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.          

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