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My book doesn't feel like it's "x" enough to be anything?


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#1 AshemDragon

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Posted 18 February 2018 - 02:11 PM

Hi everyone. I wrote a book, I've been writing it since the summer before I started high school, and now I'm in my senior year and looking to get published soon, and as I'm looking for agents, I've realized that I can't keep saying the genre of my book is "kinda fantasy, but not like high fantasy and like I have my own made up fantasy race, and it's really dark and written with a weird narrative voice."

So, I think the biggest thing that makes it hard to put my work in a genre is the way I wrote it. I really like experimenting with my writing, so I wrote the whole thing with no dialog. Like, it still has characters, and the characters still talk to each other, but there's no quotes. Like, instead of something like

 

"Ugh, that was a pretty worthless harvest," Izander said through bites of vegetables, "maybe we should go hun-" Nero eagerly interrupted him: "Yes, we absolutely should go hunting."

it's more like

 

Izander talked through a full mouth to complain about how little food they were able to get from the garden, and he barely even had to propose hunting before Nero heartily agreed. 

(ew those quotes look so clunky but at least it's easier to read than trying to put both of those little scenes in the same paragraph, I guess)

So, that writing style is very weird and I've kind of taken it in stride by trying to keep a lot of narrative distance and make it feel like the reader is sort of watching these strange creatures (the characters in that example are a race called "syiks," btw) go about their lives, instead of trying to get them more... engaged? in the writing. My first instinct was like "okay so it has that weird writing style, so maybe it's literary" but I don't think my book is, like... Deep enough, or polished enough, or character focused enough (because it's hard to really get that literary character vibe going when none of the characters can use quotes), or realistic enough to be literary, so I don't think I can sell it as literary.

 

It also has that fantasy race (real brief rundown, syiks don't die of old age, they can respawn if their blood remains in tact outside of their body, they kill because it's the only way to absorb life energy and humans are by far the best prey, 99% of them are psychopaths n sadists, they're basically ninjas, and their magical abilities are equal to about that of a talented but untrained human in a world where mostly only elves use magic.) and a little bit of magic (not much, they just have runes that they can charge with energy and then expend for a certain effect), but that's most of the fantasy about it. It takes place basically on a version of Earth that has syiks and a little bit of magic, and human settlements are just, mundane, because humans can't at all use magic and there's no special artifacts or anything that give them power like that. Yeah, the book is technically fantasy, but it really doesn't give off that vibe at all, especially not with the writing style. I don't think there's enough adventure or anything, and the magic is used more just for author convenience than anything else.

 

 

So I'm like, okay maybe I can just categorize it by audience, like YA or whatever. But I really don't know. I don't think it can be YA because it doesn't have enough or the right kind of character growth and interaction, and the plot is about Nero trying to betray the syiks in order to save the humans from their tyranny, but he keeps growing more aggressive and selfish until it's more about getting revenge through genocide of the syiks, and in the end Nero realizes he can't even be happy living among the humans he worked to save. And that's kind of, uh. Not a YA plot, I don't think. Nero does have one slight romance subplot, but it's weird and kinda forced 'cause it's just there to enforce Nero's inability to really connect with people, and to add weight to an already important plot point when he accidentally kills his love interest (btw, another dilemma: all the syiks are gay b/c I'm gay and I wanna write cool gay ninjas (also b/c they're immortal and they don't wanna keep making more people to compete for resources with), but, uh they're also all sadistic psychopaths, and aside from Nero himself, they're the villains, even if it's only because they're, like, lawful neutral and the "laws" are bad? And Nero's plot revolves around hating himself, murdering people, and trying + failing to be something he's not, so... I think it'd be pretty tacky to try to market this stuff as LGBT in any way, so that whole situation might be a lil weird) but again, it's just not enough to really be "YA." Also according to my mom (the only person I could get to read my entire first draft), it's "reaaalllly gory," which supposedly isn't okay for whatever audience is gonna be reading a book that doesn't have cuss words in it? (personally I think it's fine to have or not have gore in YA stuff but neither of us are experts so idk) I don't think the gore is that bad, but yeah I do go into fairly graphic detail on battle scenes. I think most YA books have at least a couple fight scenes, in my experience, but I guess the way I write mine, where like half the battles are kinda blase instead of being intense and important to progressing the plot, sorta sets me a little apart from YA tradition? Idk.

 

I feel like overall, my book is too literary and dark to be YA, even aside from its lack of a YA plot, so next I'm thinking, maybe it's adult fiction? But, like... I'm a teenager. I wrote this as a teenager, and I feel relatively certain that my work doesn't quite have the maturity to be "adult fiction." I don't really know how to elaborate on that, but I guess, like... The plot is too shallow, there aren't a lot of, like... -[serious]- scenes, like nothing with the vibe of serious fiction where characters deal with real life issues like getting fired or having to rethink a relationship or whatever, in reasonable and mature ways? Idk I guess when I think about adult fiction I think about characters having to find complex solutions to complex problems in their lives, and my book doesn't really have that on any relatable scale? I mean there's Nero trying to figure out how he's gonna stay on the humans' side after he's forced by another syik to go on a killing spree or whatever. But yeah.

Sooo... Yeah. I have no idea if I can really market this as the genres that it is, and I have no idea what age group I might be targeting.



#2 NCruz

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Posted 18 February 2018 - 04:21 PM

I tried to read everything you typed, but I'm having trouble sorting through the ideas. I'll still try to answer.
 
Age Category: Nothing is too dark for YA. There are plenty of YA books out there with extreme violence and top-tier swearing. You still want to balance those out because regardless of age group, you don't want the violence to be gratuitous or the swearing to take away from the writing. YA is usually restricted to age of the protagonists. If your protagonists don't have a human lifespan, then think of the equivalent lifespan.
 
Genre: Your story is still fantasy. Fantasy has a bunch of subgenres, so you can explore those. I haven't heard about literary fantasy, but I remember seeing agents ask for SFF books that have literary elements. You don't have to be specific with subgenre, and can stick with YA fantasy (assuming your protags are teens). Fantasy also doesn't have to be about saving the world or whatever. Fantasy can be softer.
 
​Experimentation: ​Using no dialogue is interesting, but I worry that won't go well with agents. Summarizing instead of showing it through scene slows down your plot. It adds to your word count. It's not as engaging. Experimentation is awesome, but you've really got to nail it to make it work. You should grab critique partners (fellow readers/writers) to read your book and give feedback. They'll tell you if having no dialogue is working.
 
​Side-note: I worry that you're looking at querying too soon. If you've recently finished the book and only had your mother read, you're not ready. Most authors who sign have revised with the guidance of 1-3 critique partners (sometimes a writer's group). You really don't want to rush this.


#3 lnloft

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Posted 18 February 2018 - 08:35 PM

^^ What Nessa said.

 

Yes, you are fantasy. A fantasy race is critical to your plot, so you are undoubtedly fantasy. Check out some of the other sub-genres to get a better idea of where you might stand. You say your story is set on Earth, but you didn't mention what time period, but if it's the past, maybe historical fantasy, if it's present, check out urban fantasy to see if that's where you stand. Check out here for a list of some sub-genres, which then allow you to explore titles under those genres to help give you a better idea of where you stand: http://tvtropes.org/...hp/Main/Fantasy. For the record, I wrote my first book in high school (it has since gone unpublished because while I think it was good for a high school student, I write much better things now), and I called it fantasy even though there were literally no magical elements in it, it was just set in a made-up world.

 

But Nessa makes the important point that you do need to slow down a bit. You NEED more people to read your story. Post an ad in the Wanted Ads forum for some critique partners. Family and friends are great, but I always take their critiques with a grain of salt. Whether they are aware or not, they always come in biased in your favor. I have one friend who literally only says how she likes everything, down to complimenting how clever my working titles are. I send her copies to read because it's nice to have someone just cheerleading for you and keeping you feeling good about your stuff, but you also need people who will look critically at your book and say what is not working. I can tell you personally that I would put down your book the moment I realized there wasn't any dialogue. Some people might appreciate the artistry if you did it right, but it would not work for me. I was the person who got pissed at The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien because half the time he didn't put quotes around his dialogue. So you write the story in your style, but do tread very carefully.

 

For my own personal side-note: Be wary of unfortunate implications. You say that you made all the syiks gay because you're gay, which is great (I'm working hard to get better representation on sexuality and race in my books), but you also admit the syiks are all psychopaths. So some people, especially if they aren't aware you're gay, might see that as you saying all gays are psychopaths. Obviously not what you're intending, but again, there's a place you need to tread carefully.

 

Last note: what's your word count on this?


Nothing to reciprocate on right now; I'm off in the query trenches.


#4 AshemDragon

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Posted 23 February 2018 - 08:38 PM

Thanks for the advice! I did spend a while looking online for people, or trying to get peers/fellow writers to read my stuff, but kinda abandoned that pursuit around the time I finished my earliest draft because I figured I already knew what the biggest problems were, and I couldn't find someone willing to critique on my terms... Y'know, typical pretentious teenager reasons. But, yeah, I guess I kinda am rushing into the querying phase... I'll look into setting up a critique partnership. Anyways, thanks for the info, and lnloft, my full draft is currently hovering around 60k words, and I think further refinement is gonna keep it pretty much in the same range, or mayyybe bump it up a little? So yeah.

(ps sorry for the long time it took to post this reply, it just totally slipped my mind this week...)



#5 lnloft

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Posted 24 February 2018 - 09:22 AM

Trying to remember why I asked about word count. Think it was to see if you were in the YA ballpark. Sweet spot for YA fantasy is 65k - 85k. 60k would be awfully short for an adult fantasy, so I think that also cements you as being YA.


Nothing to reciprocate on right now; I'm off in the query trenches.


#6 giffordmac

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Posted 25 February 2018 - 01:22 PM

There are also some forums devoted pretty exclusively to critiques: Ladies who Critique and Critique Circle come to mind first, but there are other you can find on Google. In some of the groups you have to earn points before you can post your own stuff, others you just match up with partners, usually (but not necessarily) in the same genre you write.

 

Best of luck!


“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” ― Elie Wiesel

 

~~~

 

 

 

 


#7 Emily804

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Posted 26 February 2018 - 10:01 PM

Hi everyone. I wrote a book, I've been writing it since the summer before I started high school, and now I'm in my senior year and looking to get published soon, and as I'm looking for agents, I've realized that I can't keep saying the genre of my book is "kinda fantasy, but not like high fantasy and like I have my own made up fantasy race, and it's really dark and written with a weird narrative voice."

So, I think the biggest thing that makes it hard to put my work in a genre is the way I wrote it. I really like experimenting with my writing, so I wrote the whole thing with no dialog. Like, it still has characters, and the characters still talk to each other, but there's no quotes. Like, instead of something like

it's more like

(ew those quotes look so clunky but at least it's easier to read than trying to put both of those little scenes in the same paragraph, I guess)

So, that writing style is very weird and I've kind of taken it in stride by trying to keep a lot of narrative distance and make it feel like the reader is sort of watching these strange creatures (the characters in that example are a race called "syiks," btw) go about their lives, instead of trying to get them more... engaged? in the writing. My first instinct was like "okay so it has that weird writing style, so maybe it's literary" but I don't think my book is, like... Deep enough, or polished enough, or character focused enough (because it's hard to really get that literary character vibe going when none of the characters can use quotes), or realistic enough to be literary, so I don't think I can sell it as literary.

 

It also has that fantasy race (real brief rundown, syiks don't die of old age, they can respawn if their blood remains in tact outside of their body, they kill because it's the only way to absorb life energy and humans are by far the best prey, 99% of them are psychopaths n sadists, they're basically ninjas, and their magical abilities are equal to about that of a talented but untrained human in a world where mostly only elves use magic.) and a little bit of magic (not much, they just have runes that they can charge with energy and then expend for a certain effect), but that's most of the fantasy about it. It takes place basically on a version of Earth that has syiks and a little bit of magic, and human settlements are just, mundane, because humans can't at all use magic and there's no special artifacts or anything that give them power like that. Yeah, the book is technically fantasy, but it really doesn't give off that vibe at all, especially not with the writing style. I don't think there's enough adventure or anything, and the magic is used more just for author convenience than anything else.

 

 

So I'm like, okay maybe I can just categorize it by audience, like YA or whatever. But I really don't know. I don't think it can be YA because it doesn't have enough or the right kind of character growth and interaction, and the plot is about Nero trying to betray the syiks in order to save the humans from their tyranny, but he keeps growing more aggressive and selfish until it's more about getting revenge through genocide of the syiks, and in the end Nero realizes he can't even be happy living among the humans he worked to save. And that's kind of, uh. Not a YA plot, I don't think. Nero does have one slight romance subplot, but it's weird and kinda forced 'cause it's just there to enforce Nero's inability to really connect with people, and to add weight to an already important plot point when he accidentally kills his love interest (btw, another dilemma: all the syiks are gay b/c I'm gay and I wanna write cool gay ninjas (also b/c they're immortal and they don't wanna keep making more people to compete for resources with), but, uh they're also all sadistic psychopaths, and aside from Nero himself, they're the villains, even if it's only because they're, like, lawful neutral and the "laws" are bad? And Nero's plot revolves around hating himself, murdering people, and trying + failing to be something he's not, so... I think it'd be pretty tacky to try to market this stuff as LGBT in any way, so that whole situation might be a lil weird) but again, it's just not enough to really be "YA." Also according to my mom (the only person I could get to read my entire first draft), it's "reaaalllly gory," which supposedly isn't okay for whatever audience is gonna be reading a book that doesn't have cuss words in it? (personally I think it's fine to have or not have gore in YA stuff but neither of us are experts so idk) I don't think the gore is that bad, but yeah I do go into fairly graphic detail on battle scenes. I think most YA books have at least a couple fight scenes, in my experience, but I guess the way I write mine, where like half the battles are kinda blase instead of being intense and important to progressing the plot, sorta sets me a little apart from YA tradition? Idk.

 

I feel like overall, my book is too literary and dark to be YA, even aside from its lack of a YA plot, so next I'm thinking, maybe it's adult fiction? But, like... I'm a teenager. I wrote this as a teenager, and I feel relatively certain that my work doesn't quite have the maturity to be "adult fiction." I don't really know how to elaborate on that, but I guess, like... The plot is too shallow, there aren't a lot of, like... -[serious]- scenes, like nothing with the vibe of serious fiction where characters deal with real life issues like getting fired or having to rethink a relationship or whatever, in reasonable and mature ways? Idk I guess when I think about adult fiction I think about characters having to find complex solutions to complex problems in their lives, and my book doesn't really have that on any relatable scale? I mean there's Nero trying to figure out how he's gonna stay on the humans' side after he's forced by another syik to go on a killing spree or whatever. But yeah.

Sooo... Yeah. I have no idea if I can really market this as the genres that it is, and I have no idea what age group I might be targeting.

 

Here, this might help you:

genre_identification_flowchart.jpg

From this chart I'd say you've probably got a High Fantasy novel. If the characters are teenagers, then it would also fall under the category of YA. 


Query Compatibility YA sci-fi: http://agentquerycon...lity-ya-sci-fi/


#8 AshemDragon

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Posted 28 February 2018 - 08:04 PM

Oh wow, that chart actually helps a lot! Thank you to everyone!






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