My Natural Subject

I just created a page of books that have made it onto my permanent bookshelf and learned a few things. I noticed that I have almost twice as many short story collections as novels and that almost all of the novels focus on adolescent girls. Not exactly sure what that means. A woman at a conference once asked me if I intended to write YA fiction because for many of the in-class exercises my characters defaulted to that particular voice. At first I took offense. I want to write “real” fiction. Literary fiction. I read a lot of YA myself. It’s good. Really good. But for some reason, when she said that, I took it to mean that I couldn’t cut it as an adult fiction writer. Irrational, I know but that’s the price I pay for living inside this head of mine. So am I considering writing YA? Should I only write short stories featuring adolescent girls? I don’t know the answers quite yet. I am thinking that part of the reason I can get so stuck in my writing and not focus on one of my many, many half done  projects is because I have not found my natural subject yet. Or am fighting it. Or avoiding it. Or forcing myself to be a certain kind of writer that I am not. So not real answers, just somem things to think about as the new year rolls in with all its possibilities.


2 thoughts on “My Natural Subject

  1. I wrote a whole rant about this in my blog a few months ago! This very topic has plagued me for some time now. I don’t know why it needs to plague me, but when I was asked this very same question (by someone in our former writers’ group, actually) I had the very same response as you did. As if YA writing was somehow not as valid.

    I think I’m probably writing upper YA lit. Did you know that there’s a sub-genre for YA literature? I only found that out recently. As well as finding out that YA spans all kinds of different age groups, from tween books, to regular teenage YA (14-17-ish), and then upper YA which covers 18-24 or so). YA is also cross-marketed sometimes, especially literary YA – in fact, I once saw Lorrie Moore’s Who Will Run the Frog Hospital marked as YA.

    So hey, if Lorrie Moore can write YA (as does Sherman Alexie), it’s good enough for me!

    Also, most of the people I follow on Twitter are YA writers, most of the blogs I read are YA bloggers, and most of the writers I feel myself naturally drawn to are writing YA. Most of my favorite books feature young people trying to grow up, or running into hazards as they grow up. What does this mean?

    But anyway, in the end, I think you just write what comes most naturally to you, and let your publisher decide what shelf it belongs on.

  2. There’s a great exercise in No Plot, No Problem (the writing book by the founder of NaNoWriMo) where you make a list of things that you like in a book–everything from where the action takes place (at home, in an office, outdoors) to who the main characters are (women, teens, werewolves), to the point of view. It really helped me hone in on what kind of book I want to write, meaning one that I will be interested enough in to stick with. Good luck!

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