going backwards to go forwards

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The writing process and writing life always surprises me. How can something so simple – something I’ve always been good at – be so difficult?

I was one of those writers who stumbled into creativity. I didn’t dream of being a writer when I was child, in fact, it wasn’t ever a consideration. I wanted to be an actress and when that idea got quashed by my careers advisor in year 11, I was pushed guided towards teaching. I didn’t end up doing either! But, that’s a whole ‘nother story!

So, when I stumbled into writing years later, I naively thought it would be easy. Why wouldn’t it be? It all made sense in my head, I was an A+ English student, I’d studied drama and story, I’d studied psychology – why wouldn’t it be easy?

Needless to say reality slapped me in the face with very quickly. Writing is not easy. Story is not simple. And what makes sense in my head rarely makes any coherent sense on paper!

Fast forward ten years and I have come a long way since that early realisation. After many courses and masterclasses, after many manuscript assessments, and working with professional editor, I now understand writing is a difficult craft. One that is never mastered, and one which constantly slaps you in the face when you least expect it.

My latest slap in the face came yesterday as I was preparing my submission for the Richell Prize. I had a great idea, that had come to me fully formed (never has that ever happened before), I’d smashed out 10,000+ words, and the story was working. But – of course there’s a but – without realising it, I’d written what 99% of the publishing world would lock in the box of Young Adult fiction.

Not that there’s anything wrong with YA Fiction. I love YA fiction! It’s just I’m not, and I don’t want to be, a YA writer. I write adult contemporary fiction. And that’s where I want to be.

After recovering from the stinging slap, I tried to figure out ways to justify why my story was not a YA story. The themes are very adult, the subject matter is adult, I’m writing it from an adult mind-set, but – yes again – my protagonist and two other main characters are all 18 years old, AND, the story is first person through the eyes of my protagonist!

Grasping for straws as I like to do, I emailed my editor and told her of my dilemma. I knew what her response would be, and I was right. The only way you can make sure it’s not YA is to make the characters older, she said. She also went onto say that this would also enrich the story and allow for more to play within the characters’ lives. (She’s so smart and I’m so lucky to have her!) And, of course, she is right.

So, I’m going backwards to go forwards.

Today, I start the rewrite of my story with the same premise and plot, but older characters. It also means I’m going to have to do a bit of planning, which for this pantser, is going to be a challenge. But I’m thinking positively, wrestling my impatience into submission, and taking a deep breath to start again. Wish me luck.

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