A New Year – A Blank Sheet

A new year brings a whole new slew of self-imposed tasks to complete. For me, that includes the third and final installment of my Dark Brethren trilogy, entitled Coming of Day, a contemporary romance, a time-travel story, and my first attempt at a young adult novel.

A recent webinar I attended on writing teen fiction opened my eyes to several serious flaws in my YA novel story outline. Sadly, I didn’t attend this webinar until after I had written several chapters of the book, but better now than two months down the road when I had to scrap most of my first draft.

The first problem I discovered was with complexity. There is nothing wrong with that in a teen novel, per se, but the more complex a story gets, the longer it’s going to be, and I needed to keep the word count below 75,000 words. My story, in the initial outline, followed the lives of two teens, Judah and Tommy, who’d traded places for a short period of time. Each had to be given equal screen time. Throw in a love interest for each, new best friends, etc., and you can imagine how long the story would have ended up being.

The second problem I discovered was with my characters. After I had made a few changes in the plot, Judah’s love interest, Andrew, suddenly became the most interesting character in the novel. If I thought that, then, undoubtedly, my readers would think it too. Because I wasn’t yet ready to shift Judah to a supporting role, I toyed with the idea of running a parallel story, with Tommy and Judah taking one half and Andrew and his family the moiety. See paragraph above for why that wouldn’t work.

The third problem I discovered was with plotting. Tommy and Judah’s story revolved around mistaken identity. Since Andrew also had a similar problem, I believed, at first, that this was a nice echo–theme-wise. Then I started to think–maybe not so nice. I want Judah and Andrew to share something, but a coincidence is not it.

The fourth problem I discovered was with focus. I had created a great twist to Andrew’s backstory that made him a compelling character. Why was I wasting screen time on anything or anyone but him? He was, in essence, the center of this story’s universe. All things should revolve around him. So I decided to drop all chapters that were set from any POV but his.

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