Friday, 20 May 2016

Writing For Myself

The book world is an interesting one to say the least.

Before I published the first edition of Gifted, I thought I had my novel all sorted out, nothing major to add, nothing major to take out, when for some reason, I googled, What do readers want in YA? And do you know what the most common answer was? Less romance. You couldn’t possibly imagine the look of shock on my face because the only reason I incorporated romance into my novel in the first place was because I thought that was what readers wanted. I’m not the gushy, romantic type; I’m the kind of person who cringes at the unrealistic love scenes in a book and will more often than not, skip over it. I honestly thought you couldn’t have a YA novel without romance, so I forced it into Gifted, despite my reservations and despite the fact that I hated writing it. Honestly, I would visibly cringe at my desk as I typed it out. I just…bleugh…it’s not for me. And now to find that readers don’t even want it anymore! To be fair, I think most readers are just tired of the unrealistic instant-love (love that develops unrealistically quickly) between two characters and then that love taking over the story, rather than not wanting romance at all. Correct me if I’m wrong! I’m basing all of this on a late-night Google search!

That very evening, I just said “screw it!” aloud (luckily I was on my own) and I deleted all of the unrealistic romance scenes and completely revised my novel, resulting in edition two. I can honestly say edition two only contains perhaps 5% of edition one. I’ve changed character’s personalities and plot-lines; I’ve taken out scenes and replaced them with entirely new ones, and I am unbelievably happy with the way it turned out. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against romance in novels, in fact, Gifted still has hints of romance, it’s just not heavy, unrealistic, instant-love.

Taking out all those scenes and plot lines that I never wanted in the first place gave me room to breathe and room to write. Instead of writing about instant-love, I wrote about the complications of falling in love and how it isn’t as straight-forward as some movies would have us believe. I wrote about why one might fall in love, and how you know if you’re really in love or trying to hide another emotion you’d rather not accept. I wrote about real young adult relationships.

I think people are too quick to misconstrue fascination and lust for love. One reader of Gifted claimed there was an instant-love between my two main protagonists, Theo and Ava, and the only reason I can think as to why she would think that, is because Ava sometimes notes how good-looking Theo is and how much she likes how strange and enigmatic he is. Ava is not in love with Theo, but you can’t control how others read and interpret your book. I highly doubt Shakespeare intended all the metaphors and hidden meanings my English Literature/Language teachers would have me believe!

Breaking away from trying to write what I assumed readers wanted allowed me to write the novel I wanted to write in the first place – a novel I wanted to read. So along came Gifted, the second edition: a contemporary YA fantasy with elements of romance, mystery and a little comedy too. I also subtly integrate modern day issues such as weight, body image and cheating in relationships… Okay, Gifted isn’t as dark as I’m making it seem; it’s actually a fun read, I promise!

I may have wasted a lot of time writing up scenes I hated to read, but it was good that I did because it allowed me to finally accept that I was no longer writing Gifted for me, I was writing it for others. I have such a fear of failing in the author world that for so long, and without me even realising, I’ve let that fear actually control my writing. Everyone says you should write for yourself, more often, people say, write what you want to read. And I believe that is the best advice a writer can give to another.

Honestly, it’s just such a huge relief, it really is. To know the truth behind what’s been bothering me about Gifted for over two years! Then to not only fix it, but make it better and make it mine. An epiphany some call it. Common sense others might call it. Whatever it’s called, I’m going to treat myself to some form of chocolate.


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