoon. Thank you for coming along and for your support. xxxxx

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  4. allvce
    Jun 29, 2014 @ 17:59:50

    I absolutely love those bits of advice!

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    • Amy
      Jul 01, 2014 @ 00:23:45

      Me too Allyce, they are really excellent. I could have easily started discussing those on their own but I would have been drifting off course just a bit. Maybe another time.

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