Fantasy

The Changing Fantasy Genre

For this post I am going to take you back to the dark ages. The days before the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling. Travelling into the city to the largest bookshop was a wonderful adventure. The beautiful old two-storey building was filled from top to bottom with books. There was only one section that sparked my interest. It consisted of an area less than one side of a bookshelf. Yes, you heard right. Part of the last row was filled with science-fiction. In that tiny space young adult fantasy was placed side by side with fantasy. Gasp! Yes, this is where I found the first edition of Sabriel by Garth Nix. Wedged near the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. The children’s section was far away at the other end of the shop. It was here, tucked neatly away. That the first Harry Potter book appeared.

Growth of Fantasy

Much has changed since then. My last visit to the city revealed walls covered with bookshelves for fantasy. That’s not all, there were two whole bookshelves in a dedication Young Adult section. That’s right, the genre had grown. Not only had it expanded, but it had merged with other genres. Forming all sorts of hybrids and niches. No longer could I be assured of the beloved fantasy tropes. That were eagerly anticipated. Hiding away in the depths of these beautiful covers was a terrible secret. Some of the fantasy tropes were missing.

On the Search for Fantasy

For my part, I look for keywords. That will lead to disappointment or an underwhelming experience. The truth is, in the last few years it has become impossible to tell a hybrid from a fantasy. The cover and blurb look the same. Relying on the key words ‘fantasy’ and ‘epic fantasy’. It’s only the reviews that give the game away. So, there I am in the middle of the shop searching the interwebs for author names. Hoping for a sign in the reviews that the book I am about to buy is a hybrid. I must confess to being caught out. When the reviews repeat the same keywords ‘fantasy’ and ‘epic fantasy’.

When the Cover Says ‘Fantasy’

You can imagine the disappointment that happened next. As I settled down on the couch with my comfy blanket and hot chocolate. Dreaming of taking over the world and fighting worthy villains. The excited anticipation of adventure, magic and danger. Reading through 100 pages and waiting for the story to begin. Making it to 200 pages and still waiting. More than halfway and I was aware of the loss of an entire set of fantasy tropes. I love fantasy, but there is something I cherish even more… Honesty. When a beautiful book with a brilliant blurb promises fantasy that is what I long for.

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Guest on River Moose Reads

Thank you so much to Sam @ River Moose Reads for letting me be a guest on her wonderful blog. Please check it out when you get the chance. Sam is devoted to her studies and somehow manages to miraculiously find time to review books. I have no idea how she does it 🙂 This week Sam has a couple of my posts appearing exclusively on River Moose Reads.


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Writing Tools

Connections and Beta Reading

10372903_785769518121244_5951835746202887627_oA while ago I offered to be a beta reader for a friend of a friend. I had given feedback on several books though these consisted of haphazard replies rather than a streamlined critique. In any event I thought I was ready to tackle a formal beta reading. Note to self, no matter how much planning goes into it writing the first draft is not a good time to beta read. The reason why I offered is because I think feedback prior to publication is valuable. Be prepared to set aside a bit of time, it is not the same as reading for the sake of enjoyment. You get to answer questions, and make comments at the end so it is worth taking notes.

Ask Questions

Beta reading is best done with a genre that interests you, find out the basics such as the word count, either a blurb or synopsis, and a few basic details like the first chapter. After all this is a story you are going to become familiar with and it helps if you like the style. To be honest I was not sure what I had gotten myself into, it was a big commitment and I was not sure how much I would pick up or be able to comment on.

Take Notes

My greatest concern from the moment I began was how fair I could be, and would the comments be amicably received. Not everyone wants to hear something constructive, I use that word because I think there is a distinct difference between constructive and negative feedback. Constructive feedback is about providing a balance and an explanation. I find it just as important to highlight both the strengths and weaknesses to create a clearer picture for the author.

Be Honest

Honesty is best but if something really does not work explain why. It is a fantastic effort for anyone to complete a manuscript even in draft stage. A great many hours have been spent, and it is worth holding onto that thought when providing comments. Also, be honest about what you can and cannot do. I shy away from grammar, but my strength is the overall story and its rhythm. I have spent too much time away from writing my first draft, though I am thankful to assist as others have done for me.