Variant, Death's Aria, Gears, and Young Adult

on Saturday, November 12, 2011
Go buy this book. 

First off, thanks to all of you who participated in Larry Corria's Book Bomb of Robison Wells' Variant. Everything went CRAZY on Tuesday. Basically Robinson got laid off from his job because he has panic attacks, which left him unemployed. The spark Larry started exploded into a huge Twitter thing, bumping the book from ~#6000 on the amazon listing to freaking #55. Yeah, it beat out the freaking Hunger Games boxed set. The only thing above it in both Sci-Fi and Fantasy YA was the individual Hunger Games books and the new/last Eragon book. They sold so many copies they bought all of Amazon's stock for all versions (except Kindle, obviously). It was awesome.

I actually picked up the Kindle version, and so far it's a really good book! It reminds me a lot of The Maze Runner meets...something else. There's lots of paintball in the book. But it's a fun YA read that I'd recommend to anybody, especially considering it's only $10 (and your money goes to a good cause).

Anyway, reading Variant made me think a lot about the young adult genre, especially since I'm switching gears (pun intended?) and writing another one instead of an epic fantasy. There were a few things about writing young adult I really enjoy, which is probably why I keep finding myself coming back to it.

- The books tend to move a lot quicker, with less descriptions and more dialogue.
- As a whole, the majority of the characters tend to be in the same age group (adolescents; 12-25), which sort of makes them easier to write. They also tend to play off each other a lot more...excitably? than other genres.
- Young Adult books get right to the point, which is usually one major key theme that drives the whole book. In The Hunger Games it was...the Hunger Games themselves (which is why I think the third book was so weak). In Harry Potter it was the wizard idea and then Hogwarts (again, why the last book didn't seem as strong to me). The Maze Runner was about the maze, I Am Not a Serial Killer is about hunting demonic serial killers. They tend to pick an exciting topic and stick with it, which both keeps the focus and makes it easy to follow.
- Romance and crazy emotions. Teenagers honestly aren't a volatile as most people make them out to be (it's a stereotype that they'll never break; adults actually have nearly as many mood swings as teenagers do, we just aren't as loud about it), but it is a time of life where you have tons of options, you are getting control of your life, and you don't like having that sense of independence taken away. It makes for very proactive characters, which helps drive the story. We adults like to sit around and have meetings.
- Secretly, lots of people still wish they were teenagers, though they'll never admit it. It's subconscious, and honestly I think it's why many adults read YA novels. We miss the constant excitement, the romance and the wildness. We miss having open futures; after a certain point things get set in stone and put into routine. It's a form of rose-tinted wish-fulfillment: we don't remember the awful parts of high school, but we'll certain idealize that time of life. Which makes for both an enjoyable read and write.
- My first book was very much actually Young Adult, even though it wasn't intended to be. Honestly, the vast majority of what I write is probably closer to YA than adult. I have adult ADD, and I started writing books because I felt a lot of books were too slow, so I set out to write something I'd enjoy reading. That principle has still applied, which means most of what I churn out is at least paced like a YA novel. In retrospect, maybe I should just write thrillers or something (hey, Jim Butcher made it work with the Dresden Files).

The point is that I'm really enjoying writing Death's Aria, and even though I'm only a small bit into it I'm enjoying reading it too. I'm actually doing a quick re-read of The Gears of Anbar just because I'm in a YA mood right now, and I'm surprised how much I enjoy it. Not in a "tooting my own horn" way, but in a "why don't I read more YA?" way. There's a reason this is a big market right now.

Granted, I'm also fully aware of the pitfall of writing something adult and branding it as YA when, in truth, it's probably an adult novel. While I'll completely agree the third John Cleaver book (I Don't Want to Kill You) sits squarely in YA with following the basic conventions, the second book (Mr. Monster) really...doesn't. I don't want to force genre tropes onto anybody, but YA books have a sort of flow and reoccurring themes that adult novels miss (perhaps the biggest being the fact there is nearly always a love interest, and their relationships usually pan out in the same structure: gradual, but not gradual enough for an adult book).

Rambling. I think the point of this is I like writing YA, and I'm debating how much that will be my main focus. I'm also writing Death's Aria because of the recent Writing Excuses on expanding your genre. Death's Aria is well set in urban fantasy (though not the whole "chicks kicking butt" thing, which I honestly can't stand), which is a genre I haven't tackled. It's still YA, so it isn't like I'm branching out into supernatural romance or anything way out there, but it's still something different. And I'm enjoying it.

Anyway, this is a long blog post because I'm at work on a Saturday instead of writing or playing Skyrim. So thanks for humoring me if you read this whole thing. If you just skimmed it to the end: SHAME ON YOU! But if you skimmed it to go back to playing Skyrim, I suppose that's totally fair.


Jordan said...

I read the whole thing, and now I'm going back to Skyrim. What a game, eh? I've struggled to find YA that I really like. I try so hard to like it because my wife loves YA, and I like it when our book interests cross paths (no way in hell I'll get her interested in GRRM, or Joe Abercrombie). The Maze Runner was fun, but I hated The Scorch Trials. I'm part way in to The Death Cure, and feel it's an improvement over Scorch.

Have you read Pathfinder, or The Lost Gate, both by Orson Scott Card? His YA is more readable than most for me, because I already like his other fiction so much. Ender's Game is his best "YA" but it isn't really YA...

Hunger Games, meh. First one was okay, the rest sucked. I did like Every Harry Potter, though... Half Blood Prince being my favorite. Anyway, that's cool that you're writing more YA. I've got one in the works, too. But adult fiction will always be my preference.

Good luck!

CNHolmberg said...

I'm afraid of expanding my genre....

That's awesome that Larry pushed for Variant. Hope all goes well for Wells.

Nathan Major said...

Yeah, gotta watch out for YA, it sinks its teeth into you. I still want to someday write a dark YA fantasy just because of the immense lack, but for now Steelgods will have to do (he destroys the world, does that count?)

Haven't gotten to Pathfinder or the Last Gate, mostly because I'm not a huge Card fan, but I should check it out.

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