Why I want to write YA, but for some reason can't.

on Tuesday, June 15, 2010
This is a mostly self-indulgent post, so bear with me. Venting helps me get troubling thoughts off my mind, but I will do my best to keep it interesting for those who know me and who have read my writing.

The general gist is as the subject says: I want to write YA. But I have a problem. I have no ideas for YA novels.

Quick rundown. My first book, Lacrymosa, was originally written as adult epic fantasy, but I wrote it because I read Eragon and thought I could pull that off myself. Eragon is a YA, and Lacrymosa is pretty much YA except the protagonist is 19 instead of 17. I've often said if I rewrote it, it would be a YA. It's got all those YA staples: A love triangle, a conflicted main character, a world run by adults where she tries to find her way around, a coming-of-age story, yadda yadda yadda. So, in a sense, I can write YA, and I do have YA ideas.

The problem is, I convinced myself early on I was going to write adult novels. And so, as I brainstorm, my mind is firmly set in brainstorming epic fantasy.

Harbinger was NOT YA, and couldn't ever be. It was a violent, gruesome book about death, sacrifice, and corrupt people ruining a world. The story ended in a way an adult novel would end (not going to say for spoilers, but needless to say it is jarring), and the ending held the entire book together. It was adult.

Where Gods and Mortals Dance is not YA. While it certainly would be possible to make Ailene younger and increase the romance, that isn't the point of the book. Many readers haven't finished it, but there are some extremely jarring scenes in the novel (perhaps even more than Harbinger), and it ends dwelling on themes I honestly don't think young adult readers would get as well as adults.

The problem is, I write my best when I write YA, as evident in book #4: Paradise Seekers. Everybody has said this is the best book I've written. My wife (who I know isn't necessarily a creditable source, but she reads tons) said it's better than most YA she's read, and it hasn't even seen an editor yet. Everybody has also said this same thing: the pacing is perfect. This is huge for me, because in Paradise Seekers I cut a lot of the more detailed descriptions (a staple of epic fantasy) just to tell a story. It made the novel much easier to write, hence the reason I was able to finish it in under a month.

So here comes my dilemma. Effulgent Corruption is not a YA. In fact, it might be the most adult fantasy novel I've ever attempted (not because of violence, sex, etc, but because of the themes). The thing is, after being so successful with Paradise Seekers, I really want to try another YA (see if I'm not just a one-hit wonder in that category).

But my brain has been trained to write epic fantasy. Every brainstorming I do is for adult literature, not YA. Paradise Seekers worked because I had an adult story, but due to the nature of the world the characters had to be YA ages. So, I adapted accordingly. I can't seem to do that again on command, it just doesn't work.

I do have one YA idea, but it isn't great, and I haven't fleshed it out. I'm sure after some work it would be at least decent, but I don't want to tell decent stories: I want to tell great ones. But I also want to write YA. Now you can see my dilemma.

Another main reason I want to write YA is how much crap gets published. I'm reading a YA novel right now (expect a review soon) that got praised by everybody on the block and has a four star average on amazon (that's why I read it; I usually only pick up books I heard good things about from people). The book is unquestionably horrible. As a bit of a spoiler: a girl (viewpoint character) is in love with a man betrothed to another. When the guy is now pretty much married to the other girl, she still thinks its perfectly fine to sneak off with him and make out, because she "loves him." What is this book teaching?

I'm not even going to talk about that other YA novel that teaches people bad things (hint: It starts with a "T"), but you can see my point. The problem still stands though: I don't "think in YA."

Probably the main reason is because I hate teenagers. Ok, hate is too strong a word. They just annoy me. Being a psych major and loving to learn about human development, I know more than I'd ever hope to know about adolescents. The point being: they are usually major twits, blown every which-way by hormonal influence, and generally make bad decisions for dumb reasons. Why do I want somebody like this to star in my book?

Ok, so Paradise Seekers doesn't do that, but I still have issue: because I don't like them, I don't brainstorm stories starring them. Which means I can't write YA.

Which sucks.

So, I'm going to keep writing Effulgent Corruption, read some more YA (hopefully find a book that doesn't totally suck this time), and try to figure out what I want to do. I guess technically there's no law against me being both an epic fantasy and YA writer, but selling to two markets seems harder than just selling to one.

Also, I just now realized that posting an existential quandary about my writing on a blog that will probably be read by editors and agents might not be the best idea. Well, you know what? I'm going to do it anyway. Because I'm certain this happens to the best of us, and I'm honest. I don't know what I want to write. Well, I do, but I just am having problems with it. Or something.

I'm confused about being confused. This has to be some sort of record.

Anyway, thank you for sitting through my ramblings. If you have any comments or advice, feel free to throw 'em on over. As for me, it's late and I'm not tired, and I have a horrible YA novel to finish. *shudder*


Also, don't get me started about how the whole vampire craze ruined my idea for a vampire novel I've had for years. Trust me, it was YA, and it was great. And now I can't write it without looking like some vampire cash-in on the fad. I hate you, Twilight!


Derek Bown said...

Twilight has ruined vampires for us all. -_- I can't even write the book I'm on right now without worrying that using vampires at some point will damage it. And back when I was thinking of ideas for it Vampires were still cool! It was only a few years ago, but the whole "Good Vampires" thing hadn't been done to (resisting pun) death. Maybe if I write the darn things as they were originally meant to be in a few years then I'll get credited for originality. -_-

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