Wednesday, September 7, 2011
A fellow writer once asked me, "Where is your real novel?"
He meant it as a compliment. Sort of. And I took it as one. Sort of.
See, he was trying to say that he thought I had real talent. And I appreciate that. But it was one of those backhanded compliments: "You have so much talent, why are you wasting it on writing for teens?"
To be fair, I could have been him. I come from a literary background. I used to think Pulitzers and Nobels were the only achievements worth striving for.
But I also grew up in a time when YA lit didn't exist. (And I'm not even that old.) At least, it didn't exist like it does today. JK Rowling and Stephenie Meyer hadn't opened the doors for YA readers and writers, hadn't made YA cool. Hadn't shown that you can have as much magic and passion when you're 14 as when you're 34. Heck, sometimes you can have more -- and that's why adults love YA too.
However, if I'm being honest, the question wasn't totally out of line. Where was my real novel?
See, at the time I was working on a paranormal YA for fun. And that's all it was: fun. It didn't have much head or heart -- and that's a problem. The real-ness of a book has nothing to do with what genre it's in or what audience it's written for. Real-ness has everything to do with head and heart.
(Fun is the icing on the cake.)
Writing that fun project was still important, though. Fun led me to heart, and heart led me to head. After 10,000 words, I put aside that paranormal YA and started my current manuscript, and I think it's the best thing I've ever written. It's my Pinocchio.
So what am I saying? I'm saying, to both readers and writers, don't judge too soon. A puppet may be made of wood, or paper, or a dirty old sock -- but not all wood or paper or dirty old socks are the same. Does the puppet have dreams? Does it tell the truth? Does it show courage and love?
And are those not the very qualities that make boys and girls real?
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