#DearLaura I’ve written a fantasy novel where the protagonist and supporting characters are in their teens. Some people have told me it’s adult and some have told me it’s YA. I’ve looked for a solid definition online, but haven’t really found one. What makes a book YA? FantasyWriter82 Dear FantasyWriter82, This is a hotly debated topic among people in the biz and in particular, writers, who tend to rebel against the need to box their work into a neatly branded package. I’ve read the commentary out there about what makes a book… Read More

Word Count Fatigue

It all started when I was listening to a podcast interview with a popular, indie romance writer. She said that these days, she likes to release a new book every single month. To keep up with this schedule, she writes around five thousand words a day. “That’s really the only way to stay fresh in your readers’ minds.” Lately, it seems like no matter what writing podcast I’m listening to, the advice I’m getting is all about speed, speed, speed. And I totally get it. Writing fast = new books = visibility… Read More

Ya Never Know

In my previous post, I listed all of the unpublished novels sitting in my closet or on my hard drive. Most of them haven’t budged since then. But ya know, ya never know. Writing is a weird business. Sometimes, a story you think is going great crashes and burns. Sometimes, a manuscript you’re sure is going to be the one can’t find its audience. And other times, projects you thought were going nowhere go . . . somewhere. Case in point: In 2013, I took my first stab at NaNoWriMo. I didn’t… Read More

Unpublished Business

Published writers are also unpublished writers. Unless they’re instant successes like J. K. Rowling or perpetual bestsellers like Rick Riordan—and, most likely, even if they are—the majority of published writers have a closet or a hard drive full of unpublished novels. Take me. I have one published novel, the YA science fiction adventure Survival Colony 9, with the sequel, Scavenger of Souls, due out in August. (There’s a cover reveal and giveaway running right now on YA Books Central, if you’d like to check it out.) I also have the following unpublished… Read More

Taking Away My Own Power

From age 14 to 15, I gained 45 pounds. I started what would become an almost two-decade long struggle with food and my body in middle school, around age 11. Most of the struggle in the beginning manifested in sporadic guilt and regret: In my mind, I berated myself for the so-called roll of fat over my Gap jeans that preventing me from tucking my shirt in (God, did I ever want to tuck my shirts in like the other girls did), and I practically committed mental suicide over the way my… Read More

Happy New Year! Time To Stop Disqualifying the Positive

Got number 1,250,000 rejection letter from an editor last week. The months before I received it, I told myself that, with all the past year’s therapy, I have a new perspective of rejection, not just the hollow self-talk of yesteryear in the form of Euphemisms About Rejection (It’s Their Loss or Not Meant to Be) but rather solid, rational, cognitive challenging that was truthful and real and authentic and that I actually believed. I told myself that when (IF) the rejection came and the automatic thought, “I’m a total f*$king loser/failure because… Read More


#DearLaura, 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? Sincerely, Lip-locked in Atlanta Dear Lip-locked, 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… Read More


#DearLaura, I worry about getting the YA voice right in my books, but I don’t have any teens in my life. Other than stalking them at the mall, how can I get a better feel for how real teens talk and act so my book feels authentic? Sincerely, Teenless in Toronto Dear Teenless, Assuming you already read widely and deeply in the YA genre and watch films of the same nature, my next suggestion would be to cultivate relationships with some real-life teens. Those can be in the virtual world, in the… Read More

Confessions of a Publishing ‘Ho/ @LaurelHouck

My name is Laurel, and I am a publishing ‘ho. I’m also an upstanding citizen. But there have been times when I’ve done whatever to get my manuscript from a file to a shelf. Of course I’m being metaphorical. It doesn’t involve mini skirts or dark alleys. Frankly, those accouterments on me would chase publishers away. But like the real deal, being a publishing ‘ho is nasty business. Just in case you’ve ever strolled down this street, I’ll walk with you for a few paragraphs. Trends come and go. But it feels… Read More

To Market, To Market

Confession: I spent nearly $12,000 to market my debut, Survival Colony 9. Don’t believe me? Here are my numbers: Publicist retainer: $5800 Publicist expenses: $225 Website hosting: $60 Website design: $850 Swag design: $100 Swag printing: $280 T-shirts: $120 Launch party game: $70 Launch party cake: $170 Curriculum guide: $500 Giveaway items: $600 Mailing supplies: $200 Postage: $400 Professional dues: $180 Conference fees: $250 Travel: $300 Miscellaneous: $1545 Total: $11,650 Why did I do it? Peer pressure, I guess. Everyone told me that if I wanted my book to do well, I had… Read More