This writing guide provides practical information and exercises to make the intimidating world of writing more accessible to aspiring young authors.
In this manual, fiction and nonfiction writer Kalmbach (The Caldarian Conflict, 2011) gives detailed, structured long- and short-term writing goals for inexperienced writers who want to become more disciplined in their craft. It includes valuable information about online tools and websites that help facilitate the writing process, as well as useful word-count guidelines and character sheets. The author also offers suggestions for dealing with the various distractions that can confront the contemporary teenage writer. While the book gives premature, sometimes excessive publishing information for such young writers, it wisely emphasizes the importance of receiving feedback from fellow writers and creating an encouraging writing community. Each chapter includes helpful idea-generating exercises, tips, writing samples and personal anecdotes. The author’s familiar tone is often welcoming, but in several instances, he makes awkward, strained attempts to be hip and relevant: He frequently tries to capitalize on the vampire trend in YA fiction, while references to wizardry, specifically the Harry Potter series, are recurrent yet out of touch. Also, the importance of avoiding cliché is not sufficiently addressed. In fact, some of the writing samples seem to encourage overt sentimentality. In a description of a cherished bookend, for example, he writes, “As a sign of my mother’s love, I’ll treasure it forever.” Toward the end of the book there’s also a somewhat arbitrary moral lesson about the dangers of drugs. More relevant advice, though, is the emphasis on reading, meeting deadlines and reaching quotas to eventually create a large, diverse body of work.
A distracting preoccupation with being culturally relevant doesn’t prevent this guide from offering realistic, creditable advice.