Worth sharing YA MS with teens?

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EvelynEhrlich
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Worth sharing YA MS with teens?

Post by EvelynEhrlich » February 14th, 2010, 12:33 am

For anyone out there writing YA, have you shared (or do you plan to share) your manuscript with teenagers for feedback? If so, what kind of feedback are you looking for from them, besides the obvious question of whether they liked it or not? And how/where do you find these teen readers (friends' kids? or do you post Wanted ads on Craigslist or facebook or something?) I see the utility of having a few readers from your target market read the MS, but at the same time, they most likely will not offer any substantive advice. Thoughts on this?

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polymath
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Re: Worth sharing YA MS with teens?

Post by polymath » February 14th, 2010, 1:07 am

I have a few young adults on my reading panel. They are gems in that they're not a caught up in the writing culture emphasis on conventional writing wisdoms. They're blunt in a naive way that's both endearing and insightful, worth their weight in gold for their open-minded reading approach and trusting nature. Their comments are succinct and on target, neither indifferent nor overtreated, like, I couldn't get into it, it doesn't feel finished to me, and other comments along those lines, and then there's the other side, I really liked the main character, or another character who they thought the story is about, or the time or place of the story, or I wanted the hero to succeed and wasn't sure he would until the story climaxed. One comment was especially helpful, I thought right away that the main character was kind of weird. I'm glad, because that made the story more interesting to read and the ending more tragic.

They joined my panel as young relations who have similar creative interests, students looking for insight into literature or writing coursework they're doing, or as offspring of other acquaintances who are also on my reading panel. They're open for more than middle grade or young adult literature. They enjoy the respect and approval and encouragement of peer-to-peer oriented correspondence with older adults who aren't their guardians, especially because I don't presume a personal life-guidance or advice role. I respect their parents' limitations and don't send them inappropriate material, but the parents have passed on to them some material I withheld out of an abundance of caution. My panels' correspondence is all online. What a treasure.
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jkmcdonnell
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Re: Worth sharing YA MS with teens?

Post by jkmcdonnell » February 14th, 2010, 7:43 am

polymath wrote:My panels' correspondence is all online. What a treasure.
Do you mind sharing the details for this group? I'd be interested in finding out more.

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polymath
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Re: Worth sharing YA MS with teens?

Post by polymath » February 14th, 2010, 10:44 am

It's a private panel formed as much by happenstance chance as social networking. By online I should have said contacts by word of mouth from fellow passionate readers and correspondence by e-mail. I'm the writer, they're readers who like to be more involved in the process. I also have a reader-writer panel for those kinds of eyes on the page.

It's a process of grooming getting started and continuing careful attention to not spoiling it. I ask if someone I correspond with is interested in reading a story and say comments are welcome but no strings attached. If one is interested, I send it on. If one is not, I thank whoever for their consideration and move on. Once one has read, and commented or not, I thank whoever, remark on their helpfulness and insight, paying compliments for salient points made. Negativity on my part is strictly avoided. I was astonished from the start that the readers' panel generally goes to greater efforts to make positive comments that are more helpful than the prone to fault finding critiques from the reader-writer panel. The readers' panel and the reader-writer panel often say the same things in different lights.
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E McD
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Re: Worth sharing YA MS with teens?

Post by E McD » February 14th, 2010, 3:07 pm

I am a secondary English teacher, so I am surrounded daily by the very people for which I write. Good thing, too. When there is down time in class, I read to them and they give me feedback. One of the reasons I feel really confident about my WIP is that they are begging for new chapters and come to school with pictures they've drawn of the world I created. I think it keeps my characters' voices authentic, too. I know how kids talk, what they're talking about, and what most of them are willing to believe. I definitely recommend finding some kids! :)
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EvelynEhrlich
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Re: Worth sharing YA MS with teens?

Post by EvelynEhrlich » February 14th, 2010, 10:18 pm

Thanks, Emily and polymath! This is very helpful. I'll start looking for some teen readers now so that I can have them read and comment on my MS simultaneously with my second beta round.

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hannah_dreamergirl_3
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Re: Worth sharing YA MS with teens?

Post by hannah_dreamergirl_3 » February 16th, 2010, 12:15 pm

I'm 16 and I know it's probably different coming from me because of my age, but I personally like to get opinions from a mixture of ages. I tend to be writing for my own age and have one particular friend who I always give chapters that are completely raw, those first bursts of inspiration. I have only ever finished one complete manuscript and I only let my dad read it because I realised it just wasn't that good soon after - I was 12 at the time though!
I think once I'm finished what I'm writing at the minute, I will get most of my friends to read, those who like reading anyways, because I don't want it to be a chore! lol
I think it's really important to get teens to read books aimed at teens, who knows better whats working?
:-)

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Re: Worth sharing YA MS with teens?

Post by kristi » February 16th, 2010, 1:07 pm

The one piece missing from my feedback was that of an actual teenager. When a dad at my son's school found out that I write, he volunteered his teenage daughter to be a beta reader. She was excited about it as reads a lot of urban fantasy which is my genre. I'll have it ready for her in a week or so and can not wait for her feedback. Teens are so honest in their opinions and I think you should definitely have beta readers in your target audience age group. It's invaluable to have critique group members read your work and I LOVE my groups -- but they're grown women. I'm happy to have additional insight from a teen reader too.

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Re: Worth sharing YA MS with teens?

Post by Nick » February 16th, 2010, 3:07 pm

Depending upon how young of a target audience you're going for, I'd be willing to beta read for YA people. Just don't expect me to keep to any sort of time table. Between school, my own writing, and life things are a bit busy, and on top of that I like to do things slowly. Just figured I'd put that out there. And if I recall correctly there are other teens about these forums, so it may well be worth hitting them up.

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hannah_dreamergirl_3
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Re: Worth sharing YA MS with teens?

Post by hannah_dreamergirl_3 » February 16th, 2010, 5:25 pm

Thats a good idea, i would love to read work, but again I would need plenty time what with coursework, exams and life in general!
Check out my new blog at, http://hannahbullimore.wordpress.com

'Good writing is to evoke sensation in the reader, not the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon'

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victoria
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Re: Worth sharing YA MS with teens?

Post by victoria » February 16th, 2010, 5:29 pm

I think you guys are about to be flooded with requests - watch out ;)
http://victoriapantazis.blogspot.com
Sharing my research on how teens read and applying it to the process of writing.

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hannah_dreamergirl_3
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Re: Worth sharing YA MS with teens?

Post by hannah_dreamergirl_3 » February 17th, 2010, 5:08 am

Haha, well its good experience, I'm thinking about, as well as wanting to be a novelist, one day being a lit agent, so reading other peoples work critically has to be a good thing, instead of just reading for pleasure :)
Check out my new blog at, http://hannahbullimore.wordpress.com

'Good writing is to evoke sensation in the reader, not the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon'

ELDoctorow

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shadow
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Re: Worth sharing YA MS with teens?

Post by shadow » February 17th, 2010, 12:23 pm

Well I am a teenager so... I write from my point of view which many tent to tell me is more mature but... Lets just say that I don't let my teenage friends read it.
All things writing, visit my blog http://arielemerald.blogspot.com/

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Mel Skinner
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Re: Worth sharing YA MS with teens?

Post by Mel Skinner » February 21st, 2010, 5:31 am

For anyone out there writing YA, have you shared (or do you plan to share) your manuscript with teenagers for feedback?
I have. In fact, I designed, orchestrated, and completed a Test Group that included a substantial percentage of teenage readers. Since the manuscript for the Test Group was YA sci-fi, I wanted to know what my target audience had to say. Teens make up a good part of that audience.
If so, what kind of feedback are you looking for from them, besides the obvious question of whether they liked it or not?
The overall reaction became my initial concern. After that, I looked for things like...pacing/keeping their attention, identification with the characters, the pull of the romantic subplot, etc. The method behind the group itself allowed me to analyze all of the research at the end and form conclusions to aid me in the rewriting or editing. Not everyone in the group happened to be a teen and not every teen gave me a lot to learn from. On the other hand, I did learn at least a little bit from every teen--a whole lot from a few--and a great deal from the group as a whole.
And how/where do you find these teen readers (friends' kids? or do you post Wanted ads on Craigslist or facebook or something?)
Finding readers is the most difficult aspect, for me. I'm not a naturally social creature, but I am determined. So, for example, I spent some of my time attending a book club for a popular teen novel series to meet readers. Also, I went to midnight release parties and did some volunteer work. I write very often in the cafe of a B&N where I happen to meet a lot of people, and a lot of young booksellers. People would recommend their younger siblings. Basically, any opportunity I could/can find, I am there.

I have added the job of recruiter to my titles. I'm always looking for readers, and I don't pester anyone. Simply put, I make inquiries correctly and appropriately, at the right places, to the right people. Usually, I recruit twice as many readers as I have slots because half of them will drop out when the time rolls around--life simply gets in the way. And I try to find readers I can keep at a certain distance. The only readers who get carried over into the new group are those who show guts and insight.

Wanted ads, craigslist, and Facebook, are not options I would consider at this time.
they most likely will not offer any substantive advice. Thoughts on this?
Teens offer a form of substantial advice that is unique to them and quite valuable to the writer of YA. We are taught to understand, to know the market and genre we write in. We are supposed to try to empathize with our audience. Teens are obviously a large part of YA.

When they read your manuscript and offer even a few lines of their thoughts, it takes guts to put themselves out there. Maybe the less "vocal" ones will simply say, "boring," or that "she would have been so much meaner in my school," or "I wouldn't say that"... Maybe they'll even say, "Meh, it's okay here." So I know when I see them trying to make their point to me, they think it's really important. If it wasn’t, they wouldn’t try.

If it's important to them, it's something the writer should pay attention to. So I will go back to look at the section again, and try to think about it from their POV. Sometimes, it makes a huge difference in pacing, a character's reaction, the realism of speech, etc. Adults tend to take a different approach. Teenagers give you a raw reaction. With these sorts of reactions, it is easier to empathize with your audience...if you approach it correctly.

This has been my experience. :)

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Re: Worth sharing YA MS with teens?

Post by EvelynEhrlich » February 22nd, 2010, 9:48 pm

Wow, thanks, Mel. That was extremely helpful! Thanks for taking the time to write such a thorough and insightful post.

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