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Today I’m excited to have Andrea Pyros here to share what working at teen magazines has taught her about writing novels. Her debut MG contemporary MY YEAR OF EPIC ROCK released on September 2, 2014. Details of the giveaway are at the end of the post.

So here’s Andrea.

5 Things I Learned From Working at Teen Magazines 

I’ve had jobs at a whole bunch of teen magazines and websites, and I’ve learned so much from my amazing editors and those publications’ very vocal readers. In honor of Lisa, Christina, Richard (the aforementioned bosses) and all the teens, here are the key things I keep in mind when writing fiction, all thanks to them:

1. If something doesn’t feel quite right, it’s probably not working (aka trust your gut)
Ever work on a story or piece and there’s one area that isn’t quite flowing, but you think, “Oh, it’s fine, I’ll just send it on through? Maybe no one else will notice.”

Don’t do that.

If it’s not working for you, it won’t work for your readers, either. If you’re lucky, someone will catch it in the editing process and tell you to fix it, but if you’re not, it will get published and you’ll always look at that spot and beat yourself up for not changing it when you had the chance.

2. Everyone benefits from being edited
Do not fight over every comma, period or inside joke you’ve put in to your story. If someone is questioning what you wrote, think hard about his or her feedback. Are you being resistant to changing it because you feel strongly that it’s really, really, really good, or do you just hate to get any criticism? Take a deep breath. Your piece may be much stronger if you make that revision. And understand that all writers need a good editor—it’s not a mark of failure!

3. Cool it on the slang
When you read books from the good ole’ days, do they stand up or does the hip, happening lingo (I kid!) throw you off? Try to avoid too much trendy, of-the-moment slang. It will quickly date your piece and distract your readers from the real emotion and drama in your story. Check out S.E. Hinton or Judy Blume, two talented writers whose books are decades old but seem as fresh and smart as ever because those authors kept their language crisp, direct and clear.

4. Kids want to see themselves reflected in the pages (aka no kidding)
One of my bosses was an early adopter of putting real girls in our magazine—he felt that their quotes and
pics were as necessary and important as the ones from the celebs we were featuring. I loved that. That is not how magazines were when I was younger, where it was all about the famous and the only spot readers were welcome was in the letters to the editor section (maybe). Remember who you’re writing for. The audience wants to see themselves in those pages, not a fantasy version of what you think teens are doing and feeling.

5. Avoid preachiness
No one likes to be told what to do or what’s “wrong” and what’s “right.” I don’t like it, you don’t like it, and your readers think it’s annoying, too. I wrote weekly advice columns on body talk and relationships at YM.com for years, and I tried very hard to hear what my readers were asking and how they were feeling about a situation, which in turn informed how I’d respond. Sure, it’s absolutely reasonable to show the consequences of an action in your story. But refrain from “I told you so” (the worst!) or “If I were you…” (second worst). You’ll just turn people off.

Thanks for all the great advice, Andrea. You can find Andrea at www.andreapyros and on Twitter @AndreaPyros

Here’s a blurb of MY YEAR OF EPIC ROCK:

How to survive the seventh grade? Make some Noise!

A funny relatable tale about friendship, first crushes and…anaphylactic shock?
It’s the first day of seventh grade, and Nina already can’t wait for the year to be over. When her best friend ditches her to hang out with the popular new girl, Nina is forced to socialize with “her own kind”- banished to the peanut-free table with the other allergy outcasts.

Nina thinks she’s finally found her feet when she forms a band with the other allergic kids called the EpiPens. But then a whole new set of middle school minefields head her way- like how to win her BFF back and what would happen if she finally kisses her crush for the first time after he’s just eaten a PB&J sandwich.

This rollicking middle-grade debut from journalist Andrea Pyros rings with authenticity, and is a must read story for any tween who has ever struggled to find her place in middle school. Nina’s journey from shy follower to seventh grade rock star will encourage young readers to stand up for themselves, find their true friends, and make some noise!

About the Author: Andrea Pyros has worked as a magazine editor, celebrity interviewer, and cookie wrangler. A native of New York City, Andrea now lives in New York’s Hudson Valley with her husband and their two children, one of whom has food allergies and the other of whom refuses to eat eggs even though he can. You can visit her at www.andreapyros.com.

Andrea’s publisher Sourcebooks has generously offered a copy of MY YEAR OF EPIC ROCK for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through October 18th. I’ll announce the winner on October 20th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, please leave it in the comments.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. You must be 13 or older to enter. This is for US and Canada only.

Here’s what’s coming up:

On Monday I have a guest post by long time follower C. Lee McKenzie and a giveaway of her YA contemporary DOUBLE NEGATIVE.

Next Wednesday I'm giving away a number of recently released Harper Collins middle grade books that I know many of you would enjoy.

The following Monday after that I have a guest post by another long time follower and debut author Kim Van Sickler and a giveaway of her YA contemporary SNACHED IN GULLYBROOK.

Tuesday that week I’m participating in the Spooktacular Book Giveaway Blog Hop. I’ll have lots of great choices for you or an Amazon Gift Card if you don’t like what I picked.

And the Monday after that, I’ve got a huge celebration giveaway because we’ve reached over 4000 GFC followers.

And don’t forget Casey’s Thursday Agent Spotlights.

Hope to see you on Monday!


Gwen Gardner said...

Sounds like sound advice. Fun job, too! Congratulations on your book, Andrea!

Hi Natalie!

Christine Rains said...

Fantastic advice. Sometimes I read books with so much slang, I can't continue. Congratulations!

Jenni said...

This sounds like an amazing book! I have allergies and so does my son, so it's great to see a book that deals with them in a fun way. And I love Andrea's advice about making sure the reader is reflected in your story.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

That's wonderful the magazine featured real girls. That's the image young women need to see.

Crystal Collier said...

Solid advice.

Did I miss the announcement for the Spooktacular Giveaway? I'm off to check that out, and thanks for the heads up!

Kristin Lenz said...

One of my daughter's close friends has a severe nut allergy. I love the premise of this book and the funny spin on a very real and serious issue.

M Pax said...

I agree about those 'naggy' areas, Andrea. I know what you mean by those.

What an awesome book. Congrats!

jpetroroy said...

This sounds so fun -- and such great advice!

Cherie Reich said...

Fantastic tips, Andrea! What a great cover!

Donna K. Weaver said...

Great tips. Love the sound of the book too. Congrats.

Andrea said...

Thanks, everyone! So excited to be here! And I hope you enjoy MY YEAR OF EPIC ROCK.

Stina said...

The best part about #1 is that when they all get back telling you that, you can act all smug because you knew it all along. :)

Tammy Theriault said...

"cool it on the slang" Thank you for saying that. couldn't agree more!

Tyrean Martinson said...

Yes - "cool it on the slang" and yes, kids/teens want to read characters like themselves. Thank you. I couldn't agree more!
Natalie - 4,000 followers!!! Wow!!!

Christina Fiorelli said...

LOVE what she said about teens wanting to see themselves reflected in the story (and her editors ROCKED to have that philosophy in their magazine!!)

And I completely agree with her about not having much slang or preachiness!

What an awesome concept! :)

thank you :)

GFC Christina Kit. and email subscriber

ccfioriole at gmail dot com

Christina Fiorelli said...

I tweeted: https://twitter.com/christinafiorio/status/517571277503352832

GFC Christina Kit.

email subscriber ccfioriole at gmail dot com

Andrea said...

Thanks, Gwen!

Andrea said...

Oh, great, I hope he reads it and likes it!

Andrea said...

Thanks, Kristin. Let me know what she thinks of it!

Andrea said...

They did such a nice job w/the cover, I agree!

Andrea said...

Naggy is a good word -- perfect.

Wendy said...

Great post! The blurb for Andrea's books had me chuckling out loud. This is a great example of query writing without being a query writing post. I want to read this book!

Jessica Salyer said...

Sounds like a great book. Congrats on the followers!

Margo Berendsen said...

The EpiPens - that made me laugh :)

Danielle H. said...

Thanks for the straight forward advice. I love your style! Thanks for the chance to win and I will share on Facebook.

Rosi said...

Very good advice. We do need to learn to trust our guts. Thanks for the interesting post. Please let someone else win, though. I am just now reading the last book I won here.

Anonymous said...

Good advice - I teach and do some freelance editing and it's always hardest to work with people that can't take critiques. I'm never trying to hurt them, just improve things, but sometimes people just don't listen! :) Thanks for the giveaway - the book looks like such fun!

Unknown said...

Really great advice and the book sounds like just what my little sister needs to get into reading!!!!! Thanks for the chance to win and love the cover:)

DMS said...

Sounds like a great book. The advice is excellent. I especially like the one about slang. :) So true! Thanks for sharing! :)

Anonymous said...

Wonderful list. I agree with it both as a teacher and as a writer.

Congrats to Andrea on her release.

Andrea Mack said...

Thanks for the writing tips! Your book sounds like a lot of fun!

cleemckenzie said...

"Everyone benefits from being edited." How true that is. Love the idea for her book. Wish her tons of good luck.

Jocelyn Rish said...

Great tips from Andrea. And her book sounds like so much fun. I know allergies are very serious, but it makes me giggle thinking of a table of allergy outcasts and then them forming a band.

Cynthia said...

Congratulations to Andrea on her new book!

Carrie Butler said...

I LOVE that cover! :D