LUW Conference – Notes Part 2

Loads of notes to go, so be prepared for tips, tips, and MOARRR tips!


POV is the lens through which your story is being told. It’s the battery of the story, it’s what drives the story in the first place. POV can make or break a story. Let’s start with Harry Potter (because as Kate and I know, Harry Potter is the best example for everything).

Why is Harry the POV character? How does Harry provide the right lens? How does Harry provide the battery? With Harry we have an outsider so it seems natural for Harry to have things explained to him—which in turn are explained to us. If it was the POV of, say, Ron Weasley, he wouldn’t wonder about the magic of his world because he grew up with it.

Let’s go over the types of POVs:

FIRST PERSON. It is the most common in youth fiction. But it can be easily flubbed. Some of the pros are you can be right in the character’s head and feel what they feel. But some of the cons are your story is limited in its perspective. Even though first person is common in youth fiction, don’t automatically default to it. Take time to weigh all the options and decide whether this perspective is actually best for your story.

But before writing in in first person, learn how to do 3rd person well FIRST!

SECOND PERSON. Unless you want to continue on writing some Choose Your Own Adventure books, don’t. Just don’t.

THIRD PERSON (omniscient).  In this POV, the narrator can see all things at all times. It commonly moves between heads. The master narrator knows all.

WARNING: Today’s readers aren’t familiar with it. Which means, especially for newer writers, this is a very dangerous road to tread down. Avoid omniscient unless: 1) You were born by 1920, 2) You have the other POVs down, 3) You have a publishing track record and fan base will stick with you, 4) Your last name is Sanderson (as in Brandon Sanderson).

NOTE: Most new writers mistake third person omniscient for the ability to headhop. This is NOT third person omniscient. For a good example of TPO, read Watership Down.

THIRD PERSON (limited). You are in one character’s head at a time. You can vary it by changing how close the mental camera is. It is the most common POV today. When in doubt, use third person limited.

Okay, you’ve chosen third person limited, but exactly how many characters can you narrate from? How many is too many? A good rule of thumb is just two or three but not more than four at the max. The reason for this is your reader’s need someone to empathize with and root for. If you have too many characters they need to get to know they won’t be able to build up a connection with any of them and won’t have any interest in the story overall.

When picking the right POV for the story or the scene ask yourself: who has the most to lose in this story/scene?


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League of Utah Writers Conference

Over the weekend I attended the League of Utah Writers Conference. We have quite a few authors out here in Utah, many of them who were members of the League or attended some of our Utah conferences before getting published (and still come back as visitors).

I decided to attend this year and lucky for all of you, I took notes which I will now share. So put on a lanyard, go into a crowded hotel with your laptop and pretend your right there with me.


This was basically a grammar and other tips session. I guess in previous years they did a boot camp where you get to work on your pages. While I thought much of the information I received was helpful, I still wish it had been the boot camp. If you already have a strong grasp of grammar and the industry, I would skip things like this at your own conferences. But if you can do a boot camp on your work, sign up for it. Super helpful (I’ve done a few in the past). And now onto the notes.


Definition of genre:
1. A loose set of criteria for a category of composition. Genre can be determined by literary technique, tone, content, or even (as in the case of fiction) length.
2. Genre is often used for marketing purposes

Genre in Fiction. There are two major groupings: realism and fantasy. Realism is stories that could have really happened (Like The Help). Fantasy is stories not possible in the real world, and they often follow the quest pattern. Of course there is genre blending these days, but it’s still important to know where your story lies in genre.

Themes in Fiction/Non-Fiction.

  • growing up/coming of age
  • individual
  • man vs. man
  • man vs. nature
  • man vs society
  • life, alienation, death
  • relationships
  • peer relationships
  • family relationships

Target Audience. Know your audience. These serve as guides for approximately how many pages your story should be, especially if you’re interested in traditional publishing. These are based on manuscripts in the traditional format of Times New Roman 12 point font, double spaced with 1″ margins.

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SMC: Writing YA Novels Kids Can’t Put Down

Storymaker notes continue, this time with Janette Rallison (who also writes as CJ Hill). A night of only 5 hours of sleep was catching up to me at this point, but I think I got the meat of what she was saying.


Remember that kids tend to read up. Write about issues that teens care about. Many of these include fitting in, growing up, and dating. But whatever the issue is, make it important to the teen. Keep the novel fast-moving. Don’t put in too much beautiful description or you’ll bore your audience. Often YA novels will end up being somewhere between 200 and 300 pages. Write it in a voice teens can relate to.


  1. Your MC should want something they don’t already have.
  2. Their goal should be something worthy.
  3. The best goals are important and urgent.
  4. Goals don’t always have to be achieved. (aka they realize something they want more along the way)
  5. All the main characters in your novel should have goals. (realistic support characters will be doing things for their own reasons and should)


  1. Don’t let your character wander around the story without motivation.
  2. Don’t make your character an idiot. (Seems obvious, but don’t have them doing things that your readers will scream is stupid at the book.)
  3. Characters should have both internal and external motivation and goals.

Revenge could have been a great motivation for Obi-wan in Eps 2 & 3. Too bad they killed off Darth Maul in the same scene…


  1. Conflict is two dogs & one bone. (They want something someone else wants just as badly).
  2. Conflict is not the same as arguing.
  3. Any conflict that can be cleared up with a 2 minute frank conversation between characters is not a conflict.
  4. Your characters should come to every scene with a goal and conflict.


Have a strong antagonist, but realize that the antagonist doesn’t always have to be a villain. And when it comes to YA novels, you can’t have an adult solve the teen’s problem. That’s often why you’ll find YA stories about orphans (Harry Potter) or who have useless parent(s) (Hunger Games).

The reader needs to know the dire consequences that will befall the main character if he/she does not reach his/her goal. Otherwise they won’t feel the tension in what they’re reading and may disengage.

And as Dwight Swain says each story should have a problem, character, goal, antagonist, and disaster. Write down each of these categories and make sure you can define each of these when it comes to your novel.

Any tips you would add? Have you found places where you were ruining motivation when you could have been using it? What do you do to make sure you give your characters motivation and conflict in every scene?

One more thing on ruining motivation. In earlier iterations of my novel, I had a main character who started as a great conflicting force for my MC that essentially disappeared for the rest of the book after being in the first few chapters. It took me several rewrites to realize I was killing some excellent motivation for my MC. Now that character doesn’t disappear and I think things are much improved. Scour your own novel and make sure you’re not killing off good conflict before it comes to grand fruition.

WFC – Clint Johnson Panel

Who is Clint Johnson? He’s the author of Green Dragon Codex and a mighty fine writing mentor. I’d heard about him through my writer’s group via other writers who had used his services and was pleased to learn I would be in his critique group.

I wasn’t sorry. I got a lot of good feedback, as did the other members of our group. Clint is the kind of critiquer who tells you like it is, but in a way that inspires you to go write that next better draft. So after all that I thought, why not attend his forum?

It was supposed to be about education and teaching the right way so kids became more engaged in what they were learning. But because we were a small group, he offered to do either his presentation or talk shop. In the end we opted for a quick presentation and talk shop afterward.

And this is the unfortunate part, where technology became a bane for me. Remember that old advice, save and save often? That I did not do. So I lost a good portion of the notes I took, but I’ll do my best to present the parts I do remember back up to where notes began again. (Worst feeling ever…)


He said figure out why you’re writing and the goals for writing. Remember that what your character notices or how they describe things reveals a lot about that character without having to “tell” your audience anything. He used an example of a woman walking into the room and the character describes her shoes. What kind of person immediately focuses on shoes? He said now the same woman walks into the room, but the character notices cleavage instead or other physical characteristics instead.

The point being, whatever your character notices or whatever you describe should be conveying something about the character or the story.

Craft can be learned, if you’re willing to work and put in the effort, you can write publishable stories. Discouragement is a distortion and a lie.


Writing is an emotional thing. We are conveying emotion through story. That’s what readers ultimately come for, to experience some emotion-filled story.

Did Anakin feel empowered by Obi-wan’s feedback?

When you get feedback, ask yourself, is it empowering or not? I think what he means is, does the feedback give you a roadmap to something better or does it just tear you down. (Although I should note we shouldn’t assume our hurt feelings means poor feedback.)

Just remember that publishing is not fair. Don’t think that somebody is the end all be all. Nobody has the capacity to tell you that you’re a bad writer.

The way you describe things can give some emotion. The things you don’t say does that too. And then there are the things you think reveals it. If you combine that all and it doesn’t feel heavy-handed, you’ve got it (meaning good writing or a good scene/story).

You can have a person say “I love you” and actually mean “I hate you” or vice versa. We never use the words of these emotion, we just use elements of the story that put all of that into our minds. An emotional word is a flag because you haven’t figured out how to show that emotion. Emotion is usually the thing that comes last.

You’re in good company if you struggle with that. It takes a lot of practice, a lot of trial and error. You know what it feels like.


I really appreciated this idea of using world description as a way to reveal your character or how they are feeling without saying: Jane was scared or the like. Show us that Jane is scared. Write it in a way that we can come to no other conclusion but that Jane is scared.

What did you think? Any tidbits you agree with? Any you would add?

More notes coming tomorrow. See you then!

WFC Notes: YA Panel

These are notes from the second panel I attended at the Writing For Charity conference, the Young Adult Panel. Up front we had Kristen Chandler (Wolves, Boys, and Other Things That Might Kill Me) as the moderator, with Shannon Hale (Austenland) and Carol Lynch Williams (The Chosen One).

Kristen asked some questions as well as pulling questions from the audience. Here’s what our ladies had to say. I’ll put an SH for Shannon Hale, CW for Carol Lynch Williams, and KC for Kristen Chandler according to answers.


SH – I think the thing is that we couldn’t do anything else. I spent a few years trying other things. I really wanted to know, is there anything else I could do? When I exhausted everything—and I mean everything—I realized for me the answer was being a writer.


SH – I’ve done all categories. I write the story I want to write and I don’t decide what the age group will be and then someone tells me what it is.

CW – My characters aren’t much older than 14, but I tend to write it in such a way that it reads up.

SH – By the way, if you’re ever thinking, Man, I could really do with a full on hard, girl cry, read The Chosen One (Carol’s book).

KC – YA offers something special, it offers voice. We should think about our character’s voices and focus on voice.

SH – When I was writing the Goose Girl, I was writing a story to please me. I don’t write for a certain age groups, I write a story that pleases me and figure out which market it’s for afterward.

CW – We have the most responsibility of any genre to make sure we’re telling truths, even if it’s sometimes ugly or beautiful. It’s a huge responsibility.

SH – In YA you can tell the truth, whatever that may be.

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