The Half-baked Approach

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Note to self:
Okay, you’ve writing three quarters of your new YA book. You’ve reached the climax at the end of part 2, when “all seems lost.” You have an outline of the plot, you know what will happen next and how the story ends, but you have doubts. Is the storyline strong enough? Are the stakes high enough? Are the characters working? What about their inter-relationships? How should the story end?

Maybe this would be a good time to enlist the aid of some beta readers. Give what you’ve written a thorough line edit, weed out as many typos as possible. Then get some young people to read what you’ve written and tell you what they think, using a questionnaire something like this:

On a scale of 1-10:

Do the characters grab you?
Does the story interest you?
Do you want to read the rest of it?
Would you like to read a sequel?

And on a scale of 1-10, how badly do you want:

The budding romance(s) to bloom?
The villain to be beaten at his own game?
Or to die a horrible death?
Main character A to find what he’s looking for?
Main character B to find what she’s looking for?
The characters that have been cruelly separated to be reunited?
The society to survive the disaster/war?
The society to resolve its underlying problems?

Obviously, the questionnaire will need to be tailored to the individual manuscript, and you could add open questions like:

What did you think of the storyline?
Did you like the characters?
Was there anything in what you read that you thought was:
Stupid, Unbelievable, Lame, Great, Gross, Funny, Sad, Childish

The essential idea is to get this work done NOW, before you write the last part of the book. You may be surprised by the responses you get, and you may have to rethink the ending. You may have to rewrite some of what you’ve already written.

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