All posts by Jaclyn Weist

About Jaclyn Weist

Jaclyn is an Idaho farm girl who grew up loving to read. She developed a love for writing as a senior in high school, when her dad jokingly said she was the next Dr. Seuss (not even close, but very sweet). She met her husband, Steve, at BYU, and they have six happy, crazy children who encourage her to keep writing. After owning a bookstore and running away to have adventures in Australia, they settled back down in their home in Utah. Jaclyn now spends her days herding her kids to various activities and trying to remember what she was supposed to do next. She has published six books in a year, and her mind is still reeling from the awesomeness. Her books include Endless: A Modern Cinderella Tale; The Princess and the Prom Queen; Magicians of the Deep; the Luck series--Stolen Luck, Twist of Luck, Best of Luck, and Just My Luck, a novella.

The Middle Grade Hero or Heroine

This week I have the opportunity to attend LTUE (Life, The Universe, and Everything) and participate in panels. One of the panels I’ll be on is discussing why we love eleven to fifteen-year-old protagonists. From Harry Potter to Kendra and Seth Sorensen in Fablehaven, we follow the adventures of pre-teens who go about trying to save the world.

I still remember when I turned ten and then eleven. I felt an empowerment, like I could do anything. I was this small farm girl in Idaho, but my dreams were huge. If Gandalf had shown up at my doorstep, I would have gone on a thousand adventures with him if he’d asked.

It’s the time right between being a child where anything is possible, and adulthood, where we sometimes forget that we can do what we set out to do. This age group is ready to go out and save the day, and not fear those things that adults or children fear, because they have something to prove.

When I began writing my book in the Gates of Atlantis series, I quickly fell in love with the characters and how they interacted with those around them. They worried a little less about getting the girl or boy and a lot more about finding a place to fit in while fighting for the world they loved so much.

I believe one of the reasons both adults and children love these characters so much is because it’s an age that everyone can relate to. We’ve all been through that stage, and we’ve felt those torn emotions ourselves.

Back in 2010, I owned a bookstore where we sold books of all genres. The Young Adult and Middle Grade sections outsold anything else by far, and not just to kids. Most adults who came in bought those books as an escape. They told me that they had enough of the adult world all day every day, and they wanted to get away. By going back to these characters, they were able to forget the cares of the world and go fight dragons, trolls, or evil wizards. They could become someone else.

So who is your favorite middle grade protagonist, and why?

Positive Portrayals of Females in our Writing

I attended Salt Lake Comic Con this last weekend and I had the opportunity to be a part of four different panels. I enjoyed each of them, but I think the one that stuck with me the most was the last one I attended. It was called Positive Portrayals of Women in Pop Culture.

I was the only writer on the panel, while the other women came from different podcasts. They were more into pop culture and the latest and greatest television shows, while I was involved because of the characters in my books. I worried that I wouldn’t fit in or have a clue what to say among them, but I found that we had a lot more common ground than I’d first expected.

One thing that stuck out to me the most was that we made sure to point out over and over again that a positive portrayal is not simply making the female the super tough heroine who needs  no one because she can win the battle herself. It was more about bringing depth to those characters and making them real.

As the different women spoke of their favorite shows and why they liked those female characters, I had time to reflect on the books I write. I thought of each of the main characters and why they were “strong” to me. I realized that it was their flaws and their need to get through their obstacles that made them who they were. Am I perfect at getting those characters down? Probably not, but I want to do my best to build someone who girls can relate to and want to be like.

Each of us have our own voice, our own likes and dislikes, our own backgrounds. We as writers need to make sure that we provide those same attributes for the characters in our stories.

So what does this have to do with portraying strong women? Or the girls in younger books? Everything. It’s not about making them tough enough to win a battle. It’s about making them strong enough to be the daughter or the best friend, or yes, the hero by showing who they really are. Give them a backstory, fears, and a reason to go on. Let’s make them strong by allowing them learn and be a better person than when the story began.

Think of your favorite villains who share their backstories. Maleficent’s movie showed her love turning on her and stealing her wings, causing her to lose everything. The stepmother in the new Cinderella movie only wanted love and comfort and watched the stepdaughter she’d tried to squash, get exactly what she wanted.

Think of your heroes. Hermione used her book smarts, her wit, and the strength of her friends to fight, but also to help Harry and Ron survive. Katniss was tough, yes, but she also stepped in to protect her family so her sister wouldn’t have to be part of the games. Aurora won Maleficent over by her love, her smile, and her kindness. Black Widow is a tough fighter who knew nothing else as she grew up, but when it comes down to it, kindness is what makes her the person I admire. The way she handles Hulk to calm him down, touches my heart every single time.

If you need tough females to make your story work, do it. But give her both the flaws and the strengths to make her the best person she can be.

When Books Don’t Listen to You as the Writer

The first time I had a book character disobey me, I was in complete shock. I’d heard about it from other writers, but hadn’t experienced it myself. When I told one of my non-writing friends that it had happened, she was pretty sure I was crazy.

Whether you outline or discovery write, you know that sometimes your story will spin in a different direction than what you’d planned. Outliners will then have to redo their outline to fit it in, and discovery writers? They just go along for the ride.

Back to my first experience. My main character’s brother, Adam, was supposed to be a minor character. Someone who was only mentioned in passing.

And then he laughed at me. “No, sorry. I have to do this. For my sister.”

I stared in shock at the words in front of me as I saw him dart out of the room and try to save the day. I watched him get taken and move the story forward in a way that my main character couldn’t have. The story was so much stronger because of it. Then together, they were able to save the day, and the story wrapped up perfectly. Well, maybe not perfectly because another two books came after that.

There are times when you can reign in your story and tell them to behave, but before you do, weigh the consequences. Will the story suffer if you go a new direction? Will it be stronger? What are you going to have to change after this? Is it worth it?

One great indicator is how the story reacts. If you’re suddenly at a standstill and you can’t go any further, chances are you need to go back and fix a spot. Maybe that sudden inspiration wasn’t what the story needed. And sometimes the different direction is exactly what the plot needed to drive it forward.

I was done with a series last year. My character had saved the day and everything was exactly how I wanted it. Except … my story had other ideas. One day in the middle of church, a whole new plot came to mind and screamed at me to write it.

So I did. Except that I got to the ending and sat there staring at it. Nothing worked. The ending I had planned out didn’t solve anything, and in fact, made it too similar to the ending of the third book. I took a step back and talked to a few friends before suddenly realizing that this wasn’t the end. It had to go a different direction or I would have broken promises I made in the book. After I made that decision, the story flowed perfectly, and I was able to finish it later that day.

And now I have another book to write. But you know what? That’s okay, because I know that going off the beaten path will make this story stronger.

So what’s the craziest thing your characters ever made you write?

How to Keep Writing When You Feel Completely Burnt Out

I’m exhausted. My brain is fried. But the thought of not writing doesn’t work for me.

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I spent the last four months reediting, partially rewriting, and reformatting a series of mine. I got my rights back last year, and there were things in each of the books that I wanted to fix. I knew it would be crazy to do it all at once, but I wanted them rereleased all together.

I wouldn’t wish that headache on anyone.

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Do I regret doing it? Absolutely not. I got to revisit a world that I loved putting together. I gave each of the characters a little more life, more emotion, and a better reason to be doing what they’re doing. And I fell in love with the main guy just a little more than I had been before.

Two of the three main books are now released. Book three will hopefully be done in the next week. Just My Luck, which is a novella, has been released for the first time. This book is the story of Megan’s brother, Adam, and his run-in with Louie the leprechaun.

JustMyLuckA

So, now I stare at my computer, wondering what I should be doing next. I have six books waiting to be written in various worlds. After pushing myself for the the last few months to get this done, my brain has a hard time thinking it can relax and just . . . write.

Writing can be hard.  You’re putting a piece of your being on paper. Your very soul. So how do you do that when all you want to do is curl up in a ball? Start small.

When I was young, I would sit at a computer, pick out a name and an animal, and just start writing. It worked great, and the stories just flowed.

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Recently, I joined a group where each Wednesday we write one hundred word stories. Some prompts are difficult. Others are very easy. I have come up with a few new book ideas from those prompts.

My first luck book, Stolen Luck, actually came from a simple writing exercise. The prompt was “Your worst day ever.” I immediately wondered what it would be like if someone had never had a worst day. If everything always went right. So I started writing, and suddenly a leprechaun appeared and offered Megan all the luck she could ever want—for a price. It was unexpected, but it also ended up becoming three books and a novella. I’m currently writing a fourth book as well.

My biggest advice for those who are burnt out is, don’t give up. Take a break for a bit. Go read, do other hobbies you’ve put on the back burner, watch a movie—but come back and try again.

As I said before, start small. There’s a great link here where you can get random first lines. See where that first line can take you.

Catch up on your blog posts or journal. Loosen your mind to allow it to think.

Stories will hit you when you’re most relaxed. I have found myself scrambling for a piece of paper or my notepad on my phone at church, because a story idea struck while I was singing a hymn.

So what do you do to relax and get back to writing?

My Writing Journey

This is my first chance to post as a member of the Emblazoners, so I thought I’d introduce myself.

I grew up on a potato farm in Idaho, and loved reading and writing. My favorite thing to do as a senior in high school was to get my work done as a library aide and sit down to write. I would pick out a name and an animal, and just run with it. I came up with some pretty crazy concepts—one of which I still hope to publish someday.

I went to BYU and studied Early Childhood Education and met my husband, Steve, when I was a senior. We started our family soon after and within nine years, we had our six children.

In 2009, I decided to open a bookstore out in Eagle Mountain, and by November of that year, Dragons & Fairy Tales. In the year it was open, I learned so much from the authors that came out and signed at the store. So while the store didn’t last, the knowledge I gained took me on paths I never expected.

Speaking of unexpected paths … right after we closed the store, Steve got a job offer in Australia and we jumped on it. So we packed up the store and our house, and took our kids off to the Land Down Under. That’s where a lot of my writing really began.

Things were less than ideal while we were there, and I blogged about our adventures to keep me sane. When we finally came home five months later, I had enough material to write out a 73,000 word book for NaNoWriMo.

Since then I have published six books, and have so many more ideas to go. In my writing adventures, I learned several important points. I’ll list five of those below.

1. Love your cover. No, seriously, You should see the first cover I had on Stolen Luck. Google it and I’m sure you’ll find it. Why did I go with it? I wanted the book out now. I wanted a book available for Christmas and working with that cover artist was difficult, so I dealt with it.
Don’t deal with it. It’s your book. Your baby. Make sure you love the cover because you will be selling your book to other people and you don’t want the constant reminder. Believe me. You could be stuck with evil leprechauns for the rest of your life.
2. Don’t rush. Make sure edits are done well, covers are what you want, and everything is ready before you hit the submit button. I am constantly rushing into things and I regret it later. I’m thankful for those around me that remind me to slow down, enjoy the ride, and be happy with the better results.
 3. Read the contract. If you go traditional, know what that contract says. I am currently in the process of getting my rights back on a series, and a few things in the contract that I figured I would never have to deal with are the biggest obstacles right now. Find someone that knows contract law and make sure you’re not making a huge mistake.  Look at the right of first refusal, royalties, buyout options, and responsibilities for both you and your publisher.
 4. Don’t stress over things you can’t control.  Cover artists need time to create, editors need time to edit, formatters need time to format, and even printers need time to print. Take a deep breath and realize they’re doing their best to make you look good.
 5. When marketing, don’t burn yourself out. When Twist of Luck was released, I went all out on a huge blog tour, and I didn’t see a lot of return. It was still fun, and my readers enjoyed it, but I was totally burnt out at the end. Look around for fun ideas and research to see what marketing works now. My friend just did a Twitter party and it went very well. There are also Facebook launch parties, blog tours, cover reveals, and physical launch parties. Do all of them or do one or two of them. Know your schedule and what you can handle before pushing yourself into it.

Happy writing!