When I first began writing, I had no notions of writing YA. I was going to be the next Nora Roberts or Sophie Kinsella. I hadn’t decided quite yet. And then I read Sarah Addison Allen, and I was terrified I’d never be able to write like that (I won’t, and that’s ok. We’re different). And I grew up reading Stephen King, but the idea of writing horror felt like I’d have nightmares every night during every project I wrote.
I fell into writing YA. My characters just started coming out younger than I expected. This wasn’t planned or calculated, they just happened to be teenagers going through things I’d gone through, friends had gone through, strangers had gone through… Teaching high school and middle school also certainly played into this.
I loved every second of writing my collection of YA titles. Well, except for those parts that made me hate everything writing related ever (most of you can understand this to some degree).
But over the past year or so, since I turned in the final draft of ALL THE FOREVER THINGS, I found myself in the very center of a writing identity crisis.
Yes, I panicked for a while. But when I panic, it tends to rocket me forward. I wrote an MG novel with an adorable girl and a magic system that didn’t work. (this one MIGHT be revisited).
I wrote a YA horror that reads like a novella instead of a novel (that one will be revisited).
I took a step back and gave myself permission to write nothing. Here’s what I did.
I read and watched my old favs.
Pet Semetary, Jane Eyre,Garden Spells, Big Fish, Fried Green Tomatoes, Little Miss Sunshine, Veronica Mars, The Lake House, Sliding Doors, X-Files, Rock N Rolla, Snatch, Pride & Prejudice, Firefly, Stand By Me, IT, The Girl Who Chased the Moon, Jumper, The Illusionist…
And then, because I had so much fun playing with setting in ALL THE FOREVER THINGS, I thought about where I’d like to set a novel. I thought about places I’d like to go, but more than that, places that speak to my soul.
I thought about my favorite stories, and why they were my favorites, and then asked myself the hard questions like:
WHY ARE YOU TERRIFIED YOU CAN’T WRITE A STORY LIKE THIS?
And once I asked myself that question, I dug in again, hungrier than before, more excited than before…
So, here I am, ignoring the thirty or so novel beginnings I have on my computer, and knowing that I’m moving forward re-inventing myself.
This is my advice for writers who are feeling lost or stuck or unsure. Go immerse yourself in great stories. Books, movies, TV shows, radio shows, fiction, non-fiction… Soak up the brilliance, and then go forth and conquer.