August 31, 2006

Novel Little Lessons

This past weekend (MANY days ago - sorry!), SF Chronicle Staff Writer Reyhan Harmanci reviewed YA novel Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist. Harmanci is a reviewer I like, because she's never mean, but she's straightforward, and calls it like she sees it. Of Nick and Nora, Harmanci says that the dialogue isn't exactly realistic, and "can appear to be written for and by pretentious adults."

Hm. I wonder if that's a product of a.) really hep-cat authors or b.) the sort of crossover thing that's going on between certain types of YA novels and children's novels written for adult readers. I know
MotherReader has talked about it happening with picture books... does it happen in YA? With some novels, there's this insistent sort of ...über-hipness that makes me feel... uncool when I read them. The chapter I read of Special Topics in Calamity Physics made me feel like that too (but there it was also rampant comma abuse and multiple insect names as well). Now, when I read YA novels, I usually like the feeling of "Oh, that happened to me too," and I like to impart that feeling to my readers. So, I'm thinking? Maybe I have some sort of a suburban experience, and the hep-cat novelists grew up Urban Cool. Because some YA books still feel sort of ..Unassailable to me. Of course, that doesn't mean they aren't good, and I will read Nick & Nora at some point. Just... still. Weird feeling. Discussion?

And speaking of dialogue: As I've been editing, I've had to do some fairly major surgery. One of the ...victims of my edit was this brilliant -- or so I imagined -- conversation between my two principal characters that included Gumby, Woodstock, and other strange couplings from fiction. I edited the entire novel three times without removing it. This time, it got the axe. (Or, "The chair! The chair!" which suddenly comes to mind from the movie Shrek.) For a lot of reasons, but mostly because I think the Keyboard Strokes of Authordom were far too visible, the scene had to go. Now that I am ...finished editing, (until my agent and editor get together to sharpen their claws) I can speak from the oh-so-great vantage point of having completed a major novel overhaul. So, here is my first Novel Lesson for you:

When you love something... give it the axe. See if the novel survives. If it does, you probably didn't need your too-clever-by-half little scene. This goes for characters, too. I loved a pair of sisters - Persephone and Halcyon - and I completely wiped out Halcyon, even her single-sentence mention because it was just too ...twee.

I still think sisters named Persephone and Halcyon operating a vegan coffee shop are hilarious. Maybe they'll resurface someday. But until then, it's enough that they exist in my imagination.


MotherReader said...

Nick and Norah was waaay too cool for me. I didn't see my teenage self in either of them. Frankly, they were too cool for my twenty-something self. Must be a kind of wish fulfillment book for teens. Kind of how I (occasionally) read chick lit about women with money to burn.

Congrats on your finished edit. I can't even immagine how good that must feel.

TadMack said...

That's a good way of looking at it -- a wish fulfillment novel. And there's room for those. Maybe I just don't read those as much.

And THANK YOU! I'm ...sooo.... tired. I'm just thinking I'm going to face plant all weekend long. Thank God for Labor Day.

a. fortis said...

Yes, huge congrats!! I'm so impressed and have felt privileged to be able to watch the novel's many changes.

I agree about some novels just being too cool. I haven't read Nick and Nora myself, but I do feel that way about some books, or characters, or...maybe it's the writer...! I don't know. But I had that suburban thing going too. I mean, Riverside...It's like the world's biggest suburb. I think we had a selection of three shopping malls to hang out in. I did NOT have an exciting or hip lifestyle. ;)