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Monday, July 11, 2011

Monday Miscellany-Writing Young Adult Fiction for Dummies-A Review

I'm departing from my usual Monday Miscellany and posting a review. The reason is that I want to share this book with my readers who might still have questions about this business called Writing Young Adult Fiction. I sure have some and I'm very pleased that Deborah Halverson happened along with some answers.



First, I have to make one disclaimer. I adore Books for Dummies, and I’ve used several; however, when I heard about Writing Young Adult Fiction for Dummies I was very skeptical that the Dummies format would be an effective tool for helping writers through their creative process and into print. That skepticism vanished after I had the book in my hands for a few minutes.

In the Introduction, she invites readers to jump around, skim, scan or pause to absorb on their own terms, and the Dummies format turned out to be brilliant for encouraging this highly individualized use of her book. It’s easy to spot the Bulls-eye icon that signals important time-saving Tips, or to pause at the String on a Finger because this icon means “Remember this. It’s important.” The Time-Bomb alerts readers to problems, things to avoid. The Nerdy Guy icon signals that the reader can skip this for the moment and return later for a more detailed examination of a point. The Exercise icon tells the reader to stop for a moment and try out what has just been presented.


Halverson has what it takes to help the aspiring author with a “behind the scenes” look at the world of young adult fiction. First, she had a ten year stint as editor at Harcourt Children’s Books, then she became an award-winning author of two young adult novels, Honk If You Hate Me and Big Mouth. Besides these excellent credentials, she’s the founder of the website, DearEditor.com, regularly speaks at conferences and teaches writing.  

In Writing Young Adult Fiction for Dummies, she offers up her years of experience in clear, digestible chapters. She provides examples and exercises that allow the reader different ways to access, understand and assimilate what she has presented. Added bonuses are the thirteen topnotch, award winning writers and agents who expand on the chapters with targeted tips and models. Mary E. Pearson gives ten tips to beat writer’s block. Agent Erin Murphy explains how to make those “quiet books loud” and salable, and Darcy Pattison discusses the book trailer’s importance as part of a promotion campaign.

Chapter 1 starts with getting “The Lowdown on YA Fiction.” In this chapter she gives a clear understanding of what is meant by young adult fiction, a term she uses as an umbrella for two categories: books written for teens from 12 to 17 and those written for kids 9 through 14. I found myself drawing hearts next to sentences like, “Above all, young adult fiction is not watered-down adult fare.” I drew a double heart next to, “Let  [the knowledge in this book] free you up to explore and experiment with your own fiction, finding the right way to tell your story.”

Her book ends at the author’s ultimate goal, selling and promoting her published book with “Ten Ways to Make the Most of a Conference.” I wish I’d had this step-by-step help before I attended my first conference. I would have gone with my list of tangible, achievable goals; I would have known about the faculty and made comments on those business cards I collected; I would have come away with and retained so much more than I did. 

The chapters between the beginning and the end are meaty without being dense. They pinpoint the essentials, and they carry the reader through the most important phases of this creative process, but they also make the business and professional aspect of writing apparent, important and clear. 

I really appreciated her chapter titled “Writing the Almighty Hook.”  Authors are always being told to write a “hook” in their queries as well as in the opening lines of those books that are under construction, and that’s great advice, but so often I’ve seen the question, “How do I do that?” Well, Ms. Halverson shows the steps. In this chapter there are models of great hooks, wonderful tips for keeping that hook right there as a guide from beginning to end of the writing process, and then there are distinct steps that lead into practicing and perfecting those first lines.

In “Strategizing and Packaging Your Submission,” she demystifies so many aspects of this part of the process: Targeting your submission, writing that dynamite query letter, the synopsis, putting all of your submission into a neat and interesting package, and turning those rejection letters into learning moments. 

Overall, I’d have to give Writing Young adult Fiction For Dummies a Five Star Rating. I feel it fills a need in the “How To” market. I’m really pleased that I happened to be in the right place at the right time to review this book and pass along what I gleaned from its pages. 

22 comments:

  1. Great review, Lee. Yet another talent ... impressive! Sometimes writers really do need a solid how-to book ... I always am reading at least one book along those lines. Thank you, have a great week. --Daisy

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  2. Lee, this is great to know. I read Dear Editor religiously and heard about this book. Thank you!

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  3. Thanks to you both. I so seldom review that this was an interesting experience.

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  4. I loved Grammar For Dummies. I have to get this one!

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  5. I've seen this book before, but I was very skeptical. I didn't think there was any way this could be good, but now you've convinced me otherwise. Thanks!

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  6. I may have to check this out now. I usually like the dummy books too, but this one I was like, "ummmmm." Good to know otherwise!!

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  7. Thanks for your review. I wonder if this book would be good for writers of MG too? Or does it seem more oriented towards YA?

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  8. I admit the title scares me! But the author and the points you reviewed sound great. :D Thanks for this review, it's not something I would have probably otherwise considered.

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  9. Coming from you this is a great recommendation. Obviously I'm going to have to look into it. Thanks Lee.

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  10. Seems like a worthwhile book, except the title can be taken a couple of different ways. I'll assume the "dummies" are the aspiring writers.

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  11. Ah, yes, I know DH is a good editor, so there's no doubt that it'll be a good book. Thanks for the reminder, Lee

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  12. Excellent review! Makes me want to run out and buy this book right away!

    Thanks,
    Monti
    NotesAlongTheWay

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  13. This sounds like a great resource, Lee. Thank you for sharing it with us!

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  14. Excellent review, Lee. I can't wait to get my copy. I believe this book is helpful for writing MG, too. I've been following DearEditor for a while now and highly recommend signing up to follow it. She's on Facebook, too.

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  15. THis is something we should all read for sure. Wish it had come out years ago when I fist started writing YA!! ANd Dear Editor is awesome.

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  16. Pk, I totally agree. It would have saved me so many mistakes.

    I'm glad you all liked the review and that you'll find the book helpful. Let me know and I'm sure Deborah H. will love to hear from you too.

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  17. Pk, I totally agree. It would have saved me so many mistakes.

    I'm glad you all liked the review and that you'll find the book helpful. Let me know and I'm sure Deborah H. will love to hear from you too.

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  18. Great review, and a book worth getting, based on your praise. -Rae

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  19. I skipped over this one. I guess I need to rethink that decision. Thanks for the review.

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  20. I want this book. Hubby knows this. *thumps fingers* Great review filled with so much info. Thanks so much. :-)

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  21. I didn't even know this book existed! Now, it looks like I need to take a trip to B&N. Thank you for the information!

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  22. Interesting title to your blog, as interesting as the content itself. Writing games bring out the best in me, and I am all too familiar with this concept of written duels. I wrote a vignette ten years ago that describes a particular game, as well as my love for pen and ink. You have an interesting blog. I will visit often.

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