Category Archives: journal

2

Teenage Dreams

One of the most important things an agent or editor values in a work of fiction, and something you’ll hear talked about ad infinitum is a resounding and real “voice” to a novel. Able writing, beautiful imagery or ingenious plotting are all well and good, but if a reader can’t connect to the protagonist and his or her voice, then a novel is left feeling flat, distant and, well, forgettable.

In reading queries and even published books, I find that the voice authors most seem to struggle with is the teen narrator—and this, of course makes sense. Most published authors and hopeful queriers have left their teenaged selves behind some (or many) years ago and so a lot of the thoughts and dialogue are supposed, remembered or possibly observed if the writer is lucky enough to hang around teenagers with some regularity. (Oof, did I say lucky?) The most impactful YA novels are those that have really captured what it’s like to be a teenager, the feelings, the impulses and the intense passion that can arise from those years. The slang needs to be perfect and not overdone or cliché and the same can be said for the characters’ predilections, motives and inner thoughts.

The best and worst part of reading good YA writing always hits me when I’ve been cringing at some of the supposed thoughts of teen girls thinking, “oh, god, who does this person think teenaged girls are, this is ridiculous,” and then I realize that the author is right and that’s what makes it so hard hitting. I was visiting my hometown last weekend and dug around my childhood bedroom a bit, unearthing the journal (I was too cool to ever call it a “diary” even though that’s exactly what it was) I wrote in faithfully when I was sixteen. As much as I wanted to punch/hug/kick/shake/comfort/congratulate the girl who was writing those words, I also had to admit that god, sixteen-year-old girls are annoying sometimes and yes, they do write and think and talk like those characters I had been scoffing at only hours before.

Herein lie the dreams of a sixteen-year-old.

Herein lie the dreams of a sixteen-year-old.

With this artifact, a true relic of my teenaged years in my hands, I realized something like this could really help a writer capture the youthful voice that may be escaping them in a current work in progress—an unmanufactured, unedited transcript of high school. Is this something that any of you YA writers do? If not, and if you don’t happen to be the parent or teacher of a teenager, then how are you able to write in a voice that is so far removed and so easily, tritely overdone and keep it sounding real? It’s something I’ve always had difficulty with, myself.

10

Where do you keep your ideas?

This past weekend, I came across the only journal I have ever possessed. I penned the first entry at the tail end of the summer of 2009, when this journal was freshly purchased on a Glasgow high street. Now it had resurfaced all dog-eared and dusty in a Brooklyn apartment. Having mostly lived in boxes during apartment moves in New York, I had not written anything down for quite a while, nor leafed through past entries. So I delved in, to be reacquainted with my past self.

A thoroughly underwhelming experience. From what I could make out from the barely legible passages, I had not done much but make endless grocery lists and write down school timetables. Coincidentally, I came across this piece on Flavorwire on authors who kept journals and used them as a reservoir of observations that they felt might inspire them in the future.

It got me thinking about where author’s ideas come from. Is it necessary to record these things in the moment? Or leave them to your memory to recall them at the time of writing? Some of the authors in the article contend that they use a diary or journal as a means of having a second life or opening up.

Do you, as writers, have a similar vehicle to expend your creative energies? Or do you have highly tailored or ingenious ways of coming up with great new ideas for your writing?