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How to Write Fantasy for Young Readers

This is a popular market! What with the success of the Harry Potter and Twilight books, it’s not surprising that many people think their road to fame and fortune is paved with wizards, spells and an array of grotesque monsters. But how easy is it really? How do you write a gripping fantasy for young readers? And how do you get it out to them? Well, there are some rules you can keep in mind when you start the process:

1. Make sure your book can be read in many formats – young adult readers are very tech savvy these days. They’ll more than likely want to be able to download your book onto their laptop, e-reader or tablet. And, don’t be afraid of this prospect, there are lots of step-by-step guides on how to create books in electronic format.

2. Presentation is important – pay careful attention to the cover design of your finished book. It seems obvious, but there’s no point having a great book with a cover that does nothing to entice readers into buying.

3. Keep your main characters humanoid – you can give them any number of unusual features, such as gills, pointed ears, ridged forehead and so on. But, it is important to keep the human failings and feelings so that your readers can identify with them. They want to empathise with the feelings of overwhelming love and angst of the characters.

4. Don’t over complicate things – Whilst it’s great to have a whole labyrinth of worlds to explore, it’s not so great if your reader has to take notes to keep up with who lives where or who is fighting with whom. It’s also best to keep the names of your characters pronounceable. Imagine being faced with the following name ‘Pin’anytg’ – would you have any idea how to say it? I don’t think I would. And, if I cannot say the name of a main character it’ll become a stumbling block that makes the book difficult to read.

5. Add in description as you go – Don’t give huge rambling descriptions of the fantasy world in blocks – your readers will feel overloaded. Instead, slip in facts and figures about the people and places naturally so that they flow as part of the story. For example, if your characters are trekking across continents, only mention what’s there once they come upon it. This way the detail is spread evenly through the book and is easier to take in.

6. Keep it believable – This seems like a silly thing to say as we are talking about fantasy novels, but it is still important that your readers believe that the characters are real. To help keep a level of reality, don’t just invent a new power for your hero or heroine to use when they get caught in a sticky situation. Your readers will think this is a cop out and it’ll pretty soon become uninteresting. It’s not much fun if every time a character is in trouble they just simply use some new, never-before-mentioned power – where’s the drama in that?

7. Offer freebies – This is a great way to get a buzz going about your book, whether that’s for your first book or a move into another genre. And, for an audience that may not have money to burn on bad books, it gives your readers a chance to see if they like the way you write and the characters and worlds you create before buying. You can offer freebies in two main ways – make it free for a limited time or make sample chapters available. Hopefully, the people that read your work will take the time to leave you great feedback on your selling platform, chat about your book in forums and tell their friends how great your writing is.

There you have it! These basic rules should help you write something the kids want and get it out there to them. However, if you feel you’d like more information about writing novels for young adults our Writing for Children course can help. And if you’d like to learn more about how to promote your book, you should have a look at our How to Promote Your Book Course.


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Lou Carter"After completing the course I began writing as much as I could and in 2014 I was finally signed by my agent and within two months I had a contract with Bloomsbury.

To date I have nine picture book contracts all at various stages of publication. There Is No Dragon In This Story (Bloomsbury) and Pirate Stew (Orchard) both published last summer and Oscar The Hungry Unicorn (Orchard) is due to be released on Sept 20th 2018. "

Lou Carter


Institute of Training and Occupational Learning

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