When I first started writing my previous book (different than the one I’m working on during NaNoWriMo this year), I knew I wanted it to be different. I needed a challenge, which meant I needed to coax myself out of my writing comfort zone and try something new.
So I ended up spending three-and-a-half years writing a YA sci-fi/thriller, the first in an intended series of five books that told the story of five completely ordinary people who end up being recruited to become the leaders of a movement to bring equality to a divided subset of territories.
It’s a lot more complicated than that. But that’s the gist of the first book (sort of).
I do not write sci-fi and I especially do not write in futuristic settings. So while I really enjoyed writing a different kind of story, I really struggled. Sometimes, though I didn’t want to admit it, I wasn’t even really enjoying it. And it took me until now, starting a new book, sprinting back to my contemporary YA roots, to figure out why.
Here are a short excerpt from Premier, the book I just finished last month.
In contrast, here are an excerpt from For Alexander Grace, my current writing project.
Both are very rough drafts still, so take that into consideration before you read on.
Both these scenes have a few things in common, mainly dialogue being the driver of the action, but at least from my point of you, the similarities basically end there. There are first-person narrators in both, but they are two very different people.
The first example, to me, is rushed and dry. Now that could be because I’ve read it at least a hundred times over and it’s taken kind of out of context. I never got the chance to dive as deeply into Lyssa’s character as I wanted to, so she remains a mystery to me even now.
This is not the case with the second example. I know all these characters’ secrets and back stories. I know that Lacey is just putting up a front even though she still loves Derek, I know Derek still loves Lacey but isn’t going to stand for her shenanigans anymore. I know how the narrator really feels about both of her friends and would rather give them both up than have to choose one over the other.
But the biggest difference of all between these two scenes is the voice. My voice.
They say you don’t know your true “writer’s voice” until you start zoning out in the middle of writing something, go back and read what you wrote while you weren’t paying attention. That’s what happens to me a lot as I’m working through (oops, can’t use that acronym) Alexander Grace. That is my voice. That is not just where I am most comfortable, but where I can actually write the best way I can write. Maybe not the best ever written, but my best.
So I’ve solved the mystery. I spent three-and-a-half years not really writing in my own voice. I felt so lost and so out of place not because I can’t write a sci-fi/thriller, but because I wasn’t letting myself tell the story using the voice I should have been using.
I don’t know if, by looking at those two examples, you can tell the difference. But I can, and I’m ecstatic. It means I’m finally back where I belong, and it’s not going to be quite as much of a struggle (though still challenging) to write this book.
And more importantly, it’s not going to take nearly as long to finish this one.
Which means query letters will actually go out at some point, which means maybe, someday, you’ll actually get to read the whole thing.
No promises. But this project is much more promising than the last one, at least.
Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.
Meg is a twenty-something workaholic with a passion for writing, coffee and health. In addition to her status as an aspiring novelist, Meg is the managing editor at College Lifestyles magazine, a guest contributor with Lifehack and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine. She is a seven-time NaNoWriMo winner and has also written for Teen Ink and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter.