Sunday, November 27, 2011

Getting the Right Consistency

You're all thinking this is another post about how Food Network rules my life, right? Wrong. That's not the kind of consistency I'm talking about.

Every time I have a long enough break from school, I drive to visit my family over 500 miles away. That's a lot of driving, and it's given me a chance to develop very specific road-trip pet peeves. Two of the biggies are related to consistency, but at opposite ends of the spectrum.

The first annoyance is the driver who can't seem to maintain speed on the highway. Not everyone has cruise control, and not everyone who has it wants to use it. That's fine. But when they vary as much as 15 or 20 mph due to nothing other than their own distraction, I get annoyed. Especially since they always seem to go fast when I could pass them, and drag their wagons when I'm stuck behind them indefinitely.

The other problematic drivers are consistent when they shouldn't be. They go one speed—say, 65 mph in a 70 zone. The highway cuts through a small town, so the speed reduces significantly, maybe down to 45 mph. They keep going 65. Too slow when they should go fast, too fast when they should go slow.

Okay, time for a writing parallel—why not?

Driver #1 is like a writer not maintaining consistency within the plot or characters. Yes, characters grow and change, but not out of the blue, and not just because it's convenient for you. Don't make your readers slam on the brakes for no reason.

Driver #2 is like a writer plowing through the ms with the same level of tension throughout. There should be peaks and valleys. Sometimes the reader needs a relative breather. Don't blast through the scenic village at the same speed you cruise through the desert.

Now I'm off to check my ms for both varieties of consistency.

Any tips, tricks, or thoughts related to consistency ... in writing, life, or anywhere else?

Monday, November 21, 2011

My YA Manifesto

I've been thinking about writing a post like this for months, ever since my From the Write Angle blog-mate J. Lea Lopez wrote her Erotica Writer's Manifesto. Finally, it's time.

Every once in a while, I run across someone who thinks writing Young Adult novels is easier than writing for grown-ups. That YA work isn't as complex, doesn't go as deep or dark, or is otherwise somehow "lesser" than its adult counterparts.

I've even heard it once or twice from other YA writers. They write YA because it's not as demanding—they don't think they could cut it as a writer for adults. Or they write YA because it's a stronger area in a struggling market.

I am an unabashed writer of young adult literature. I chose it before I knew anything about publishing markets, before I knew anything about novel-writing in general (other than my opinions as a reader). So, here's my own personal manifesto as a YA writer, the standards I'll hold myself to.

  • I will write YA only as long as I love it—reading it, writing it, talking about it.
  • I will respect my readers. Young does not mean stupid.
  • I will avoid Stupid MC Syndrome at all costs.
  • I won't be afraid of vocabulary, but will also keep it authentic.
  • I will write female characters with interesting quirks, strengths, and weaknesses.
  • I will write male characters who are more than utter hotness. (This does not preclude potential hotness ... but yeah.)
  • Combining the above, when characters fall for each other, it will be for reasons other than instinctive attraction or destiny.
  • I will generally keep adult characters out of the way, but will not operate under the presumption that all grown-ups are stupid. Teens know that only some of us are stupid.
  • I won't be afraid of complexity—complex situations for my characters, complex issues to tackle. Teens' lives are complex. They deal with it.
  • I will hope my readers learn something from my novels.
  • I will not dictate what that "something" they learn should be. I hope it varies from person to person.
  • I will keep in mind that even teens who think they have no personality and aren't special show the truth in their actions. Even the quietest teen is interesting if you really watch.

There should probably be a few more items in this list, so perhaps I'll add to it over time.

What do you think, YA writers? What do you strive for (or strive to avoid) when writing in our chosen category?

Update: A-NaNo-ing I Go

As I mentioned earlier this month on From the Write Angle, I'm currently participating in my very first NaNoWriMo. In my case, it seemed like a nice excuse to try something a little different. I'm writing my first YA contemporary—a story about a hard-of-hearing girl who transfers to a school for the deaf and finds herself caught between the Deaf and hearing worlds. So far, it's been a lot of fun to write, and is stretching different writing muscles than my usual speculative fiction.

Not sure whether it'll be any good. It'll definitely need some editing (I've already made some notes of things I know need fixing). But I'm ahead of the pace so far, so it looks like I'll get at least the 50k words done by the end of the month.

In other news, I made it through the slush pile for the Baker's Dozen Agent Auction over at Miss Snark's First Victim. Log lines and first pages will be posted on December 2nd, and the "auction" will take place December 6th.

I participated in the same event last year. While making it through the slush is a great feeling, my entry didn't receive a single bid. That was pretty rough. Hoping to have better luck this year.

Meanwhile, I'll keep myself busy with this NaNo project. :)