WRITES: My Top Five Resources for Aspiring YA Writers

Saturday, 26 October 2013

I've been thinking about my writing journey a lot this week - where I've come from and where I want to go, what's helped and what's hindered. I've used many different resources to reach the place I'm at right now - websites, forums, paid membership of writing clubs, books, critique groups, consultancies - and it's been interesting to evaluate these. Most have been worthwhile, but which ones would I recommend to YA writers setting out on their own path? Here are my top five:

Absolute Write Water Cooler
I learned so much from this international forum as a novice author and I continue to do so. There's so much advice on the site that it's impossible to absorb it quickly so it's best to focus on the sections that suit you. The Young Adult area is a great place to learn about trends and what's hot right now. And if you're at the stage where you need some feedback on your work or query, you can post on the Share Your Work (SYW) zone (note that you have to log in and participate on the forum at least 50 times before being able to do this). If you're at submission stage, then the Bewares, Recommendations & Background Check and Ask the Agent forums are invaluable. There are also pages and pages of writing tips, links to blogs and general bookish chatter. Definitely one to bookmark.

SCBWI (The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators)
You've probably come across SCBWI if you've been writing YA fiction for a while, but what is it? In the society's own words it's 'the only professional organization specifically for those individuals writing and illustrating for children and young adults in the fields of children’s literature, magazines, film, television, and multimedia.'

It took me a while to summon up the courage to join. I was unagented, unpublished and pretty clueless so why would they want to admit someone like me? Turns out it's one of the best things I did to advance my writing. SCBWI is a really inclusive organisation, it wants its members to succeed - the Undiscovered Voices competition is just one example of how it supports aspiring authors. There's also the yearly conference, the agents party and online critique groups, not to mention the local networks and regular events attended by industry professionals. It's a great way to improve your work while making friends at the same time.

YA Highway
This blog celebrates all things YA. Hosted by a group of travel-loving YA writers (mainly US-based), it offers writing prompts, inspirational articles and tips. My favourite post is the weekly Field Trip Friday, a round-up of YA-related news and oddities. I also love the Publishing Road Map, which links to themed resources across the blogosphere.

Words & Pictures
OK, so maybe I'm slightly biased here, but I wish that this blog had existed when I'd first started out. Aimed at UK writers and illustrators, there's a new post every day of the week, but YA authors will find Monday and Wednesday's entries the most useful. The monthly Ask an Agent and Ask a Publisher Q&As offer a great insight into the British publishing industry. In addition to these, there is a regular Agent Confidential spot which profiles individual literary agents, their personal tastes and wishlists.

The Library
An obvious choice, but not one that I considered when I started out. Instead, I bought a ton of books on writing, many of which are still gathering dust on my shelves. Not because they're bad or poorly written, but because they didn't resonate with me. Now I borrow them from the library instead (most libraries will order in titles for you for a small fee), and only buy them if I know that I'll use them regularly.

So that's my top five. What are yours?

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