I love what Arthur Slade shared in his interview on Monday, especially his confusion about being a YA writer. Discovering how prolific authors get headed in the right direction can help those who are just starting out or simply not making any headway. YA, adult, genre, literary – how hard can it be to know what we write or which direction to go? As Arthur pointed out, it’s not always easy to tell.
Dorothy asked the scarecrow, "Which way do we take?" His cryptic answers were “Pardon me, this way is a very nice way,” (points other way) “It’s pleasant down that way, too,” and (points both ways) “Of course, some people do go both ways.” I’m surprised she didn’t leave him hanging in the cornfield.
We have to start somewhere, and there's no yellow brick road. Some writers follow one road until it dead ends and their writing gets stalled. Some branch off at the ‘Y’ in the road and add a few vampires or whatever is currently on the horizon. Still others take the road less traveled and find success.
So, how far do you travel before you sit down in the dust and re-think your decision? If you’re traveling alone, you may go far off course before taking stock and honestly considering your options. It’s not smart to be a lone wolf in the writing community. You can waste a lot of time trying to decide things on your own. Writers are generally too close to their writing to see things clearly. We all need honest feedback.
The story came together and stirred some interest at a conference, including an agent who went back and conferred with his colleagues about it. His eventual response: We don’t do YA. If it had an adult perspective, we would be interested.
Great gnashing of teeth ensued on my part. I railed to my family, "It’s perfect the way it is!" which translates to (a) I’m sick and tired of this story, and (b) I don’t want to rewrite it again and (c) how badly do I really want to be published? I stamped and huffed and scowled, and when I was spent, my husband sagely said, “You know, it could really use the mom’s perspective.”
I stuffed it in a drawer for a week or more. When I came to my senses, I realized he had something there. The mom started talking to me. And then the sisters. And the grandparents. Grief, like a spreading stain, had seeped into all their lives and done its damage. How could I have missed it? So, I picked it up again and told the whole story this time.
For my part, I had to set aside what I was so sure I knew and listen to what credible sources told me about the story and my writing. It doesn’t mean I won’t write another story with a juvenile’s perspective. Kids have such insight and tell it like it is. But it will most likely be written from the standpoint of an adult reflecting on childhood experiences.
Some writers will insist that they have ALWAYS known what they were destined to write. Oo-rah. Good for them! Even better if they have ever considered another way and had their original choice confirmed.
How did you come to realize what you were meant to write? Was it a trial by fire or just the quiet affirmation of readers and colleagues? Maybe you’re still in process. We’d love to hear.