Tag Archives: YA

Treat Yoself to a Dragon*Con

First, if you haven’t seen Parks and Recreation, do that. Do it. All of it.

Next, go to Dragon*Con.

This year was my first Dragon*Con, and can I just say “wow”? Wow. While it has a reputation as being a party Con, I found Dragon*Con to be one of the best. There’s something about being in a place with thousands of other people, taking up a lot of space, and being there for the same reason: to geek out together! I especially loved that I could look at anyone and smile. I felt the excitement and camaraderie almost immediately.

Dragon*Con has a few unique aspects. The panels and events are held in six hotels and buildings in downtown Atlanta, Georgia. Also, because it’s such a big Con, the organizers put the events and panels along a number of tracks. You can access the schedule and information about these panels via the Dragon*Con app. For example, if you are particularly interested in Anime/Manga, the organizers have a proposed schedule for you for each day. Some of the tracks include: Animation, BritTrack, Comics and Pop Art, Costuming, Fantasy Literature, High Fantasy, Horror, Military Sci-Fi Media, Paranormal, Podcasting, Sci-Fi Literature, Star Wars, Table Top Gaming, Urban Fantasy, Writer’s Track, Young Adult Literature, and many more.

But what’s in it for you as a writer? Lots.

I attended about 13 panels at Dragon*Con this year, most along the Writer’s Track. I loved the YA panels – it felt like we were all there together, laughing and geeking out over YA literature instead of an audience watching writers talk about writing.

I especially liked two panels over the weekend. The Magical Mavens of Fantasy/SF panel included Laurell K. Hamilton, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Mercedes Lackey, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, and Jane Yolen (I’ll save you the play-by-play of my geek-out over Jane Yolen). Hearing these women talk about the industry, the people who told them they wouldn’t make it, and how they paved the way for the rest of us really made an impact on me. The sister (brother?) panel to Magical Mavens of Fantasy/SF I attended was Magnificent Men of Fantasy/SF with Kevin J. Anderson, Jim Butcher, Larry Correia, Peter David, and Larry Niven. I wasn’t expecting to laugh that hard, nor come near tears when they told touching stories.

Each night, the Westin hotel hosted a Writer’s Bar where professional writers could go to meet fans and fellow writers. I spotted and/or talked with Myke Cole, Sam Sykes, Jim Butcher, and Delilah Dawson. The cast of Wynonna Earp also showed up to hang out, which blew a lot of our minds. The accessibility of writing professionals at this convention seems abnormal, especially compared to other bigger Cons like San Diego. But nothing will light a fire under your ass to get published more than talking with professional writers and wanting to be on panels with them.

I’ve attended smaller conventions and a few huge conventions. Dragon*Con was my favorite. The Writer’s Track, High Fantasy Track, Sci-Fi Track, Urban Fantasy Track, and the Young Adult Literature Track provided multiple choices of panels each hour, and I didn’t attend one panel that I didn’t love. The access to professional writers was unlike any other convention I’ve been to. You’ll find that price of admission is well worth it to attend Dragon*Con. Oh yeah, and you’ll have a blast, too.

Why First-Person is Popular in YA: A Theory

You may have noticed that many popular YA titles today are written in the first-person narrative. But why? Why is first-person so popular with the YA audience?

In her blog, YA writer and children’s book illustrator Ingrid Sunberg shares five reasons why authors choose to write in the first-person. Ingrid observes that first-person gives the reader a quick connection with the protagonist, makes the story believable, helps develop the protagonist, is somewhat easy to write, and creates an agreement with the reader of how the story will be told.

To help find the answer to why readers connect with first-person narratives, I decided to make a graph, because graphs are my jam.

First, I took thirty titles of popular YA fiction all the way from the mid 1800’s to 2013. These titles are or have been enormously popular, and a couple of titles are just a few of my favorite YA and Middle Grade books. Next, I went through and marked which stories are told in first-person and and which were told in third-person (limited, objective, and omniscient).

1st Person Year Published 3rd person Year Published
1 The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn 1884 1 Little Women 1868
2 The Catcher in the Rye 1951 2 Anne of Green Gables 1908
3 To Kill a Mockingbird 1960 3 The Secret Garden 1911
4 Island of the Blue Dolphins 1960 4 Charlotte’s Web 1952
5 Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret 1970 5 Lord of the Flies 1954
6 The Perks of Being a Wallflower 1999 6 The Phantom Tollbooth 1961
7 The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2001 7 A Wrinkle in Time 1962
8 Twilight 2005 8 Hatchet 1987
9 The Book Thief 2005 9 Number the Stars 1989
10 The Lightning Thief 2005 10 The Giver 1993
11 The Host 2008 11 Ender’s Game 1994
12 The Hunger Games 2008 12 Holes 1998
13 Divergent 2011 13 Eragon 2002
14 Incarnate 2012 14 Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone 2003
15 Vampire Academy 2013 15 Inkheart 2005

The information I gathered already surprised me. I assumed that of the thirty books, at least 66% would be written in first-person. But of the thirty books I chose, exactly half were written in third-person.

Next, I charted how many books from both POV’s were published in ten year increments from 1800 – 2013.

Screen Shot 2014-04-02 at 8.12.39 AM

 

You may or may not be surprised by my microcosmic, pedestrian research. What surprised me was that technically, third-person isn’t any less popular as a whole. In fact, according to my chart, it’s been steadily increasing in popularity through the years. Note that while I only took the first books in popular series, keep in mind how popular all of the Harry Potter books were (third-person), with the last book published in 2007. Third-person YA stories aren’t going anywhere. They’re steadily increasing in popularity, according to my small-scale study.

First-person narrative YA and Middle Grade novels increase sharply in popularity according to my chart, especially in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. First-person narrative is trendy, but it has also steadily grown in popularity as well.

But why has the first-person narrative become so popular recently in YA and Middle Grade fiction?

This brings us to my theory: chicks and their diaries, man.

 

Chicks, man.

In this article from The Guardian, Vanessa Thorpe summarizes a 2009 study in which researchers interviewed 2,000 people about their reading habits. Researchers found of the women interviewed, forty-eight percent could be considered avid readers, while only twenty-six percent of men could be considered the same. Thirty-two percent of men admitted to only reading two books per year, while eighteen percent of the women interviewed said the same. According to this article on NPR, surveys conducted in the U.S., Canada, and Britain concluded that men account for only twenty percent of readers in the fiction market.

While it could be argued that maybe many of the study’s participants were adults and did not read YA fiction, an article in Publisher’s Weekly claims otherwise:

“More than half the consumers of books classified for young adults aren’t all that young. According to a new study, fully 55% of buyers of works that publishers designate for kids aged 12 to 17 — known as YA books — are 18 or older, with the largest segment aged 30 to 44, a group that alone accounted for 28% of YA sales. And adults aren’t just purchasing for others — when asked about the intended recipient, they report that 78% of the time they are purchasing books for their own reading. The insights are courtesy of Understanding the Children’s Book Consumer in the Digital Age, an ongoing biannual study from Bowker Market Research that explores the changing nature of publishing for kids.”

 From this evidence, we can conclude that women read more fiction novels than men by a wide margin, and that plenty of those women are reading YA.

 

Diaries: The Missing Link to First-Person

For as long as I remember, I’ve kept journals. I have an entire bookshelf dedicated to my journals, one dating back to fifth grade. According to this January 2013 article by Carolyn Gregoire, I’m not the only one. According to a study, eighty-three percent of girls aged 16-19 write about their lives in a journal.

Let’s examine common characteristics of the female diary entry.

Disclaimer: these characteristics may or may not match your own diaries. These are typical characteristics I’ve noticed from the diaries I’ve snuck into (Okay, only once, and I feel awful about it. The saving grace was that the entry I flipped to talked about wanting mango ice cream instead of vanilla, and then I stopped reading immediately), have heard fellow females talk about, or have read as published works.

  • Almost always (I can’t imagine otherwise, frankly) written in first-person.
  • Focus on emotional reaction to situations and events.
  • Chronicles important events.
  • Marks events that have just happened.
  • Divulge true feelings and secrets.
  • Examine secret longings.
  • Heavy on self-evaluation.
  • Usually written in a stream of consciousness fashion.
  • Has voicing specific to the person writing the journal

Now, let’s compare those characteristics to a YA first-person story with a female protagonist:

  • Focused on one central character who tells the story
  • Emotionally charged
  • Has voicing specific to the protagonist
  • Tells important events through the protagonist’s point of view
  • Lets the reader peek into the mind of the protagonist, viewing her longings, desires, and emotional reactions
  • Usually follows as steady span of time without skipping through time.

Seeing the strong connection between the two? Now think about the target for most YA fiction. Research shows that most avid readers are women. Research also shows that many young women journal. When you combine the two facts, it makes a compelling case.

My theory is this: girls aged 12-18 who read regularly can and do connect quickly with a first-person narrative because it is reminiscent of their own journaling behavior. That is to say, how young girls process important events in their lives through journaling is very similar to a protagonist’s process of self-evaluation and self-discovery in a YA first-person narrative.

When a young girl picks up a YA first-person story, she is looking into the mind of the protagonist, almost the same as reading that protagonist’s own diary. As the young girl grows into a woman, whether or not she decides to continue journaling, she will understand the connection of first-person narrative because she has already written it.

Third-person in YA is in no way dying, but it may not have the strength of connecting so immediately with its audience as YA first-person storytelling does.

 

What do you think about the connection of girls who journal and girls who read first-person YA novels? I would love to know if you agree or disagree! Please let me know what you think in the comments.

YA Romance – Niche Within a Genre

Guest Post by L.L. Muir

Blog Pic OrlandoRomance is the most popular genre and is growing exponentially in YA audiences.

What must one be aware of when writing YA romance? I know there are a lot of writers who are moving into New Adult (college age) romance so they can have more sexually explicit material. I think if people are looking to appeal to the widest YA audience, they need to be careful. You want your readers to be able to carry your books around like their latest obsession, which will grow your audience, instead of hiding it in a backpack where new readers will never see it. I think that’s where BEAUTIFUL CREATURES got it right. Those books were show-off-gorgeous and a girl could recommend it to anyone and everyone, even her own mother. Now they have a huge adult readership as well. Of course it’s a fantastic read. Stunning, actually. Sometimes the writing’s so lovely I had to pause to absorb it all. That series was the impetus that pushed me to write SOMEWHERE OVER THE FREAKING RAINBOW.

How far do/can you delve into the romance? By definition, it has to be 51% about the FREAKING - Boy Cover Smallrelationship or it’s not technically a romance. Besides, young people’s lives revolve around who they like or what to wear to impress, or who they might be able to cling to so they don’t end up walking into the future alone. Alone is a horrible word. If you want to get a young reader to get emotionally involved with your characters, you have to write about the romance as much as you can without losing the plot.

What makes it work or not work? You know, I often go to the local bookstore and lurk in the YA section. When I see a few young people browsing, I tell them I’m a writer and I’m interested in what they would like to see more of in their YA romances. EVERY girl will tell you she wants to see more kissing. When I was a teenager, my life revolved around the next kiss. What can I say? So I will add kissing whenever it’s believable. My characters never complain.

What should a writer do or avoid? Don’t dumb it down. Give your readers a lot of credit. You don’t have to spell everything out for them. Chances are, they’re just as clever as you are. If you write for you, you’ll be writing for them.

What is it about the character, setting, writing style, tropes, etc that readers expect? Honesty, plain and simple. You have to write straight from your hip, and your characters have to be believable. You really cannot bullshit these people and earn their love. Your paranormal worlds have to be so well constructed that they WANT to believe it’s all true. They want to suspend their disbelief and dive in. If they see wires and last minute miracles to wrap up your plots and save your hero’s ass, they’ll never forgive you. It’s just like adult romance. Let your heroes do something heroic. Let your heroines get themselves out of trouble. Give your readers a character whose skin they’d like to wear, if only for a few hours.

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L.L. Muir lives in the shadows of the Rocky Mountains and writes fiction between bowls of cereal. You can find out more about L.L. Muir here: http://llmuir.weebly.com/

Somewhere Over the Freaking Rainbow

Jamison is crushing on the new girl next door. Bad news-the neighbors are Somerled cult-members killing off their own. Worse news-she’s next in line for sacrifice. Jamison will have to rise above the coward he thinks he is to get to the bottom of it all.

Something is terribly wrong with Skye. She’s experiencing emotions like the mortal teenager she’s pretending to be. When she finally asks the right questions, she finds answers that will rock the Somerled world…

…and none of her options include the boy who has stolen the heart she was never meant to have.