1. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    Is There Any Point in Trying to Make YA and NA Novels Good?

    Discussion in 'By the Genre' started by Catrin Lewis, Dec 23, 2015.

    I'm not writing a Young Adult or New Adult novel, but I'm critiquing one for someone who is. The plot line has potential, now that I've figured out what it is, but the execution lacks a great deal. Shallow, insufficiently motivated main characters; secondary and minor characters that are mostly shadow puppets; vague, sketchy settings; mid-paragraph point of view shifts; an overload of filter words and telling-not-showing (or worse, showing and then telling); the whole kit. I'm constantly being pulled out of the story, exclaiming, "Why, why, why???"

    That said, it's nothing that the author couldn't correct if she put her mind to it.

    Trouble is, the author keeps informing me that her teenaged-girl beta readers all love it. According to her, they're reporting in saying the book is wonderful, they couldn't put it down, they identified with the MC so much, she was so deep and complex, etc., etc. My suspicion is that they're filling in the gaps with their own life experiences. And that their experience of good literature is limited and they don't know what they're missing. Whatever the explanation, the message I'm getting from the author is, "My target audience likes it the way it is."

    If that's so, is there any point in the author's rewriting it to make it better? Or in my giving feedback to help her do so? I mean, if all the audience wants is the literary equivalent of Doritos, why bother?

    In YA and NA, is formula and trope all that matters, and who cares if the writing's any good?
     
    Last edited: Dec 23, 2015
  2. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    We're back to the always-nebulous "good" writing definition. If we go by a "good writing is what works for the intended audience" standard, then it sounds as if this manuscript is good.

    The other option, of course, is that the teen betas aren't good - as someone who used to spend quite of a bit of time in the classroom, I can definitely say that peer editing is a skill that needs to be learned and constantly reinforced.

    My advice would be to stop looking at beta reading as helping a writer to "fix" something or make it "better". I think beta reading is a lot less frustrating if I look at it as "giving my reaction" to a piece. You can honestly tell her your reaction, but beyond that? Things like the mid-paragraph POV shifts are close enough to actual errors that I'd expect her to want them "fixed", but the rest of it is pretty subjective. Tell her how you reacted, tell her you were pulled out of the story, but then let it go. You're a beta, not a writing teacher or a professional editor.
     
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  3. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Reading Obsidian, which is a truly awful YA book that's taken scene after scene straight from Twilight, I think I could still critique it without changing the nature of the book that apparently fits some popular teen romance novel format.

    It drags on and on where the mythical creature (in this case an alien, not a vampire) is attracted to then pushes away the MC over and over. It goes on way to long, gets really repetitive.

    Then there are all the Twilight ripoffs. Seriously, the author could have found something less obvious for her plot devices. It reads so much like fan fiction it should have been labeled as such.

    So to answer your OP question, yes, I think you can still address those things whether it's popular trash or not. Twilight could have benefitted from a bit of critique and it would have at least been a better written teen romance novel.

    That some readers don't recognize obvious flaws doesn't mean they aren't there or that the writer wouldn't benefit from improving their skills.
     
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  4. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    This feels a bit arrogant, to me. I mean, you don't even know what "some popular teen romance novel format" is, but you're confident you could meet it? You're confident that the things you don't like about the book aren't the exact same things its readers do like?

    But think about little kids, insisting on the same bedtime story over and over and over and over again. There's something in repetition that seems to appeal to young humans. When I was a teenager, I read The Outsiders so many times I can still totally recall some parts of it word for word. Maybe teens aren't past that little-kid-bedtime-story-repetition thing. So maybe a teen novel that repeats itself isn't such a bad thing.

    I have no idea if this is true or not. I haven't spent too much time trying to figure out the teen market--I just write what I want, and if some of them want to read it, great. But these books are getting published, they're getting bought and read, and they're getting adored by many teen readers. There's something in them that appeals, and until we know what that something is, I think we should be cautious about assuming we can write books that will appeal as much to that specific audience.

    And I guess we're morphing back to the thread from a while ago, in which you were insisting there was a list of writing skills (beyond basic spelling and grammar) that can be universally applied to all books.

    I don't think there is such a list; I think it's arrogant to assume we could improve a story that's been read and adored by millions without taking the chance of removing whatever it was that made the millions love it; and I don't think you or anyone else I've met on these boards is qualified to point out "obvious flaws" beyond basic spelling and grammar issues.

    It feels pedantic, to me, and I'm not sure how any of us are qualified to be pedants on any of this.
     
  5. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    @BayView, I remember well how some members of these forums jumped on me when I first submitted an excerpt to the Workshop, telling me I was guilty of narrative intrusion and other writerly sins I'd never heard of. I resented it at first, but when I took the time to think about it, I found that eliminating these problems made my writing so much better. When my own beta readers get back to me telling me my writing is "fantastic," that they really love my characters, and that they were sorry for my book to end, I have to conclude that the lessons were worth learning.

    As I read and give feedback on others' works, yeah, I have to resist the temptation to think, "Darn it, I had to learn all this stuff; you do, too." My spirit has to be more one of, "Dear writer, this took me out of the story, and here's what it's called. You might want to deal with it."

    And in the end, yes, it's up to the author whether he or she will heed or ignore my feedback, and up to his or her readers whether they mind if she does. As you say, I'm not her high school English teacher, and I won't get a bad report if she doesn't do well on the state writing exam.

    But I have to disagree about this:

    There are other objective issues that can--- and I believe, must--- be addressed far beyond those. Factual errors, physical impossibilities (in realistic fiction), contradictions as to character and setting descriptions . . . and that's even without looking at "show, don't tell" and knocking out narrative intrusion and filter words.

    Do we shrug and say, "Well, the kids aren't noticing those problems; let's not bother to eliminate them from our books because they'll sell anyway"? I may be reading you wrong, but I gather your answer to my initial question is, "No, YA and NA novels don't have to be 'good,' they only have to appeal to their target audience," and "Nothing but appeal defines 'good' in this context anyway." I can't believe that the production and consumption of literary Doritos is a good or even a neutral thing when it comes to developing discerning readers. You cite The Outsiders as a book you read over and over as a teenager. But The Outsiders is not an example of the assembly-line gunk we're seeing so much of today. It's well-written, especially considering the age of the author, and I'd argue that's because S. E. Hinton grew up reading solid works of fiction and not pandering pap.
     
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  6. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    But narrative intrusion is only a "sin" if it's not done well. The term itself is judgement laden - if someone did it well, we'd be talking about the "distinctive narrative voice" as a compliment. So if you were doing something that pulled a lot of your readers out of your work, then, yeah, it's a problem and should be fixed. But that's determined on a case-by-case, reader-by-reader basis. What intrudes to one reader may be an intriguing voice to another reader.

    In terms of "When my own beta readers get back to me telling me my writing is "fantastic," that they really love my characters, and that they were sorry for my book to end, I have to conclude that the lessons were worth learning."... the MS mentioned in the OP has beta readers who find it fantastic and are sorry to see it end, too. I'm glad you're pleased with your work, but you can't really have it both ways. If the betas in the original case are "wrong" for liking that story, why couldn't your betas be wrong for liking yours?

    I agree that factual errors, physical impossibilities, etc. are probably going to take most readers out of the story and therefore should be looked at. But "show, don't tell" isn't a real rule, and anyone who actually tries to show everything in a novel is on a fool's errand. The trick is deciding what to show and what to tell, and, again, that's subjective and depends on what the author is trying to do. Frankly, a lot of novels have far too much "show" for my taste, but that's just my taste - other readers clearly feel differently. We've already covered narrative intrusion as a term that is based on a subjective evaluation, and filter words absolutely have an important purpose, as long as they're used consciously and for effect.

    So, no, I wouldn't say we should shrug and say we shouldn't eliminate things we think are problems from our books. Because those are our books, and we should be pleased with our own work. And if someone has asked us to beta read, we should certainly point out the issues that took us out of the book. But that doesn't mean the issues are "wrong" or "bad" - they just didn't work for us.

    So, in terms of your initial question? Yes, YA books have to be good. But I don't think I'm defining "good" in anything close to the way you or GingerCoffee are defining it.

    It would be really comforting if there was no magic in writing books people want to read. It would be fantastic to think that if we study hard enough and learn all the techniques and edit forever, then eventually we'll produce the perfect book. But we won't. There's no such thing as a perfect book. And all the editing and technique in the world won't do any good, in YA or any other category, if the book doesn't have that magic spark that makes people want to read it.

    And if you know what that magic spark is? Let me know.

    I'm pretty sure it's not going to have anything to do with eliminating narrative intrusion.
     
  7. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I'm a fan of 80's children's 'junk' series books which I've been collecting for about ten years, more if you count the series' I had bought when they were actually being published. I call them 'junk' because they're kinda like junk food. Half the time they were pre-created and handed off to ghost writers. They were full of continuity errors, leaps of logic, typos, fluky reasoning and flimsy characterization. Not exactly good, as in realistic, but fun. And because a lot were popular ( Sweet Valley High, The Babysitters Club, Girls of Canby Hall, Sweet Dreams ) they created a lot - a lot - of imitators. Over a hundred. Most never lasted more than six books. And some stand alone books picked up the ideas and felt like series books - a gang of girls worrying over minor things. I'd say the authors were running neck and neck - half of the books were 'junk', the other half 'good.'

    If the writer wants to create popular fiction and is more interested in grabbing the reader than following stylistic guidelines or reaching beyond tropes than there's not too much you can do except tell her where you, personally, were pulled out of the story. Even than there's no guarantee she'll take the advice. Not when she's got published, popular examples doing the opposite.

    Personally it can get discouraging seeing so many books with potential resorting to tropes. I sometimes wonder if it isn't mixed up with an urge to conform. Most people have it and it seeps into all aspects of life. Why not creatively?

    As much as I liked some of these books they weren't accurate or real depictions of life. They didn't benefit the reader for having read them, they didn't open their eyes or teach them anything except cursory lessons, they didn't broaden their view. They were pat, and trendy, and pc. They were unenlightening and uninspiring and actually in some ways damaging in their inaccuracy. Not only did their popularity overshadow better books and better authors but there were no decent role models in half these books. Their culture reflected more a television sound stage than real life. And though they've been tweaked over the years to include previously taboo subjects or ideas that TV sound stage feeling is still there. The cultural feeling is still phony. But ... there's not much you can do. And whose to say with all my striving, I'm still not trapped by this myself? That I'm not writing 'junk.'
    Even if I am - perhaps their will be a reader like me, who, years ago ( and still do ) enjoyed ( s ) the junk. Sleepover Friends with all there flaws and flimsiness is still one of my favorite series.

    Maybe just critique her story and leave it at that. Help her make it 'good junk food.' :)

    I critiqued someone who ignored, in their rewrite, every piece of advice I had given her except for one thing - that without the rest fixed to stabilize it, made the situation worse. I didn't bother critiquing her a second time. And looking at how she reacted to other advice ( ignoring other critiques as well ) I'd say she's not really interested in taking any. Some writers just want to be read, they're not interested in improving. At that point it's best just to back away.
     
    Last edited: Dec 23, 2015
  8. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I know bad writing when I read it. Obsidian is a best seller. Clearly it's a formula to blatantly copy dozens of things from Twilight. (Read the reviews, I'm not the only one to notice.) And it's not hard to point to specific things in the book that are poorly written. But it's obviously written well enough, like Twilight, that readers can overlook the flaws because they are enjoying the story.

    And yes, I do understand the format, it's pretty basic. It's straight forward that romance novels, the ones you see lining the bookstore shelves, are formulaic. That doesn't mean some aren't well written or that some aren't better than others.

    There's a bit of space between recognizing good writing and producing good writing. I don't doubt my skills in recognizing what is appealing to those teens who are enamored with the Twilight series.

    In addition, recognizing what is appealing and wanting to write the same thing are not a given. I may want readers but that doesn't mean I want to write a formulaic teen romance. I don't. So I write the story I want to tell and hope others find the story as interesting as I do.

    I'm not arrogant.

    It's ridiculous to claim there are no specific skills a writer needs. When you read a poorly written book, how do you recognize it? When you read a well written book, what are you seeing in it? Of course there is a skill set. And it's learnable. That doesn't mean it's a guarantee that you'll become a highly skilled author.

    I think you are confusing taste with recognizing skill. I'm not one of those people that thinks Twilight was horribly written. I think there were some places in it that should have been redone. I think JK Rowling's writing skill was excellent. I honestly don't know what people think was poorly written in the Harry Potter series.

    A best selling book needs a combination of things. Enough of the right formula (Twilight) overcomes a certain amount of lack of writing skill. A best selling name (Patterson) will get some crappy books sold. And not all well written books will have a story that appeals to a wide audience. You don't have to like a book to recognize a skilled author.
     
  9. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    So what is this skill set?

    Can you just give me a list? Beyond basic SPAG stuff, what are the characteristics of a skilled (not highly skilled, if you don't like, although I'm not sure why someone wouldn't be able to become a highly skilled author if these skills exist and are learnable, but... whatever) author?

    ETA: And given that you've mentioned two examples - if there's a concrete skill set for an author, why is there disagreement about whether books are well-written or not? You don't think Twilight was poorly written, but many, many authors do. So are you wrong? How is that possible, when you've got this list to refer to? And what about Rowling? You think the books are excellent, but others disagree. So--? Couldn't we just pull out our writing skills check list and put the debate to bed?
     
  10. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    The same way one can learn how to be a doctor, some are still going to be better doctors than others.

    It's not spelling and grammar I speak of. If you don't think there are skills, what are all the writing guides talking about? What are we critiquing if not certain skill sets?

    Do you think @Catrin Lewis's list was meaningless?

    Just because there is a skill set doesn't mean everyone recognizes those skills or knows them as well as others. Nor is it as concrete as you are arguing. It's not always easy to separate one's reaction to a book and one's taste from the writer's skills.

    With the Harry Potter series, I can only think those complaining the books weren't well written were looking at deeper issues than classic writing skills.

    With Twilight, I didn't say it was well written, I said it wasn't horribly written. Some parts flowed better than others.
     
  11. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Getting back to the OP, not sure the people telling your author how good it was weren't just being nice.

    We had a new member in our critique group a couple weeks ago and his writing wasn't very good. Two people in the group went on about how much fun the story was, it was all complimentary and ignored the problems with the writing. Myself and the group leader gave a different critique.

    I ended up losing respect for the two critics. If they were going to be overly nice what good is the critique? It makes the critique group more of a social hour, let's just all pat each other on the back. If it wasn't for the real critiques in that group, I would have never learned how to write.

    Sadly, the author ended up rejecting the actual critique advice, typical of some of the group members that never improve.
     
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  12. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, I think most writing guides are crap, so I think what they're speaking of may be an attempt to make things concrete that really aren't.

    I already addressed her list - post #6. To shorten it for you - yes, I think they're so subjective as to be essentially meaningless.

    Okay, so the skill set is less concrete than I'm thinking of. That's something, but it's still really, really vague. So, why are you shying away from telling me what the skill set is? Would it take a really long time? You could just give me, say, the top five? Top ten?

    I mean, maybe we're just talking around each other. Maybe when you tell me what's on your list I'll say, oh, yeah, okay, I wasn't thinking in that context, but that makes sense.

    But in the absence of you actually telling me what you think these skills are, we're kind of stuck, aren't we?

    I don't think there's an independent list of objective writing skills that can be applied to all novels. You apparently do think there's such a list. So... what's on it?
     
  13. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I'm on the fence. I'm not sure there's a clear cut list to see what makes a story good or not. I think sometimes it's something you cannot define - something the author brings to the story. Something you cannot teach or learn unless it's something you learn about yourself. It's finding a way to communicate ideas into words in a way that works for you and you alone ( which is why a lot of followers and copycats of authors don't really work. )

    It's like any art - not a trade - there's room for error which clouds examination. I do think though that there are ways to tell when things don't work - if there wasn't I'm not sure I'd strive to be better. But I think the issue is - it's an unmeasurable better. You're not out to make a writer as good as ( fill in the blank ) you're just out to make them understand how to communicate their ideas better. And some of those ways are pretty straightforward especially if you can see them in their context. But big issues like trying to fix tropes - I don't think those can be solved by words, or grammar, it's something the writer has to resolve within themselves going beyond labels that people live under in high school and sometimes carry on into their adult life. You have to dig deeper. There's no formula for that.
     
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  14. ChickenFreak
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    I'm about eighty percent sure that this author is self-selecting for teen beta readers that will tell her what she wants to hear. That's based on the fact that she is rejecting what you're telling her, because she doesn't want to hear it.

    It almost certainly isn't true that a substantial portion of teen readers would love this book and would ignore all of the issues that you encounter. But if we accept for the sake of argument that it is true...well, it depends.

    What does the author want from this book? What does the author want from writing in general? Do they want to write books that delight people, or that change people, or all of those things that books can do to people? Do they want THIS book to be one of those things, or is this book just a step on a path that will lead to other books that do those things? Right now, do they maybe just want to write write write, and are they not interested in improving quality or are they using a "write write write" strategy as their quality-improvement strategy right now?

    It depends.

    But if you're asking whether it's worth writing books that delight or inspire or change a person, or that echo in one's brain, for any age group or category--well, yeah. How could it not be? The fact that McDonald's exists doesn't mean that it's a waste of time for Per Se to exist. The fact that Per Se exists doesn't mean that it's a waste of time for McDonald's to exist. Any market has many things that a apply to different tastes.

    I don't think that this author wants to hear it, so in her case, it's probably a waste of time to give her feedback. But you don't know what the audience wants; you know what she claims that her self-selected beta readers want.
     
  15. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I suspect that I mostly agree with you, but now I'm interested in the concept of a set of writing skills that can be applied to most novels.

    I might disagree with myself in an hour, but what comes to mind right now is:

    - The ability to "show" or "demonstrate" things without having to explain them flat-out. I don't put this as "show, don't tell", but I think that it would be very rare for a novel to have full emotional impact if every little thing is explained.
    - The ability to write natural-sounding dialogue. Now, that ability is such a big one that it mostly just subdivides the question.
    - A sufficient vocabulary, of words and phrases and structures, to support a certain nimbleness. For example, if you just used a particular word three times, in two different contexts, it's helpful to know a dozen synonyms for each of the contexts and to be able to replace the repeated words and turn the paragraph upside down and inside out, so that you can avoid an obvious repetition without an obvious thesaurus lookup.

    But that last one isn't actually necessary, which I believe supports your point. It's very, very useful, but other talents could eliminate the necessity. I recall a cookbook writer saying, (I paraphrase, from memory), "If you just have salt, butter, garlic, and lemons, everything will be declious," and I think that writing can be similar.

    One of my favorite writers has writing filled with what I would now consider substantial flaws--if I were her beta reader, I'd mark up many suggestions per page. If I had to classify her books, I'd call them potboilers or beach books. But when I read her books, I hurtle along happily with the story, her characters and settings stay with me, and I'm very sad that she's dead and won't be writing any more books. She's a great writer. If she fixed those flaws I think she'd be an even better writer, but whatever it is that makes her books great, goes beyond those flaws.
     
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  16. Adenosine Triphosphate
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    Adenosine Triphosphate Old Scratch Contributor

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    I'm a novice, but my hunch is that much of the skill set boils down to "manipulate your reader's emotions well".
     
  17. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Perhaps it's an overall guide, but that's much too general. I'm working on a reply but it is not ready yet.
     
  18. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think knowing how and when to show, and how and when to tell, are definitely useful skills. But I expect that the when, and to a lesser extent to how, will end up being subjective. Some readers want more telling, some readers want things made explicit, some readers want this, some want that. And I think there's a careful balance to be maintained within a work as a whole, as well, and that this balance will be, again, subjective.

    And I agree that natural-sounding dialogue is useful, but again, what sounds natural to one person may not sound natural to another, and someone like, say, Shakespeare, may have had the ability to write natural-sounding dialogue but often chose not to, having his characters speak in verse, etc. I don't think it's a flaw in Shakespeare that his characters don't sound "natural".

    The vocabulary idea is an interesting one - except, again, we have readers who complain about too many five-dollar words, etc. So, again, I'd say the vocabulary has to be suited to the target audience, which may mean the author will know more words than s/he will ever use.

    It is an interesting idea. And, honestly, as someone who loves order and structure and lists, I'd be very pleased if there WERE a list of writing skills. But when I try to make one, it gets pretty subjective pretty fast.
     
    Last edited: Dec 24, 2015
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  19. WriterMMS
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    Sometimes you gotta feed the masses the slop they love
    Mmm mmm thats goood gruel.
     
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  20. Bewitched
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    To be frank, I think the original question has a very simple answer: write to the best of your ability. No matter WHAT genre you're writing for, just write to the best of your ability and tell a good story. Nothing else really matters. And if you're okay with not writing a book to the best of your ability because your audience loves it as is, and you're sure you'll makes tons of cash on it, I honestly couldn't care less. Do what makes you happy. If you can publish a book (which is a feat in and of itself) and you're fine with it not being the best work that you can do, then why should I care? Live your life.

    Now, if someone asked me to critique their book and then told me "Why should I change anything if my audience loves it?", that's a whole different story. I would be upset that they asked for my help and then flat-out denied it. But even in that situation, I would tell them to follow their instincts and then get on with my life. I literally could not care less what someone else does with their writing, it doesn't affect me in any way, shape or form.

    Obviously, I have my own standards for my writing, but my standards don't have to be other people's standards. I might not publish something that I know isn't my best work, but that doesn't mean everyone else has to do the same. And if more people read their books than mine, I'm not going to hold a grudge and say that the masses like "gruel" or anything juvenile like that. In the end, if their book is more successful than obviously she managed to pull something off that I couldn't, even if she didn't edit her book the way I would have. And I definitely don't write for money, I write because it is my life.

    In a nut shell, my advice is to just walk away from the girl who won't take your advice. She asked for your critique and then basically turned it down, so there's nothing left for you to do really. Just wish her luck and end it there. As for the question, every writer has to decide for themselves what they are okay with doing, because every person has their own personal standards. And that's okay.
     
    Last edited: Dec 24, 2015
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  21. Bewitched
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    Bewitched Active Member

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    @ChickenFreak, just read your post, I agree a hundred percent.
     
  22. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I think I'm older than most of you on this thread (age 66) so I have to say I'm not exactly sure what YA fiction is, or exactly who it's aimed at. I presume early to mid-age teenagers? By the time they've graduated from high school, they are past this phase?

    However, I AM of the age that remembers the days before McDonald's. In fact, I was a burger flipper in an independent burger joint (the kind with car service outside as well as a place to sit inside.) My boss grew his own beef (it was a small American town, surrounded by farming land) and our exciting slogan :) was: The Best Burgers in Town. And they were. We took pride in the flavour of the beef, the good quality ingredients, the home-made fries and coleslaw, the fact that you could get these burgers done any way you wanted them. In other words, we were striving for quality within the genre. And we were VERY popular, not just among teenagers but among the adults in our town and—thanks to our location on the main highway into town—people just passing through as well. We were a town landmark for a long time.

    And then McDonald's arrived and set up shop. We were scornful (and unworried) at first. You could buy two burgers at McDonald's (15 cents each) for the price of one of ours, but McDonald's burgers were so horrible. Dry hockey pucks inside a meagre bun with just a dusting of sauces and condiments, accompanied by ex-frozen fries and tiny little packets of ketchup. McDonald's was no threat.

    Turned out, McDonald's was a big threat. And a large lesson for me in the power of the lowest common denominator promoted with widespread advertising whallop. Fast and cheap does often win over quality. Every time I sink my fangs into an expensive McDonald's burger these days (in Scotland) I remember our wonderful 'real' burgers and feel sad. When lack of quality becomes the recognised standard—which it can do in the blink of an eye if the advertising catches hold—we're all poorer for it.

    Whatever the 'tropes' of YA fiction (teen romance, teen fantasy and teen issues), I can't believe that books in that genre won't sell if they are well-written. It doesn't cost any more to write well than it does to just churn out crap. But of course, if people only read crappily written books, then maybe they'll never know the difference. They'll be satisfied with crap, probably for the rest of their lives. I think this is a pathetic standard to just accept. It ruined good burgers; I'd hate to think it will ruin good writing as well.

    If I were in @Catrin Lewis 's shoes, I'd be honest in her critique. She can admit she's not a teenager and not the book's target audience, and if the author wants to stop there and ignore the rest of the critique, fair enough. But since she's been asked for this critique—by somebody who presumably knows she's not a teenager—I think she should be honest and point out the faults as she sees them.

    So somebody writes a YA book with sufficiently-motivated main characters, secondary characters who are memorable, solid POV tactics, meaty settings that take the reader someplace new or recreate places they know, and the ability to draw the reader into the story via a mastery of the showing/telling issue. You think this book will NOT sell to teenagers?

    We're not giving teenagers any respect, if we think it's okay to deliberately throw shallow, poorly-written crap at them simply because they will probably buy it.
     
    Last edited: Dec 25, 2015
  23. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think everyone agrees with this, so far.

    This feels like a bit of a strawman. I don't think anyone has suggested this, have they? No one has suggested that books such as the ones you describe (ones that writers would likely consider "well-written") wouldn't sell to teens. And no one has suggested that we deliberately write books we wouldn't consider well-written.
     
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  24. tonguetied
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    tonguetied Contributing Member Contributor

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    "Is There Any Point in Trying to Make YA and NA Novels Good?", I think the answer depends on what your goal is. If you simply want to sell a lot of books maybe it isn't the best choice. If you want to open the eyes of young adults to a higher level of reading then you probably need to walk a fine line to not only captivate that audience but to also to raise the literary bar.

    I, like Jannert, don't really know what a YA/NA novel is, even watching the movie series Twilight was a bit of a challenge so I wouldn't consider reading the books, but obviously they have their place in society. I wish I had read more "well" written books when I was younger, maybe I could have learned enough to now write a story that I would feel was good. I see books as having two initial purposes, the first to make a record of an event(s), fictional or not, and the second to educate the reader, but this has morphed into so much more, one of which is to make money for the author. I would agree with BayView that there is no list that defines what makes writing good, but I also like ChickenFreak's start, for meaningful criteria for better writing. Hats off to all of you that strive to write a better novel.
     
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  25. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    In fact, I was just adding my two cents to the discussion that stemmed from @Catrin Lewis 's point here: There are other objective issues that can--- and I believe, must--- be addressed far beyond those. Factual errors, physical impossibilities (in realistic fiction), contradictions as to character and setting descriptions . . . and that's even without looking at "show, don't tell" and knocking out narrative intrusion and filter words.

    Do we shrug and say, "Well, the kids aren't noticing those problems; let's not bother to eliminate them from our books because they'll sell anyway"? I may be reading you wrong, but I gather your answer to my initial question is, "No, YA and NA novels don't have to be 'good,' they only have to appeal to their target audience," and "Nothing but appeal defines 'good' in this context anyway."


    I stand by the point I made in the bit you quoted: We're not giving teenagers any respect, if we think it's okay to deliberately throw shallow, poorly-written crap at them simply because they will probably buy it.

    I believe Catrin's OP was about whether or not she should bother trying to improve a piece of YA fiction, or whether it's okay to let 'grown up' writing issues slide, because teenagers don't mind poorly-written stuff as long as it's got the 'wow' factor in terms of subject matter.


     
    Last edited: Dec 25, 2015
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