Sunday, May 18, 2008

Binge Writing

I added something like 3000 words to my YA manuscript yesterday. Likely, there were a number of factors in this unusual event, as I am not one of those authors who consistently churns out 3000 kept words a day.

1) It is too damn hot in California to do anything but hide in the AC and write. (Ok, yes, I could go to the beach or something, but seriously, how am I going to write in the ocean?)

2) I am on a productivity binge for the YA manuscript. Attaining 30K before I get line-edits for that work-for-hire project would be wonderfully, and I believe it's entirely doable.

3) I am finally over the 25K bump, which means I am going to finish a draft this time.

4) My agent says she's looking forward to reading it. (Based mostly, I think, on the fact that she's loving the revised adult manuscript I sent her.) I confessed my love of the YA and its world to her on the phone on Friday.

All these are great reasons, but I think the real motivation came from when I met C Leigh Purtill at her signing last weekend. I don't just mean the way the YA market opened up to me after she assured me that Gregory Maguire's Wicked and Mirror Mirror weren't misplaced in the YA section of Chevalier Books. Or how she told me that her wonderfully brilliant and fun and truthful All About Vee was repositioned as a YA novel when she'd written it originally for the adult market.

No, what happened was Leigh remembered that I'd mentioned (in late 2007 probably) that I was trying to write a YA fantasy novel, and she asked how it was going. I replied honestly: Not well. As I had become so focused on the idea of writing for the young adult market, I began second-guessing every decision I made about the manuscript. (Was it something a young adult would do? Were they discussing things that young adults cared about? Did the voice of the narrator sound young enough? Could they swear? Could they have weapons? What if I sounded like I was advocating violence? And, oh my, were there enough female characters or scenes set in school?)

I told Leigh that'd I forgotten to trust the story and that if it wasn't YA, it wasn't the end of the world. As I was saying this, she got a very knowing smile on her face... and I realized I'd just explained to myself why I was having so much trouble.

Yes, marketing plays a vital role in book-selling, but generally speaking you don't a sell book before you've written it. When you're writing a book, you shouldn't be thinking about how to market it. That has no place in the creative process. That belongs to promotion, which comes after you have a product to promote.

I know that. I tell other people that, but—like everything else in this crazy business—I sometimes forget to tell myself the same thing.

(Oops, forgot to have blogger post this entry.)


stormywriting said...

Hope the YA epiphany is making writing go smoothly. :)

FWIW, we (meaning teens) can usually tell if a book is written by an author who's hellbent on making it "YA". And generally, we laugh at it.

The thing is- unless you're writing Twilight or Gossip Girls, most of the teens reading your book are reading adult stuff anyway. They might not ADMIT it, but they do. The biggest danger in YA is not making it "too old", it's making it too young. Teens tend to be hyper-sensitive to such things.

Ultimately, it's the story & characters that makes the book stand or fall, just like always.

But it sounds like you figured that out for yourself already :)

Chandra Rooney said...

Once again, I thank you. :)

This will be what it is, and if it's not's not YA. As long as I'm happy with it, I've decided not to be too bothered about what shelf it's on.

C. Leigh Purtill said...

I second what stormywriting says! I second it and third and fourth it...I have been meeting LOTS of high school students this week and they are all super bright and hyper aware of everything around them in the so-called "adult world." And btw, Chandra, they all LOVE fantasy...