Was it shortsighted to write a YA fantasy novel when I wasn’t exactly literate in the genre? Yes.
Would it have been helpful to read The Hunger Games or Daughter of Smoke & Bone before I started? Der!
But in fairness, I’ve been writing scripts—all genres, all demographics—for twenty years. How different could this be? Story, character, dialog relayed through words. Been there, done that.
So imagine my surprise when this little thing called ‘brutal honesty’ (otherwise known as an “editor”) gave me the what-for!
You see, I started this epic journey with the dreaded (ergo, taboo) omniscient narrator. Holy HeyZeus, does everyone hate that guy.
“It’s old-fashioned. It’s too distracting. The young adult reader can’t connect. Do first person.”
First person? But this is an epic high fantasy. I want, nay, I need to show things happening with other characters that are not the protagonist.
“Then go third person, limited. Final offer.”
Deal! Third person it is.
Blood, sweat and tears later (interspersed with coffee and wine, I’m not a monster), rewrite done. Here ya go, editor. It’s good, right?
“That’s so cute—you think it’s good. No. You have the point of view of too many adults in the story. In fact, one is too many. This is a YA novel. Teens don’t care about what adults think.”
Really? But…(sigh) I get it. Relatability, connect with my audience. Nix the adult povs.
“Not just adults. ‘Famous novelist’ had only two povs in the first book of her ‘famous book’ series.” (She didn’t, btw.) “You should do that.”
Two?! Are you crazy? As it is, it’s killing me to get rid of the bird’s point of view. But fine, I’ll compromise. Three, it is.
Commencing rewrite number you-don’t-want-to-know or you’ll never write your book.
Suffice to say, every time I thought I was done and handed off some pages for a sample edit (so I could hire an editor for Pete sakes!), I got feedback that sent me on another rewrite instead. As it turned out, a lot of their feedback was invaluable. As it also turned out, a lot of it wasn’t.
Reactions were so diverse that I was more confused than ever: prose was overwritten/too simplistic; love the protagonist/hate the protagonist; wonderful dialog/stilted dialog; the omniscient should be buried with my great-great-grandmother/the omniscient works well in this story. People can have a lot of opinions on a measly ten pages!
But I was in too deep to curl up in a corner and cry. I had a post-mortem clean-up on my hands, and it was a bloody mess by now. All thanks to me. Because as a first-time novelist, I believed what everyone told me, except the good stuff. (It’s a genetic flaw). So I did what my dog does after a bath, I ran around the house like a maniac, and shook it off.
While editors are an important part of the process, they’re also just people who have their own particulars, peeves, and prejudices. What sits well with one might not with another. Same way that, as a reader, you favor some authors over others.
So write your book, dot your i’s and cross your t’s, then put away your red pencil and trust your voice. Because if you try to please everyone, you’ll only disappoint yourself.