I picked up this book purely based on the amazing image of the dragon on the front cover, and because reading about writing is so much easier than actually getting some writing done!
The time I spent reading this book was the most useful time I've spent procrastinating. Ever.
Blurb from Goodreads:
Science fiction and fantasy is one of the most challenging—and rewarding!—genres in the bookstore. But with New York Times bestselling author Philip Athans and fantasy giant R. A. Salvatore at your side, you-ll create worlds that draw your readers in—and keep them reading!
Just as important, you-ll learn how to prepare your work for today's market. Drawing on his years of experience as one of the most acclaimed professionals in publishing, Wizards of the Coast editor Athans explains how to set your novel apart—and break into this lucrative field. From devising clever plots and building complex characters to inventing original technologies and crafting alien civilizations, Athans gives you the techniques you need to write strong, saleable narratives.
Plus! Athans applies all of these critical lessons together in an unprecedented deconstruction of a never-before-published tale by the one and only R. A. Salvatore!
There are books on writing science fiction and fantasy, and then there's this book—the only one you need to create strange, wonderful worlds for your own universe of readers!
Philip Athens has a very straightforward way of explaining things, so much so that I was actually laughing while reading this guide.
For example, this is how he defines Sword and Sorcery style fantasy:
"Blood is liberally spilled, heads are lopped off here and there, and sexy femmes fatels always need rescuing and are often less than chaste in the way they show their appreciation. This is fantasy for guys. I like to call it "results orientated" fiction: there's the bad guy, and when he's killed, the story is over."
It's wonderful to have such a clearly written guide to writing fantasy and sci-fi, that's not bogged down with the jargon of the genre. He defines everything in such a way that even those new to the genre could understand.
A lot of this book is very general (but helpful regardless), however the section on world building is very specific and filled with more tips that you could hope to use. It's especially good for fantasy writers (although I did notice that it does tend to be a little light on the sci-fi info).
Keeping in mind that this is really top-line in terms of advice, and doesn't get into the nitty-gritty, it's a fantastic reference for any fantasy/sci-fi writer.
Very sad news as Borders files for bankruptcy in the US. You can read the article here.
For Borders/Whitcoulls in New Zealand, have a look at this article here. :(
My question to you is, as readers, how much of this is our responsibility? Should we be supporting our booksellers, or are books something that should be available widely and cheaply to everyone?
My personal opinion is both. We need to support our booksellers (both through buying e-books, and good ol' fashioned paper and hardbacks), and for books to get any cheaper, we all need to buy lots and drive prices down. At least, that's my theory. Regardless, supporting local businesses is always a good idea. Local bookshops provide jobs, a place to go and hide from the cold winters, or a place to forget the world and find a new one to be immersed into.
If you haven't been made aware of this already, March 5th is Buy a New Zealand Book Day. The idea is to support New Zealand authors, but there's no reason why we can't support our local bookstores instead. If you are from New Zealand, you can use this opportunity to walk into your local Whitcoulls, Borders, Paper Plus, Dymocks, Unity, or any other bookshop you have at your disposal and buy a NZ book. If you normally buy e-books, take the opportunity to get back to your book-sniffing roots and buy a bookmark while you're at it!
In the spirit of NZ Book Month (which is March for those international readers, or those who live under a rock) $5 Books change lives vouchers are being given out to promote the sale of books during this month. So there's no excuse, even for poor, penniless writers! For more info on the vouchers go here. And for those not-so-penniless, I encourage you to buy several books! I live for the 3 for 2 book deals at Borders =D
For more info on Buy a NZ Book Day, please just ask me or go to www.kiwiwriters.org for more info.
I hope you'll all join me in supporting our booksellers. Without booksellers, where would writers be? Probably still writing (there isn't much in the world that will make us stop), but maybe without as much success!
Because I clearly have too much spare time, I'm organising Buy a NZ Book Day with Kiwi Writers and NZ Book Month.
March is NZ Book Month, and on Saturday, March 5th 2011 I'm asking everyone to go out and buy a book by a New Zealand author.
We have some wonderful writers (and one day I hope to consider myself amongst them) that need supporting. So please, do everything you can to promote the day (tweet, spacebook, blog, print out flyers and plaster your neighbourhood) and on March 5th, let's all go out and show Kiwi authors how much we love their work!
Let me know if you need any NZ book recommendations, I'm sure I can find something to fit any taste.
For more info on Buy a NZ Book Day, check out the Kiwi Writers website. Or just ask me. I'm an endless fountain of knowledge...
With the thousands of book review blogs out there, starting up a new one to add to the mass seemed a little daunting. But when Dawn Embers said she was starting one up, and was looking for reviewers, I jumped at the chance. After all, who doesn't want to have their say?
So, what makes Reading at Dawn special? Well, other than the fact that I'm a reviewer, and it's just a pretty site, the three of us (me, Dawn Embers and L'Aussie) have such a wide variety of reading habits that you're sure to find a book to read that you would have never considered before.
So, if you enjoy reading (and if you're here, I suspect that may be the case) check out Reading at Dawn.
I own a lot of books. I have 3 bookshelves for young adult novels, 2 for non-fiction and 2 for adult fiction. Plus I have piles of books on my desk, on my sidetable, on my piano, on my beside cabinet, on my living room floor and coffee table, and various others at friends' houses (I may as well run a library, I lend them so often).
I have also probably only read half of my books. So, one of my new years resolutions is to read 100 books this year. That's about 2 books a week and is probably going to be a stretch considering everything else I have going on this year, but its fun to have a goal!
I just finished my first for the year, Darren Shan's "Cirque du Freak" so at least I've made a start.
I've joined the group on goodreads. I'll be keeping my list of books up-to-date here.
Is any one else considering completing a similar challenge for the year?
I associate music and reading, and music and writing, with one another. Certain songs remind me of different novels I've read, and in my own WIP, I have songs that I listen to when working on a particular scene. I even have a theme song for my novel, Phoenix's Ashes: All the Same by Sick Puppies.
All the Same also has an incredible video clip, so for those of you who haven't seen it, check it out:
Do you have a theme song for a novel you are working on, or do you have a song that reminds you of your favourite book?
If you do, let me know what is is in the comments. That way we all might discover some new music!
Writer’s Block NZ
MG = Middle Grade (Intermediate for Kiwis)
YA = Young Adult/teenagers
The age of the readers:
MG readers are approx aged between 8-12. YA readers are approx aged between 12-18. Obviously there are exceptions. I'm 24 and read YA and MG...
The age of the characters:
It's important to note that young readers tend to read UP in age. So a 12 year old will probably read books with 14 year of characters, and a 15 year old will probably read books with 17 year old characters.
MG characters tend to be aged between 8 and 14. YA characters tend to be aged between 15-18
YA novels challenge the reader, and can use almost any word that an adult novel can. The difference, is that the 'voice' of the words are of a teenager, as opposed to an adult. YA novel can be filled with foul language, sex and graphic violence. As long as it's done tastefully of course.
MG novels have a few more vocab restrictions. No swearing (or at least very little and it would have to be essential to the novel), sex or graphic violence. The word choice is also important because while MG novels should encourage a wider vocabulary, it's important not to intimidate, or isolate the young reader from the novel.
The novel's central conflict:
YA novels, are about young adults, facing adult problems for the first time. The conflict in the novel is drawn from this. Adult problems can include grief, revenge, death, love, sex... the list goes on. MG novels, however, tend to focus on broader ideas like fitting in or saving the world.
Internal vs External conflict:
Let's face it: teens are selfish, and that's what drives most YA novels. YA novels are often based on internal conflicts that the characters face, eg falling in love, experimenting with drugs and alcohol or getting revenge on an old boyfriend. Of course there are external conflicts too, but the internal conflicts tend to be stronger. With MG novels it is often the other way around. The characters are thrust into an external conflict and their internal conflicts (while present) take a backseat.
Plot vs Character:
In general, YA novels focus on the character and relationships, while MG novels focus on plot. The reason for this is that YA novels have a higher word count, and more time to peruse the MC's mind. MG novels however have a limited amount of words to get the story across, so they tend to be a lot more action packed.
Speaking of word count, it's important to note that MG and YA novels do have different word count requirements. This is broad, but:
As a general rule, the older your character, the higher the word count!
For more info on the MG genre check out From the Mixed Up Files.
I read a lot of young adult fiction. A LOT. In fact, when I list my favourite authors, there are very few adult fiction writers among them. But what is it about YA novels that make them so appealing to an adult like me?
First of all, a definition:
What make young adult novels, young adult novels?
1) they are marketed to young adults (this age bracket is somewhat debated as either 12-18 years, or 14-21 years)
2) the main characters are young adults
3) the young adult characters face adult problems for the first time (first love, grief, heartbreak...)
What is NOT young adult fiction?
A novel about an adult looking back on his teenage years. That is adult fiction. The young adult voice is of a young adult, eg a 16 year old, looking back on her recent events as a 16 year old. This is perhaps why more and more young adult novels are written in present tense.
So, onto the real question: Why is YA fiction so appealing to adults?
Because it makes us recount our (recent!) youth? Er... maybe not. But there are several good reasons* I can think of:
1) It can't rely on graphic sex (although many YA novels have a huge amount of sexual tension) or incredibly gory violence to hold our attention which means that plot and characters take priority. The end result is often a gripping story with believable characters that even adults can relate to.
2) Also related to the above, YA novels rely hugely on plot, and tend to lack in exposition and long descriptions. Apparently I read like a male (who knew!) because I hate lengthy descriptions and skim straight over them. In most young adult fiction I don't need to worry about it. I can read the whole novel and not skim a word.
3) Themes are much more apparent in young adult fiction. The characters are learning things for the first time (mortality, friendship, morals, lurve...) and as such the themes echo not just via the plot, but in the characters too. It makes the characters stick more with us because they change. And hopefully for the better. As an adult, we are 'fully formed' and it can be argued that we don't change as much. As a reader however, we feel the characters change, and perhaps take a little of that on ourselves.
4) Perhaps the most boring reason (and the most practical) is that YA novels can usually be read quickly, and in one sitting. I can't stand having to stop halfway through a novel. I like to sit down for a few hours and read it cover to cover. So for me, young adult novels provide the means to do this. They are often short, and while YA novels have increasingly sophisticated themes and ideas, they are not hard to grasp and the reader doesn't have to pause part way through the book to dwell on it.
5) Adult fiction is often called depressing and negative, and is said to often leave the reader with the feeling that life is pointless. While this is certainly not always the case, many adult readers of YA fiction agree with this experience. Young adult novels on the other hand tend to be positive, and capture that sense of wonder that only children have. The end feeling of a Young adult novel is often more positive, and can make the reader experience a more enjoyable one.
Whether you read young adult fiction or not, there is no denying that it is hugely popular amongst adults.
What are your thoughts on young adult fiction?
Do you read it, and why or why not?
Teenagers. Not quite adults, but old enough to think they are. Writing for them can be problematic and it is certainly not as easy as authors like J.K Rowling and Stephanie Meyer make it seem. Young Adult readers have the vocabulary or an adult, can appreciate complex plots and characters and the books they read can deal with sensitive issues that may have been brushed over in books for younger readers.
What is a young adult novel?
So what makes a novel a young adult novel, and not just an adult novel about young adults? It's a fine line, but (and this is a big generalization) young adult novels have a protagonist who is a young adult, and is written from the POV of a young adult. Perhaps an easier way to define it is to look at what ISN'T a young adult novel. A young adult novel is not: a novel with a young adult protagonist that is written from the POV of an adult looking back on their teenage years. For a novel to be classified as in the young adult genre, it is important to make this distinction.
Who are young adult reader?
Generally speaking, they are aged 12 to 18 years old, but some 12 year olds will be reading children's novels (either instead of or as well as YA) and some 16-18 year olds (or even younger) will be reading adult fiction. The result of such a broad age group is a genre that is just as broad. YA novels could be split down the middle into under 15 and 15+, and the language of these novels reflects this. Language is age appropriate, which is to say that swearing in YA books has been done and is acceptable if it is targeted towards the upper age group. The same applies for more serious themes like death, sex or depression. Anything is possible with YA fiction, as long as it is handled with sensitivity.
The YA Voice
Finding your 'voice' in writing is possibly even more difficult than it sounds. The problem with finding your voice is that it is almost impossible to figure out what your voice is. A Young Adult voice can at least be given some definition.
Vocabulary in a YA novel is important, because although it doesn't need to be filled with 'today's slang' it does need to be recognizable to the reader. There also needs to be clear definition between the narrative voice and the character's dialogue, as no character (or narrator) should sound the same. Word use needs to be relevant to the character and to the reader. While YA readers have a clear understanding of complex and unusual words, they do not use them in every day speech, and neither should your characters.
Sentence structure tends to be informal and intimate in YA novels. Conversational even. The narrator doesn't just talk TO the reader, they talk WITH the reader. This conversational tone is part of what makes it a YA novel, because the teenager reading the book should feel like they are listening to another teenager speak.
Most YA novels have an underlying theme of growing up or discovering your identity. It is a big part of being a teenage and books that address these issues are an obvious fit. Whether a young adult book addresses this particular theme or not, all young adult books should address young adult issues with self image and identity playing a big part.
I suppose writing YA fiction is much like writing any other fiction, but the reader needs to me placed firmly in the front of the reader's mind at all times. I can't help but wonder if writing for young adults is even harder than writing for adults...
You don't have to be a young adult to enjoy the books. I still read some of my old favourites. I've just picked up Phillip Pullman's "The Subtle Knife" (book 2 of the His Dark Materials series) to re-read. Can't remember what happens because it's been over ten years since I last read it! I was a huge fan of Tamora Pierce's Alanna books growing up as well.
With authors like Lois Lowry, J.K Rowling, Stephanie Meyer, Cornelia Funke, Eoin Colfer, Ann Brashares, Dianna Wynne Jones not even scraping the barrel of incredible young adult novels, who can blame an 'adult' like me for still wanting to read them?
This list of top 100 young adult books is particularly good (although I'm sure there are a few missing).
Further to the idea that the fantasy genre is generally 'looked down upon' and perhaps stereotyped as merely dragons and knights (as mentioned in this wonderful post by Steven Watkins which debunks the myth that fantasy writing isn't real writing) I decided to look into the sub-genres of fantasy to discover for myself just how varied it is.
The results were rather astounding. There are too many sub-genres of fantasy to list so I have narrowed it down to the ones which stand out as relatively common.
I've also linked some book recommendations for your perusal.
Fantasy which takes place in a modern world, but contains elements like sorcery, demons and magical creatures. Examples would be Harry Potter and Twilight.
Urban fantasy novels obviously take place in an urban setting. They are often similar to contemporary fantasy. An excellent example would be True Blood, but here are a number of urban fantasy books.
Primarily cast in a completely different world to our own, writers like C.S Lewis and J R R Tolkien brought this genre to life. It consists of epic stories, battles between good and evil and a huge cast of character. The plot generally revolves around saving the world. The Sword of Shannara series by Terry Brooks is a great example.
Similar to epic fantasy, but heroic fantasy has a specific protagonist that must complete some kind of quest to save the world. This protagonist is usually a reluctant participant in the quest, and the story involves their personal growth to become a hero. Frodo Baggins would be a good example.
Fantasy set in a time and place in history. Often a reimagining of past events. Katherine Kerr's Deverry Cycle novels are a wonderful example (and a great read), set in Celtic times.
Sci-fi and fantasy combined. Science is woven through, usually in the form of high tech weapons or space travel, but it also contains magical elements. The Acorna series by Anne McCaffrey and Margaret Ball is one example.
Fantasy and horror combine to create dark fantasy. Most often vampire and warewolf stories, or those with supernatural elements, eg Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles. Find Vampire book recommendations here (sorry folks, no Twilight)
Sword and Sorcery
Once again, similar to epic or high fantasy, but not so... epic. It's not so much about good vs evil and saving the world, but is instead where the protagonist is fighting for personal reasons. Could often cross over with heroic fantasy. The Conan series is probably one of the most well known.
Well this one is obvious. See here for Amazon's Best Animal Fantasy Books.
Usually contains aspects of Norse, Greek or Roman mythology (think Clash of the Titans) but anything 'myth-based' comes under this category. Often set in ancient times. I could be said that stories like King Arthur can come under this category. An example of a mythic fantasy novel could be Neil Gaiman's "American Gods" which blends together ancient and modern mythology.
Young Adult Fantasy
Put simply, fantasy novels where the protagonist is a teenager, dealing with teenage issues within a fantasy environment. Harry Potter is the most obvious, but also Cornelia Funke's Inkheart series or Phillip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" series come under this category. The Best Fantasy Series for Teens Book Recomendations
Fantasy stories that involve a heavy amount of folk lore, or elements from traditional fairy tales. Especially the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen and the Grimm Brothers. The range from twists on the classic tales to a darker tone. See here for examples of Fairy Tales with a Twist
I'm JJ and I write MG and YA fantasy. For more about me, try here.