Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Feeling of YA Books

Over the past year, I made a discovery. I'm a YA writer. Yes, I write for other age levels, but the YA genre is where I feel at home. With every YA book I write, I feel like I'm taking a trip back in time to when I was 16. I have a lot of great memories from that age. I have a lot of sad memories, too. But one thing is certain; teens have a lot of emotion. They feel so many things and often all at once. I love getting to relive that through my writing.


Honestly, I've never cried or laughed so much while writing. I go through so many feelings during a draft. I type through tears. I get goosebumps. I feel what my teenage characters feel. It's sometimes a little awkward to find myself doing these things while sitting at my laptop, but the awkwardness makes me a better writer. It gives me a connection to the teens I'm writing for.


So bring on the tears, the chills, the nerves, the laughter, and all the other amazing feelings that go with writing YA books. I want to feel it all so that my readers will feel it all.


Do you allow yourself to fully feel your characters emotions?

58 comments:

  1. Kelly, that's my favorite part of writing--getting goose bumps or feeling the despair of my characters! I think I'm a natural picture book writer though. I connect more on a littlie's level :)

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  2. Kelly, in racing your blog this is the sense I get. You are at home. You are surrounded by your passion which is why you are succeeding! If what we write doesn't move us, it would be boring.
    Jodi Aman

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    1. Very true! We have to use those emotions to make our writing real.

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  3. I agree with Jodi. No wonder you are a success, Kelly. We have to absolutely love what we do and it shows in our products.

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    1. I definitely do love writing. I couldn't imagine a day without it.

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  4. Yeah for YA emotions. They're so intense at that age level. I like that we don't have to be so subtle if a character is mad/sad/happy etc. Teens let it all fly. :)

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  5. Yes, I allow myself to feel like my characters emotion. Makes the story more authentic when we feel :D. You are right about the emotional rollercoaster in YA. That's why I enjoy to read YA. I've also seen that in my son who is 14. He can be happy, loving, one minute then the next he's so angry and banging doors. Kind of reminds me of me as a teen :D YA is so full of emotions

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    1. So full of emotion. It gives us so much to work with as writers.

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  6. Kelly, YES! I feel that YA gives you the ability to delve deeper into emotions, to carry tension further, and create more memorable stories. With MG, I just can't get the connection. I feel it's a lot more "cut back," and I can't get as DEEP into my characters as I can with YA.

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    1. I know what you mean. I started out writing MG and when I transitioned to YA it was so freeing.

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    2. Kelly, I wish I found YA more freeing than I do. But I don't. For opposite reason you and Cat find it liberating.

      I find the older I try to write, the more "babyish" it sounds, and trying to write for readers younger than 8 is like asking me to write "Catchy slogans for ad agencies" that are less than one and a half sentences.

      I know brevity's important in all writing, but maybe we should talk about the varying LEVELS of brevity more often than we do.

      What's "brief" to a preschooler can read "Incomplete" to older readers. I'd like to think there's truth in that. Is it?

      Or am I just being paranoid again?

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    3. Taurean, you seem to be comfortable in the MG age range, and there's nothing wrong with that at all. Don't feel like you need to write YA. I can't write early chapter books. I just don't have it in me, and I'm fine with that. I can't write adult either. I just go with what I do best.

      As for brief vs. incomplete, I see what you're saying. It's tough when you are dealing with an age range where some kids are still learning to read and others can handle more complex sentences and even issues. I think that's why they sometimes break MG into 8-12 and 10 and up.

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  7. It's always good when you find exactly where you fit in this writing world. Congratulations on doing that, Kelly. Look forward to reading how you capture your characters' emotions on the page.

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  8. That is so sweet. I hope your books become number one!

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  9. I am right there with you! I love to feel the emotions in what I am writing. I like to scare myself, laugh out loud, cry, etc. I sometimes think someone would think I was crazy if they watched me write because so many different emotions surface. :) I really enjoyed this post about emotions! Keep loving what you do.

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    1. LOL. I totally know what you mean. I'm glad I write while everyone else is at school/work or in bed. ;)

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  10. I'm not a YA writer but I am always affected by my characters’. Sometime I carry the emotions away from the page. I was writing this scene where the character was in this I don't care about anything mode. When I stopped writing, I was in the same mood. It was a little annoying. I couldn't figure out why until I thought about my story.

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    1. Yeah, that carry over can happen. You have to be careful to leave those feelings behind when you're finished for the day.

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  11. Feeling all their emotions? Sure. Joy, sadness, horror, loneliness, despair... And darker stuff too, since some of my characters are pretty dark, as in, capable of cheerfully planning the death of their families.

    It's the only way I know how to write, feeling it all fully.

    And then there can be some people believing I'd cheerfully plan someone's death.

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    1. LOL. Yes, sometimes those emotions are scary.

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  12. Writing YA brings me back to the emotions I felt at that age. I also feel more confident in my writing if I feel emotional and if I hit an emotional nerve with my CP's.

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    1. Yes, exactly. My last manuscript made my agent cry (because she felt for my characters so much). That was a good feeling. Of course I apologized for making her cry though. :)

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  13. Oh yes yes and yes!!!!!
    Part of my mind never really left my teen years!

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  14. I admire those who write well for teens. That’s an age I have a hard time revisiting. You are right Kelly- when you write to a certain age group, you send yourself there.

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    1. You send yourself there--I like that. :D That really is what happens. Nicely put.

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  15. I'm so glad you found your writing home! I started by writing adult books, but nothing clicked until I started writing MG. 11 4ever!

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    1. That's great that you discovered your writing age too, Vonna!

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  16. Yes, I do get caught up in the emotions of my stories. I think that's a great clue that we are writing in the right genre.

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  17. As Kelly well knows, I throw myself into my character's world and emotions, and while it's not always the easiest thing to do, the story's better for it.

    Sometimes it's a problem, because I can see things so fiercely through my character's eyes, it blinds me to places of disconnect beta-readers have because I don't guide them enough through "unfamiliar concepts", or realize they don't get why something matters.

    Silly as this sounds, you forget you know more about the story than the reader, and sometimes you don't expand on things you should because while it may sound redundant to you, the reader may need more clarification, which still has to NOT read like a patronizing encyclopedia, and that's just not easy to do sometimes, as hard as you try to avoid it.

    It's hard because as much we say wrting's subjective, it's just frustrating when you can't find the right mix of-

    Trusting readers to get what you mean without explanation
    Helping readers through without patronizing things
    When to be vague vs. when to be specific

    The list goes on. Did I mention, "When to be specific vs. when to be vague?" If anyone else has this problem, please share, so I don't feel alone, as many writers I know are just more naturally analytically minded than I am. So I rarely come across any writers who are in touch with characters and their emotions more than "The plots that weave with said characters and their emotions."

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    1. Taurean, I have one beta reader who calls me out for being too vague all the time, and I love her for it. She lets me know when what's in my head in not coming out on paper. I had a tough time with this for a while, but I think I'm getting better at it now. We know our characters and stories so well that sometimes we need others to say, "Wait, you left something out here." I'm sensing a future post topic here. :)

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    2. Please do it this year! It's something not talked about enough.

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  18. Yes, I do love to evoke those big emotional ups and downs. All the fears that seemed overwhelmiing at the time, the breathtaking moments of romance, the gut-wrenching betrayals.

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    1. It's fun reliving some of them. Others... well, they remind me how tough the teen years are.

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  19. It is a beautiful moment when a writer finds their voice. As writers, we are capable of writing in different voices and topics, but where we soar is where our voice feels the strongest and most at home.

    And yes, I do cry, especially when I tap into my well of lost loves.. not everything in the past is hurtful or left me broken, but those emotions remain strong even after time has passed. I draw on those feelings for my characters.

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    1. Reading your work, I know you pour yourself into your characters. You get the emotion down on paper and make your reader feel it, too.

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  20. Yes, I've gotten the chills while writing. Extraordinary, ain't it? :)

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  21. Kelly, that sounds great. Good luck with it when it's published next year.

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  22. Yes, I have at times totally gotten wrapped up inside the character. Chills and tears and all.

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    1. I got a lot of goosebumps with my latest WIP--probably because my MC had them. :)

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  23. Oh yes, that's the best part of writing, isn't it? :)

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  24. Hi Kelly, I saw you on Cindy Brown's Every Day Underwear page! I would love to read some of your work, AND, I have a 14-year old daughter who is your target audience, she could read it too! Because of my daughter, I've read many books geared towards teens. Some I've read first and passed onto her (Harry Potter), some the opposite! Good luck with your writing and I'd love to read your books!
    Lisa Weinstein
    www.lisagradessweinstein.blogspot.com

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    1. Nice to meet you, Lisa. Touch of Death is still in edits right now, but I'll keep you and your daughter in mind when it reaches the ARC stage. :)

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  25. Hi Kelly! Thanks for connecting through 'She Writes'! :)
    Yes! I feel characters down to the last word!
    Great blog, can't wait to peruse your work!
    Warm regards, Gina
    http://ginamc.blogspot.com/

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  26. I have to feel the emotions of the characters in my YA novels. Their naivety just wouldn't make an adult novel work. What frightens my characters might just make an adult laugh. It's the way teens react that make it sorrowful, or in my case (hopefully) funny.

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    1. Very true. Though I think a lot of adults are still teens at heart. (Like me)

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