Knowing your book’s category is essential to finding an audience. That’s why we created the Genre Map, a visual representation of all literary categories on Book Country. For every category, we carefully curated a selection of Landmark Books, titles that we think best exemplify the tropes and conventions of each genre. Revisiting the Genre Map recently made me think back on our process deciding which books to include as well as the writing lessons that each of them has to impart. Below, I’ve highlighted ten books that have not only improved my understanding of the craft of writing but that also happen to be some of my favorite!
This book has taught me that a great fantasy writer is an architect of worlds. With Acacia, you start with one idea of the dimensions of the trilogy’s universe, and every subsequent book makes shocking revelations about its actual scale and nature. David Anthony Durham executes this by building a solid foundation: he plants the seeds early on, so that once he lifts up the curtain, you realize there’s no other way the story could have gone.
Hawkins takes the “psychological” in psychological thriller to a new level with the unreliable narrator of Rachel, a woman whose life has been wrecked by depression and alcoholism. As a character, she’s both compelling yet utterly untrustworthy, making The Girl on the Train a masterwork of misdirection. If you’re looking for well-executed narration, look no further than Hawkins’s chiller.
Battle scenes in fiction are a serious affair. They require a lot of research but also careful craftsmanship. The author needs to relay vivid sensory detail and paint a picture of the battle’s development, then filter all that through the perspective of the book’s key character(s) in an engrossing way. A good battle scene is like a beautifully choreographed dance–equally pleasing to military history acolytes and laymen.
Today we’re excited to welcome author Anthony Ryan, who’s written the much touted epic fantasy BLOOD SONG–he knows a thing or two about writing gripping battle sequences.
A battle scene is a depiction of armed conflict between multiple participants. Or, more simply, a bunch of people fighting, usually in a field if we’re talking about epic fantasy. But, of course, there is no one type of battle scene, as there is no one type of book. There are land battles, sea battles and space battles. There are sieges, ambushes and skirmishes. Then we have shoot-outs, sword-fights, dog-fights and an endless inter-mingling of just about every form of combat real or imagined. My point is that the battle scene is not limited to one genre or period of history. However, for a battle scene to work, a savvy writer would be wise to include, or at least address, certain key elements.
The fantasy genre has a complex and diverse landscape–and incorporates the kind of assortment of tropes, conventions, and magical creatures that can make you head spin. The challenge of writing fantasy comes from having a good overview of the genre, knowing to nod to what’s come before, and build upon it. In fact, one of the SF/F editors I talked to recently said that the two most common mistakes writers make in submissions are that they either try to reinvent the wheel and, unbeknownst to them, write a story that has a plot similar to one of the all-time SF/F classics or they rely on genre paradigms that were the rage decades ago and are no longer popular. If you want to be published today, you have to be familiar with what’s published today as well as know your ABCs when it comes to fantasy: J. R. R. Tolkien, Mercedes Lackey, George R.R. Martin, Philip Pullman and so on. You have to be fluent in fantasy.
That’s why we wanted to spend some time on the epic fantasy genre–a pretty “hot” genre of late, and demystify the small but significant ways in which is differs from other fantasy subgenres such as historical and traditional fantasy.
One of the first things you have to do when you join the community is pick a genre. We’ve structured the Book Country site to guide you in that decision: The Genre Map, the Genre Pages, and the Landmark Titles are there to aid you in making your genre selection and connecting you to writers with similar interests.
“What is this whole genre thing about, anyway?”
A lot of writers ask us that. They feel constrained by the conventions and tropes of a single category. “My book is both funny and romantic,” they say. “It’s a mystery and it has time travel.” Continue reading →
You’re new to the site. Perhaps you’ve already checked out our post about how to get started on Book Country, browsed through our FAQs, and you’ve checked out our video tutorials. You’ve given writing feedback to one project on Book Country and have uploaded your own. Now the waiting game begins. “How do I get people to read and review my book?” you wonder. There are several ways. Read on.