Sunday, August 14, 2011

When The Readers Just Don’t Get It

We have a novel we’ve been working on for three years now. When Evans drafted it originally it was a love story between two exceptional high school girls and how their getting together played out among their exceptional friends. Each chapter started with a poem. While sometimes gritty, the language these young people used was not guttural and often used vocabulary not common to TV teen dialog. The original draft was also long for the typical young adult novel, coming in at around 120,000 words, twice the length suggested for YA.

The chapter poems didn’t survive Lynn’s review and neither did a lot of details Evans thought of as “back story.” More cutting was done with our multiple reviews and, when we were through, it was a leaner 99,000 words but the central themes and advanced teenage dialog remained.

The problem was that our advance readers didn’t believe it. They thought subject matter, scenes, and language were too advanced for high school kids. The fact that we’d known teenagers every bit as capable and loquacious as our characters couldn’t be transferred to our written world. At least we couldn’t transfer it. There also seemed to be doubt that “children” could understand their own hearts as well as our characters portrayed. There needed to be more doubt and more struggle before our made up story would feel real. We found it strange that our fantasy and science fiction works were viewed more realistically than our novel based on real life.

So we are reworking the novel yet again. Now, instead of being in high school, the central characters are college age. We’re also eviscerating the back stories surrounding the supporting characters.  If it doesn’t support the emotional journey of the two central young women, it’s gone. We’re learning you need to be stubborn if you’re a writer and, if you expect others to read your work, you need to listen to what they’re telling you. We like to poke fun and say that our advance readers “just don’t get it,” but of course they do, which is why they are so important to producing a solid novel.

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