As I mentioned in my previous post, I just completed Mandy Hubbard's Writing and Selling the YA Novel course over at LitReactor. I had a wonderful time taking the course so I thought I'd give a quick review of my experience.
The course (which had twelve or thirteen students total) consisted of a number of written lectures from Mandy, ranging in topics from what determining whether something is a YA novel (vs an adult novel with young protagonists) to how to do a successful revision. In addition to the lectures, there were three assignments/reviews: first chapter, synopsis, and query. Each assignment was critiqued by both Mandy and two or three fellow students taking the class (we were assigned to critique groups).
While the general topics of the lectures were not new to me (as I've done a lot of research and reading about YA and writing in general), each of Mandy's lectures had a least some nugget of information or some new way of thinking about the topic that gave me a little "aha!" moment about my own writing. For each lecture, I walked away with something tangible that I could use to rethink or revise my own novel. I think one of my favorite lectures was the series of "queries that worked," and especially the pitch letter that Mandy had written to an editor for one of her clients. It was really fascinating to see how an agent pitched a book to a publisher. It made me excited to think that someday an agent would be doing that for one of my books!
Being assigned to a critique group was a great bonus to this class that I didn't expect. The critique group was small enough so that the number of critiques was not overwhelming, plus I got to connect with some other really amazing writers. Both of the writers in my group gave phenomenal feedback, and I thoroughly enjoyed their writing. (Seriously, I can't wait to hear that they're both agented and published! I want to read those books!)
In addition to the formal peer critiques, there was a message board where we could all chat and give each other feedback. We actually did a "first line" feedback thread, and it was fun to read everyone's first line and give feedback to make it really pop. (My first line: I'd broken out of prison twice before, but this was my first time breaking in.) I'm always happy to interact with other writers, so the message board and homework critiques were great.
Mandy's critiques were AMAZING! She is so sweet and so savvy about the market. All of her notes on my assignments were incredibly helpful. With my first chapter, she both pointed out where things were working well and where I needed to do more showing instead of telling (my Achilles heel!). Her thoughts on my synopsis honed in on a weakness I'd been struggling with and provided the insight I needed to figure out the proper ending for my novel (which is HUGE!). I cannot wait to get through revisions so I can write that new ending. It's going to be epic. And finally, I thought the query I submitted was pretty solid (and Mandy said as much), but her few alternations transformed it in a way that has me beyond excited to start sending it out to agents. Now, I just need to finish revisions, get the green light from my CPs, and then that sparkly query letter will be hitting agent inboxes.
Overall I am very glad I took Mandy's course. In some ways, it sort of feels like getting an R&R from a full request. Because between the synopsis review and the first chapter review, I got great feedback on what to fix with my writing and my plot before agents see it. The class was a little out of my price range ($399), but I was lucky in that it started right after my birthday so my friends and family pitched in to pay the fee for me (*waves at family/friends* Thank you!!!).
I definitely recommend Mandy's course to any unagented YA writer looking for intelligent, honest feedback on your work from one of the top YA agents in the country.
Keep writing! (And learning!)
Any questions about the course? Leave me a comment or check out my contact page to send me an email.