“Fear will do one thing and one thing only: hold you back.” – Kya Aliana
Young adult fiction is a vast genre with many different categories; all of which are creative and offer a new spin on classic fiction. It may come as a surprise, but creativity is one of the most controversial topics within writing. We claim to support creativity, new ideas, and many writers are urged to avoid clichés. However, it can backfire almost immediately.
Take Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” for example. She avoided a cliché by making vampires sparkle in the sun instead of bursting into flames. While this wildly popular series is adored by many, it’s often scorned as well.
Where is the line? The rules of writing have become muddled, opinionated, and often times contradictory. Not only is the “avoid clichés” advice tricky to follow, but authors are told to “write what you know” as well as “branch out and be as creative as you can”. How can one truly “write what they know” if the topic they are writing about is just a figment of their imagination?
I’ve heard this argument be easily deflected by people saying “research, research, research!” And now we’re back to “avoiding clichés” because if you only go by research the story will be a giant cliché. It’s an endless circle.
Another common piece of advice is “show, don’t tell”, which is great if you apply it thoughtfully. Of course, this contradicts the “KISS” philosophy “Keep it simple, stupid”. Readers have a short attention span, and with so many books out there if they don’t judge it by your cover, they’ll judge it by the first couple pages.
A great writer once said, “Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.” That great writer is the bestselling author, Stephen King. If a writer starts off with simply nothing but “showing”, then the reader will become overwhelmed, have no leeway to apply the characters, surroundings, and beginning plot-line into their own little world. This is a huge red flag! If this happens, readers will move on to the next book on their shelf.
Speaking of hooking readers, here’s another piece of advice “disorientate your reader from the beginning by starting off with an action packed sequence”. Action is good, disorientating is not, and too much of anything can be bad. Answer yourself this: if you were completely confused, had no idea what was going on, who these characters were and why there were doing what they are, would you keep reading? If you answered “yes”, you are the minority. Action is fun in the beginning of the novel, but if it’s nothing but action the reader won’t feel any emotion. The characters must be either well-developed before huge action scenes, or developing during the action scenes through bits of dialogue, a few flashbacks, and some key traits such as mannerisms that readers could relate to.
Now that this has defused most of what you’ve probably learned as a beginning author: let me give you some advice that’s worth listening to.
1) Readers will read what they want and that will not always be what you give them.
2) Don’t be afraid to experiment with different things.
3) People want to hear strong, opinionated writing with empowered characters that hold their own ideals, morals, and compliment fellow characters. This does not mean each character has to be “tough”, just simply well developed.
4) If you are constantly fearful of what other people will think of your writing: your writing will indefinitely suck. Get over your fear and write what comes to you.
5) No matter what you write some people just aren’t going to like it. Accept this fact, and learn to focus on the people who do like it.
6) When somebody critiques your work, listen with an open mind: sometimes this is the best way to better your writing.
7) When listening to a critique, separate their opinion (for instance, they “didn’t like the way the book ended”) from fact about your style (for instance, why they “didn’t like the way the book ended”. Were the characters out of character, was the plot-line unrealistic for the setting? Did you not foreshadow enough? Etc. etc.)
8) Above all else, disregard everything you have ever read, all the advice that you have been given, and find what works best for you. Find what writing styles make you happiest and stick with that. Write because you love to write, NOT because you want to appease others. Get over that fear and share everything with the world whether you think it’s worthy or not. Someone somewhere will love it.
Conclusion: There are no rules to writing, only opinions. If you are interested in hearing opinions to help find what works for you, I urge you to read “Write Good or Die”, an astounding book full of advice from several different authors of several different genres. Odds are, you’ll find something in there that will rocket your creativity!