Casting your Book.

nimbusOkay, so its every author’s dream to have their book made into a movie, and yeah sometimes it can end up a nightmare! But I truly believe that casting the characters that run amok in your head, whilst scribbling down your manuscript, can really help to round them out and keep them straighter in your mind’s eye.

Pinterest is the best tool for this. Just about every actor on the planet is on there and you can create a private board to cast your book (if you feel the need, you can open the board to the public as an extra promotional tool when your book comes out) I found, by doing this, you can create a wonderful linear visual for yourself whilst writing about your characters.

There is, however, a slight pitfall – try not to type cast! Yes, although these guys are purely in your head (for now) type casting a certain actor/ actress into a role can leave your characters as diluted versions of other more famous ones. For example, casting Jennifer Lawrence as a serious, yet plucky arrow slinging hero could land you in a Hunger Games homage – however the same character cast as Lucy Lui could open up a whole new world.

Also, don’t be swayed by actors who tend to play the same characters over and over again. Not mentioning any names, but there are those that are basically themselves just in various outfits – unless you are basing the character on the actor in question, try to stay clear. The actor you choose is purely as a visual, the traits and personality of your character are theirs alone and only serve your story and plot – not the other way round.

If you have a lot of characters in your book, it can help to either define them or boil them down to a concentrated few. If you find that your have a character that does very little to move the plot forward, could their role be simply added to someone else’s? By casting your characters this can be almost instantly identified, if your famous leading lady is merely a wall flower in the book, maybe she needs to be plucked out?Vil2

You’ll also find that the ‘who would you cast as your leads’ is a stock question in most interviews – I know I use it! So it’s good to be able to answer this pretty quickly without spending weeks on trying to fit a character to a particular actor.

Great characters are part of the foundation of a great book. But amazing characters can make a series. If your readers are hungry to know what happens to them after the book ends, well that’s the sign that, as an author, you’ve down something right. So cast away fellow writers!

 

Book Spotlight: Writing Great Books for Young Adults by Regina L. Brooks

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Synopsis:

CHAPTER 1
FIVE RULES FOR ENGAGING READERS OF YOUNG ADULT FICTION
Before you even start putting pen to paper (or finger to keyboard), there are some issues that need to be addressed. A lot of writers out there think writing YA fiction is easy. It’s not. Some mistakes you might make will condemn your book to languish on the slush pile forever. So before we even talk about the nitty–gritty of how to shape your book—-character, plot, setting, point of view—-we need to talk about the five key elements that can make or break you as a YA writer.
THE HOLDEN CAULFIELD RULE—-DON’T BE A PHONY!
Imagine traveling to a planet where your survival depends on hiding out among the inhabitants, where being recognized as a phony would mean instant annihilation. In that situation, you’d want to study the locals until you knew just how to look and sound and respond like them. It is the same in YA fiction. In this case, sudden death occurs when the reader, stumbling upon a false image, loses interest. The book closes with the splintering sound of a fatal bullet.
It’s no exaggeration.
Holden Caulfield, the protagonist of J. D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, was always railing against the phoniness of other people, partic-ularly adults. The enduring popularity of Catcher in the Rye demon-strates that teens today are the same way—-they despise fakes.
YA FICTION RULE #1: THE LIFE OF THE STORY DEPENDS ON THE WRITER’S ABILITY TO CONVINCE READERS THAT THE PROTAGONIST IS ONE OF THEM.
The key to writing a successful YA novel means knowing kids well enough to channel their voices, thoughts, and emotions. (“Kids” is used as an operative word here. The official YA audience encom-passes twelve– to eighteen–year–olds, but it is expanding as chil-dren’s book publishers work to attract readers as young as ten and eleven, and adult publishers reach to capitalize on the growing mar-ket.) While some of your readers may be a little younger than the twelve–to–eighteen target—-children aged ten to twelve tend to read above their age—-and some may be a little older, keep in mind that you have to convince all segments of your audience that you know what it feels like to be a young person today. If you can’t con-vince your audience that you know how they feel about the world today and express yourself the same way, you will never reach them.
AVOID THE PREACH ‘N’ TEACH
Whether YA readers attend elementary or secondary school isn’t an issue when it comes to the importance of YA Fiction Rule #2.
YA FICTION RULE #2: DON’T BE CONDESCENDING TO YOUR READERS.
Young people won’t abide stories that suggest that their turmoil or idealism will pass when they “grow up.” Brent Hartinger, author of Geography Club, says, “I’m a big believer that kids are smarter than we think they are.…I think kids can handle complexity and nuances, and the advantage to writing that way is that the book appeals to both teenagers and adults.”
Many adults read fiction as an escape—-teens are no different. Im-agine spending a long day in school, learning boring lessons ’cause you’re supposed to, having everyone from parents to teachers to em-ployers telling you what to do, how to think, what to wear, then pick-ing up a novel—-and having someone else trying to shove another lesson down your throat! I can’t imagine a bigger letdown.
Don’t deal with young people by trying to push them in one direc-tion or another. Deal with them where they’re at now.
SOAK IT UP!
A word of caution: don’t emulate your favorite authors, but learn from them. You’ll want to create work that is truly your own. In the resource guide at the back of this book, along with details such as schools that offer writing degrees with a YA focus, you’ll find listings for websites that recommend great YA fiction.
YA FICTION RULE #3: READ, READ, READ TODAY’S
YA FICTION.
The benefits to reading what’s already on the market are phenom-enal. It will familiarize you with what’s selling, how kids today talk, what they wear, what issues concern them, and so on. If you don’t have easy access to a teen, reading books meant for teens is probably the next best thing to having a teen personally tell you what he or she would like to read.
IDEALS FIRST, MEALS LATER
Writing a successful book that aims to attract the widest possible audience should be every writer’s goal, shouldn’t it? The answer is yes and no. It helps to have a general audience age in mind, but you don’t want to be consumed with thoughts about how and whether you’ll sell your work.
YA FICTION RULE #4: SILENCE YOUR WORRIES ABOUT COMMERCIAL CONSIDERATIONS.
This allows you to concentrate on your primary objective, which is to tell your story. If a nagging inner voice surfaces or someone dis-courages you, rather than pulling on earphones and listening to music as a teenager might, transform the voices through the power of your imagination into “white noise.” This is the all–frequency sound emit-ted from machines that imparts a feeling of privacy, calming you and allowing you to focus on that world you’re creating. Keep your artis-tic integrity—-your ideals—-ahead of how commercially success-ful—-your meals—-you want your book to be. If you focus on writ-ing the best possible book, commercial success will follow later.
As your manuscript develops while you work through the guide-lines provided in the ensuing chapters, your audience will become as clear to you as if you were speaking on a stage and looking into an auditorium full of people. If you subsequently work with an agent, the two of you can determine whether the manuscript should be pitched to editors specializing in YA, adult fiction, or both. But the fate of your manuscript will still be up in the air. Editors, who are in-vested with the power to buy or decline a manuscript, will ultimately determine to whom the book will be marketed.
The significant rise in the success of YA novels has opened the way for a multiplicity of categories, and just to give you an idea, I’ve listed some alphabetically: adventure, chick lit, comical, fantasy, fantasy epics, futuristic, gay–themed, historical, multicultural, mystery, reli-gious, romantic, science fiction, sports, and urban. If your story idea doesn’t fit into any of these categories, you may have to invent one. Consider it an opportunity.
THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY
From this point on, let your creative spirit be guided by YA Rule #5.
YA RULE #5: IN YOUR NEW WORLD OF YA FICTION, ERECT NO CONCRETE BARRIERS, WIRE FENCES, OR ONE–WAY SIGNS. INSTEAD, FORGE NEW PATHS.
The YA field welcomes innovators. Encapsulating the newness of the time, YA novels are being published in nontraditional formats. Three YA authors banded together to compose a novel. Another entry is an interactive book with websites that combines reading with the world of Internet gaming. What will your contribution be? Think fresh.
Remember that young people are trendsetters—-they’re always looking to differentiate themselves from others. It’s how teens forge their own identities. Don’t be afraid to push the boat out as well. Coming up with a fresh idea will set you apart from the pack and might be the thing that sparks an editor’s interest in your work.
Okay, consider yourself warned. Now that you know what not to do, it’s time to learn how to craft the next YA bestseller. Step by step, this book will walk you through the mechanics of what makes a great YA novel.
Chapter 2 is about generating an idea, your story. It will talk about different ways to uncover stories that YA readers will want to read about. It will also help you discover new possibilities for stories with-in yourself that you may not have known you had.
Chapter 3 will discuss characters—-the heart of any manuscript. How to breathe life into interesting characters your reader will con-nect with is the main lesson of this chapter, but we’ll also discuss how to find the best characters for the story you want to tell.
Chapter 4 is all about plot, story, and how to tell the difference. Plot is like a machine that propels your manuscript forward, while story is the overall impression you want the plot to create in the reader’s mind.
Chapter 5 is about how to put together a believable plot. It’s all about action—-establishing the main conflict of your manuscript and putting it in motion. Of special concern will be integrating the events of the manuscript with the characters’ personalities, making sure that the characters react to events in believable ways.
Chapter 6 is about setting and timeline. Setting is the background of your story—-the when and where. This chapter is about understand-ing the atmosphere of your story and effectively manipulating the details of that atmosphere to influence your manuscript’s tone.
Chapter 7 is about point of view—-the perspective from which you tell your story. Point of view can be an extremely effective tool for connecting with character and clarifying or confusing the reader about events—-provided you use it correctly.
Chapter 8 is about the meat of your manuscript—-dialogue. Dia-logue provides an opportunity for your characters to interact and opens up another way to build your characters.
Chapter 9 is about the theme of your manuscript. Theme is the overall impression you want your readers to take away. It’s a subtle but effective way for the author to express himself through the story.
Chapter 10 is about wrapping it all up, bringing your plot to a suc-cessful resolution. Endings can be very tricky, so there will be de-tailed discussion about what sorts of conclusions to avoid.
Chapter 11 is about how to find constructive feedback and incor-porate it into your revisions. All authors need to edit and revise their manuscript, and this chapter will explain why the editing process is so necessary.regina image
Chapter 12 is about getting published—what agents and editors do and how to get your work into their hands. This is the business chap-ter-—the one that details exactly how the publishing industry works.
Chapter 13 is about YA nonfiction and the emerging genre of New Adult. The YA market is constantly in flux, and this chapter will ex-pose you to two recent developments in the market.
I hope all of these tools will be helpful to you as you begin the pro-cess of writing the next YA bestseller. Let’s begin exploring that magi-cal new world.

About the Author: 

Regina L. Brooks is the founder of Serendipity Literary Agency and has been developing award-winning authors and books for over a decade. She has been highlighted in several national and international magazines and periodicals, including Poets and Writers, Essence, Writer’s Digest, and Sister2Sister, Forbes, Media Bistro, Ebony, and Jet. She lives in New York City.

 Connect with Regina:

@serendipitylit

facebook.com/serendipitylit

serendipitylit.com 

A Writer’s 10 New Year’s Commandments.

file0001372488933These started off as resolutions for writers but ended up with a kind of biblical theme – so (as per point 10)  I’ve changed it to ‘Commandments’ and just gone with it! So here are your New Year’s writer’s resolutions – if you have any more you’d like included, feel free to include them at the bottom.

1)      Thou salt not procrastinate. Writing shall come before: TV, housework, and random/ impromptu pub visits.

2)      I am a writer – this shall be repeated at least 10 times a day to both reinvigorate your desire for the written word and reinforce your chosen career path.

3)      Thou shalt not make a rod for your own back. Too many publishing deadlines lead to a dangerously high consumption rate of caffeine and general panic. Thou shall say ‘no’ when you’ve reached your optimum level of manuscripts.

4)      Remember social media and use it wisely. No more posts of cute animals and evidence of Bigfoot.

5)      You shall help to get the word out for fellow authors, mostly in hopes that they will do the same for you – but also because it’s nice.

6)      Do not take your editors’ names in vain – they are just trying to help!

7)      Thou shalt not kill or give away any psychopathy tendencies (no wait, this one is just for me!)

8)      Honor your publishers and readers with free bonus materials and stories.

9)      You shall not covet the same ol’ genre troupes – thou shalt spread your literary wings.

10)   Thou shalt roll with the punches and just go with it. Evolution can happen on small scales.

Although I hope there’s some good advice above, I’d like to leave you with a serious, yet playful, piece of life advice that I wish someone had told me sooner.

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One of my favourite books is ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and there’s an exchange between The Cheshire Cat and Alice that perfectly demonstrates the point:

“Excuse me sir,” Alice enquires, “could you tell me which road to take?”

Wisely the cat asks, “Where are you going?”

Somewhat dismayed, Alice responds, “Oh, I don’t know where I’m going sir.”

“Well,” replied the cat, “if you don’t know where you are going, it really doesn’t matter which road you take.”

Know where you are going! People that say that it’s ‘the journey not the destination’ are the kind of people you see in the supermarket with their trolley proudly holding a stick of garlic butter, a jar of olives and a three for two offer on doughnuts! Make a list, people – know where you are going!

Virtual Book Tours: To tour, or not to tour?

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Well, if you’ve been reading my blog (if you haven’t – where have you been?) you’ll have noticed that I do a lot of book reviews and author interviews. The interviews are mainly because I’m an incredibly nosy person, but the reviews tend to be either Netgalley related (If you haven’t joined yet and you love reading – what are you waiting for?) or for virtual book tour companies. I started looking at these sites when I got the release date for my own book and decided to join a few to see how they worked and which of the many companies offering this service provide the best value for money.

I must admit, I’m having quite a bit of fun doing these tours. I’ve met some truly lovely people and been introduced to some awesome authors and books – ones I’d have never found on my own. The whole thing appeals to my organised ‘anal’ side, and it doesn’t hurt to have related content almost every day for this blog.

Now, I’m not reviewing the companies who do this, but from my sidebar you can see the ones I tend to favour and I’d encourage you all to have a click through and perhaps join as a tour host or invest in a tour for your own book. And let me know your thoughts as comments on this post.

I see a number of the same authors out there who are dedicated to using these services and repeat business must hopefully mean they’re seeing fairly decent results in the interest levels in their books. The basic equation here is that bloggers have followers, and followers might buy your book.

Most tour companies will offer a service that includes: reviews, interviews, spotlights, and guest posts. You can pick and choose from this menu, but I’d advise you to go ‘tapas style’ on it and try a bit of each to see what you like the most. Reviews can be the scariest of all, what happens if a blogger hates your book? To be honest, this is a natural part of being an author anyway – not everyone will like your work – accept that, move on, suck it up… Do you like everything you read? No. I certainly don’t. But did bad reviews hurt ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’? No, it unfortunately did not!

With more and more books being released it can be hard to get yours to the front of the reading pile. And this isn’t all down to your publishers either; as a modern author part of the job is keeping social and having a decent online presence. Whether you like it or not, we are living in an increasingly digital world and blanking it is not just rude but utterly career stunting. Authors need to get their work out there, and yes this can be time consuming – so virtual book tour companies could be a clever solution for you to do just that whilst keeping your precious time on the thing you actually want to do – going down the pub, oh wait I mean write!

10 Benefits of an eBook

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10 Benefits of an eBook.

Anyone who knows me knows that I love a good list – so let’s look at the benefits of eBooks from both a writer, and a readers’ perspective.

For Readers:

1)      Font: you can alter most readers to make the font easier to read – this is perfect for people with vision problems and children who read better in larger fonts. New readers now also come with adjustable back lights too, so you can read anywhere, any time.

2)      You’re desperate to read that book, all your friends are talking about it – well with an eBook version you can download it instantly. No waiting for the post to come, or searching through library and bookshop shelves. You want it, by heck – you can have it right now! You can download an eBook any time you want – if you’re hankering for a zombies vs vampires undead-appaloosa at one in the morning – you could even download my novel Bad Blood!

3)      They’re usually cheaper that print versions – so you can save quite a sum of money in the long run to spend on, you guessed it, more books! Some of the classics are even available for free, along with other taster books and promotional short stories.

4)      Lighter to carry round than a book. Have eBook reader, will travel. Slip it in your bag and never again have a bored moment: waiting for a bus, for your friend to finish her make-up, or if you’re alone and enjoying a nice frothy fresh cup of coffee in an over-stuffed fake leather sofa in your local coffee joint; just remember to regularly charge your e-Reader!

5)      No more crammed bookcases. I don’t know about you, but my book shelves are dangerously piled high – like some bizarre literature Cirque-de-Soleil act. I love reading books, but I also love buying them and buying them takes less time! With eBooks, you can electronically store as many books as you like, without endangering your safety with a possible book avalanche.

For Writers:

1)      Royalties are higher on eBooks, as production costs are lower. Although, there is still that satisfying rush involved with seeing your work in print, the bottom line is that you’ll earn more from eBook sales.

2)      Production time is less, which means you can produce more work in the year than if you were printing – thus starting the royalty gravy train rolling sooner, rather than later.

3)      You’ll never be out of print. eBooks are always available and not tied to being printed in batches – if your work doesn’t date too much, it’ll be in circulation much longer.

4)      New e-Readers such as the Kindle Fire also include the front cover along with the text, this keeps your wonderfully designed book cover along with your work and is much more aesthetically pleasing to your reader and easily identifiable for you and your publishers branding.

5)      You can add in bonus content for your readers – maybe the playlist you listened to whilst writing, extra character information links, instant access to your website or Amazon author page so they can buy more of your splendid works. The possibilities are fantastically endless and will be consistently evolving.

Now, I’m not an ‘eBooks are the only way’ kind of girl, I’m still in love with paperbacks and hardbacks too – its a hard habit to break, but I must admit that eBooks are becoming pretty attractive. In my humble opinion, can’t they exist side by side, helping one another? To me, the written word is magical – no matter what format it takes.

What is ‘New Adult’ ?

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Okay guys, so what is ‘New Adult’? Well to be honest with you, I only heard the term myself  a few months ago. Looking online it would seem that the NA and YA debate has been going on for quite some time, and as I describe myself as someone who writes both adult and YA fiction, I thought it was about time I got to grips with this new genre… NA.

I Googled around a bit to answer this question, and it would seem that everyone has their own thoughts on it – just like they did on YA when it became popular all those years ago. Here’s the sum of my findings; you might not agree with me, you may have your own ideas – and if you do, please feel free to add to this post by leaving a comment below.

Age:

In YA, readers like reading about characters who are just a little above their own age – so the maximum age here is around 19. NA is there to bridge the gap between young readers/ teenagers to, well New Adults – so characters should be in their twenties and therefore have scope to deal with more adult situations. 

Sex:

To me, the biggest ‘no,no’ in YA is sex. You don’t have sex scenes in them, you can elude ever so slightly to them, but you can’t glamorize sex in any way – same goes for drugs and rock ‘n’ roll – no wait, rock ‘n’ roll is fine! LOL

Within the NA genre there is room for sex, as characters are older and it would be quite frankly unrealistic to not include at least a mention , just don’t go too over the top. Personally I’d stick to kissing, and leave the reader at the bedroom door.

Content:

In YA the themes and character arcs are very much all about growing up and turning from child into adult. Responsibility and changing for the better are common traits in YA books. When you hit your twenties you should have already gone through these personality changes, so you really need to think back to the main issues you had at that age. To me, its very much that you suddenly have all these new adult responsibilities, yet still have some childhood restrictions on you. Parents of twenty somethings will know all about this – they’re still a child in your eyes, but in the eyes of the world they’re an adult.

Character:

With NA, you have more room to move on your character’s lives and what they do. In their twenties they could still be at university, or be working. They could even be married, or have a child. To me, NA seems to lend itself more to the supernatural and paranormal genre. Themes and content that were off limits in YA are suddenly back on the menu with NA. And although I’ve never censored either action or bad language in my YA stories, you can really go for the gusto in NA.

As always, check out publisher guidelines before submitting. Most major publishing houses have started splitting off NA into its own imprint and will all have different views of what NA means to them.

Knowledge and Research in Creative Writing

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Being an author sounds easy, right? You immerse yourself in an imaginary world of your own design, then weave it onto the page for others to enjoy. And that is the crux of it, but there are many other facets involved, that most wannabe authors still don’t even realise, like social media, blogging, promotion and research.

Knowledge and research is key to most good books and stories. If you’re going to set your work in a certain time period, you need to be on the historical ball when it comes to the small details that, if not done correctly, can become massive plot holes and almost laughable strikes against your work.

The amount of research really is dependent on what you are writing. Identifying the knowledge you need to weave that story with tight efficiency is a skill all in its self – you need to really explore your manuscript and themes to know what you need know, as the writer, to make it all work. The more effort you put into to this side, the more believe-able your stories become – even if they’re horror, fantasy or sci-fi.

So where do you do research or find knowledge? I’ve learnt a couple of tricks along the way, and below you’ll find a list of options for you to explore. It’s not an all-encompassing exhaustive list, by any means, but its s start to get you on the road – getting to the end of that road, well that’s down to you.

Wikipedia:

Wikipedia is great for short bursts of information with extended reading lists. Wonderful for an overview of a time period and great for looking up genres and other authors/books.

Google Alerts:

These little beauties can be set up through this site to send you any information, on a weekly/daily basis about your subject matter. Great for industries which are constantly changing, like scientific discoveries or even the publishing industry itself. Just put in your email address and what you’re looking for and Google Alerts does the hard work for you.

Going old school at the Library:

Books are still cool! Don’t forget the wealth of information at your finger tips that exists in your local and national libraries. Use their reference books and even take some home with you (check them out first!) Also The Gutenberg Project has a large selection of free downloads online of all sorts of public domain books.

Google Maps:

I’ve mentioned Google Maps on here before, they truly are a wonderfully addition to any scene setting. If your story is set anywhere else than your own home town, then you either need to go there (expensive and time consuming) or have a go at Google Maps and virtually walk the streets. You can also search online for tourist sites and even images to give you a foundation to write from.

Twitter:

A necessity for authors in its own right – but can be used to make contact with people who are perhaps in the jobs your characters are. Making contact and throwing them a few meaning-full questions can really flesh out your characters and you’d be surprised how many people are flattered to be asked such questions from authors.

E-learning:

A great way to learn is through an online course and you can do it for free on ALISON you can take courses on everything from law (if you’re writing a legal themed story) all the way to Psychology. You can even brush up on your grammar skills on this site. Do watch out though as the free option includes adverts, and if you want the certificate at the end you need to pay for it – but as free information goes, its a goldmine.

Lectures:

I found a site recently, Great Courses which gives you access to brilliant lectures from leading universities and colleges from all over the world. You can buy audio, visual or physical course materials. The information on offer here is huge and not overly expensive either. You can listen to lectures from history courses, myths, writing and literature. A real boon for anyone seeking in depth info on a subject, but also great to gain ideas and inspiration.

List of Romance Genres

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I just can’t stay away from those lists!

My two top genres are horror and paranormal romance and as I’ve already covered horror genres, I thought I’d do the same for romance. Looking at the list, the explanations tend to be a little obvious, so rather than patronize you with over-blown explanations, I’ve kept it brief and included links to examples where necessary.

Adventure Romance:

Strong hero, even stronger heroine. These face paced and full of danger and can be set anytime and anywhere. Happily Ever After OR HEA is preferred here by most publishers, but as always, do read each publisher’s guidelines carefully when submitting.

Chick-lit:

Relatively new genre, these are romances with a dash of humor and HEA (happily ever-after ending) is more flexible here. It’s a bit cliched but think Bridget Jones’ Diary by Helen Fielding.

Contemporary/ Main Stream:

Not to point out the obvious, but this is set in the present and will date quickly. HEA is optional. So many authors and examples here, as they are set in the normal world, with natural human characters.

Dark Fantasy:

This combines elements of supernatural abilities and paranormal creatures. It goes a little beyond the normal sword and magic fantasy romps, but can also have quite serious themes. A good example of this is the WindLegends series by Charlotte Boyett-Compo. HEA here is optional.

Erotic Romance:

Not to be confused with Erotica, Erotic Romance focuses on the development of romantic relationships through sex making it a consistent theme through the story. The sex is not there for titillation sake but should be so bound into the story line that taking it out would ruin the plot. HEA is a necessity here.

Erotica:

Shall I just say it… Fifty Shades of Grey. Although there’s a case that E L James’ novels should be sitting in Erotic Romance, as the main character’s relationship is both cemented and complicated through sex. I personally think that the amount of it required to show this is less that what was shoe-horned in. You’ve also got a lot more license in Erotica to delve into the darker/ more fetish related practices here. A great example of well written Erotica is Liliana Hart’s Erotic Fairy Tale books. HEA is optional, although I think still preferred by most publishers.

Fantasy:

Like Fantasy in general there are both saga and political elements involved with this genre. Game of Thrones is a classic example of a good fantasy. When adding this element into your romantic mix though, you have to be careful. It’s a strong genre and can easily over power your romance. It’s kind of like banana in a smoothie, it doesn’t matter what other fruit you put in there, if you throw in a banana – it only taste of banana! HEA is optional.

Futuristic/ Sci-Fi:

Strangely Stephanie Meyer’s The Host comes to mind. Set in the not too distant future, and with a strong theme of ‘love will conquer all’ and an emphasis on the deep love of both family and partners. This is a great genre to really let your imagination run wild. You can create your own world and therefor tailor the situation to the needs of your romance. HEA is not always found in these worlds, but personally I’d always try for it.

Gothic:

I think we’re on the verge of a comeback for Gothic Romance. Often described as brooding and dark, a classic example would be Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. Check back at my horror genre list for more info on Gothic Blue Books.

Historical:

Not hard to work out what these ones are all about, but tread carefully, some time periods are just simply not interesting so won’t appeal to either readers or publishers. Lots of information and authors can be found on Historical Romance Writers.

Medical:

Novels in this genre centre on characters in the medical profession and even have their own Mills & Boon line. These books reached their peak in the 1960s but still have a place in modern romance, especially if mixed with other genres. Vampire doctors and werewolf surgeons?

Military:

Don’t just stick to the obvious on this one. Think sexy assassins and sassy bounty hunters – also don’t be afraid to throw in the supernatural on this one too. Kaylea Cross does this genre justice and she also has some great suspense romances too. Usually a HEA here, or Happily Ever After For Now – again check guidelines.

Mystery/Thriller/ Suspense:

Danger abound in this genre. There’s usually something to solve either a murder or another crime. These can get pretty dark and HEA is optional.

Paranormal:

My personal favourite. I love reading them and writing them. They’ve never been so popular and have even morphed into Dark Romance too. The best example, and one of my fav authors, is Keri Arthur, although some of her books also drop into other genres listed here too.

Regency Romance:

The Regency period was between 1811 to 1820 and although strictly a Historical Romance, is so popular that it has a genre all to itself.  For a massive list of books see Regency Reads.

Time-Travel:

I shy away from time travel in my stories, as its hard to keep a good grip on what’s going on. If you tackle this one you have to be ubber vigilant with your plotting. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger is a strong example of this genre.

Urban Fantasy:

So, as per the horror list, this is supernatural elements within an industrial/ town/ city setting. I personally love these as the setting itself makes the paranormal aspect slightly more believable. Lots of examples here, however there’s a really comprehensive anthology aptly called The Urban Fantasy Anthology which would give you a great selection of authors such as: Kelley Armstrong, Holly Black & Patricia Briggs.

Young Adult:

The Young Adult category was introduced in 1983 and includes all the above, but for a younger audience. We’ve spoken a number of times about this genre and of course the most obvious and popular example for this genre is The Twilight Saga by Stephanie Meyer.

 

There are probably hundreds of more genres for romance, after all, its one of today’s most popular reads. If I’ve missed any off this list, please feel free to leave a comment with the addition, a description and links to good examples.

 

 

 

Playing well with others.

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Two years ago I participated in a bold new writing project called ‘The 48 Hour Book’. It was set up by Northamptonshire Libraries (in the UK) and was planned to coincide with World Book Day on 5th March 2011. At that time I wasn’t a published writer, so was eager to learn everything I could about the craft, and of course meet people who were currently ‘living the dream’ as full time writers.

The crux of the project was to write a whole book in 48 hours. Impossible I hear you cry, and you’d be right. We didn’t manage to write a whole book in that time, but we did manage to come up with a setting, characters, a plot, the ending along with a fair amount of prose. The book that the project birthed was called ‘Vicious Circle’ and was set in Northampton at a travelling Fair.

How it worked was that each writer took a character, then we worked out their journeys together. When characters interacted we sat with the writer they belonged to and talked it through. It was hard work, but with the guidance and patience of our leaders, Judith Allnatt and Ben Elijah, we managed to produce a great book at the end of it all.

As an idea, The 48 Book was ambitious to say the least, but writing with others can prove exhilarating and inspirational. The ‘Beautiful Creatures’ series is a product of two writers working together and having others around you reliant on your input can motivate you into working harder. It’s easy to let yourself down, much harder to let someone else down.

A lot has happened to me in the past two years. I’ve had over 40 stories published/ accepted for publication in 5 countries, and my first novel ‘Bad Blood’ is due out next month through the publishers Noble & Young. I’ve referred to writing as a hobby in the past, and to honest that’s quite misleading. To be a writer you need an overwhelming passion for the written word. You need enough free time and motivation to dedicate to your words, and getting them out there. You need to be willing to adapt and be flexible with your life enough to include writing time, submitting time, and promotion time. It’s hard work – but sooooo worth it!

If you’d like to learn more about The 48 Hour Book click here. You’ll notice that I somehow managed to worm my way into the middle of the photo!

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YA vs Adult

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Writing for the puppy, not the wolf.

Writing for both YA and adult markets, I’ve discovered the line between these two target audiences is very slim indeed. YA is typically about 13 years and above, and as sad as it is, teenagers seem to grow up much faster nowadays. Gone are the days of Enid Blyton and Narnia, these wholesome books are now only taken up by a much younger audience than they were originally written for. The generations behind us are still avid readers, but you need to appeal to the modern youth adult which has not only moved on, but is consistently evolving their tastes.

So, what are the rules and differences between the two? I’ve put together the sum of my knowledge on this below. I’m sure there’s more to it than I’m putting down here, but to get you started, here’s my opinions:

Talking down:

Your work should not talk down to your YA reader. I would never sugar coat my plot or characters for a younger readership. Subjects such as: drugs, sex, violence and horror, should be confronted, but not glamorized or endorsed – remember your responsibility to your reader. Also its good to remember that most YA readers like to read about characters who are older than them – so typically your characters should be late teens/early twenties.

 Let’s talk about sex:

Your YA audience will be more than aware of sex. God forbid, some might even be having it already. However you should always leave your YA reader at the bedroom door. It would be boring and unrealistic to not have it at least mentioned between characters in your story, however there should be no graphic descriptions and certainly nothing kinky going on; these guys are just getting their heads round vanilla, let’s not introduce them to whole ice cream menu so soon.

 Horror:

I always love the warnings on movies that say ‘Contains mild peril’ – I mean, really? How do you measure peril? It’s the scary things that people love – young and old. And it’s always the most imaginative and well written horror that stays with you once you turn off that TV, or put down that book. Dr Who is designed and aired specially for a young audience, but can be quite scary (even for adults) Those Weeping Angels were a particularly gruesome concept that made me look at statues in a whole new light! Dracula and Frankenstein are now taught in school and some of the most popular YA books are packed with supernatural creatures, deadly deeds, and peril-a-plenty. So desensitizing your work could be a big mistake. I’d recommend writing your YA story to your own boundaries then letting your publisher/ editor lead you to tone down, or crank up, where appropriate.

 The Super – Supernatural:

One word: Twilight. It certainly wasn’t an original book or a pioneer in the industry, but it did appeal to a massive market and got a huge amount of teenagers reading again. I personally didn’t mind the books, Stephanie Meyer can certainly spin a good yarn and although her main character was a bit wet to begin with, she came good in the end. It re-vamped vampires and made werewolves hot – in simple terms it reignited people’s interest in the supernatural and carved a path for other authors to follow suit. The supernatural has never been so popular with both YA and adult audiences and really, anything goes here in terms of horror and sweet romance.

 The Series:

YA audiences read quickly and can get addicted to good characters, so bare this in mind when writing your novel. Either leave it open so you can pick it up again in a second book or have a series in mind when you’re writing it. A note of caution here though…when writing a series don’t hold back action or information for an explosive finale – if your first books are boring, you’ll never get to show off that great ending. Make sure that each book has a main story line that can end, but a consistent story arc that can carry on. This keeps your readers engaged and desperate for the next one. It also means there is a definitive ending for each book, rather than just letting it go on and on – something I particularly hate as a reader!

What’s your favourite YA book series and why?