Monday, January 16, 2012

A Big Person's World?

With a healthy dose of editing this week I will finally, finally, finally have my young adult novel prepared and ready(?) to submit into the big bad world of publishing.  I've had a few people take a quick look at drafts with favorable feedback, so keep fingers and toes and eyes (not too long of course) crossed for me.  It will be a slow and torturous process, I'm sure, but I have a few other projects to flesh out which will keep my mind off of the inevitable waiting game.  

I am, however, struggling with a final component that will likely occupy the majority of my editing time this week.  How big a role are adults allowed to play in a young adult/middle grade novel?  Popular wisdom varies, and modern examples range all over the place.  The Dumbledores and Snapes of the world lead me down one path, authors like Lauren Oliver, one entirely different.  This leaves me in a quandary about the opening two chapters of my novel.

The aunt and uncle in the book occupy a huge space.  Mostly the aunt.  It's a long, complicated story, but the first two chapters are filled with the heroine's blossoming relationship with a pair she's never met and really knows nothing about.  I worry, is that too much time to spend with them?  Will a young adult reader scoff and say no, I'd far prefer to hear about the folks in the heroine's generational nook?  Or is good writing good writing and solid characters hold their own regardless of the age?

One of my biggest problems with bad YA books, and I've felt this way since I started reading them as a teen myself decades ago are the non-parent parents.  I don't want adults in my book to sit and smile at good grades or frown and remind the kiddos of their curfew while adding no value to the narrative.  I generally dub them the 90210 parents where in the first run of the series Jim and Cindy honestly did nothing.  Towards the end of the series there were one or two pithy episodes where they got their hands dirty, but it was far too little too late.  And if I minimize the presence of the adults my book may as well head into a Lord of the Flies zone where the adults can be dispensed with altogether.

On the other hand, this is a teenage girl's story.  Her experiences are the most important, her life changes the most drastically, but I keep finding myself on the precipice of falling into the aunt's story.  She is an older, bitter woman who would gladly snatch the narrative under her skirt and run away with it.  I think I've written her well, patting myself on the back a bit, and then I worry that I've written her too well.  Is she necessary in so many chapters.  Does she outweigh the other young girl who is supposed to be a villain?

I don't really have too many answers this morning.  Mostly questions.  I will do my best and see how the scales fall.  As always, I'm left with the thought that if struggling with my writing is the worst thing I have to do today, I'm pretty darn lucky.  

Happy Martin Luther King Day.          

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Time freeze, pleeeeeeease

I never want to write when I'm supposed to.  My husband has taken on the grocery shopping for the morning, Sophia is worshiping he who is Elmo.  Matthew is at a friend's house.  The dog and cat are curled up under my elbows like adoring furry armrests.  There is absolutely no reason on this earth why I'm not chugging away on one of the twenty writing projects having their own personal fight club in my brain to get down on paper.

And I got nothin'.

I can list the exact moments this past week when I've wanted to write.  First, right in the middle of reading aloud a chapter of Of Mice and Men to my vaguely interested students, I wanted to write.  In fact I could barely focus on Steinbeck's salty words in front of me because I had a great first line in mind.  A wonderful first line in fact.  And the students would not have minded one bit if I'd stopped, told them to go do something else and started writing.  But of course that would be bad teaching, so I read on and now for the absolute life of me I have no idea what that stunning first line was.  No clue whatsoever.

It also happened at the dentist's office, mouth wrenched open, a Novocaine shot hovering above my lip.  (If you know me at all,  you know that sharks and dentists terrify me more than just about anything else in the world.  And if a shark ever became a dentist, I think I'd just drop dead :-)  I'm guessing my dentist would not have been thrilled if I'd told him he could wait while I wrote down a resolution I'd been struggling with for weeks.  Is it still in my brain somewhere?  Probably.  But when I write it down now, nothing sounds as good.

I don't know if my writing muse is screwing with me, if I'm not as dedicated a writer as I'd like to think I am, or if the creative process is far too mysterious and arbitrary to ever understand.  I'm hoping it's the latter.  But these random bouts of creativity and lack thereof still challenge my weekly time management.

I'm never one to wish to travel back in time.  I have my memories and experiences tucked neatly away along with boxes of keepsakes.  I don't wish Matthew was still a baby because then I wouldn't be able to argue with him about the best way to make a Sherlock Holmes-style trap or watch him dominate on the tennis court.  And I never wish time away.  At some point my parents will no longer be here, I will not have a house full of children and animals and crazy.  But I would give anything to freeze time.  Could I find a whistle that I can blow the second I've got an idea and the world stops around me, providing those glorious few moments to jot down what I'm thinking of?

Since the magic whistle is not likely, my Plan B involves purchasing a Powerball ticket this evening, winning the lottery, and enjoying the luxury of hiring a stenographer to follow me around and take down all pearls of wisdom I come up with at odd moments of the day.  I do realize that Plan B is a stretch as well, but a gal can dream, can't she?