Saturday, July 4, 2015

Guest Post: Amanda Clay

Guest Post
When I first started on this journey, I had NO idea what I was doing. I went to meetings and conferences and mingled with anyone who had so much as sent their first query letter, clinging to every word of advice like a life preserver. There was so much to learn about plotting and structure and character arcs! But I also quickly learned that there were so many rules on what you CAN’T do—especially when it comes to YA. It was rather disparaging. I had always thought of writing as freedom to go carte blanche with whatever crazy idea came pouring out of my head. Alas, the masses told me differently…
Only write YA in first person, no swearing, no drugs, no sex (for some reason we’d rather see teens kill each other than engage in acts of love, sigh). At first I lived by every word—what did I know? Those people were right—to a point. There are certain things you need to master to craft a great story—but that has to do with techniques. One should never stop learning and improving their craft. But content is an entirely different beast. As I started revising my manuscript to make it fit the conventional YA mold, it just felt wrong. I started forcing my characters to be something they weren’t. Benton is foul-mouthed, girl-obsessed and hot-headed. Trying to clean him up to appease school librarians and parents just wasn’t working. I wrote in third person POV and jumped to different characters—because the story just needed to be seen from many perspectives. 
People were also confused about my genre—in all honesty it is hard to categorize it at the micro-level. It’s been called historical, contemporary, dystopian, fantasy, action adventure and romantic suspense!  Hey, call it whatever you want. I just call it YA fiction. But that bothered some agents, editors and beta readers. Conversations went something like this: So it’s about a princess? Yep. But it’s not fantasy? Nope, no magic. But it’s a fictional country? Yep. But it’s modern day? Basically. That’s never going to sell…
It just hit the best seller in YA historical fiction, action adventure and dystopian! Happy dance.

My point here is that if you simply follow a formula of “supposed tos,” it’s just following a recipe. It’s not genuine and it’s not being true to your characters. Don’t be afraid to step outside the box and break the rules. Sure, many people like cookie-cutter romance novels with predictable story arcs and happy endings. That’s fine—it’s the same reason people love Olive Garden and Starbucks. If that’s what you truly enjoy writing, go for it. But the world of publishing is changing. The freedom of indie publishing has given us endless horizons of creative liberty. Push the limits on what you’re supposed to do—challenge the norm! Breaking the rules can be terrifying—but it might be exactly what your book needs.

The once prosperous European kingdom of Arelanda has been plagued with poverty and corruption since the failed rebellion tore it apart. Now, rebels stir again in the capital’s underbelly, vowing to depose the monarchy and overturn the unjust government.

Seventeen-year-old Rogan Elwood, son of a rebel leader executed for treason after the first rebellion, has borne a tainted legacy his entire life. As he is pulled deeper into conflict, Rogan must face his calling in the future of the rebel cause—waging his want for peace against his desire for vengeance. Everything changes when he falls for Elyra—beautiful, idealistic and determined to bring Arelanda a better future. She also just happens to be next in line to the throne—if the corrupt Minister General doesn’t beat her to it.

Caught in the midst of a budding civil war and surrounded by enemies on every side, Elyra and Rogan must fight to save themselves and their country. 

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Amanda always wanted to be a writer. Always, always, always since she could first decipher Dr. Seus. Her first story went something like, “Once upon a time, there was a cat and a dog. They were friends. The end.” It was a good start but she likes to think she’s progressed.
She finished her first book when she was 10, the second when she was 15. They were both…um…less than New York Times winning. But hey, no one makes the major leagues their first little league season.
In high school she entertained her classmates by writing custom short stories about them during study hall (or detention—she got that a lot). She was once kicked out of economics class for circulating steamy short stories. Oops.
She spent her undergraduate years honing her craft as an English and Journalism major, writing for literary magazines and the school newspaper. In her spare time she wrote fiction stories. All kinds of stories. While she worked up the courage and discipline to actually finish novel she actually felt she could share with the world, she tried her hand as a journalist. Then a PR writer. Then an HR employee communications writer. Then she decided she would just be a professor and teach other people to write. So she went back to graduate school to get a Master’s degree in Mass Communications. As she placed the final period on her 400-page thesis, she had an epiphany. She had just researched and written a 400 PAGE MANUSCRIPT. If she had it in her to do that, She could write a book.
So she did…
These days she hangs her hat in Berkeley, CA. When she’s not staring at a computer screen, she spends most of her spare time plotting world adventures, wine tasting, hiking, eating, running, traveling, playing kickball (yes she’s an adult), and reading…lots of reading.

Disclosure: this post contains links to an affiliate program (Amazon), for which I receive a few cents if you make purchases. 

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