My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I decided to read this book in between revisions of my current young adult novel as I gave myself my typical “rest” between drafts or writing projects. It ended up being a good decision — now that I’m finished with the book, I’m energized and excited to dive into the next draft.
Victoria Hanley’s voice and expertise make this an accessible, encouraging, and enlightening read. It’s down-to-earth and honest about the challenges of publishing without coming across as defeatist. And unlike some writing books, it feels like a two-way conversation, and not just a way for the writer to gloat about her own writing process. It also includes interviews with many young adult authors, ranging from the renowned to the more “undiscovered.” The result is affirmation that there really are as many ways to write fiction as there are writers.
While filled with sound advice, this guide leaves plenty of room for individual styles.It covers the process of writing a young adult novel from idea generation to publication, and even gives a balanced perspective on self publishing. I vowed to do every single writing exercise in this book–even the ones I REALLY didn’t want to do–and I’m glad I did. They gave me a fresh perspective on my writing style, why I like to write YA stuff, and ideas for future stories. A lot of the exercises were even therapeutic, such as a long list of questions that asked things such as, “When was the first time you learned you were being lied to?” Although not all the answers fell within my adolescent/teenage experience, it still evoked many of the complicated emotions during that time of life.
Since the book covers so much, some of it is related in rather broad strokes, but Victoria consistently provides resources for deeper exploration of the included topics.
My two quibbles with the book are minor; one is that, while it claims to cover “fiction,” it’s definitely skewed toward the novel as a form; and at times, it seemed to rely too much on the “voices” of other authors, making it feel almost as if Victoria Henley was letting them to the work for her. But overall, it was awesome to have an up-to-date, smart how-to book about writing for teens, even though a lot of writing advice is sound across all genres.