(Note: This is a reprint of a post I wrote for my old blog a few years back. I thought it would be worth sharing, as most of it is still relevant, and it shows some of the stuff that went through my head when I was working on earlier drafts of my novel.)
I put in the first disc of the audiobook version of Divergent by Veronica Roth the other day to see what all the hoopla was about.
So far, it’s not too bad, but within a few minutes I immediately noticed several literary things (I believe that’s the correct term) about the book that I thought would be worth sharing.
Since at least two of my WIP novels are Young Adult books, I spent a good chunk of my daily commute listening to some of the better selling YA novels just to get a better taste of the styles they use.
Two standout authors were KL Going and John Green. As far as YA authors go these two have had various degrees of success. (Note: I’m also including “Middle Grade” novels here, even though there are significant differences between MG and YA.)
The books of theirs that I’ve read–as well as several other YA authors–have shared many of the same traits. Namely, a first person point of view from a snarky teen with a big vocabulary who is a rebel, or at least thinks he/she is one. The main character, through narration, battles the typical emotions that all teens battle, such as self-doubt and rejection as he or she matures to overcome the major conflict of the novel.
In that sense, Divergent is no different. While it takes on a more serious speculative plot than, say, Fat Kid Rules the World it still seems to have all of the elements of popular YA novels.
And that brings me to my own work. Without trying to copy the styles of any of the authors listed above, my so far unpublished novel Holy Fudgesicles (Note: Holy Fudgesicles has since been published) does have many of the same elements that I mentioned. But here’s the kicker: I’ve had rejection letters from agents citing those very elements in the rejection letter.
I won’t list any specifics because I’m the furthest thing from a guy who goes online and complains about rejection letters, but it does make me think. If my novel is getting rejected for containing the same literary styles as the popular novels in its category (“I don’t like the style” is a lot different than “I don’t like the plot”) does that mean that my main character is too generic? Or does it mean that my style of writing is?
It’s definitely something to think about as I finish up on this final revision.
Thanks for reading. If this “retro post” seems to resonate, maybe I’ll try it again sometime. Otherwise, see ya soon and keep writing!