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Shanna's Journal
Shanna's Adventures in Publishing (and in life)
Recapturing My Youth 
30th-Jan-2012 12:29 pm
I finished the latest draft of The Book That Will Not Die on Saturday -- well, except for one line that I subsequently realized needs to be fixed. Meanwhile I had a chat with my agent on Friday about revisions I need to make on another project. That's going to require a complete mental gear shift as I'm changing styles of writing, kind of story, time period, point of view, narrator and age range.

The difficult one is age range. This is theoretically a young adult book, but the heroine is still coming across as too "old." When my agent was suggesting the things that might make her seem more like a teen, they were all things I thought I put in the book, so I probably need to take them a bit further. I wasn't ever really a "teenager" in the way we tend to think of them. I think I was born thirty and was always old for my age until I reached that point and am now young for my age, having passed that point.

But then if I'm honest with myself, I did go through all those feelings, even if I didn't share or express them or act on them. You can behave maturely even if you're churning up inside, and what I remember is more the behavior than the feelings.

So, the project for the day is a mini "retreat" to change mental gears. I'm reading some YA books that come close to the kind of heroine I'm writing -- reserved behavior, but deep feelings -- and I may even do some journaling to try to get my mind back to my youth and remember my first crush or the boy I liked in high school that I thought also liked me but who always went cold just when I thought we were getting close. Now I wish I'd kept a diary where I recorded all those deep thoughts. Instead, I sat on the back porch and poured out my feelings to my dog because he was warm and cuddly and obviously loved me back in the way a diary couldn't have. It's nice to get a "but I love you" response when you're crying about some boy not loving you.

Now I need to get out the Air Supply, the soundtrack to my adolescent romantic angst (I switched to Survivor in late high school and college, even though most of their music came during my high school years). Unfortunately, I only had Air Supply on LP and no longer have a turntable. I may have a cassette I made so that I could indulge in the romantic angst in the car, but I'm not sure it still works. I'm sure YouTube will come through in a pinch.

Warning to my friends: I may be very difficult to deal with for a while until I get into the mindset well enough to write it and then get into the groove enough to separate myself from it.
30th-Jan-2012 10:40 pm (UTC) - Been there!
Shanna, I had the same talk with agent when I sent her my first YA, and had the same personal response -- I was born 30, so this will be hard. But then I did some of the same things you're doing -- listening to music from high school days, reading more YA. Eventually I remembered being sixteen as it happened, rather than as I reflected back on it. Fortunately I did journal and kept them, but I found looking through my old yearbooks and mementos and watching my favorite movies from that era also helped. Then I read some current issues of Seventeen and Girls Life magazine (it also helped that I worked on a college campus) and realized that so much is still the same even if the world is very different. The stuff that caused us angst then is still causing girls angst now, but probably more intensely given the immediacy technology/media adds to everything. Good luck on the revisions!

Kimberly Reid
30th-Jan-2012 10:47 pm (UTC) - Re: Been there!
Fortunately, I'm writing in a historical setting instead of today because I'm sure I'd be completely baffled if I had to try to write the kind of cell phone dependency I see in the teens I know. Even as a teenager, I wasn't a big phone user. I'd be a pariah with no social contact in comparison to everyone else these days. I'm just trying to write a past teenager that today's teens might identify with, and I think the feelings would be pretty much the same, even if they're expressed differently. Now to get back in touch with those feelings, which could be scary without the dog to vent to.
31st-Jan-2012 03:56 am (UTC) - Re: Been there!
We have even more in common. My editor always asks why my characters never text, talk on the phone, IM. I even had a character write an actual letter with paper and pen, which apparently is unheard of. Getting in touch with the feelings is hard enough, but putting my 80s feelings into a 10s character was an adjustment. Now that I have the hang of it, I'm really enjoying myself. I hope you have as much fun with your characters and the trip down memory lane. It's easier when you know how everything turned out, and even better that we get to reinvent the story.

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