March 27, 2011
Is Tardy Son a Young Adult novel? This was asked my by another writer, Kimberly Elkins, after I told her about my novel. I had written most of it already and was on a final rewrite. I never did intend it that way, so I finished it with the same intention, but then took this test she gave me:
Test for “Tardy Son”:
Young adult literature has certain unique features which set it apart. Books for teens are often written in the first person and usually have:
• a teenage protagonist [ YES ]
• adult characters as marginal and barely visible characters [ NO ]
• a brief time span (the story spans a few weeks, yes, a summer, maybe, a year, no) [ YES ]
• a limited number of characters [ NO ]
• a universal and familiar setting [ NO ]
• current teenage language, expressions, and slang [ NO, HISTORICALLY SET IN 1958 ]
• detailed descriptions of other teenagers’ appearances, mannerisms, and dress [ NO ]
• a positive resolution to the crisis at hand (though it may be subtle and never in-your-face moralistic) [ NO ]
• few, if any, subplots [ NO ]
• about 125-250 pages in length (although many of the newer YA books are much longer) [ YES, 225 ]
• a focus on the experiences and growth of just one main character [ MAINLY, BUT NO ]
• a main character whose choices and actions and concerns drive the story (as opposed to outside forces) [ MAINLY, BUT NO ]
• problems specific to adolescents and their crossing the threshold between childhood and adulthood [ MAINLY BUT, YES ]
YES, YA = 4
NO, YA = 9
Conclusion? INCONCLUSIVE, BUT IT REALLY DOESN’T MATTER.
Is the writing good? THAT MATTERS.
March 17, 2011
For me a novel’s rough draft can sometimes devolve into a landslide of research, for use beneath the surface of the story and beneath the surface of the writer. How do you know when too much is too much? Sometimes it freezes me up, prevents me from zooming ahead on the opening-up to a fast-write first draft. I do love the spewing forth of the story without too much control: the elements of discovery that occur only at top speed when the imagination and my fingers are rocking at an allegro pace. Or speed punk. But I also want so much to get the story right. Get the geography right. Get the motivation right. The character’s mind and heart. For me? Perhaps, in tribute to the Japanese I’ll do a little Shinto purification, Misogi, with waterfalls . . . write in the bathtub.
March 11, 2011
Quinn Norton just tweeted me that she saw one of my tweets on Al Jazeera news (something about Japan, I’m sure). I have a friend in Yokohama who’s been updating me on events: Renee Watanabe, her blog. Another aftershock happened, she said, at about 10:30 a.m. EST. Strangest form of being published I’ve ever heard. Prayers for Japan are being accepted from anywhere today.
March 7, 2011
On Michael Silverblatt’s Bookworm radio show (KCRW) there’s a fine interview with Mario Vargas Llosa. They discuss how realist stories have supplanted magicalism in Latin American literature and the use of humor. They talk much about writing itself, and the point-of-view of a donkey. The link is: http://www.kcrw.com/etc/mario-vargas-llosa
March 7, 2011
Writing is like pro football—you have to work at it until you sweat every day (and, of course, the injuries are more severe).