Thursday, April 21, 2011

New Directions

Hard to believe it's been almost two months since I posted last.  When I'm honest with myself, I have to admit there are two reasons.  One is the usual complaint about how busy we've been at the B&B.  But the other is I'm deep into rewrites on a new project, a YA set on Long Island during the McCarthy Era. As I continue to research that period, I'm discovering all sorts of fascinating stuff, and the Middle Ages has sort of gone on the back burner (where its simmering hopefully with a new story.)

So rather than give up blogging entirely, I'm expanding the scope of this blog to Camelot and Other Stuff.  Expect to see interesting things I come up with as I report on things I'm learning from writing a YA.

For those of you aren't familiar with the term, by the way, "YA" stands for "Young Adult".  Quite a euphamism, considering these are books targeted at the reader age 12 to 16.  The protagonist is usually 14 to 18 years old.

YAs require a different craft from the fantasies and historicals I've done in the past, even this YA, which, with its 1950's setting, is what I consider semi-historical.  Technically historicals end with WW2, but let's face it, if you're 16 years old, anything of your grandparents' era is going to be history.

  • Plot dominant. Even if it's a romance.  Yes, the emotions are there, but they're not what drives the story.  Teens want interesting plots that take them into a world of adventure, even if the adventure is within their own schoolyard.
  • Fast pacing.  Teens get bored fast.  This means world-building has to be incorporated into the action or dialog, rather than stopping the action to set the scene.
  • Teen POV.
  • Teen concerns.  The underlying issues the story deals with have to be things of concern to teens.
Is is hard to write YA?  Well, my CPs for The Dark Edge of Camelot series suggested that I have a YA voice, which is why I'm giving it a try.  And actually, I'm finding it very easy to slide into my protagonist's mind, because many of the issues Sophie is dealing with, and the pain she feels is stuff I've experienced. (No, my parents did not go through a nasty divorce.  But I do know how it feels to desparately want to be popular.) 

One of the speakers at last years RWA conference put it best when she said, "When you write YA, you're writing for the teen you were."

Considering the grief I'm putting my protagonist through, writing YA makes me grateful that I never have to be a teen again.