I’m writing a YA romance but the first kiss feels a little lackluster. Do you have any advice on how to kick up my characters’ chemistry?
Lip-locked in Atlanta
For the actual kissing scene, I would sink into your own experience and try to imagine it frame by frame. I also like to go back to some of my favorite romantic books and movies and think critically about the logistics of what goes where, the feelings and intent behind the actions, and the sensuousness and mood of the setting. I rewrite my romance scenes more than any other type because it’s difficult to get them right the first time around. Feel free to experiment and save old drafts. You can even run a little science experiment and have betas rate their favorite versions.
The other thing you may want to think about when writing your romance scenes is placement in your story and whether you’ve built in enough romantic tension to warrant the romantic act. Most of the tension is in the back-and-forth between characters, not the physicality (think Pride & Prejudice). The pay-off is sweeter when the characters have had to overcome so much to be together. Think too about what will sustain the romantic tension for the rest of the book after the first kiss.
The YA market is really flooded, not even with good stuff, but just the volume of various series is overwhelming. What advice do you have for breaking into the market?
I wish I had a simple answer for you, but just as there are several paths to publication, there are several ways “make it” in YA, and varying definitions as to what “making it” even means. That said, here are a few concrete things you can do to build your readership and increase your chances at success:
1. Write your best story every time. Workshop it, send it to beta readers, collect feedback and revise until you can elevate it no more.
2. Make connections with people in the biz. You need someone in the biz to champion your story and/or a following that will act as built-in fan base and recommend your book via word-of-mouth. (See John Green’s rise to fame). Some authors, it seems, shoot skyward with little to no help from anyone, but this is rare. The fact is, you need other people in order to be successful. This is true in nearly all ventures in life, one that we writers sometimes like to downplay.
3. Have a good read on the collective conscious of your market. It helps if you’ve tapped in to some subconscious element of our culture where your story offers deep and lasting satisfaction. This is different from chasing trends or writing the next whatever-it-is. Be aware of what’s going on in the world and how your story fits into the fabric of our culture and society.
4. Be opportunistic. Sometimes it’s just about being in the right place at the right time. Go to conferences, engage on social media, contribute to smaller publications, and generally make sure that your personality and your work is “out there.”
5. Stay positive. Breaking into the biz is an uphill climb and you’re going to need a support network to help you through the setbacks, so make sure you have people you trust who will build you up when you get knocked down.
While you may not make it with your first book, I believe for myself and others that if you keep trying, keep putting your best work forward, and keep faith in your ability and artistry, you will make it eventually.
Laura Lascarso is the author of two YA novels, COUNTING BACKWARDS (2012) and RACING HEARTS (2015). If you have a burning YA question you’d like answered, tweet it to @lauralascarso with #DearLaura or include it in the comments below.