Tag Archives: Young Adult

Overcoming Writer’s Doubt

This blog post represents my entry in the “Overcoming Writer’s Doubt” Writing Contest held by The Positive Writer.

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“I wish I could write like that,” I said to my husband. We were in the car heading home from the theatre having just seen “The Mummy Returns.”

“You can,” he told me, and for the first time, I shared the story that had been tumbling around in my head for the twenty or so years prior.

The rest of that summer was spent in the eye of a perfect storm of creative fury, spurred on by my love for science fiction, the abundant resources of the Internet, and the fact that I had been tasked to teach Writer’s Craft that coming September. As I researched the finer points of structuring plot, character, imagery and theme while preparing my lessons, the trickle of words I’d only ever been able to muster soon became a deluge. In my dreams I saw my novel on the shelves of bookstores and on bestsellers’ lists worldwide.

Nearly ten years passed before my masterpiece was complete and I was ready to shop for the perfect venue for my book. Back then, few publishers and agents were accepting submissions via email. Printing out my novel and mailing it was cumbersome, not to mention expensive. I soon succumbed to doubt and gave up on my writing career before it had even begun.

Then the next idea took root.

I ignored it at first, reluctant to take another ride on the writing roller coaster. Before long, the incessant chatter of the characters could not be silenced by anything other than my transcribing their story.

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Five years later Phase Shift was finished. A few more publishers and agents were accepting unsolicited manuscripts than before, but not many. After a year of fighting the good fight, and another twenty or so rejections added to my pile, I realized my submissions had amounted to nothing more than expensive lottery tickets. Actually, I’d convinced myself, I probably had a better chance of winning the lottery than getting published.

I took time to lick my wounds, wallow in writer’s doubt and decide if the writing life truly was for me.

I was teaching grade ten English at the time. Over a period of about three years, I’d listened to near a thousand student presentations on young adult novels. Every semester my awe at the torture YA novelists foisted on their characters grew; global apocalypse, false accusation, abuse, addiction, pregnancy, murder–no topic was sacred.

In my discussions with them, the librarians at my school encouraged me to write YA. At first, I had no clue where to begin. I’d always wanted to write a vampire story, I thought, so I began where I’d begun almost every project I’d ever tackled–doing research. It was during the  research phase I discovered revenants, kissing cousins to vampires in traditional lore. I soon realized I’d stumbled upon an untilled field of possibility. As little was known about revenants, I could shape them into almost anything I wanted.

Coincidentally, Nanowrimo was not far off that year. If I could force myself to stick to the regimen the contest demanded, I could bang out most if not all of my first draft in as little as thirty days. In spite of the demands of my job and my family, I “won” Nanowrimo and spent most of the next six months finishing and polishing my manuscript.

I felt good. I’d written my best work yet. I was going to be published by a traditional publishing house, but not before a knock-down drag-out bidding war between publishing bigwigs for the rights to my book. I was going to be the next Stephanie Meyer! The next J.K. Rowling! Bigger!

And then I began to send out queries.

When the responses started to roll in, elation was replaced with the first buds of writer’s doubt.

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“Your book doesn’t seem right for us.” I could deal with this kind of rejection;  the problem wasn’t me, it was them. I soldiered on, but with each successive rejection I started to realize maybe the problem was me. What if It was worse than me? What if it was my writing? I could always change a plot or write a new story, but if my writing was the problem…?

With each new rejection it became harder to navigate the waters of the river of writer’s doubt without slipping under.

I decided to focus on my next novel (which I tentatively titled I Am, Was, Will Be Alice), allowing The Revenant to stew on the back burner for a while. I liked my Alice novel. I liked The Revenant, too, but if it wasn’t meant to be then I’d have to write another magnum opus and try again. I believed in The Revenant, even if no one else did. I took a course on how to market a book, resolving to self-publish and run with it myself if no one had picked it up by the summer.

Then the gloriously unthinkable happened: one of the publishers I’d contacted was interested in publishing my book. A week after I’d heard the news I’d signed the contract. The stormy waters of self-doubt settled, the clouds parted, the sun came out. I might have heard harp music and choral angels sing.

I was going to be published!

I’m not going to lie and say I’ve managed to permanently banish writer’s doubt from my life. As long as my success hinges on how well others receive my work those thin tendrils of writer’s doubt, the ones that threaten to take root and sprout buds will always be there.

Let’s just say I’ve managed to prune back the branches for the time being.

The Revenant, a YA paranormal adventure novel by Elise Abram is set for a 10 July 14 release by Black Rose Writing.

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Literary Devices from A to Z – Brought to you by the letter Y




is for Young Adult




Young adult (YA) novels are novels that appeal to adolescents and teenagers. In YA the main character is usually a pre-teen or teen and theme is often emphasized over the more traditional elements of storytelling such as plot and character. I’ve recently begun my foray into YA novel writing, with the soon to be released The Revenant and next year’s release (hopefully) of I am, Was, Will be Alice.

YA novels are usually subdivided into 3 genres, middle-grade (10 – 13ish), true YA (14ish to 18 or so) and new adult (19+). Most of the time the main character is the same age as the target audience.

The actual target audience of YA is hard to gauge as, quite often, adults enjoy these novels, too. This accounts for the popularity of such blockbuster series as Twilight or Harry Potter.

Do you read YA? Do you purposely seek out YA or do you read a book if it appeals to you regardless of it’s intended audience. Post your opinion of YA novels in the comments below.



Literary Devices from A to Z – Brought to you by the letter O




is for Onomatopoeia




The term onomatopoeia describes when a word sounds like what it means. Some examples of this are hiss, bark, bang, and boom.

In my Alice Untitled YA novel, Alice finds she time travels when stressed. One of her triggers is onomatopoeia:

I’m having that dream again.

Footfalls tick in the hall, the beat slow and regular, counting down the seconds left in my life.

Click. Clack. Click. Clack.

A momentary pause outside of the grade three cloak room.

Shuffle. Spin. Click. Clack. Click. Clack.

The muzzle of the gun, shaft pointed directly at me like a dark, unblinking eye.

The flash after the trigger is pulled.

Tick, beat, click, clack, shuffle…these are examples of onomatopoeia. The use of them in a narrative helps to add the sense of sound. Rather than say he walked into the room, readers can practically hear the sound of the stranger’s footfall as he enters the room and Alice’s growing stress, foreshadowing another leap through time.

Take some time to write a passage using creative onomatopoeia. Share them in the comments below if you’d like feedback.

A to Z Blog Challenge – Brought to you by the letter H




is for Hyperbole




A hyperbole is an exaggeration used to emphasize a point.

In the tentatively titled,  I Am, Have Been, and Will Be Alice, Alice is depressed and has taken to her bed for comfort when her mother comes into the room:

She digs my head out from under the blankets, brushes my hair from my forehead and brings her cool lips to them. “You’re cool as a cucumber,” she says for about the millionth time in my lifetime.

The hyperbole in this excerpt is Alice insisting her mother has used this phrase about a million times over the past 14 or so years. While it’s theoretically possible for someone to achieve this goal, it’s not very likely, which is what makes it a hyperbole.

When Suzanne leans over Palmer during a sarcophagus examination in The Mummy Wore Combat Boots, he says,

As she spoke I was enveloped in a haze of her perfume. Her scent was sweet and distantly floral.  It brought back a slew of memories—not all of them disagreeable—in a dizzying flood.

While Palmer’s memories make him neither physically dizzy, and his memories would not carry the same force as a flooding tsunami, I’m sure it would feel as if they did to poor Palmer who can’t escape Suzanne’s unwanted advances in such close quarters.

Do you use hyperbole in either speech or writing? Which ones do you use most often? Which ones have you written that you’re most proud of? Whatever they are, share them in the comments below.

Literary Devices from A to Z – Brought to you by the letter G




is for Genre




Genre is used to describe types of literature. Some examples are science fiction, young adult, supernatural, thriller, adventure, and police procedural.

In the genre of science fiction, authors take current social mores and technology and project how that might change in the future. One example of this is “Star Trek” and communicators. In “Trek”, Gene Roddenberry imagined how people might communicate in the future and came up with the small, handheld devices. It’s no coincidence that when real life engineers were designing handhelds they used the communicator as a model and came up with the flip phone. Incidentally, modern smart phones appear modelled after another “Trek” device, the PADD (personal access display device).

In Phase Shift, museums on Gaia meld high and low tech in their dioramas. A description follows:

…the display was lifeless, a series of plaster casts of various skeletal remains sitting dully on a number of podiums, arranged in chronological order according to the era of each animal’s evolution.  Now, one by one, each piece of bone is animated in turn.  I watch as the first skull grows holographic muscle and skin and then rotates a full three hundred and sixty degrees on its podium.  Following that, the hologram grows a body, a three-dimensional representation of what Gaians believe the animal to have looked like when alive.  The three-D body comes away from the skull on the podium and it, too, rotates full circle.  Lastly, for its magnum opus, the hominid looks me square in the eye and takes a series of steps toward me, leaving the diorama behind.  Once more it rotates a full three hundred and sixty degrees before vanishing into thin air.  It takes almost a full five minutes for each specimen on the Gaian human evolutionary line to cycle through its trip down the runway.

When the last specimen has finished, the gallery is once more still.

Here, holographic technology is melded with a low-tech plaster diorama to create an interactive museum display. Given the state of holographic technology today, it’s not such a long stretch to assume one day the two might be joined to make history come to life for museum patrons.

The key to writing science fiction is to make it plausible. Readers should be able to imagine a future in which the technology and social structures might exist.

How many genres of literature can you think of? Write them below and I’ll compile a master list and share it in a future blog post.


Beautiful Twilight

I have read a bit of young adult (YA) fiction in my life, more that I remember since I’ve been an adult than a young adult. Most of my exposure to YA is vicariously through my students. Every year, my grade 10 English students must pick a YA novel and write two reading journals (retell, reflect and relate), a newspaper article about a significant event in the novel and do a literary analysis presentation on it. I learn a lot about YA novels and themes from them. Since I’ve decided to try and write the next great North American YA novel, I’ve made a concerted effort to read more YA. I have to say, so far, my choices haven’t impressed me.

The last YA novel I attempted (unsuccessfully as I didn’t finish) to read was Beautiful Creatures, by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. The reasons I chose this book were because I remember seeing the trailers for the movie in the theatre and it looked interesting, and honestly, because it was free at the Kobo bookstore. The preview seemed interesting, and so I downloaded.

In Beautiful Creatures, Ethan Wate befriends new student Lena Duchannes at school. He finds himself attracted to her, primarily because she’s different from the other girls and he’s intrigued by the strange things that seem to happen around her. When a window breaks near her and without her touching it, Ethan goes to her home to check on her and winds up befriending her. Their friendship soon turns into a romance. Lena and Ethan find they have been dreaming about each other and they are able to communicate by thinking to each other. Ethan soon learns Lena is a caster. She is about to turn sixteen and her powers are beginning to manifest, though she cannot always control them. On her sixteenth birthday—many months into the future from the start of the book—she will be claimed, either by light or dark and her life will change. Her greatest fear is she will be claimed by the dark and turn into an evil caster like her cousin and her mother.

To its credit, Beautiful Creatures uses great allusions that many teens will recognize. Lena’s reclusive uncle is compared to Boo Radley of To Kill a Mockingbird fame. He even owns a dog whose name is Boo Radley that follows the couple around throughout the book. There are also comparisons to Gone with the Wind that I understood, but might be over most teens’ heads, unless they grew up in the American south. There were sections of the book which made me second guess my giving up, but these always gave way to slower narrative and focus on Ethan and Lena’s connection which seemed forced at times. Also, romance just isn’t my bag; I felt the concentration on teen angst and romantic insecurity too soupy for my liking at times.

Once Ethan meets Lena, the book reminded me too much of Twilight. In Twilight, Bella lives in a small, boring town and meets Edward with whom she’s forced to work in class. When Edward saves Bella from certain death in a strange feat of strength, she feels a connection to him, thus beginning their relationship. In Beautiful Creatures, Ethan lives in a small, boring town and meets Lena with whom he chooses to work in class when no one else wants to. When Ethan witnesses Lena exert a feat of mental strength, he feels a connection to her, thus beginning their relationship. Also, I felt that the novel begins too much in advance of Lena’s transformation. The reader must slog through six months of Lena’s angst around being claimed, which is too much anticipation. Lastly, the parameters of Lena’s abilities are too wishy-washy. Other casters’ abilities are specific; they can do one thing. Lena seems to be able to do more than most casters, which makes it seem like the authors invented her abilities as they needed them to advance the plot. I found myself often frustrated as I tried to figure out the parameters of magic in the Beautiful Creatures world.

If you are a young girl looking for a supernatural romance, I think you might enjoy this novel, especially if you liked Twilight (which I didn’t). For an adult not interested in romance, but rather, in great literature with clear cut rules governing the science and magic of the fictional world in which to immerse yourself for a few hours, Beautiful Creatures is not for you.

Graphic from: http://books.google.ca/books/about/Beautiful_Creatures.html?id=hTE6xarZsk8C&redir_esc=y

About the Author

Elise Abram, English teacher and former archaeologist, has been writing for as long as she can remember, but it wasn’t until she was asked to teach Writer’s Craft in 2001 that she began to write seriously. Her first novel, THE GUARDIAN was partially published as a Twitter novel a few summers back (and may be accessed at @RKLOGYprof). Nearly ten years after its inception Abram decided it was time to stop shopping around with traditional publication houses and publish PHASE SHIFT on her own.

Download PHASE SHIFT for the price of a tweet. Visit http://www.eliseabram.com, click on the button, tweet or Facebook about my novel and download it for FREE!