a novella by Adam Quinn (aka Dark Omen)
My son, Adam Quinn, is fifteen years old and has written two novels, a novella, and is currently working on his third novel. He seriously puts his mother to shame in the Early Potential Unlocked category. Today he's taking his story to his Freshman English class, to share it with his friends and to talk about being an author. Proud really doesn't touch what I feel about this: more like a privileged awe in being part of shaping this young man's life. And eagerness to see what great things he will do in the future with all of his talents and hard work.
I asked Adam to do a brief interview, but first, some of the nuts-and-bolts about publishing your kid's works (because I know many of you have talented offspring, and I love that Adam's work often inspires other young writers):
Publishing a young person's work gives them the same motivation and pride-in-accomplishment that anyone experiences when they publish. It gives them a chance to have more than just their mother and teacher read their work, by making it easily accessible via free ebook downloads for their friends and relatives. And making a physical copy of their novel is (shockingly!) cheaper with print-on-demand than going to the Kinko's and copying manuscript pages. The bragging rights that grandmas and teachers have in holding their favorite grandson or student's work? Not to be underestimated.
These are all the benefits - what about the drawbacks?
Some people worry that publishing their children's works will put undue pressure on them and expose them to the wild and woolly world of nasty reviews and internet crazy people. Our experience with publishing Adam's work has been exceedingly positive, but I think this is largely because of how we approached it. I'm not trying to make Adam a Junior Stephen King (i.e. my focus is on his educational benefit, not creating a money-making enterprise). I also took precautions to limit the distribution of his work, keeping it relatively small (Nook and Smashwords, but not Kindle) and FREE. Most importantly, I discussed with him the objective for publishing his work (sharing with family and friends primarily) and the difference between amateur and professional.
Amateur vs. Professional
Early on, I had a conversation with Adam about how, as a young author, his writing should be about growing as a writer, not making it into a business. There may come a day when he wants to "professionalize" his work - i.e. try to make money at it - but for now, I'd rather see him stay amateur (which means keeping his work free and primarily sharing with friends and family). I pointed to Olympic athletes as examples of how "amateur" doesn't mean "poor quality" - and that he should always strive for the highest quality work he is capable of producing at the time (in everything, including writing). He edits and copyedits his work (with my help) and strives to improve his craft with each story. The final product is one we are both proud to share. When he's an adult, he'll have all the experience he needs to decide whether he's ready to start selling his stories, or if he wants to continue to be a "hobbyist" - either way he'll have had the gift of time to grow in his writing, along with the appreciation of his family and friends, without the demands of making it a business.
And now for the interview!
Me: Adam, you wrote your first novel in sixth grade, Adventures at and Around the Galaxy, followed 18 months later by book two in the series, Undercover War. Why did you decide to write a novella this time? And what is different about this story from your novels?
Adam: Originally, Project Exibluar was going to be a short story, the idea being that since I had less time to write during the school year, I could write a larger percentage of a short story in a given amount of time than a novel, thus improving the continuity of my writing. This tactic almost failed for two reasons: (a) high school is a lot of work, especially when you are in four extracurricular clubs and (b) Project Exibluar evolved into a 22,000-word novella. To address the second question, Project Exibluar is my first work written in first person, and partly because of this, it is far more character-driven than the main Order of the Sky trilogy (this novella takes place between Order of the Sky #’s 1 and 2). It also features a smaller cast than the main trilogy, and is a young adult book, while the others were middle grade.
Me: You have plenty of interests outside of writing - fencing, band, Math Team, Model UN - and you're a busy Freshman with lots of demanding classes. How do you make time for writing?
Adam: It’s rare to see me writing on a school night, and even somewhat uncommon to see me writing on a two-day weekend. The reason for this is related to the above question—that writing a book in small, disjointed segments is not generally the way to go, as I learned while writing (or, more accurately, rewriting the bad parts of ) Project Exibluar. During long weekends (three to four days), I almost exclusively write short stories and novellas, while over summer break I almost exclusively write novels. Winter break and spring break are allocated to whatever project needs work at the time.
Me: You've always impressed me with your constant striving for learning new ways to tell stories - you took my classes at the library on story structure, studied Blake Snyder's Beat Sheet, and seek out critiques (primarily from me, but also other students and teachers). What advice do you have for young writers like yourself in learning how to improve their writing craft or just getting started with that first story?
Adam: My advice is to be careful about taking advice. While there are a lot of people who want to help you grow as a writer, there are a few who don’t know what they are talking about or… *checks if any vanity publishers are listening* …intentionally mislead you. Not to scare anyone away from seeking out advice, which is an excellent thing to do, but if someone tries to tell you how to write and they (a) have no qualifications to dispense advice, (b) stand to make a profit, or (c) say things that are detrimental, not helpful, then I would consider showing them the door. Via forklift.
Adam’s Subconscious: Should we put a picture of our cat in this post? We did that on our last guest post on this blog.
Me: How did you get on my blog?
Adam’s Subconscious: Forklift.
Adam: No cat pictures. But you can take a look at my release post on my own blog or obtain any of my books, including Project Exibluar at:
Adam’s Subconscious: Please…?
Adam's books are middle grade and young adult, filled with action and adventure and absolutely, positively zero romance (in spite of his mother's attempts to insist there are subtextual relationships between some of the characters). They have great, high-brow humor, lots of swordplay, and are safe for kids ages 10+. In particular, I love the strong female characters that populate Adam's book universe, especially in Project Exibluar. I hope you (and your kids) will enjoy his stories!