Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Guest blogger Courtney Summers on being true to your story and not short-changing the reader.

I'd like to thank everyone who took the time to weigh in on my last guestblog. Y'all made that discussion good times, folks. Good times. Especially Jeff. Or "my Jeff", as I like to call him.

Anyway, I loved hearing what everyone had to say. Your opinions were quite ~*sparkly*~ and I'm not the least bit surprised because if Swivet readers are anything, they are generally this. Many interesting points, comments and questions were raised surrounding the myths I listed. How do you write for teens when you (potentially) have to answer to their parents? Do new YA authors reduce their chances of getting published/read if they take these kind of risks? Is it better to play it 'safe' as a YA author?

As I stressed in comments, the overall point of the blog entry was not to encourage YA authors to write a certain way, but to let them know they shouldn't let certain misconceptions about the genre inhibit their writing and to, above all, be true to the story they want to tell. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, that's my answer to all three of the questions above. Be true to the story you want to tell, no matter what that story is, because you can't please everyone. Really. It's impossible. The minute you start trying to, the computer you type your novels on will EXPLODE! I know this from experience. I have the scars to prove it (oww, my face!).

One of the easiest ways to paralyze yourself as a writer is to anticipate all the people you might offend. Adjusting yer words in hopes of preventing this will compromise your work and short-change your readers, and I can guarantee you this: teenage readers know when you're short-changing them. Whether you're inserting a swear word because you think it's what they want to read, or leaving one out because you're afraid of crossing that line for fear of negative response from their parental units -- they can smell it.

Yes, that's right. Short-changing your readers will make you smell.

Truefax: getting published is hard. It's also true that risky, gritty material might present its own set of challenges on your path to publication, and your path post-publication, but you know what? G-rated writers don't have it any easier. On more than one occasion, I've heard writers worry they aren't edgy enough for the market and this keeps them from breaking in, or worse, it will leave them overlooked by their key demographic. It goes both ways. So what exactly is a poor author to do?

Say it with me now... be truuuuuee.... to the storrrryyy....

In closing, I leave with you this: when the first two chapters of Cracked Up to Be went live on the Internets, one of the very first comments (and not the last like it, I'm sure) was, "I would never buy that book for my son nor would I suggest he read it. Never. Sorry."

But you know what? That's okay, because at least I don't smell.

And if I do, well, it was always important to me that I smelled on my own terms. In staying true to the story I wanted to tell, I like to think I've accomplished this. And if we've learned anything from the Twilight series, HOW you smell makes all the difference in the world.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I gots me a date with Edward Cullen.

(Don't wait up, Jeff!)



Emily said...

First Comment ~*sparkles*~!!!

Do you think it is possible to SMELL sparkly? Or would that be sticking a sparkler up your nose? Well, I know you fear no ~danger~, so it looks safe to say you has achieved truth YET AGAIN, Courts!


Annika said...

YOU ~*sparkle*~ Courtney. You do.

Ann Victor said...

I'm not a YA author, but this advice is pertinent to me as well.

Note to myself: Be true to the story or the computer will explode!!!

Running off to check the smell-o-meter on my current WIP!

Thanks for the article! :)

Daisy Whitney said...

Now I know I smell good. It's just my stories that stink.

katey said...

Been thinking about this a lot lately. Awesome, entertaining post, as always!

I hear no one sparkles like Edward. Who could compete?

Suzanne said...

Thanks Courtney! I felt like it was my own personal pep talk. ~*sparkle*~

Heidi C. Vlach said...

Very true: authors need to say what they mean, for the sake of the story. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to figure out how to get the **glitter** out of my hair.

Heidi the Hick said...

Courtney, entertaining AND educational! And bonus sparkles!

I love this post because I struggled with this exact problem. I wrote a gritty little story knowing that it would offend people. Like, I won't let my own 14 year old read it.

I didn't intentionally want to alienate readers, it's just that... the story needed to be that way!! (at least that's my excuse.)

So I thank you for my new mantra: If I'm going to smell bad, it'll be on my own terms!!!

pseudosu said...

BE TRUE to the story-- for sure- also to your characters, and I'd ad, readers. Give them credit for having a brain. Most people have pretty well calibrated B.S. detectors. Keep it real.

My writing is edgy, but not as a device. I write for all the volatile, black eyeliner wearing chix who secretly worry, sometimes, they're not good people. (They are- mostly.) I'm not writing for their parents.

Awesome guest post as always. ~*~

Briony said...

Courtney = Speaker of Truth (and ~*sparkles*~)

courtney summers said...

Emily: It is totally possible to smell sparkly. It has to be! I can't live in a world in which sparkles are unscented. IT IS TOO HORRIFIC TO EVEN IMAGINE. ~*scented sparkles*~

Annika: No, ~*you*~.

Ann: You really have to watch out for those exploding computers! They could go at any moment. :) Thanks for commenting. I hope your WIP smells on your own terms. :)

Daisy: Hey, now! None of that!

katey: Thank you! I can tell you who doesn't compete with Edward... JACOB. Werewolves are such non-sparklers! Yeah, I said it.

Suzanne: Yay, Suzanne! ~*sparkles*~

Heidi C.: Keep the glitter in your hair! It looks ~*great*~ ;)

Heidi: Thank you very much! Rock on for being true to your story, and here's to smelling on our own terms! :D

pseudosu: "Most people have pretty well calibrated B.S. detectors." <- you said it! ~*~

Briony: aw shucks. ~*sparkles*~