Monday, February 15, 2010

A Year Of Adventure: Interview on OYAN, part 2

Hello peoples! Here are Kelsey, Ruth, and Kayla back again to complete part 2 of the interview.

Welcome to the blog, ladies!

10. Is OYAN specifically for beginning adventure novelists, or could experienced/published writers also benefit from it?

Kayla: I believe a published author can get just as much from OYAN as beginning novelists. As I said before, this is no ordinary writing course where “the bigger the words, the better the story” technique is used. This goes completely against the writing of today’s fiction.

Kelsey: Judging by some of what gets published nowadays, some published writers could benefit a great deal from it! But most truly good authors will probably already know what OYAN teaches, including when and how to break the rules.

Ruth: I think that everyone could, to a certain degree, benefit from OYAN. It makes you think in terms of what makes a good story, very seriously. He pushes your story to be better than anything you ever dreamed you could write.

11. Is there something unique to OYAN you've not seen in any other writing program?

Ruth: Oh yes. I love Mr. S's approach to writing. He sees it as an adventure, something that has policies and guidelines more than actual rules. Grammar and all that is really emphasized in all the other writing programs I've seen, even the ones that claim to focus on novel writing! But Mr. S teaches you what makes a great story instead of how to make excellent sentences. This is not to say that he won't come down hard on your sentences if you make a poor one and he critiques it during a webinar! But the focus is different!

Kelsey: As far as high school writing programs go, it's the only one I've found that concentrates on story instead of mechanics. I adore tearing apart literature and there's certainly a place for that, but OYAN teaches those same principles by offering practical, creative ways to apply them. (And now I officially sound like an advertisement, and the boring talking-head sort, to boot). Other writing programs have the same content in more complicated language, and emphasise the mechanical details of writing—don't use adverbs and "was", don't overexplain, avoid participle phrases—instead of the story as a whole and the less concrete elements of good fiction. OYAN does both.

Kayla: The main thing is, it’s interesting! How many writing courses out there actually help you, and get you very excited at the same time? Every lesson keeps you on the edge, you can’t wait to go on to the next! Second, Mr. Schwabauer is completely in tune to a beginning writer’s problems. He cares, and he encourages you to keep on going. He emphasizes thinking about your reader, how they will react to your story, and what will make them want to read it over again. He emphasizes meaning, theme, giving your hero something to learn, and he’s a Bible believing Christian.

12. Would OYAN help someone to be published?

Ruth: Hmm. Again I think it has more to do with the person who is writing than the program. But yes, I could see how the program could improve your chance at getting published!

Kelsey: It talks only a little about the publication process, as most students are a long way from being ready for publication. No grand talk of "with our curriculum, you'll write a bestseller!" But it helps in the sense that everything that improves one's writing is "helping them to be published" eventually.

13. How has your writing changed from doing OYAN?

Kelsey: OYAN forced me to plan ahead, and think through things I normally wouldn't. It takes you through a detailed outlining process that covers not only plot but also value changes, conflicting ideals, themes for each chapter, that sort of thing—the subtle ideas that stay under the surface, but make the story richer and deeper.

Ruth: The most drastic thing is probably my attitude more than anything else. It used to be that I'd get to a place and I'd get stuck. Now I get to that place and start to apply the things that I learned in OYAN and in working myself out of my 'stuck' I end up with a great scene that would otherwise never been realized.

Kayla: It has changed drastically. There were so many things I didn’t understand about writing. The main thing were the adverbs. I hadn’t realized it before, but adverbs don’t make your novel impressive, rather they bring it down. Passive voice was also a horrible splotch on my screen. When Mr. Schwabauer gave a list of words you should eliminate from your writing, I just couldn’t believe I could write a story without them. But I can, and I’m very grateful to him!

14. Have your applied OYAN techniques to other novels?

Kayla: Yes! And I plan to use them the rest of my writing career

Kelsey: I use the outlines for all of my stories now, to some extent—my workbook has notes for four or five plots scribbled in its margins, in different colours of ink—and reread relevant snatches of the book every so often. I also see elements of OYAN in every book I read now: symbols of dread, the four defining scenes, reversed and ironic ideals, the three types of stories, the mentor and how often he dies. (Whoever invented this adventure novel formula has it in for Mentors, I tell you.)

Ruth: So far, three. “Strike in the Dark” is a NaNo novel that I worked out through the workbook before November. The plot is great. The plot and the action is not lacking in the least. And it is the first really serious action/thriller I've ever written.

Then I again applied it during “NaNo” while writing a novel completely off the top of my head. “Mirror” takes the form of a treasure hunt, and each step was made up as I came to it. There were parts where I was as surprised as the characters! The OYAN technique was almost subconscious, but when I'd come to a place where I didn't know where to go I'd think about where OYAN would have you go...

And I even used it in my third NaNo novel, which is also a new genre for me—comedy/juvenile/adventure lit. Once again I subconsciously used OYAN. It was amazing.

15. On a score of one to ten, rate the OYAN experience.

Kelsey: 8.7.

Kayla: 10. No doubt about it. It’s hard at first, if you are like me and depend on the lessons to make you a better writer without giving an ounce of help to it yourself. I am very determined to be writer, but you have to do it yourself to become a good one.

Ruth: Ten. Entirely.

16. When you've completed this novel, will you do the program again?

Kelsey: I'm not going to go through and answer every question again, but I will definitely apply what I've learned, and keep the textbook and workbook within grabbing distance.

Ruth: At least once more.

Kayla: Of course! I’m already making plans!

17. Is there anyone you'd not recommend to do the program?

Ruth: No. I mean that. I have brothers that absolutely hate writing and I would say they would benefit more from this program than they would from twelfth grade English! I think that supplementing this curriculum for one year would be one of the greatest things that could be done in our 'school system'.

Kayla: Writers who think a spare dollar is worth more than a well written novel.

18. What is the biggest lesson you've learned from OYAN?

Kelsey: One of my favourite things is Schwabauer's treatment of Christianity and how it relates to story. The chapters about truth in fiction, and how the basic structure of most stories inherently goes against postmodernism, and how even symbols in literature rely to a certain degree on absolutes, are so astute and accurate. I'd never thought about any of it before—but it all makes so much sense.

Kayla: Your reader comes first. Always. But to impact your reader, you must have a good novel to impact him with.

Ruth: I've learned what makes a good story. What is awesome about some books. What makes your hair stand on end. What makes you want to read more. Understanding stories is going to dramatically help me! I think that if I pursue writing as a career OYAN will have affected the outcome of my success more than anything else.

Thanks Mr. S. :)


Ladies--thank you so much for visiting and sharing all this great information. I hope to get you all back someday soon!

For anyone who's further interested in OYAN, go ahead and check out the official website at Also, Ruth runs a whole blog dedicated to her journey through the program. Check it out at


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