On Writing Family and Platonic Relationships

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Sometimes, when writing a book with a romantic subplot, it can be easy to forget about other relationships. From acquaintances, to friends, to family, we all have some kind of relationship network, however large or small, and primarily good or bad it may be.

But especially in YA where romance tends to nearly always be present and family is often—er—killed off, it's easy to write yourself into a situation where the protagonist and love interest are the only people of importance in each other's lives.

And while that can sometimes work in a story, let's be honest—most people's circle of relationships is way more complicated than that.

In YA, platonic relationships that stay platonic are somewhat uncommon, and family relationships tend to go one of two ways: either everyone pretty much gets along (save for the occasional sibling bickering), or there isn't much family in the story at all. (There are exceptions of course, but, you know, generally speaking.)

In my own writing, I've been trying to challenge myself to write dynamic relationships, especially with family members. In Beyond the Red that mostly comes out in sibling relationships, but in one project in particular I'm working on I've been trying to focus more on a dysfunctional family unit and the complicated relationships therein. In part because I think there's still plenty of room for that in YA, and in part because to be frank, I have very complicated family relationships myself.

To the point, platonic relationships—whether through family, friends, or acquaintances—are a pretty huge part of everyone's lives, and certainly a big part of most teens' lives. While it's easy to let a romance overshadow other relationships in a character's life, it can be good to stop and consider what other people are important in your protagonist's life—and how those characters can help develop the plot and your protagonist along the way.

What are some of your favorite platonic and family relationships in YA?

Twitter-sized bite:
Romances aren't the only important fictional relationships. @Ava_Jae talks writing platonic & family relationships. (Click to tweet)

Fake Writers Don't Exist

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If you've been in the online writing community for any extended period of time, chances are likely you've come across who says or implies you must do something to be a real writer, or if you aren't writing a certain way, it isn't real writing. Sometimes the implication is accidental and the writer will clarify and apologize; sometimes it wasn't and they'll double down when called out.

Over the weekend we had another incident along those lines, when a pretty well-known author tweeted that writing = pen and paper. Some disabled writers, myself included, talked about why the implication that writing on your computer or phone, etc. isn't real writing is problematic and damaging, especially to the disabled community. But the whole incident got me thinking about this false set up of Real vs Fake writers.

So let me reiterate the title of this post: fake writers don't exist. It isn't a thing. And neither is fake writing.

Writing is writing, whether you put words down with pencil and paper, a keyboard, dictate, tapped on your phone, or some other way—and if you write, you're a writer. It doesn't matter if you started this morning, or three years ago, or three decades ago; it doesn't matter if you've been published; it doesn't even matter if you want to be published. The only requirement to calling yourself a writer is to write. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

Twitter-sized bites:
How do you know if you're a real writer? @Ava_Jae says the answer is simple. (Click to tweet
Author @Ava_Jae talks about why "fake" writing and writers don't exist. (Click to tweet)

Vlog: On Breaking Writing Rules

I share a lot of writing rules and strategies both here and on my blog, Writability. But does every writing rule need to be followed? And what if a writing strategy doesn't work for you? Today I'm talking about exceptions and breaking the rules.


What do you think? Have you broken any writing rules in a way that worked? Have any of your favorite books? 

Twitter-sized bite: 
Does every writing rule need to be followed? Author @Ava_Jae vlogs about exceptions. #writetip (Click to tweet)

Fixing the First Page Winner #33!

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Yet another quick pre-post post to announce the winner of the thirty-third fixing the first page feature giveaway!


And the thirty-third winner is…


Hooray! Congratulations, Eleni!

Thanks again to all you lovely entrants! If you didn't win, as always, there will be another fixing the first page giveaway in April, so keep an eye out!

Discussion: How Do You Feel About Hyped Books?

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For the most part, I've generally had good experiences with hyped books. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, and Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, for example, were all pretty intensely hyped books that completely lived up to the hype for me.

But there have also been more than a handful of hyped books that I was cautiously interested in—or even very interested in—until early reviews came out, revealing problematic elements or disappointing things that made me remove the book from my TBR. Many have gone on to continue to be successful, but the early reviews made me pause and think twice before picking them up—for which I'm glad.

But there is always the chance, of course, that the massive hype surrounding a book will inflate expectations so much that it'll be hard for the book to live up to it. I think the closest experience I've had with that is a YA book I was really looking forward to for a specific aspect of representation—until a review came out with really troubling information and I pulled the book from my TBR. But I think, in most cases, I've been able to avoid too much disappointment in that area by either only pre-ordering the books if it's from an author I've loved before or if people I trust have said they read and loved an early copy of the book. By being somewhat cautious in that sense, I've been able to cut down on some reading experiences I wouldn't have enjoyed otherwise.

So I suppose, in a sense, the same source of (much of the) hype—social media—can also serve as a buffer for disappointment if you follow the right people. So for me, when I see a book getting hyped and I see people I trust giving it a thumbs up I can pretty safely pre-order without worry of disappointment. And it's worked well so far.

How do you feel about hyped books?

Twitter-sized bite: 
How do you feel about hyped books? Join the discussion on @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet

Discussion: How Many Projects Do You Work On Simultaneously?

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Once upon a time, I only worked on one project at a time. That's still my preferred method of working—I like to be able to focus on a single project and divert all my energy into that project until it's done, a method that's often allowed me to finish both first drafts and thorough revisions relatively quickly.

Then I started getting published and joined the world of deadlines I didn't set for myself.

Right now I have, oh, five projects simmering at once,  counting a half-plotted project I have to start drafting this summer on a not self-imposed deadline. One has been thoroughly revised and is waiting for external feedback, one has been partially revised but had to be set aside for a deadline project, one is a short (for now) deadline project, and one is my 2016 NaNo novel which...I'll get to when I get to. Two are Sci-Fi, two are Fantasy, one is a Thriller—all are YA. Which is to say I've been keeping really busy.

Though it's been interesting to transition from one project to juggling several in different stages at a time, in a way it's also been encouraging because I have plenty to work on—which has helped dispel the fear of "what if this is the last book idea I ever come up with?" And it's pretty cool knowing I've got several real, on-the-page, ready-to-work on projects, some of which (all of which?) may one day be published.

Working on many projects simultaneously has been a lot of work, and sometimes it feels like the workload will never end (which is why breaks are so important!), but it's been gratifying so far. This may very well be how my writing career continues for the foreseeable future, and I am very okay with that.

How many projects do you work on at once? 

Twitter-sized bite: 
How many projects do you work on at once? Join the discussion on @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet)

Fixing the First Page Giveaway #33!

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It's that time once again! We're halfway through the month (I know, right?), so it's time for the thirty-third Fixing the First Page feature.

For those who’ve missed before, the Fixing the First Page features is a public first 250 word critique. Using the lovely rafflecopter widget, anyone interested in winning a public (as in, featured in a post on this blog) first page critique can enter.

For an example of what this critique will look like, here's the last Fixing the First Page post.


  • ONLY the first 250 words will be critiqued (up to finishing the sentence). If you win and send me more, I will crop it myself. No exceptions.

  • ONLY the first page. I don’t want 250 random words from your manuscript, or from chapter 3. If you win the critique and send me anything other than the first 250 words of your manuscript, I will choose someone else.

  • I will actually critique it. Here. On the blog. I will say things as nicely as I can, but I do tend to be a little blunt. If you’re not sure you can handle a public critique, then you may want to take some time to think about it before you enter.

  • Genre restrictions. I'm most experienced with YA & NA, but I will still accept MG and Adult. HOWEVER. If your first page has any erotic content on it, I ask that you don’t enter. I want to be able to post the critique and the first 250 in its entirety without making anyone uncomfortable, and if you win and you enter a page with erotic content, I will choose someone else.

  • You must have your first page ready. Should you win, you need to be able to submit your first page within 48 hours of my contacting you to let you know you won. If 48 hours pass and I haven’t heard from you, again, I will choose someone else.

  • You’ll get the most out of this if it isn’t a first draft. Obviously, I have no way of knowing if you’re handing me a first draft (though I will probably suspect because it’s usually not that difficult to tell). I won’t refuse your page if it’s a first draft, but you should know that this critique will likely be of more use if you’ve already had your betas/CPs look over it. Why? Because if you don’t, the critique I give you will probably contain a lot of notes that your betas & CPs could have/would have told you.

  • There will not be a round 2 (unless you win again in a future contest). I hate to have to say this, but if you win a critique, it’s NOT an invitation to send me a bunch of your revisions. I wish I had the time available to be able to look at revisions, but sadly, I don’t. If you try to break this rule, I will nicely say no, and also remember to choose someone else should you win a second contest. Which would make me sad. :(

So that’s it! If you’re okay with all of the above and would like to enter to be the thirty-first public critique on Writability, do the thing with the rafflecopter widget below. You have until Sunday, March 19th at 11:59 PM EST to enter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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