As I’ve been stumbling along in lurching steps toward THE END, I’ve been reflecting lately on how different and challenging it has been to write a YA. Red is the first YA book I have written since I WAS a young adult. While in some respects it’s been easy (it’s shockingly easy to go back to those days of feeling like a total freak and outcast), other aspects have been much harder for me to grasp.
I was not a normal teenager. I loved words from a very early age and had no qualms about using them. If there exists a word that is perfect to describe something, why not use it? So I spent years with my peers looking at me sidewise like what? Part of the challenge in writing this book has been to capture an authentic teenage voice that other people will consider authentic rather than slipping into language that people think is too adult (even though that’s exactly how I spoke at that age–ask my mother–I’ve been 30 since I was 5).
One of the other things I didn’t count on when writing this book is how utterly exhausting it would be to be a teenager again. No one in the world FEELS with so much emotion as teens. Everything is so HUGE and meaningful. As a generally more sedate adult, it’s definitely been kinda draining to write like this and FEEL like this again. I confess, I’m really looking forward to stepping back into grown up shoes for a while.
But perhaps the biggest challenge is not making these characters perfect, rational thinking adults in teenage bodies. Because teenagers are NOT perfect, rational thinking adults. They’re teenagers. They don’t have the life experience, the education, or usually the wherewithal to always make a good decision. They make mistakes. Not that adults DON’T, but teenagers make mistakes that I, from my perch of 31 and really well-versed in crime, criminal behavior, forensics, and other various and sundry things, am sitting back thinking You MORON. It has been so hard for me to really immerse myself enough into them to write such mistakes and faulty logic well. Because there’s always that under-current of “That is a really stupid idea. Why are you doing that?” even though it may be perfectly in character.
What are some of the challenges you’ve found in writing YA? What about things you think other authors struggle with from a reader’s perspective?