I recently turned in revisions for my fifth YA novel, FALLING FOR YOU.
Five YA novels? Are you freaking kidding me? I still have to pinch myself sometimes when I'm e-mailing back and forth with Sara or one of my editors, like, is this really my life? Really? Because for years, I dreamed about it and longed for it, and there are still moments when I can hardly believe it's happened to me.
Yet after all those books, I'm still excited and nervous, happy and anxious, grateful and petrified, as I think about this new book going out into the world one day soon.
I thought it'd be interesting for me to look back over the course of this writing career, and list a few of the things I still struggle with when I'm writing after all this time.
1. Believability - I worry about this constantly as I am writing. I understand it's my job to make the writer believe, but how far can I go as a writer before I stretch that string of trust too far? I remember when I wrote I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME, my first YA novel, I was so worried about whether the little things the ghost did were too far-fetched. I would tell myself the field is wide open to the possibilities, because it's not like there are things we know to be absolutely true about ghosts, but it didn't help. I was really worried that people would laugh and throw the book across the room because of the stuff I came up with. "A ghost wouldn't do that, no way, that's ludicrous."
And I still worry as I'm writing books now. It's important to take risks with our writing, and to try and find things that haven't been done much in YA, but it's also scary. THE DAY BEFORE, my last YA, has two characters with issues I hadn't seen much of in YA before. You're thinking, that's great! Well, it's great when you your readers buy into it, and embrace it one hundred percent. But how do you know if that's going to happen until the book is out there? That's the hard thing. Write big, try to convince big, and then hope big, I guess.
2. Pretty writing - You know those writers who write sentences that make you stop and read over a passage again and again because it's just so lovely to read? I have secretly always wanted to be one of those writers, even though I will never be one of those writers. Sure, my verse novels have lines in them that teens quote on tumblr and mark as favorites on goodreads. But I feel like with my writing, you have to do a lot of digging to find that one gold nugget. Why can't I have one on every page? Or even every paragraph?
Nina LaCour (her new novel, THE DISENCHANTMENTS is so good, you should totally read it) addressed this issue in an interview recently. I love what she said: "But then I remind myself that for every writer I love who writes in a luxurious, descriptive style, there is also one I love who writes simply. That would be my advice: Pay attention to the way you write and honor it. Don't try to write like someone you're not."
With every book, I have that same moment of panic - my writing is not pretty enough. And each time, I come around to the realization that I simply cannot be someone I'm not. I'm good at creating moments where the reader feels as if he/she is right there with the character. How I do that, I'm not entirely sure, but I am told I do it again and again, so I have to trust my process and my writing and do what I do best in a way that works for me.
3. Layers and connections - Sarah Dessen, to me, is the queen of layers and connections. Objects or characters or memories are introduced, and at the time, as the reader, you don't know how they fit in or even if they do, but later on, after taking the journey with the main character, you realize every little thing had a reason for being there and in the end, it's like everything is connected in this meaningful way. If you've tried to do this in your writing, then you know it's not easy. And yet, when you do it, and it works, the payoff is huge. When I get to the end of reading a book that has connections like that, and layers I didn't see at first, I am impressed and moved and a hundred other things. A friend once told me she believed that it was in revisions when we try to go deeper with our layers and connections, and I think she's right. So I am always thinking about trying to go deeper with connections when I revise, but it is not easy!
These are just a few of my regular struggles. What about you? Do you have something you worry about or struggle with in every book you write?