Monday, 19 April 2010

Getting the contemporary details right

I managed to write about 2,000 words last Wednesday - mostly in the past tense thanks to DragonTamer's feedback. I too am beginning to think that it could be a bit much to write the whole novel in the present tense but I might keep experimenting. Originally I had thought that I might write the majority of the book in the present tense with flashbacks in the past tense but instead, I now seem to be writing the main narrative in the past tense with a secondary layer of narrative in the present tense. It's still going to be complicated structurally but I think it might work.

Another issue that I'm facing at the moment is one which all Young Adult authors have to contend with - how to make the voices and the worlds of their characters authentic. Although I work a lot with young people, it's still a long time since I was a teenager and it's hard to get the details right. This is particularly true when I'm writing about Tag's world. He's a homeless, drug user and the kind of language he would use probably changes year by year. Originally I tried to write Tag's story in the first person but I hit some obstacles with this approach, firstly because he has limited literacy skills which means that the vocabulary he uses needs to be somewhat restricted and also because there's a big issue with slang. To make his voice authentic, I would probably use a lot of dialect and slang but then the book might be difficult for readers who don't share his background. I'm now writing in the third person which frees me up a lot. I want to be able to use all of my writing skills to express the reality of homelessness and Tag's lifestyle which I didn't feel I could do in the first person.

In smaller ways, I still have similar issues when writing about Lorna. Lorna is much more like my teenage self but still, the world has moved on since I was eighteen. When trying to set the scene regarding Lorna's character and world, I found myself writing about her revising for her A Levels. Instantly I'm stuck because, first, I have to think in more detail about which subjects she would have chosen (I'm thinking English, history, maybe philosophy or a language) and then I have to think about the curriculum. Good writing comes to life by being specific so it's no good glossing over one of these details. Then there's the dates of exams. When I was doing my A levels, there was no coursework and all the exams took place in June. Now, I get the feeling that exams start earlier, but I'm not sure.

If anyone out there would like to donate a particularly dull bit of A Level revision for the following paragraphs, I'd be grateful. It would also be good to know when A level exams begin.

My aim with any feedback I get from young people, is to keep a log of names and then, if I manage to publish the book, I'd like to credit you in the finished product. If not, I'll credit you online and maybe I can come up with some other incentives along the way. For those of you who look at groupthing, there are quite a few giveaways and competitions available on a regular basis.

Most of my writing the other day was about Tag but here's the bit I wrote about Lorna before I got stuck on her revision:

Lorna was supposed to be revising. She had just eight weeks to go until her first exam but she was finding it hard to get motivated. Instead she was mastering the fine art of procrastination.

First she’d tidied her desk. Everyone knew that a messy desk was a reflection of a messy mind, and a messy mind was no good when dealing with the intricacies of ....................(what?) Next, she’d reinvented her revision schedule. It was a masterpiece of colour-coding, neat blocks of shaded orange, green, pink and a particularly satisfying shade of turquoise signifying what she should be doing for each hour of every day.

It was now two o’clock on Wednesday, a time designated for...............(what?) but instead of .............................(what?), Lorna was chatting to her friend Lyndsey on Facebook.

It's simply a case of filling in the blanks, like some kind of English comprehension exercise - if you still do those at school!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Bev! It's Ecre from young writers - Mrs. Reece is a teacher at school and asked me to look this over and think of suggestions for the blanks. The only ones that really come to mind are:
    2)serious/studious thought
    I hope you find these at least a bit useful!