Guest Post: Your Best Book Alumni Martina Boone

I'm so honored to be a guest here today. Triply so because I feel like the Free Expressions family has done such amazing things for my career. I was thinking about that today as I sat down to write this post.

I'm lucky to be involved with Adventures in YA Publishing, where we get to host wonderful authors sharing writing tips and talking about their journeys to publication. The other day, the lovely Alissa Grosso was on with a post about a meeting a teen who dreamed he was going to get to sit down with his hero, a famous director, and share his vision for a comic book.

The point of Alissa's post was that she was tempted to set the boy straight, tell him getting a sit down with Chris Nolan was about as likely as the chances of going to a writers conference and walking away with a book deal. Not freakin' likely.

But you know what? It happens. And as writers, we have to dream. Not just dream. Dream BIG. B.I.G.

That's one of the things I learned at the Your Best Book workshop last year, and I think it's one of the two pieces of wisdom that made the difference for me in getting an agent and, ultimately, a book deal. The literary equivalent of finding Santa Claus.

So I'm here to tell you, SANTA CLAUS LIVES. The dream can come true.

Now I'm going to share the two tips I took home with me from YBB. Are you ready?


  1. Make your book bigger. Sure, it has to read real, but the characters, the story, the ideas, and the world all have to be bigger than life. At every stage of the writing (except for wordiness), think how can you make it MORE?
  2. Make your main character drive the action.That sounds obvious, doesn't it? Well, it did to me, too. Until I sat down and looked at my book, and realized that things were happening to my main character, and she was reacting to them, but she wasn't driving the bus, causing them to happen faster, worse, better, more, more, more.


As readers, we love characters who, for good or ill, jump in with both feet and propel the story. Yet it's all too easy to put our characters into jeopardy and think that trying to get themselves out of it is good enough. Getting out of trouble isn't a goal; it's a response to the antagonist having a goal. Saving the world isn't a goal; it's too big. Having our character drive the action works best when the goal is deeply personal.

I will never be able to thank Lorin Oberweger, Brenda Windberg, Emma Dryden, Josh and Tracey Adams, and all the writers and participants in the Your Best Book workshop enough for those two, fantastic pieces of insight, and for providing them within a framework that let me process them and apply them in my revisions to see the difference they could make in the finished novel.

Are you looking to make your writing dreams a reality this year?

Pull yourself out of the comfort zone of small conferences or the same critique group you've been working with for years. Get out and meet other writers who are further along the learning curve than you are. Take a workshop like YBB that will make you live and breathe writing for a week. Question your talent. Be awed by the amount of talent and brilliant writing that is out there. It's mind-blowing! Go somewhere that you can learn from a mix of pros, published authors, and pre-published authors who have serious writing chops. Push yourself.

I'm here to tell you, miracles happen. There is a literary Santa Claus. But he only visits houses where the chimneys are big enough and squeaky clean.

Dream big. Then go out and make sure you have done everything you can to get your manuscript ready for luck to strike.

About the Author

Martina Boone writes contemporary, romantic fantasy set in magical places, and she's the founder and principal blogger at Adventures in YA Publishing. The first book in her YA Southern Gothic trilogy will be available Fall 2014 from Simon Pulse. It follows Barrie, a teen sent to live with her dead mother's twin on a decaying plantation where she discovers magic, a centuries-old feud, and secrets that require making peace with the local spirits, who are nowhere near as welcoming as Eight, the sunlit boy who steals Barrie's heart.

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