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Category Archives: YA Fiction

Advice to a Young Writer

Advice to a Young Writer

This message from a young writer arrived last week via my website:

I am interested in writing teen fiction light novels. The genre I would like to work with is fantasy, adventure, and space. What does it take to become a fiction writer? What steps did you take? and How did you accomplish your work? I am still working on my fiction story. I created a link [omitted]. Just to get a head start.

A few days later, when I had time to provide a lucid reply after sleeping hours and hours, I wrote back:

Welcome to the land of stories! We writers are an odd bunch, living so often as we do in worlds of myth and make-believe.

How does one become a writer? One writes.

A lot.

Like all crafts, writing takes time and practice. Often, the first book written will not be the first book published. Many writers have manuscripts that will never see publication, because those were their practice books. Maybe book three or book five is the one finally published, the one readers might think is the author’s first book ever.

Dragon’s Rook took twenty years from concept to publication. Most writers don’t take that long. I was busy making a living while writing short stories and poems, submitting them to contests or magazines, and then — at long last — finishing a novel.

However, there are many unfinished novels. Some I threw away, because the time to write them had long past. Some I kept, because I still have a passion to complete them.

I can’t give you any rules or checklists to guide your journey. It’s unique to you. However, all writers become writers by — drum roll, please! — writing.

Learn all you can about constructing compelling storylines, creating intriguing characters, writing dynamic dialogue, and even learn proper grammar and sentence construction. Good paragraphs are structured like good jokes: not that they are all funny, but that they build toward a strong ending. Write a strong sentence, write a strong paragraph, write a strong scene. Repeat until you have a chapter, until you have another chapter, until you finally have a book.

Avoid cliched phrases or trite characters. Avoid lazy writing. There may be only a limited number of stories in the world, but find a way to tell your story in a fresh way.

Be open to constructive criticism. Not nasty put-downs, but honest feedback meant to help your work improve. Be humble and teachable. Be ready to stand up for your story choices, if necessary, but also be ready to consider other options. Be willing to look at the story honestly, and to see its flaws as well as its strengths.

I saw on your website that you have some of your story posted. A word of caution: Avoid offering too much of your work for free, or too soon. A chapter or a scene might be okay, or a short story related to the novel not included in the book itself. (Many writers are offering free short stories or deleted scenes as bonus material for readers.)

I wish you all the best on your journey, and I hope to hear good things about you in the future.

Sincerely,
KB

Any other advice you’d give a young writer?

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The First Principle – day 3

The First Principle – day 3

A young adult perspective on this month’s CSFF Blog Tour novel:

Marissa Shrock‘s The First Principle wasn’t exactly what I expected. For one thing, It read like a spy thriller rather than like other books I’ve read in the same genre, which was refreshing since Christian-young-adult-dystopian-sci-fi is a pretty narrow genre.

There aren’t many pauses in the action – but that’s once you get to the action. The suspenseful moments are almost stressfully so, but the story gets off to a bit of a slow start, since Vivica doesn’t gain a big, personal conflict that the reader cares about until a couple of chapters in when she discovers her pregnancy. Even then, there’s still more pages to traverse before the suspense actually sets in.

The story itself deals with issues that are very real in the world today and that many people don’t want to talk about. In fact, this is the first story I’ve read that actually handles the issues of abortion and teen pregnancy with more than a passing mention. Not only that, but neither of those issues is glossed-over or given a prepackaged answer; rather, Vivica’s situation is discussed fully and with a lot of questions and struggles, and the Biblical response is presented in a good way. Also, the story isn’t kept “clean” and “safe” for the sake of not offending anyone; rather, it is allowed to handle realistic scenarios realistically.

FirstPrinciple-258x400The conversion scene in this book is also well-handled. When a character does finally accept Christ as Savior, there is no big to-do. Problems don’t all magically get better. Consequences are still consequences and the world is still an uncomfortable place. There are no rose-colored glasses involved, just inner peace and grace that the character sometimes has to struggle to accept.

I also like that not everything ends happily or easily, yet enough of it does end well enough that the reader can be satisfied, and that forgiveness is a big theme, yet so are consequences and responsibility.

I have one major complaint, that being that the title of The First Principle is never actually explained or even referenced in the book anywhere that I can find. What is the first principle exactly?

Overall, though, this is the best Christian-young-adult-dystopian-sci-fi that I’ve read so far, and while I’ve begun to tire of dystopias in general, I am looking forward to any sequels that may follow The First Principle.

Here is where I digress from the book a bit and talk about the genre: as I’ve said above, it’s a very narrow genre, and the seemingly-endless flood of dystopias on all fronts is especially beginning to grate.

Therefore, I would like to issue a note to authors in which I remind them that variety of concept is a good thing (you don’t just have to write whatever’s selling right now) and refer them to Amish Vampires in Space for an example of a story with a serious tone and message but also a mild dose of humor – mainly due to the creative blending of genres – and a noticeable lack of everything-going-to-pot-in-the-government.

I’m not saying everybody needs to start writing books like that one; just that it’s time to do something creatively different genre-wise from what’s being done right now.

~Jamie, age 17

For other perspectives on the novel:

Julie Bihn
Thomas Clayton Booher
Beckie Burnham
April Erwin
Victor Gentile
Carol Keen
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Megan @ Hardcover Feedback
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
Nissa
Jalynn Patterson
Chawna Schroeder
Jessica Thomas

 

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The First Principle – day 2

The First Principle – day 2

(read Day 1 here)

When I learned the genre of this month’s CSFF Blog Tour book, my immediate response was negative: “Noooo! Not another YA science fiction futuristic dystopian!”

For the sake of family and neighbors, the wailing was internalized.

However, I read a sample of the book and then the back cover copy, and decided to give this one a shot.

And I’m glad I did.

The First Principle by Marissa Shrock is a smooth, easy read, and could easily be finished in one day, although I read it over the course of several. The ill-tempered editor in the back of my brain did not stomp around and throw his arms in the air, which left me free to enjoy the novel.

Well, to be honest, there were times when he looked up from his desk, his eyes narrowed. Those occurred in the first portion of the book — in the first long dialogue between ex-boyfriend and baby-daddy Ben and protagonist Vivica — and at two or three other places later in the story, probably because teenage speech and behavior annoys him. 😉

Shrock gives us an intelligent lead character with skills as a computer hacker, and these come in handy as Vivica graduates from using her abilities to aid herself and her friends at school to escaping those who want to abort her child.

FirstPrinciple-258x400The rebels she joins are not all secret agents. Many are everyday, likable, good people, much to her surprise, and they are endeavoring to be nonviolent toward other humans even as they refuse to bow to the tyranny of a totalitarian government. However, the media and the government leaders label them terrorists and assassins.

Hidden and aided by different rebels along the way — Ben included — Vivica uncovers a plot by government insiders to frame the rebels while staging a coup.

But not only is the national leadership in turmoil — there’s a mole inside the Emancipation Warriors. Is it Jared Canton, or is he, too, being framed?

And who keeps revealing Vivica’s information to the very people from whom she’s running?

The First Principle is recommended reading for teens to grownups, male or female.

Tomorrow, my niece will be giving her evaluation off the novel. Meantime, feel free to visit these stops along the tour:

Julie Bihn
Thomas Clayton Booher
Beckie Burnham
April Erwin
Victor Gentile
Carol Keen
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Megan @ Hardcover Feedback
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
Nissa
Jalynn Patterson
Chawna Schroeder
Jessica Thomas

 

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The First Principle – day 1

The First Principle – day 1

“I know you’ve all heard what happened today during fourth hour…(A) young lady was placed into a juvenile detention center for attempting to change the results of a government-issued pregnancy test in an attempt to avoid the required termination. Though pregnancy is rare due to the success rate of our vaccination program, we would like to remind you that the Posterity Protection and Self-Determination Act was implemented for the good of our country…”

“That’s bull.” Darius Delano crossed his arms…”What gives the government the right to tell her she can’t have a baby?”

FirstPrinciple-258x400On the surface, that’s the core conflict of The First Principle, a young adult science fiction novel with a dystopian flavor and set in the near future. However, author Marissa Shrock has added other layers to the story in which nations as we know them been divided up into new regions, federations, unions, and republics. The United Regions of North America are comprised of Canada, Mexico, and the United States, and their “term law” — as the Posterity Protection and Self-Determination Act is known colloquially — restricts the number of children allowed, and underage mothers must have abortions.

Additionally, religion — specifically Christianity — is frowned upon, and the faithful must practice in secret. Only the heavily-edited Revised Freedom Version of the Bible is allowed, and even it is later collected up and burned.

While reading, one might be reminded of the state of Christianity in China right now, or how restrictive the birth laws are in that country. The futuristic North America that Shrock describes actually exists right now in many countries, and often in more brutal forms.

But there is hope in this story.

When Vivica — the intelligent, headstrong, sixteen-year-old daughter of the governor of the Great Lakes Region — learns she is pregnant, the law-abiding, non-believing teenager begins thinking and acting in ways she never expected as she strives to protect her unborn child.

My eldest niece and I read The First Principle as part of the CSFF Blog Tour, and we will be sharing our impressions of the book over the next couple of days. Meantime, you are invited to visit these other stops on the tour:

Julie Bihn
Thomas Clayton Booher
Beckie Burnham
April Erwin
Victor Gentile
Carol Keen
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Megan @ Hardcover Feedback
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
Nissa
Jalynn Patterson
Chawna Schroeder
Jessica Thomas

 

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