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.