Some time in high school I began writing a book. That wasn’t unusual for me. I’d been writing since before I could actually spell the words I wanted to use. But the book I started wouldn’t stop, so I wrote, and I wrote, and I filled two 3-inch binders with words. It never had a title; my best friend (a fellow writer and my first critique partner) and I just called it “Megan and Jacob” because those were my main characters’ names.
Right then and there in high school, I knew I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to publish a book and share my stories with readers, but at some point in college, I lost my focus. I let a guy who I thought knew more than I did tell me that my writing was “schmaltzy” and that it would never amount to anything. I realize now that we were working in two completely different genres (adult literary = him, YA contemporary =me), and different rules apply. But my 20-year old self just heard, “Your words don’t matter. You don’t have what it takes.”
I finished my B.A. with a double major of creative writing and psychology, but I didn’t want to write fiction anymore. I took journalism classes, photography, memoir writing – anything to exercise my creative side without letting myself think that I could ever do anything with those old binders stuffed into the back of my closet.
For fun, I started a few short stories and novels, but I never shared them. I even shredded the two notebooks that contained a half-finished New Adult WIP. I think another is still on a very outdated laptop with floppy disks that was ancient when I started using it, and I may have scrapped it during a move. Needless to say, I believed what I heard as an undergraduate and that nobody wanted my fiction.
It wasn’t until 2013 that my high school critique partner contacted me on Facebook. We lost touch not long after college, but Sarah wanted to know what had happened to my story – the one that was 6-inches thick with notes and scribbles and ideas our high school selves poured into my characters. She had an agent, was attending conferences, and was in the process of learning about the publishing industry, so what was I doing with my writing?
I currently have no idea where my binders went. They might be in a box in a closet or they might be in a landfill, but Megan and Jacob were real enough to me that they never really left, even after all the self-battery I inflicted on my writing skills. I started from scratch because I knew their story by heart.
Somehow, I finished the entire manuscript. I’ve polished, revised, sent it to betas, CPs, and I’ve even started querying. I did it. I made a story people enjoy. YA isn’t a phase, a fad, or a trend. It’s as real as my college classmate’s aspirations to be published by the New Yorker, and maybe I don’t have a “real” book yet, but I’m working on it.
#novelaesthetics for “Megan and Jacob” (now known as Fall to Pieces) (Photos from Pinterest, credit applied wherever I can find it.)