October is an exciting month for any YA lit fan, because it includes Teen Read Week! In honor of this annual celebration of young adult literature, YALSA invited book-loving teens all over the world to apply to share their enthusiasm for reading in a guest post for The Hub. Thirty-one talented young writers were chosen, and we’ll be featuring posts from these unique voices all month long. Here’s Ellie Gardiner from New Mexico.
â€œIf there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.â€ â€”Toni Morrison
Whether your favorite genre is dystopian, fantasy or science fiction, one thing is perpetually true. There are never enough books. We’ve all run to the store or library, riding a book high, desperately in need of a new novel to feed our crazed bibliophilic hungerâ€¦ only to be disappointed by the lack of stories that seem to meet our satisfaction.
The truth is, there really are quite a lot of books out there. There is an enormous amount of fiction waiting to change someone’s life for the first time. There is a novel out there right now that is waiting to be loved, and smelled, and hugged, and cried over anew. And a good portion of these sorts of books have been written because someone â€“ someone just like us â€“ couldn’t find the book they wanted, and decided it was up to them to write it.
After I finished Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief, I had an experience that changed my outlook on writing. I entered the local book store, still at the top of that aforementioned high, and accosted an employee. â€œDo you have any books I could read that might help me through the aftermath of this one?â€ I asked, gesturing to Zusak’s novel excitedly. My face fell as Gladys the Shelver responded, â€œI don’t know. I’d suggest looking in the teen section.â€
I do not have the slightest vendetta against teen fiction, but that was the last place I wished to be pointed. I wanted specific suggestions. I wanted answers. Reluctantly, I slumped off to root through the romance novels in search of a historical fiction that would satisfy me.
This experience gave me a distinct hope for my own writing. I’ve written a historical fiction novel, and outlined another. I want my books to be on the shelves. I want other lovers of the genre to find them, and to find some meaning in them.
And this ambition all stems from a combination of passion, knack, and one common goal that I believe all authors share â€“ even if they don’t completely realize it. We want our writing to be read. We want our stories to help people in ways that could be both personal and common. In other words, we want to make a difference in someone’s life, just as other authors have done in ours.
Allow me to spin off for a moment and address the question; what is the most important part of a story? Many people would say it is the characters, the setting, the plotâ€¦ But I would say that it’s the story goal combined with an innate sense of meaning. What keeps us reading a story is a deep caring for the hero’s cause. And as writers, we have our own cause. Our own story goal. We’re striving to create worlds and people and plots that help people change, and laugh, and cry, and hopefully learn something in the process.
Some of the most useful advice I have ever received is this: write for someone. While you’re sitting there at your computer, brooding over chapter 4, focus on your audience. Are you writing for that girl in the bookstore who can’t seem to find the right science fiction novel? Are you writing for that boy in the library who really just wants to find a swashbuckling adventure story?
Regardless of who (or what!) your focus is, remember at least one thing above all this: when you find yourself in that age-old, bibliophilic conundrum of bookish lackingâ€¦ write what you want to read. It doesn’t have to be perfect yet. It doesn’t even have to be a fully formed idea, but get it down, outline it, and run with it. See where it takes you, and know that all writers share a common goal. We all want to see our books lining the shelves. We all want someone to take one down, smile, and say, â€œThis is just what I was looking for.â€
Ellie Gardiner is a homeschooled sophomore living outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico. When she isn’t reading four books at once, she enjoys Hapkido, the BBC, writing on her blog (The Spilled Inkwell), and Venturing. Ellie has completed one fictional novel, is currently outlining another, and hopes to someday traditionally publish these and future stories.
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