Back in June I decided the Sea Story would be my last YA novel, unless something changed. I was tired of hearing I should be an adult writer, and I was starting to forget why I wanted to write about young adults in the first place.
Something did change. See, when I thought the Sea Story would be my last YA novel, I stopped second-guessing myself. I unfollowed every agent on Twitter, stopped reading agent blogs and ignored every market-related article that popped up. I wrote my heart out and 3-and-a-half months later I had a draft. It was the best writing experience of my life.
I’ve written another draft of the Sea Story since then, and now that I’m getting closer to the agent-related steps of the whole process, I’m starting to feel it again, that weariness. I’ve always had trouble balancing the creative and business aspects of this whole writing biz. While I’m querying I start to forget why I love writing in the first place and start deciding I want to give up on my genre, or quit altogether.
And you know, I really don’t want to go back to that place. Things were really dark for me for awhile there. I’ve never been so close to giving up. So, this is what I’m planning to do: I’ve signed up for NaNoWriMo, and I’m going to start a new novel. I have no intention of actually “winning” — I’m aiming for maybe 20k, 30 tops. I just need my head to be in a really good, grounded space as I head into critique-land and then revision-land.
Aaaand the new novel will be another YA — a contemporary YA this time. In that post back in June, I couldn’t remember why I ever wanted to write about teenagers. I was so stuck in my own head that I completely lost track of what YA was about. Writing what I thought was my last YA novel helped me to see what it is I so love about the genre.
Here’s why I write young adult fiction: because growing up is the happy ending.
I almost didn’t make it to adulthood. Many of my friends almost never made it to adulthood. Some didn’t make it at all. Being a teenager was hands down the hardest battle I’ve ever faced. That sounds like an exaggeration, but it’s true. Those people who say your high school years are the best of your life are lying. Buffy was right: high school is hell.
I’m so, so glad I grew up, but there is no story in the happy ending. We write to grapple with the things that scare us, that challenge us, the things that make us stronger. And there is nothing harder to me, nothing more challenging and vital, than those liminal years between childhood and adulthood.
My November story is about a lot of things, but at its heart it is my attempt to grapple with the year that almost killed me. Ten years on I think it’s finally time to write about the things that happened when I was 14.
The November story is about how the mistakes you make when you’re young can haunt you for the rest of your life.
About the hope that what comes next might be better, and the fear that it might not.
About being so young, but already feeling so very old.
It’s about being a teenager.
I’ve said a few times that the Sea Story is the most personal thing I’ve ever written, but I’m about to beat that. I’m going deeper. I’m going to write my heart out and I’m going to write a story worthy of my year of writing fearlessly.
P.S. For more on why YA is so vital, check out this post by Courtney Summers on why she writes about teenage girls. Because this is what it’s really like. And this is why we’re all so glad we grew up.