Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Making it Feel New

So this month's blog theme is "new." I've got a lot of new things going on--the new experience of editing a book under an editor's guidance, a new deadline, a new set of classes and students...the list goes on and on. But what I really want to talk about a bit is writing books for tweens and teens as a thirty-*cough-cough*-something-year-old.

The thing about YA is that it's either from or about the perspective of a character that is seeing so much from a new perspective or for the first time. And the thing about me writing this type of fiction (as opposed to say traditional, adult romance as I'd originally set out to write), is that not much of these experiences are new, and even when they were, I was not the best teen.

No, seriously. I was a combination of old beyond my years and hopelessly sheltered by overbearing and overprotective parents. (Hi, mom! *waves*). I was an awful teenager. I wanted to get on to college as quickly as I could. I was ready--so very, very ready--to be grown already. I dreamt of turning thirty. (I still dream of turning 30, so somethings don't change.)

So you would think I would be awful at this. Maybe I am, who knows. Only time (and the reviews) will tell. But the thing that I really like about writing YA and MG is that you get to explore these moments of possibilities. That's what the teen years are, really--moments filled with the possibility of determining the new person that you'll become. Capturing the uncertainty of that is the real trick of writing YA.

Because that's the thing--new can be bright and shiny and exciting, but more often than not, it's fairy scary. It's really scary. And the wonderful thing about the age I write for and about is that these kids are smart. They know it's scary. They know they're on the cusp of something new, of being someone new. And they reach for it anyway.

Capturing that is hard, really hard, but if I focus on the idea of that moment of possibility. The moment that everything can change, and you become this person instead of that other person, and when I think about the absolute bravery that takes to plunge head-long toward...it's a little easier to make it all feel new.

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  1. I probably look like a bit of a creeper when I'm out in public and see a bunch of teens. I'm always watching to see their interactions w/each other and trying to remember what I was like at that age. =)

  2. I think the allure of a different outcome draws the older writer to YA or MG. In some ways I think it's more difficult for someone older to cross that bridge. Unless of course there is a teen or YA living at home, sister, cousins of that age you can study without seeming as Leandra said, a creeper. Not to mention the pace of changes brought about by each generation. I haven't been in a school in years and sat fascinated when another friend told me about white boards being used instead of chalkboards. In some instances essays where sent directly to the teacher in email. It's a very, very different world than the one I grew up in. And no, I'm not that old.(Hugs) Indigo

  3. I'm 34 and sometimes I worry that I'm a fraud trying to write YA. But that's the thing about my teenage years -- I remember them well.

    The truth is older writers make for better YA writers because we have the power of experience and hindsight and you need that for a good plot and character arc.

  4. That's so true, Kimberly-- I think the hindsight is necessary. I mean, sure, The Outsiders has this visceral angst from SE Hinton being a teen herself, but in the world of blogs and instant, continual sharing of experience, a novel has to be something else, right? (or so I tell myself)