Option C: The Grave

I’ve been reading like mad. Here are some brief summaries of a few books I’ve recently read, in hopes of setting off some spark of thought for my own novel… *Spoiler Alert!!* Since I’m especially concerned with the END of my novel, I’m looking at the endings of these books. If you don’t want the endings spoiled, read no further!

LA CandyL.A. Candy, written by reality star Lauren Conrad of “The Hills,” is a story about two lucky girls from Santa Barbara who come to Los Angeles for college and work and end up starring in a reality TV show. Protagonist Jane Roberts is innocent, naïve, and awestruck by L.A. As she becomes a star, she traps herself in an awkward love triangle – at the end of the book she cheats on the guy she’s dating with his best friend, who happens to be the guy she liked first and would have fallen for if not for his on-again, off-again girlfriend. So, innocence to scandal. Yes, it was a bestseller, and yes, it was the first novel in a series.

How to Be Popular

Meg Cabot is the bestselling author of The Princess Diaries series, among other hits. In her novel How to be Popular, high school junior Steph Landry discovers a book in her best guy friend’s grandmother’s attic called <surprise!> How to be Popular. She uses the books’ tricks to organize her master plan: becoming popular, taking down the most popular girl in school (who has made the last five years of Steph’s life hell just because Steph spilled a Super Big Gulp on her white skirt in middle school), and get the most popular guy in school to like her. Her plan fails, she discovers the popular guy is a jerk, and she realizes she’s actually in love with her nerdy best guy friend, who’s been into her from the beginning. Cherry on top? At the end of the book, when Steph has found herself and come to terms with who she is, and is dating her nerdy friend, all the popular kids join them for coffee.

I Am the Messenger

Markus Zusak (yep, that’s right, author of The Book Thief)’s I Am the Messenger is the only book I read with a male protagonist, and it was definitely worth the read, despite being very different from what I’m writing. Protagonist Ed Kennedy is a 19-year-old cabdriver in love with a best friend who refuses to have sex with him. Life looks boring and hopeless until Ed stops a bank robbery, receives an ace in the mail, and becomes the messenger. End: he grows confident and believes in his own self-worth, and he accomplishes all the missions (messages) he’s been set. Oh, and he gets the girl. This book won the Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature.

Delirium

In Lauren Oliver’s bestseller Delirium, love is a disease and everyone is cured at the age of 18. Lena is all about following the rules, can’t wait, even, to be cured. Until of course she falls in love. The books is perhaps more about Lena’s journey to learning how to think for herself than it is a love story. Though her lover dies at the end, it’s in the pursuit of escaping, which will grant her freedom and show the rest of the world that they’re blind and authority can – should – be flouted. A complex ending, because she loses him, yet she gains herself: freedom, independence, a mind of her own. Worth the risks? Yep. Triumphant? Definitely.

Gossip Girl

Book One of Cecily von Ziegesar’s bestselling series Gossip Girl is saucy and sexy. It shows us the characters, sets the scene, and begins our little love-hate relationship with GG herself. Do any of the characters actually grow in this book? Nope, but that’s all part of the game. There is no triumphant end, not even a conclusion, really. Just the beginnings of more drama. You know you love her.

 

 

 

Beautiful Disaster

Beautiful Disaster, the bestselling novel written by Jamie McGuire, is a romance set in college. Abby has carefully arranged herself to look like a good girl, despite her past. Travis is your classic bad boy with a soul – tattoos, amateur fighter, ladies’ man, until he meets Abby, of course. She’s determined to avoid a relationship with him, as he symbolizes everything she’s running from, but the story goes like this: Girl meets boy, boy meets girl. Girl and boy are “just friends.” Girl and boy get together. Girl and boy break up. Girl and boy get back together. Girl and boy get married in Vegas. The End.

Skinny

Ibi Kaslik has written Skinny in alternating chapters from the POVs of two sisters. Giselle, who just managed to complete her first year of medical school before being hospitalized, is a bisexual anorexic who believes their father never loved her. Holly, the younger sister, is a high school track star and all-around dare-devil, the father’s favorite. As the story unfolds we see the effects of the father’s death and Giselle’s anorexia on both girls. In the dark climax I’ve been waiting for, Giselle dies. She also, however, comes to terms with her relationship with her father, and with herself.

Touch

Written by bestselling author Francine Prose, Touch features Maisie, fourteen, at the center of an incident at the back of her school bus. No one is sure what happened, least of all her, for the majority of the book. At first she claimed nothing happened, wanting to protect her friends, and then, angry at them, she claimed more happened than did. The truth? She allowed her three male friends to touch her breasts. At the end of the book, Maisie drops the lawsuit and loses her best friends. The ending is sad, but the character growth is triumphant: Maisie learned about the importance of truth, her inner ability to deny it, and, ultimately, she learned to stay true to herself.

In a brief run-down, I can look at the books I’ve read and come to this simple conclusion: I need to either a) revise my ending to a triumphant one, in which the protagonist either gains true love or self-love, or b) turn it into a series. Of course, there’s always c) leave it as is and, as my mentor is fond of saying, go to my grave clutching the unpublished manuscript.

I’m not sure if I’m willing to change my ending the way it may need to be changed. I’m certainly not sure how. I’m not even sure I can.

There’s also another option – Send it out. And see what happens.

Of course, I may just wrack up a ton of rejections. In which case it’s back to options A, B, or… C.

A Tricky Spot

Yesterday my aunt asked, “How’s the novel going?” And I had to answer, “Well… at the moment… it’s kind of… not.” I’m feeling incredibly frustrated about my ending. After finishing the last draft, I felt that I had gotten pretty close to writing what I wanted to write. But now I’m dealing with this central dilemma: writing what I want to write, versus what I want to read. Or versus what my readers want to read. This is another thing that hasn’t changed since I started writing this book.

Traditionally, young adult books have triumphant endings, where the protagonist overcomes, and when I put these down I have that warm fuzzy satisfied feeling. Often when I read literary fiction I find myself slogging through, sometimes forcing myself to digest the next word and the next word, but when I finish the book I’m left thinking, wanting to talk about it. As is common in literary fiction, the current ending of my book is very dark. So, the opposite of traditional YA.

As my sister put it, you’ve put yourself in a tricky spot. Do literary fiction and young adult overlap? Is it possible to write literary fiction about sorority life? Another question I’ve been asking from the beginning, with no clear answer.

A successful writer friend of mine told me about an emerging genre called “New Adult,” which apparently targets the demographic my novel is about/for, and addresses the coming-of-age between adolescence and true adulthood. (See the wiki article, a site for NA writers called NA Alley, and an article on the Huffington post.) She suggested I read best sellers in this genre, paying attention to how those authors did their endings. A trip to the library the other day produced a stack of books, still labeled YA (most of the best sellers were checked out, so I’m on the waiting list). Hopefully this will get the creative juices flowing…

Library Books

Did I mention it’s my birthday? I don’t like to think that another year has come and gone, and I still haven’t finished/published this book! But then again, there’s nothing I’d rather be doing than writing, rewriting, reading, rewriting… and I’m in this, no matter how many birthdays it takes. I’m celebrating with friends and family later on, but at this moment there’s nowhere I’d rather be than on my couch, at my computer, writing on my birthday.

happy bday

A lovely Valentine’s-themed birthday gift from my incredibly sweet and caring aunt, who remembers the special days of everyone in the family and always sends us holiday gifts, too.

Draft 3…This Novel Will End

As for the writing itself, I’m chugging along. Submitting to groups and revising, moving steadily through Draft 3. Discussing with my mentor the kinds of details I could use to lodge my characters in my readers’ memories, how to rid my story of excessive flashbacks, how to incorporate strange language. He suggested I write his fiancée, who has published several historical fiction novels, and often uses anachronistic terms. Her advice was useful. I most appreciated her comments:
I’m sure you probably feel like the book will never be finished, at this point. 🙂  But it will be finished, and you’ll feel indescribably elated.
Like it will never end is exactly how I feel. After this draft will be another and another, and so on and so on. I am so glad to have this assurance, from someone who has been through this several times, and who just had her most recent novel picked up by a leading publisher in her genre.
As always, rather than worrying, what there is for me to do is focus on the work itself.