Saturday, November 13, 2010

Writing Outside the (tan)Lines

This is how I spent the past week, sailing around a bunch of islands on a sailboat. I'd looked forward to this vacation for so long, and not just because it was a well-needed vacation, but because my vacations are all about relaxing and reading.

Weeks in advance I started scouting for the books I'd bring along with me. I settled on 5 teen books that I was sure would make great reading. I also brought my Kindle, where I had some non-fiction books I wanted to dive into. But first I started with my teen fiction. It didn't occur to me that I'd brought along 3 very depressing books (all having to do with some sort of death/suicide). One was more mainstream and one was just all about fun (DASH AND LILY'S BOOK OF DARES, which came out days before I left for my trip and was SO enjoyable).

I have to admit, I wasn't loving the death/suicide books. And I wasn't sure why (short of their depressing subject matter). But as I was reading them it occurred to me that it seemed like death/suicide was an increasing topic in teen lit - like I'd read the same story before a million times. Especially the sort of "person dies, friend/relative finds journal/diary and tries to figure out why." Which got me really depressed because it made me ask the question no author wants to contemplate: are there any original stories out there?

Yeah, it depressed me. Because if there aren't any original stories left to write, then where's the hope for a writer? Then DASH AND LILY gave me hope. Because the story isn't exactly earth shattering: just a story of boy meets girl (eventually, that is, after a lot of back and forth with a journal). Pretty basic. But it felt so fresh, thanks to some really fun and smart writing. Of course, that kinda depressed me too because then I had to ask myself: am I capable of being that fun and smart?

So much pressure. And here reading was supposed to relax me! Which brings me, in a very roundabout way, to writing outside the lines, and what it means to me. It means that I can not like a book that everyone raves about and it doesn't mean I'm wrong. It means that I can be scared shitless of writing a story that's already been written, but still write it because hopefully I have something new to say. And it means that regardless of trends, you just have to write what makes you happy. And hopefully that will make some reader, somewhere, happy too.

6 comments:

  1. It means that I can not like a book that everyone raves about and it doesn't mean I'm wrong. It means that I can be scared shitless of writing a story that's already been written, but still write it because hopefully I have something new to say. And it means that regardless of trends, you just have to write what makes you happy. And hopefully that will make some reader, somewhere, happy too.

    This.

    So very much this.

    *applauds*

    Carry on. ;-)

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  2. As hard as it is to read this type of subject matter, I think it's necessary to have these books. Aside from the fact that not a lot of authors tackle deaths/suicide, I think it's good for readers to stay grounded. I think it's great, whether you end up enjoying it fully or not. Not every book is going to be about romance and paranormal, so I think it's good for some books to be more realistic. Great post! Love the picture.

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  3. I'm loving Outside the Lines - All the posts are so honest and inspirational. "you just have to write what makes you happy. And hopefully that will make some reader, somewhere, happy too." Love it!!

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  4. I recently came home with a stack of new YAs, many of which were about death and suicide. The stories are powerful, but I like reading humor and romance, too. That's what I love about YA. There's room for every kind of writing.

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  5. I agree with Jan, that is what I love about YA, too. Room for everything. FOr the most part my books are on the depressing side, but I'm trying to infuse more humor in my WIP. I feel the same way you do sometimes when reading, wondering if I can be as smart or fun, wondering if I can bring a fresh spin to a theme that's been done. We can do it! Can't wait to read your next one!

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  6. So much of a writer's life seems to be about fear. Fear there aren't any great new ideas. Fear of inadequacy. Fear of being misunderstood, etc. I really enjoyed your post and find how you are facing your fears to be inspiring.

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