Graham Greene once noted that since a novel takes years to write, you are not the same person at the end of the book as you were in the beginning.
Besides morphing into a slothful creature, one who cancels all her hair appointments, manages to go weeks without shaving, or feeding their family anything from the four basic food groups, there is a profound sense of change.
Even stranger is beginning the journey, and ending up on a completely different path. When I began writing my novel, the voice that came to me happened to be half my age and male. And no matter how much I pushed him into maturity, and told him to clean up his room and stop slumping in his seat, he refused to age.
Now this presented a problem. I’m not a YA reader, nor am I willing to shop at Forever 21, talk to my kids as equals, and pump myself full of Botox and denial. And if you’re a teenager, serving me a burger and fries, call me ma’am for godsake! It’s just weird if you say miss. Besides, I’m hungry, not delusional.
So what do I do on my revision to correct this? I added another main character – only younger. …Ah, good Lord. Maybe I am Benjamin Button . . . it would explain why I resorted to the fetal position for the rewrite. Maybe it was that view that helped me see what was prized on my bookshelf: The Outsiders, The Catcher in the Rye, True Grit, To Kill a Mockingbird and The Book Thief.
Epiphany! They’re all YA. Another epiphany! With the exception of The Book Thief, they are not current. Call me ma’am, indeed.
Even more troubling is that I didn’t realize The Book Thief was YA until I tried to buy another copy at the bookstore (after my first copy was stolen – no joke!) and was directed to a place where there were witches, vampires, werewolves and zombies.
“Why is this here?” I said to the clerk. “The Book Thief is too good to be in the company of the undead!”
“Yeah, it surprises everyone,” he said. “I don’t know why they put it here. I guess because of the character’s age.”
Yes, yes. YA is an age range, not a genre! (That epiphany really saved me from a rewrite that involved my main character eating the other main character in a case of the zombie munchies. That’s some wicked hunger, too. Whew.)
So once I felt good about that, I really found my character’s voice, which lead to the discovery I’m super immature, and really need to clean up my room and stop slumping in my seat. Besides, it’s making my sciatica hurt.