The Compulsive Reader: Why You Should Really Write YA, A Response to That Bustle Article, With Tweets and Annotations

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Why You Should Really Write YA, A Response to That Bustle Article, With Tweets and Annotations

Today I got onto Twitter, which is always a dangerous game, and saw tweets about this article on Bustle, on why you should write a YA novel. It's not a surprise in this tech-y/DIY/instant gratification age that the idea that anyone can write (and publish) a book is perpetuated around every corner, but I clicked on the link despite the warning bells that were tinkling at the back of my mind. Because, you know, I do that YA writing thing, which is why this blog doesn't get as much time and loving attention as it used to. (Writing novels is hard, yo.)

But this article... I think I'll let my tweets (with annotations) say the rest. (Also, sorry for the swears, Mom.)
(To be fair, Young Adult is a super fascinating movie and not bad, per se. But I don't think it realistically depicts the life of any YA writer. Okay, maybe two. But not any that I know. And I know a LOT of YA writers. And I am one. So there.)

(We could go round after round about YA tropes, and storytelling techniques, strategies, and narrative styles that exist under the umbrella of YA. There are certainly some things that are more typical of YA than others, but there are ALWAYS outliers and exceptions. And I'd argue that high emotion should be characteristic of any good novel, most of what we call cliffhangers in YA aren't actual cliffhangers but unresolved endings, and short chapters? Seriously? Have you read a Rainbow Rowell novel?

If you want to talk more about YA and writing styles, drop me a line. We can go to coffee and I'll bring my MFA hood.)

(Look, I have two friends with film agents/movie options. If they got movies eventually, we'd all be ecstatic. But they'll also be the first to tell you that they would be shocked if that happened. Frankly, they're just kind of baffled and happy to have made it this far, but they don't expect much more even if we are all hoping for movies and multi-million dollar franchises. And without having hard numbers, I'd also say that most YA writers don't have film agents, let alone interest.)

 (ALSO, not every YA writer even wants to be involved in the process of making a film from their novels. I think films take a lot of time make, maybe, and that'd be time away from writing, which doesn't sound appealing to me or to many writers.)

 (I mean, really.)

(Enrolling in an MFA program in Writing for Children & Young Adults is a really great way of submerging yourself into a community of like-interested adults. We also throw some hella good parties.)

(I have lots of social media followers. You're probably one of them. If they all gave me a dollar, I could pay off my student loans, but that's stupid because I don't want your dollars. I just want to hang out and chat and favorite--I'm sorry, LIKE--your funny tweets and maybe have intense feelings about books with you. The idea of social media audience = sales or profit of any kind is kinda silly.)

(Quickest, time-wise. Books take a lot of time! Books should take a lot of time because so much goes into them. This is a very important point--editing, copy editing, formatting, design, marketing, publicity, sales. These are all broad stroke points in a huge process. And I can tell you honestly, as a bookseller, you need to do your due diligence and make it all professional as can be, or readers won't give you much attention.)

(Seems like an unrealistic expectation? Past Tirzah was so polite. It IS an unrealistic expectation. Unbelievably unrealistic.)

(Nothing is guaranteed: Also a good life motto.)

(Personal anecdote: When I was younger, I used to imagine selling the book I was writing. I would get $300,000 for it and its two sequels. I don't know why $300,000, it seemed like a nice round number. I would be flush! I would pay off my car! I'd buy a couch! You wanna know how far this fancy daydream got me? Nowhere, in the middle of nowhere.

Now, I'm not saying that I don't still fantasize about what life might look like after publication, but I actively try not to because that shit is like a tiny innocent snowball that goes rolling down a very large mountain and turns into a boulder of snowy doom before its halfway down, crushing all motivation and focus on the actual work. And funny thing, if you want to be published, you need to do the work.

These days, I fantasize about getting a piece of dialogue right, or writing a metaphor that will make people say, "Huh, good one, Price." Also, chocolate for every 1,000 words I write.)

(Don't even go there.)

(Mmm, pie.)

(Now, I wouldn't argue if anyone wanted to pay off my student debts, but believe me, there are far easier and much more profitable ways of doing that than spending three hours every morning writing. I could wait tables, write ad copy, tutor a teen, open an etsy shop...and I can't think of any more skills I possess. But they'd all make me more money than I am earning or will hope to earn on anything I write between the last two years of my life and the next five.

So why do I write? Short answer: Because YA books saved my life as a teen, gave me guidance when I felt lost, and made me feel less alone. I have some stories in me that I hope will someday do the same for at least one teen. I write because I can't not.)

(Some words on the fancy degree, because I know there are people out there who might want to pick at this one point and while I am proud of my MFA, I don't want it to sound like I'm elevating myself above the MFA-less: You do not need an MFA to write and publish excellent books for teens--aka YA. You DO still need to do all the work, though. For me, an MFA was perfect because it gave me guidance, a structure, and access to amazing faculty members, all published and successful in their own rights, who offered me feedback on my work. As an added bonus, it expanded my mind--yay education!--and it gave me a built-in community I know I'll have for life. I highly recommend it. If you can't swing an MFA, then find the non-MFA equivalent of that! You'll need friends and a community and support that is all about that craft for when the market stuff gets depressing.)

 And, encore! My friend compiled a thing and it is great:

 Thoughts, ideas, etc. welcome. Please no tomato throwing. Comment or tweet at me.


LinWash said...

I just read the article you tweeted about. Thanks for bringing this to our attention and also compiling your tweets and annotations. I could agree with you! The article gives a pretty superficial view about writing YA fiction. First of all, it barely mentioned the audience. Instead authors are encouraged to write simply because the market seems hot. You and I know dozens of writers (including ourselves) who care about teens and care about producing a quality manuscript. Yet these authors know that selling a manuscript is not as easy as that article would have us all believe.

Luciferadi said...

You are my hero.

Anonymous said...

This was excellent! As a bookseller (and, obviously, a reader) it's clear the YA market is booming right now, but that doesn't necessarily mean that every YA written = MASSIVE SUCCESS THAT'LL RAKE IN THE $$$

My favorite, though, was the bit about the short chapters. Has this writer never flipped through a Patterson/Dan Brown/Baldacci/insert ANY thriller author here. One of my all-time favorite authors, Steve Berry, has chapters so short they hardly qualify. We're talking a page or two MAX.