Daily Archives: July 27, 2011

A novel kind of quote

There’s been a few things I’ve been following today over on tumblr.  One is very political in nature, but the other is about books.  The tumblr writingadvice has been posting up a lot of really good quotes about writing and books.  I’ve reblogged them on my own tumblr, but I wanted to highlight them here.

“The main question to a novel is – did it amuse? were you surprised at dinner coming so soon? did you mistake eleven for ten? were you too late to dress? and did you sit up beyond the usual hour? If a novel produces these effects, it is good; if it does not – story, language, love, scandal itself cannot save it. It is only meant to please; and it must do that or it does nothing.”
Sydney Smith (via writingadvice)

“Don’t ever panic. Keep in mind that even great writers like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway needed editing. You can always go back and fix what doesn’t work. Nothing is perfect the first time out.

Don’t despair. Some writing days are better than others.

Don’t place yourself in competitive situations while you’re working on a book. Losing a “first-chapter” contest or workshopping a book-in-progress can lead to second-guessing. It’s best to finish your draft before you ask for any critical evaluation. Sometimes when you’re trying to progress through the early stages of a novel, writing groups can be like the blind leading the potentially sighted.”
N.M. Kelby (via writingadvice)

“A publisher of young adult books doesn’t have to deal with the genre prejudice of the adult market. Children’s books are divided on the bookshelves by age, not by subject. (…) Genre definitions mean nothing. You want to write a steampunk post-apocalypse adventure full of cities that drive around eating each other? Or a book about a child passing through alternate realities in search of a weak and feeble God? Or a dystopian sci-fi about an underground city that’s running out of light? Go for it!

Such ideas would be risky prospects at best in the adult market. Books that don’t fit into easily recognizable pigeonholes traditionally struggle in comparison to those that do. Straight-out fantasy and SF are much safer bets than something genre-straddling and unfamiliar. Just look at the big sellers in the field if you need evidence.

Not so the YA market. (…) YA genre fiction isn’t interested in the rules and regulations of the adult world, which is exactly why we need it most. It’s innocent, unjaded, full of possibility and promise. And, just like the readers it represents, it might even have a thing or two to teach the grown-ups.”
Chris Wooding (via writingadvice)

“I also read most of Conrad, which I thought of as verbose adventure stories and conceived a hearty dislike of the narrator Marlow – the prig would keep describing things instead of getting on with the story.”
Diana Wynne Jones (via writingadvice)

“Writing isn’t generally a lucrative source of income; only a few, exceptional writers reach the income levels associated with the best-sellers. Rather, most of us write because we can make a modest living, or even supplement our day jobs, doing something about which we feel passionately. Even at the worst of times, when nothing goes right, when the prose is clumsy and the ideas feel stale, at least we’re doing something that we genuinely love. There’s no other reason to work this hard, except that love.”
Melissa Scott (via writingadvice)

“I’m a young adult librarian, but I didn’t read young adult lit when I was a teen myself. I was a precocious reader and desperate to be treated like a grown-up, so I read books for grown-ups because anything else was just too puerile for someone as obviously mature and sophisticated as I. It wasn’t until I was in my mid-twenties, working on my MLS and realizing that I wanted to work with teens, that I discovered there was a huge, glorious world of excellent YA lit that I had completely missed. Now it’s almost all I read.

Outside of YA circles, I sometimes find myself having to justify my tastes to others. Yes, a lot of why I read YA lit is because I work with teens. But even if I were to switch careers, I would continue reading YA lit because it’s good. That’s not to say adult lit isn’t, of course, but YA lit has a freshness that I really enjoy, and it rarely gets bogged down in its own self-importance. YA lit is also mostly free of the melancholy, nostalgia, and yearning for the innocent days of childhood that I find so tedious in adult literary fiction.

I think the reason some grown-ups look down their noses at YA lit is because they haven’t read any of it recently, so they don’t know how good it’s gotten—or how different it is from what they might imagine it to be. While there are still books that deal with Big Issues, the “problem novel” of the ’70s and ’80s has been eclipsed by more slice-of-life contemporary fiction, romances, fantasies, mysteries, sci-fi stories, and genre-blending tales that defy categorization. For as much attention as the Twilight series has gotten, it’s certainly not all that’s out there.

I think it’s a lack of exposure to contemporary YA lit that makes adults refer to it as a “genre.” (…)

When I say “YA lit,” I’ll be mostly talking about fiction, and fiction aimed at those in late middle school and high school.

There’s a difference, smaller now than in the past, between what is written for teens and what teens actually read. Historically, what might have been called literature for youth was fiction that was essentially an instruction manual intended to create well-mannered young people, didactic tales of what happens to disobedient children, and the problem novel of decades past—essentially what adult writers thought teens should be reading. Fortunately, these days libraries and booksellers are classifying what teens want to read as YA fiction. (…)

YA lit is also different from fiction for grown-ups. There don’t seem to be as many Westerns. The romances are a little different. It’s not hard to find more gentle mysteries, though unlike mysteries for grown-ups, YA mysteries are a lot less likely to include recipes for desserts. Less superficially, the tone of YA lit is often different: there’s less retrospection, less melancholy and nostalgia. Often, though not always, YA lit is more story-focused. All of this, I think, reflects the differences in the minds and lives of teens compared to adults.

One of the biggest differences in the landscape of YA lit is that there’s more genre-blending than in adult literature. It may be because teens’ literary tastes are still developing, while adults are more likely to have very particular reading habits, but I think it’s also because the newness of YA lit allows for innovation.”
Gretchen Kolderup, Are You Reading YA Lit? You Should Be (via writingadvice)

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Posted by on July 27, 2011 in randomness, Writing


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