Monday, February 04, 2008

Why?

Sorry guys, no crit reward. Next time I'll offer that as a prize for a contest where we'll actually have a winner. :)

And now...I have something to say.

Why do I write YA?

Because it's so much easier. Obviously. It's way shorter—why write 100,000 words for adults when you can skate by with only 60,000? You can crank one out in no time. And ya know, why mess around with themes and resonating truths and research? Teens aren't going to understand that stuff anyway, right, so why bother? Just dump some stuff on the page, make it cool, add a couple cell phones, and presto.

Is my sarcasm showing yet?

The problem I've discovered, since I started following my passion and writing YA, is that many, many people—even writers, forgodsakes—seem to think that some or all of the above is true. Cue people thinking that writing for teens isn't "serious". Or difficult. Certainly not as difficult as writing historicals for grown-ups. Not in the same class.

This was driven home for me recently when a fellow writer, who has been working on an adult historical for YEARS, decided maybe she'd just write a YA quickly and sell that. She figured she could pump it out in 4 or 5 months. And of course it was a "message" book too, because there's nothing teens need more than adults force-feeding them messages.

Yeah, I was bugged by her attitude. I did write JENNA quickly, but that was because I was disciplined, I was using my natural voice for once, and I had a good story I was passionate about. Not because I thought it was easy.

See, the real reason I write for teens is because that's what I like to read. I've always loved to dip into the kid's section, the teen section, the YA section…whatever they're calling it. I think maybe part of my brain is still 14, or maybe it's just that those issues are the ones that resonate for me. Or that I like the kick-ass honesty you see in a lot of girls that age. Even the heroine of my historical was 16. The heroine of the historical I scrapped was 13. Jenna is 15. Nat is 15/16. It's how I see the world. It's what I love.

And let the record show, for now and always, that I hate "message" books. It's all well and good to have a story that tells people something, or talks about something important (like UGLIES by Scott Westerfeld), if it flows as a natural part of the story. If the story and the characters are the primary concern. Not because you were sitting around thinking "how do I fit in something about body image, because I as an adult think teens have a problem with body image, so I must inform them about that." Um, no thanks. It will be painfully obvious that you did that. I won't want to read it, and no teenager will either.

[end rant]

11 comments:

Julianne Douglas said...

Susan,

It's too bad some people have such an attitude towards YA. It takes a special kind of writer to understand the teen mindset and write works that kids will read. I think it's probably MORE difficult than writing adult historicals. I, for one, would never even attempt to try!

So did the writer you know manage to whip hers out in the timeframe she envisioned? What's the end of the story??! I hope she's learned what you've shared with us.

Don't waste your energy stewing--keep writing your marvelous books! It's the teen readers who matter. If they read your book to the end and recommend it to their friends, it doesn't matter what other adult writers think, now does it?!

Susan Adrian said...

Hi Julianne!

Oh, I've said enough about that writer. But I'm sure the truth will be discovered. :)

[Don't waste your energy stewing]

Oh, I'm not! At least I hope I'm not. I actually came across this several weeks ago. Just thought I'd defend a little, for the record. Writing anything well isn't easy, right?

Hélène Boudreau said...

I love how some think they can just 'whip off' a YA novel or a picture book for that matter.

Sheesh.

But I guess in the end, the great writers make it 'look' easy, which may lead to the misconception.

Susan Adrian said...

Helene: true! I am reminded of Diana's comments about readers thinking her words just flow onto the page. Nope. :)

Oh, and congrats, you're my 20,000th visitor according to statcounter.

Jennifer Hendren said...

Susan,

I'm right here with you on this one. (g) I'll never understand this mentality. Sure, I get the idea that a YA is shorter, and the _you can_ whip one out quickly. But that doesn't mean it will be good or something kids will want to read. I'm the classic example. I thought, YA...short, I can do this. I've always wanted to try. Then I get in the trenches and realize that what I thought would be _one_ book will be at least three, if not two. Easy, my arse. (g)

Jen

Jennifer Hendren said...

GAh, typos all over the place... I thought it would be _two_, but now it may be three. Brain fried is my only excuse. (g)

Amy said...

Hi Susan,
I thought "messages" went out with the ABC Afternoon Specials in the 80? If they didn't they should have.

Chris said...

Now I think it's just the opposite than what 'some people' think. I think it would be much harder to write YA. Kids know when you're a poser. I'd have to get into their minds and that's tough for a 30-something *cough*. I'd be scared to write YA. I think you're pretty brave, Susan.

Susan Adrian said...

Jen: Yeah, you know. :)

Amy: They didn't! But you're right, they SHOULD HAVE.

Chris: Psst. The secret is, I'm still 15 in my head. {g} I kind of wonder if I'll ever stop being 15 in my head...

Precie said...

I've only recently dipped into the YA pool, and my hesitations are because of exactly what chris explained. Kids recognize posers. And the YA audience is, I think, a lot more sophisticated and experienced than when I WAS a YA. So getting into their heads and producing something they'd want to read is a serious undertaking. It's not something you just whip up over a weekend.

Susan Adrian said...

Precie:

The secret is you don't get yourself into a frenzy about writing what they'd like to read. That wouldn't work.

You write what YOU'D like to read.