A Brand New Story

When I started writing The Clearing, it was because I couldn’t help myself any longer. The story had been growing in my head like crab grass (which, by the way, is taking over our backyard at the moment) and I couldn’t think – couldn’t sleep – couldn’t do anything until I wrote it down.

There’s another story in my head that’s beginning to do the same thing, only this one is behaving more like kudzu: It’s wrapping itself around all the little parts of my brain and dominating my entire thought process.

I’m absolutely positive that this is happening now because I don’t have the time to deal with it. Which, as any good writer knows, is when our best work tends to come out.

This story is one I started long ago, but never figured out what to do with it. And guess what? Shockingly enough, I still haven’t figured out where I want to go with it. I know that I want my main character to be based on myself around age 12. So basically, she’s going to be a gorgeous cheerleader with perfect skin and totally awesome social skills.

(Reality check: At 12 years old, I was approximately 5’9″, weighed in at a whopping 120 lbs soaking wet, was cutting my own *shag-cut layered* hair, wore ginormous gold-rimmed glasses, AND had braces.)

(No, Sara McClung, I will not post pictures because the “embarrassing” ones you posted were NOT EMBARRASSING AT ALL. Therefore, the Humiliation Committee has ruled that they do not count towards that agreement we made oh-so-long ago. When you decide to post some real cringe-inducing material, we’ll talk.)

So anyway, that’s who I want to write about: The girl that doesn’t fit in. You know why I want to write about her? Well, think back to 7th grade for a minute. Did you feel like you fit in? Did you feel pretty? Did you feel graceful? Smart? Funny?

Yeah. Neither did anyone else.

The only problem with all this is that I’m not sure my agent represents Middle Grade, and that’s what this would be. I think. Or could it be classified as YA?

(Is anyone else totally at a loss when it comes to labeling your work with a genre?)

When I was in the 11-14 year age range, I loved books like this. Books with normal, awkward heroines who felt like people I could be. Prime example? Meg Murry in A Wrinkle in Time. And, naturally, I had to reference a L’Engle book, since she’s haunting me and all. But I mean, Meg was awesome, right? She was gawky, socially inept, and insecure. She had really bad hair, braces, and glasses. She felt ugly all the time.

But not only did she conquer the leader of a foreign (and creepy) planet, she also saved her dad and captured the totally smokin’ Calvin O’Keefe’s heart in the process.

Meg Murry empowered me.

Which character empowered you when you were younger?

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13 thoughts on “A Brand New Story

  1. Jon Paul says:

    I have a huge problem classifying my own work, and I wouldn’t (with all due respect to those who do have this issue) categorize it as me thinking my stuff is so unique. Rather, it relates more to my lack of understanding of what elements make a story what. There are a few guidelines out there, but it isn’t always clear.

    For example, my current WIP is character-driven fiction which takes place in a combat zone, and the main characters are 17-21 year-old members of an infantry squad. What genre should I be in? Is YA out?

    By the way, your idea sounds intriguing. I grew up on stories like that too, and I would love to be able to summon a tesseract to hop me back to those days now and again.

  2. Alexandra Shostak says:

    I think that might be classified as middle grade–I always thought 14 was the cut off for YA, but then I’m an adult writer so what do I know? πŸ˜› Even if your agent doesn’t rep middle grade, would it be possible to like pitch the idea and see? Who knows, maybe your agent will love it! πŸ™‚

    However, yes, TOTALLY, I felt like that in middle school (my reality check is: glasses, braces, frizzy shoulder-length hair, 5’1 and MAYBE 90 lbs.)

    The character that totally empowered me when I was young was Alanna from the Alanna books by Tamora Pierce, and Sabriel (from the book of the same name by Garth Nix.)

  3. Anne Riley says:

    Jon Paul: I totally know what you mean. I always feel a little behind the times when it comes to understanding all the “writing jargon” out there – especially genres and how they are categorized. I don’t know what to tell you about your WIP… that’s a tough one. I would be stuck, too.

  4. Anne Riley says:

    Alexandra: Sounds like you and I had a lot in common back in the day, give or take 8 inches πŸ™‚ And yeah, I can totally ask her about it. I mean, at the end of the day, she can take on any project she wants to, right? And I think you’re pretty on target with the 14 year old thing… that sounds about right.

  5. Jen says:

    I’m still learning what my stories actually belong under, I guess that’s just part of the game.

    That is such a tough question too, I’m not sure what I would say as far as what character truly inspired me while I was growing up, probably because there were so many. I loved all sorts of books and each one I read taught me something about myself. I’m still learning that today!

  6. Anne Riley says:

    Jen: Yeah, you’re so right. It’s all a part of the process. And I feel ya on the multitude of inspirations!

  7. Jemi Fraser says:

    I wish I’d read L’Engle when I was a kid – but I only ‘met’ her when I was an adult. I still love her, but I’d have devoured those books as a kid.

    Anne of Green Gables empowered me. I was never brave enough to even wish to be her – but I did wish to have a friend like her. πŸ™‚

  8. Lorel says:

    When I was 12, I read “The Mists of Avalon” about six times and was totally into Morgan Le Fey. I wanted magic and the secrets of the universe–I guess that’s why I became a scientist πŸ™‚

  9. Sara McClung says:

    o.m.g. DID YOU NOT SEE THE HUGE PIT STAINS?

    Your humiliation committee of one needs to reevaluate. and you DO need to post pics, you sell out!

    Also, I can’t remember a particular character per se, but I read a LOT of Piers Anthony when I was growing up… so it wasn’t a character, but a total love of the idea of creating magic with words. It’s a major part of why I write fantasy now =)

  10. Anne Riley says:

    Lorel: I’ve never read that one, but now you’ve intrigued me! I’ll have to check it out!

  11. Anne Riley says:

    Sara: No, I didn’t see the stains. I’ll have to take a closer look. And I’ll post some pictures… eventually… one day.

  12. HeatherM says:

    πŸ™ I wanted to see pictures. But I won’t push because NO I will not show you mine if your show us yours. I have a story like the one you’ve been wrestling with. Sometime this year I plan to win the match with it. I wouldn’t worry if your agent reps MG. If they love your style and the writing, they’ll rep it! You’re going to laugh but it was Red Sonja from Robert E. Howard’s books that inspired me. I know, not exactly the conventional role model for a young girl huh?!

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