Monday, January 25, 2010

In the Beginning...

Alright, I promised a blog about my development as a writer, and so far I’ve managed to neglect saying anything directly about my work in progress. No more! It’s time to lift the veil a bit and give you some insight into how I ended up writing a trilogy of young adult books.

As I’d mentioned back in my NaNoWriMo entry, it didn’t start out as a trilogy. It wasn’t even envisioned as a series. At its simplest, most innocent form, I was just working on a one-shot narrative that spun off from a small collection of short stories I was writing at the time. Sure, there was potential for follow-up stories, but my mind wasn’t at that stage yet. All I wanted to do was to tell a little tale to entertain people and show off my “mad writing skills.” I did just that – with every week of NaNoWriMo, I would bring it to the group that inspired my short stories, led by the remarkable Barbara Deutsch and populated mostly by actors, and let one of them read the Excerpt of the Week aloud.

Let me just say right now that if you literary aspirants ever find an opportunity to have your work read aloud by someone you trust, seize it with both hands. Get over your anxiety at having people see your work in progress and let them read it aloud as if to an audience. A successfully crafted narrative is one that flows smoothly, and the best test of this is to see if someone can cold read it without stumbling over the words and sentence structure. More than that, if you’re writing dialogue, you can hear if it sounds conversational or if your characters sound like textbooks. In addition, if you’re writing a story that incorporates humor, you can see and hear if someone gets it or not… depending on if your reader is part of your target audience, of course. (I, myself, am pleased to report that people responded very well to the humor in my first draft.)

By the end of the month, I had a first draft of a novel, but it only barely fit the criteria. I set to the task of reworking it, adding chapters to fill out the narrative, weeding out chapters that were redundant or otherwise added nothing to the story, and changing whatever was left to fit the new material so it would flow even smoother than before. In that time, the word count on my novel blossomed from barely over 50,000 to well over 65,000 words. Plot was tightened, the world was expanded upon, and the whole thing seemed much more cohesive. There was just one little problem.

I had no idea who exactly it was for.

Sure, I had an inkling that it would make for a fine young adult novel, but the tone and some of the material suggested that it might find a home on the sci-fi/fantasy shelf. The fact that I hadn’t decided on who it was for could be seen throughout my story, though, and it suffered greatly for it. I had to pick a genre, and that decision either way would mean a rewrite of my novel. After a great deal of consideration, I decided to bring it fully into the realm of young adult fiction. I’d always had a fondness for the genre, and the success of the Harry Potter book series (among others) showed that they weren’t just for kids. With a little retooling of the story and plot, I could make an awe-inspiring tale of wonder and magic that would sit proudly on the YA Fiction shelf.

I’ll delve into some of that retooling next week!

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