After I turned in my novel, I took a three week vacation. It wasn’t really a choice (scheduling issue), but it happened to come at the perfect time. I spent most of that time at home sewing, and playing toddler herder.
The time between projects or drafts always feels really odd. I was so worded out that I couldn’t even stand to look at books. But by the end of the three weeks, I turned in another minor revision of the novel and my brain was spitting out new ideas. That’s usually a good sign that I’ve rested up enough to move on to the next thing/stage.
Know thyselves, writers. Whatever your process is, whatever you need, respect it and don’t be ashamed of it. I need a hard stop from time to time, but I always come back to the words because creating is still my happy place.
I’ve been chewing over some well meaning, but cringe worthy comments I’ve gotten when I’ve told other writers I’m writing YA novels. And it’s not that they’re completely wrong, but that they’re reductive statements that I worry that people take at face value.
1) You have to be politically correct when you’re writing YA:
Political correctness isn’t at all the goal, though the end result might look like it. Lately there’s been push back on representation done badly, but the reason is to protect kids from damaging narratives (or even kill a kid’s love of reading). This is not the same thing as political correctness.
And diverse writers are not a monolith. They have different experiences/worldviews that frequently do not agree with one another. There’s no single experience, and to reduce their work to only perfect characters a) Doesn’t reflect reality b) Is limiting c) Who gets to decide what is correct?
Moreover, teens these days have more language about gender and sexuality, than many of us did growing up, and I think that’s wonderful! I wish I could have had the words to express myself and have an easier time coming to terms with my identity. As YA writers these are all things we need to learn and be aware of, because they’re relevant to our audience.
There are still too many many harmful books being published, but if you really care about the people you’re writing for, I hope that you do your best not to purposefully do harm.
2) Diversity is so hot right now!
First off, I’m SO glad there’s more awareness these days and that diverse books keep hitting the bestsellers lists. #WeNeedDiverseBooks has done a ton of work to champion the need for diversity in publishing, but if you look at the 2018 Lee and Low Diversity Report, the numbers are still pretty dismal. Most books written about diverse/marginalized people, are not written by diverse/marginalized people. Yes I’ve seen agents and editors asking for diverse stories on social media, but if you look at the people they actually sign, and the books that actually get published, it tells a different story. Unless there’s diversity up the chain (agents, editors, marketing, sales) we’ll just get the same stories with more colorful casts. This is nice, but it’s not meaningful change.
Diversity is not a trend. It’s the reality of the world, and publishing has a long way to go to start reflecting it.
And I’m not angry or mad about either of these things. I’m hopeful, because there are people working for change, and authors who really care about their audiences, and there are a so many people out there starving for stories that they can identify with.
- Dread Nation by Justina Ireland
- Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
- The Ones Who Got Away by Roni Loren
- Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee