Tuesday, January 4, 2011

How I accidentally wrote a YA and why I'm never going back.

My very first WIP was completed on October 13th, 2009.

This is was what it ended up being;

(You'll have to forgive me, I've been dog-sitting three dogs for two weeks. I'm a strict cat person. I love the dogs, it's just this huge CULTURE shock, you know?)

This first WIP, as you can see above, wasn't worth ANYTHING, really. This WIP had a 34-year-old office-lady MC, and a really Sci-Fi plot. I queried, got 0 responses, and decided to rewrite it into a new WIP. The new MC was 15, the plot was convoluted and dense, and it was basically a YA protagonist in an Adult mystery/sci-fi setting.

Finally, after suggestions by a wonderful agent-who-shall-not-be-named who read the full but rejected it, I rewrote that WIP into Sightless/FEAR ITSELF, and it's now a full-fledged YA and it's right at home there. The story took nearly two years to get to this awesome point, but it was never, EVER intended to be YA.

There were two reasons for that; 1. I was always a huge fan of YA, starting with good ol' Harry Potty, but the influx of Twilight clones at the time had me convinced the only YA worth reading was contemp. I read only contemp YA, and I didn't want to write a fantasy YA in the slightest. And 2. I didn't want a typical YA heroine at all!

I didn't realize Sightless had become YA until halfway through the latest WIP. (Which is now out on query.) I despaired a little - not YA! I can't be writing a YA - a genre which is nowadays discounted as a flurried batch of Twi-clones and Potter-prints. If they're not one of those, they are either solid contemps or white-bread heroines poised to inherit some great power/live in a dystopian world and smooch two hot men fighting over her at once.

Of course, I've learned now that YA is much more than that, but a part of me died as I was writing Sightless. It was reborn, thankfully, with the single-minded goal of doing one thing - kicking those other heroines to the curb. My MC came out tough as nails, vulnerable in ways I couldn't imagine, and deeper than I ever thought possible. She wasn't just a symbol of my desire to see something fresh, anymore - she became a person.

I struggled with the fact I was writing a YA. It's a genre I both loved and hated, but I realized it was more than that - it's a genre I want to contribute to. A genre I want to help shape, pull back from the musty dark ages of heroines who let us down, generalize us, limit us with their carefully-crafted accessibility. I wanted to see characters again, and so I wrote characters.

I might've not done the best job, but I tried. And at the end of the day, that gives me faith in my writing. And at the end of all things, faith is the one thing that matters most. Oh, and hard work. OH! Luck too. OHH! And if an agent loves your work to bits, that also helps, too. ;)

As corny as it sounds; I didn't choose YA, it chose me. I don't think I could leave if I wanted to.

Hope 2011 is going well for you, lovely readers!


  1. Ahh, trust YA to know how to choose the right persons :P

  2. Well I'm glad you're here.. YA is the best! I can't imagine ever writing anything else.

  3. I know the feeling--I jumped straight from middle grade books to adult books when I was about 10. With the exception of my favorite book EVER, nothing I read was YA (although you think that would've tipped me off, right?). I didn't start seriously reading YA until a friend's mom--who's a bookseller--suggested a few YA titles for me. She has impeccable taste, so I figured, "Why not?"

    I was totally hooked. At age 21.

    I was sure before that the YA section was full of nothing but Gossip Girl, but I was totally wrong. YA is awesome, and I'm glad we're both on board now--and I'm even getting my master's in MG/YA lit! :)

  4. @Bee - ;D

    @Cheyanne - Thank you! I can't imagine writing anything else, either. Well, maybe one day, but for now, YA all the way!

    @Shayda - oh! Don't get me wrong. I read lots of YA when I was a teen, I just started veering into contemps as the genre became saturated with lackluster Paranormal Romances. But yes! Aren't we glad we were proven wrong? So, SO GLAD.