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Defining a Genre

If you’ve been keeping up with my last few posts, you’ll know that I’ve been working on revising a book entitled Grotesque.  This book has been with me since 2012.  It has come so far since its first draft, but it’s not quite ready to be sent out to editors.  Why?  Because, as my agent, her interns, and I discussed, the book was hovering in an uncomfortable space between two genres.  It had adult themes and characters, but still read like a Young Adult novel.  In order to revise it, I had to take a step back and ask why the narrative voice wasn’t working, why it still sounded like it was aimed at teenagers.

Through extensive discussions with my husband, my best friends, and my siblings, I discovered that I was never going to be able to revise the current draft of the book to read more “adult.”  Why?  Because the content, structure, and plot of the novel were always going to be too YA.  No amount of aging up the narrative voice was going to change that.  At best I could have ended up with a YA novel that read with an incongruously adult voice.

This is how I decided to address the problem:  I gutted the book.  Took out the YA content and upped the ante.  I’m expanding the world, going into more details with regards to history and characters, raising the stakes.  And it’s working, though I’m only a few pages into the new draft.  My purpose for writing this post was to offer a quick, easy glimpse at the difference between a YA novel and a plain ol’ adult novel.  Here’s a handy Venn diagram:

Venn Diagram

You’ll note that I use a lot of words like “typically” and “usually.”  Why?  Anyone who knows me knows I hate blanket statements.  Obviously each genre has its own conventions – otherwise it wouldn’t be a genre – but there are exceptions to every rule.  The Elegance of the Hedgehog is a book that I would classify as “Adult” but one of the main characters is a twelve-year-old girl.  Similarly, Sarah Dessen has written a Young Adult novel about relationship abuse, which might be considered by some as an “adult” theme.  As for audience, there’s no set age-limit.  Adults read YA all the time.  Younger readers can find adult novels that they enjoy, or they might be exposed to adult novels through school.  I read Cold Mountain when I was thirteen years old (Summer reading assignment), and believe me that book is not YA.  It’s the Odyssey of Vaginas and it made me supremely uncomfortable.

The point I’m trying to make here is that Grotesque had elements of both genres.  Oftentimes it comes down to the way a story is approached.  You’ll note in the middle section of the diagram that there are several themes mentioned that could belong to either side.  The difference is that an adult novel will approach a theme of sexual abuse differently than a Young Adult novel.  I don’t know why I always capitalize Young Adult, but not adult.  Just go with it.

With that in mind, I began rethinking GrotesqueGrotesque deals with a main character who has only been alive for a few weeks, yet his body is that of an adult… monster.  He’s an adult monster.  His love interest is an adult with a child of her own.  Interestingly, a common theme in YA is the transition from childhood to adulthood.  This theme is present in Grotesque, but in a different way.  Again, it’s all about how the content is approached.  The statue that comes to life starts out with the mind of a child, but he is exposed to the horrors of the world, and that causes him to age rapidly.  He is overwhelmed by the complexity of life, the gray areas of morality, etc.  These are adult quandaries.  And so that is the direction I am taking.  I am going all in with this.  We’ll see how it turns out.

Can you believe I did a comic?  It’s been forever, right?  Enjoy!

Writer's-Block-Strip-45

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How I’m Procrastinating

A little while back, I came to the inevitable conclusion that I can’t put off editing Grotesque any longer.  It’s been years since I took a real look at it.  Aside from Hellbound, Grotesque is the only decent book I’ve ever written.  And judging by how difficult it’s been to get editors to pay attention to Hellbound, it is becoming increasingly apparent that I am going to need a Plan B.  This isn’t surprising.  It just means that I’m in for a lot of hard work.

The problem is that when I am faced with hard work, I like to retreat into my little Bubble of Happiness where there are Disney movies and warm blankets and Skittles.  The Bubble protects me from all my adult responsibilities.

Happy Bubble

I am really good at procrastinating.

For instance…I’m writing this blog post right now.  That does not count as editing.  Also I drew that picture of the Bubble of Happiness.

And have you heard of Netflix??  It should be called Procrastination…flix.

So I’m having a rough time of it.  But…I have done a little.  It’s not enough, but it’s a start.

The reason I’m saying any of this is…well…some other projects are going to have to be put on hold.  No more of my chapter updates for that other book I was writing.  Although I have some good ideas for it.  I’m still going on with the Support Hellbound Initiative, of course.  The more support I can gather, the better.  It’s never too late to join in!

But for now I must buckle down.  I must.

I must….

I wonder what’s on Netflix?

Hey look I drew a comic!

Writer's-Block-Strip-43

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Chapter Four

Chugging right along.  Here are the links for those who need to catch up:

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Annnd noooooow…

Chapter-Four

“Do you know where your husband is tonight?”

“Hm?” Paxton’s mother wiped sleepily at her face as she tried to think. “He’s…well he’s at work. He works every night.”

Paxton cowered in the corner. He wasn’t sure his mother knew he was there. She’d put him to bed hours ago, but he’d woken up and snuck out when he heard the banging on the door.

“Your husband’s workplace has been searched. He is not present. You do know the penalty for missing work, don’t you?”

“No…I mean yes I do, but…but please understand…he’s got to be there.” Her voice started to get higher, her speech faster. “My husband…he would never. He wouldn’t do something like that. We have a son to think of.”

“He is not at work and he is not at home. We have no other facts to consider. If your husband returns home tonight, your first action will be to call us. If you fail to do so, well…” The large man in the scary armor paused and turned to stare right into Paxton’s eyes. “There are penalties for that as well.”

Paxton’s mother followed the Enforcer’s gaze and saw her son crouching in the corner. She burst into tears, much to Paxton’s confusion. He couldn’t understand it. Had they hurt her? He only ever cried like that when he fell down.

“Please! I’m sure there’s an explanation!”

“Call us the moment you hear from him.”

They turned and left.

Paxton’s father did not come back that night. Or the next day. Paxton had no idea how to make his mother feel better. She stared out the window most of the day, jumping up and running to the door every time she heard a noise.

He tried everything he could think of – games of hide-and-seek, sitting in her lap, asking her to tell him a story – but nothing seemed to work.

On the third day of this, there was a knock at the door. Both Paxton and his mother ran to answer it.

Nobody was standing outside, but there was a package on their front step.

Paxton’s mother opened it. On top of the packing material was a work schedule with a note that said she would be expected to begin at the factory that very night. She set the papers aside and Paxton watched as she dug beneath the crumpled packaging. Her eyes filled with tears as she drew a hand out of the box. The bloodied stump of a wrist was still dripping. An old, dirty wedding band clung to the ring finger.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Okay, so…that was fun, huh?  Chapter Five tomorrow.  And guess what?  I’m back to occasionally drawing comics!  Here’s one for you now!

Writer's-Block-Strip-42

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