Okay, normally I don’t do this, but I want to talk a bit about my current WIP. Mostly because I want some opinions, discussions, verbal lashings if needed – and who better to get them from than the peoples who people my blog? So, if you’re a writer, editor, reader, or just unbelievably opinionated, I’d love to hear what you think:
So, here’s the dealie – I’m currently breaking a cardinal rule. Okay, it might not be a cardinal rule but it’s definitely something YA writers are admonished NOT to do. I’ve set my wip in the early 90’s... yes, yes, that also happens to be the same time period that I was the age of my characters... go ahead, make fun.
Here’s the thing, it’s actually harder for me to write it in that time period than it would be to make it current. The admonishment is generally directed at writers who set YA during their own childhood to make it easier for them, so they don’t have to immerse themselves in current trends, languages, etc. I’m actually better immersed in today’s YA world than I am in the one I grew up in. For the time period I’m writing in, I’ve had to do a lot of research, because, honestly, I didn’t remember when what fad took over. Speech is another thing that’s hard to master, because in your memory, all of those catchy little teenage phrases blend together.
I’ve been batting this back and forth since starting this wip. My feeling is that it needs to be set in that time period. That’s where these characters and their neighborhood’s story take place. The other thing is that we need to see where these characters end up, as adults. We need to see the impact of these events on their whole life – what paths did they choose, and how did the choices they made during the heart of the story impact them? That’s the whole scope of the story, to me, the larger repercussions and the impact on the whole. Without knowing the entire plot and characters, this might sound kind of convoluted. But that’s another reason I want it set back aways – the meat of the story takes place in the past, but the end of the novel is current day.
I suppose I could write the meat of the novel current day and still end it that way, staying away from too much heavy description of the time period for their future selves. And I’ve had that in mind ever since starting, that I might have to go back and rewrite, pulling them out of that time-period and into the current one.
But I’m kind of leaning toward breaking the rules. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard great agents and editors say not to set your YA in the 80’s (close enough). So that I know, when it comes time to query, I may already have a mark against me.
So, what do you guys think? Is it ever okay to break that type of a rule? Am I just giving myself excuses to keep it in the timeframe I want it in? Or does it all hinge on the execution? I know there are examples of this working – Stephen King’s The Body, which became Stand By Me was set in the 60’s but written in the 80’s. BUT he was already Stephen KING!!! I don’t want to set up even more roadblocks for myself. At the same time, I really love this story and I don’t want to dilute it for the sake of a sale, either.
So what’s your take? Have you ever broken a rule that improved your work? Have you ever broken a rule out of sheer stubbornness that on retrospect hurt your work? Am I just obsessing over silliness when I should be pushing out pages? (Yeah, yeah, I’m getting back to work right now.)