This is going to be a bit of a personal ramble about my writing, so if you prefer my usual social commentary, or satirical pieces, I’ll see you tomorrow! Be good to each other in the meantime.
So I’m writing my first YA fiction novel at the moment. The majority of literary agents are only accepting open submissions in this demographic, so I’ve thought for a while that I should add one to my list of mostly completed WIPs.
Last month I came up with a solid enough idea, and so I got to work on a plot outline. After I finished, I pitched it around to friends and received much more positive feedback about the idea than I normally do. Instead of asking me questions about the narrative, because I’d rambled on about something so complex it’d need a Pepe Silvia like wall-chart to explain — they asked me about the world.
It’s a dystopian novel, because that’s what I love writing, and I’ve created a future, authoritarian world for my characters to exist and struggle in. With that, I’ve written an alternate history timeline, which was a lot of fun. Inventing an entire future government and society was also a blast.
I don’t want to dive too deep into the details in this post, but an oversimplification of the novel would be Harry Potter meets 1984. In that it’s set in a school, under an authoritarian government, at a time where the only luxury every citizen is afforded is a high-school education. Only, the classes are all in a VR simulation. So you get the juxtaposition of a horrible, run-down boarding school where they eat/sleep/live, and a idyllic mid-90s-looking, “pre school shooting era” high school, where they learn.
The plot for the first book is fairly simple, and the characters are all contemporary and (hopefully) relatable. There are basic allegories for modern high-school life and the dangers associated with it, as well as the general teenage frustrations of a government being bad, but not being able to do anything about it.
I’ve — maybe crassly — described my protagonists as March For Our Lives activists, but before the horrific Parkland school shooting happened. The sort of people who always had the potential to stand-up, but need something bad to happen to them in order to answer the call to action. And this is YA fiction, so many bad things will happen to them. *canned evil laughter*
For fun, one night, I roughly mapped out the remaining three books in the series, and it has a clear direction leading to a final conflict.
I’ve dropped writing in first-person, as I did with my two completed novels, because that was my own ego shining through. I’ve always been told that my realistic dialogue is my biggest written strength, so I incorrectly thought that by writing mostly in soliloquy, I’d get to show-off for 95% of the book. I was wrong.
By writing in third-person, and fleshing out the transitions and details in a more naturally descriptive language, it makes my dialogue stand-out even more. I’d go as far as to say that the first 15,000 words of this novel are technically the best prose I’ve written, because I’m constantly learning.
I’ve dropped the arrogance of wanting to write something purely original, because that’s never going to happen, and nobody wants that anyway. My YA novel is familiar enough, but still an original story. People are going to draw comparisons from other YA books, but the characters and rules of their world are all brand new. It’s coming of age in a setting of good vs evil, it’s classic YA fiction. It won’t turn any heads, but it’ll hopefully turn a few pages.
I don’t consider myself to be a great writer, by any stretch of my unravelling imagination — but I do think I’m dedicated to the skill of writing. I know that I’m a better writer than I was this time last year, because I have the privilege of being able to write every day.
I’m finishing projects now, even if I haven’t been able to sell any of them yet. A year ago, I wasn’t finishing anything, and now I’m finishing everything. Which is something I’d only previously achieved at university, due to academic deadlines.
I think that, if — by the time I finish writing the third or fourth draft of this YA book, and I shop it around to no response, I’ll probably just self-publish my works; To show the world that I actually did something, before I head out into the world of not writing.
I’ll have finished a high-concept novel (which I hate), an “original” novel that’s fairly artsy (which I’m proud of), and a marketable YA novel, which — for now, I’m finding to be a fun, energetic write. I think those three will be enough of a repertoire for my older self to look back on and be happy with. Even the one I hate was a 175,000 word lesson in how not to write a book.
My YA dystopian novel is the first idea I’ve had that I’ve seen my wife get excited about. To the point where she’s told me about the potential of the idea, instead of having to dig a little myself, for her ever-present support. We’ve spent hours talking about the world, and potential for sub-plots within the overall narrative. Something I can’t say about any of my other novels or ideas.
One final added bonus about working on something for the 12-18 demographic, is that I still very much have that mindset in a lot of ways. I’m constantly suppressing my angst, in favour of being an adult about things. I’m also emotional about a lot of what’s going on in society right now, so writing this novel is cathartic because I get to write about bright, young people who’re learning to channel their emotions in the right way, in order to eventually bring down an evil regime.
I finish projects now, so no matter what I should be able to put a sample chapter here in a couple of months, as I begin to query another original piece.
If you’re reading this, and you’re in the same boat as me, I encourage you to keep going. No matter what your pursuit is, be it creative, personal or otherwise — as long as you’re getting better with each passing day then it’s absolutely worthwhile.
Today is Saturday, July 14th and matcha lemonade is better writing fuel than coffee, fight me.