Jed’s come down to meet…

Jed's come down to meet me at Coffee Roasting, and I'm sitting here trying to figure out exactly where I went wrong on the YA book. I have to admit, I have a bit of a block about writing science fiction or fantasy, a hesitation, in part based on Beth Meacham and Tappan King, two Tor editors who taught at my Clarion, telling me that my mainstream fiction was much better than my f/sf. Which was and is true, but I reacted at the time (in 1997, my god, ten years ago) by just dropping f/sf altogether, and concentrating on mainstream writing. Which was a fine decision at the time, and resulted in my writing Bodies in Motion, a book I do love. But now I find that I want to take a different approach -- if my f/sf isn't as good, I want to figure out why it isn't, and then fix it, dangit. Because I love love love reading f/sf, and it would make me so happy to be able to write it too.

I've been devouring lots of good YA f/sf recently. On Justine's recommendation, I picked up Megan Whalen Turner's Thief trilogy, which had a solid first book, and two excellent follow-up books. Oh, there was a big secret or two that I thought were telegraphed just a bit too much for them to actually be surprises, but I forgive her that for the beautiful emotional complexity of the relationships, not to mention the perverse charm of the characters. And now I'm back to Scott Westerfeld, halfway through his Uglies trilogy, trying to pay especial attention to how he handles teenage crushes/love/sex, because that's something I'm having a surprisingly tough time with in my book. I think I'm getting some ideas about how to improve, though.

I admit, I'm not only reading YA -- I did spend two hours yesterday sitting at Borders, tearing through Laurell K. Hamilton's Mistral's Kiss, which really is pure fairy S/M porn, packaged as a fantasy novel. I know some people are disappointed in Hamilton sacrificing much of the space she used to spend on story for long sex scenes, but y'know, some of us like the long sex scenes. :-) Her books really are the ultimate Mary Sue.

Anyway, enough talking about other peoples' writing. I spent an hour and a half on the phone with my agent yesterday, and in the process, I think I promised Bob that I'd have the second third of the YA drafted in the next two weeks. That's a little under 2K words a day, which is totally do-able *if* I focus. So, focusing away...

8 thoughts on “Jed’s come down to meet…”

  1. Do you work from an outline for the novel or do you just write as things come to you? Maybe you’ve written about this somewhere else in the journal but I’d sure be interested to know.
    I wish more writers would talk about process when it comes to novels. Yes, we know writing is hard but if we shared how we do what we do, wouldn’t that be helpful? And I don’t mean things like “I write first thing in the morning” or “I need music to write”. I’m talking process – outlines, free writes etc. (Maybe there’s a book out there that addresses all this that I don’t know about.)

    -Avril (who’s embarking on a writing project that seems sometimes like a great green monster)

  2. Other YA fantasy you might want to try:

    The Bartimus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud
    His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman (if you haven’t read this, you are MISSING out. One of the best series I have read… ever.)
    Twilight, New Moon, and Eclipse by Stephanie Meyer (these aren’t that great, but important if you want to know what’s popular and publishing these days in the market)

  3. I like the Stroud; very entertaining. I have to admit, I tried the Pullman a while back, because Kevin loved them so, and I just couldn’t get into them. I do plan to try them again at some point, since so many of my friends like them a lot. Hadn’t heard about the Meyer before, but I probably won’t look them up if they aren’t great; too many books I really want to read right now!

  4. Oh, and Avril, I’ll try to remember to talk about my process a bit in a journal entry sometime soon.

  5. Hm. I was writing all different kinds of sf and fantasy at Clarion; pretty randomly experimental. The short stories were okay, not great, but the big problem came when I tried to write a fantasy novel. It quickly got really generic and dull. I think the problem is that when I write fantasy, I have a bad tendency to just get very copycattish; what you might call Terry Brooks Syndrome, only not even as good as Terry Brooks. Sad, really.

    With the new YA fantasy, the parts in our world, the ‘real world,’ are currently much better than the pure fantasy world chapters — more detailed, more inventive, more surprising, more specific. At least now I know what the problem is; I really didn’t back at Clarion, I think. I’m working on it.

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