Ethel recently asked me to write a blog post about why I write for teens. I’ve been writing stories for tweens and teens for about six years now, so the answer to that question should have been straightforward. But as I considered the question, I found it difficult to put my finger on why I write for teens as opposed to writing stories intended for adults.
In the writing world, the adage is ‘write what you know’. That may be true for some writers at some times. But for me, more frequently I write what I want to know. One reason I write fiction for tweens and teens is because I want to read stories that say what I wish I’d known.
Mostly though, I write stories for teens because when I put pen to paper, it’s a teen “voice” that comes out. I could spend time psychoanalyzing why my writing “voice” is a teenaged one. Perhaps I’m stuck in a perpetual adolescence. Maybe I never wanted to grow up. Or maybe I’m still working on it.
Whatever the reason, my writing voice is a teenaged one and the stories I’m interested in writing are geared specifically to young adult readers. Having said that, most of my readers are in fact adults. Good stories are, after all, ageless.
Many adult readers have praised me for writing characters that are positive role models for girls and for writing stories with a positive message for girls. In my books, girls learn to take care of themselves and seek out positive, healthy relationships rather than dysfunctional ones. I’d like to say that I set out to; that it was an intention from the beginning.
The truth is that I set out merely to write the story that was in me to write. I had no grand intentions or specific theme in mind.
It was only after I’d written a couple of drafts of my first book, Emily’s House, that I realized that I’d penned a story with a strong female main character and a positive message for girls. In hindsight I can see that the entire three-book series (The Akasha Chronicles) shows a typical young woman coping as best she can with everyday issues such as self-esteem, acceptance (of both self and by others) and love. Emily learns that she doesn’t need to rely on anyone else to save the day (or to save her). She can save both herself and others. She doesn’t want to be a “hero”, but a hero is what she becomes.
As I said, perhaps we write what we want to know.
Every step of the writing journey is thrilling for me, even the part when I have a 100,000 word draft and think that every word of it is awful and feel certain that I’ll never write another good sentence again as long as I live. Even in those pitiful moments filled with too much coffee and chocolate, I delight in the fact that my mind can think up new characters, new stories, new worlds and explore the human condition through words.
But the absolute best thing about being a writer? The thrill of connection with readers. I treasure when a mom thanks me for writing a book with a strong female main character, free of dysfunctional romantic relationships – a book she feels good about having her daughter read. And when tween and teen readers tell me that they love Emily and can’t wait to see what happens next or, even better, that the book made them think… It doesn’t get better than that.
I’ll carry on writing stories that are in me to write. I expect that they will continue to feature strong female characters learning to make their way in life and love.
Because that is, after all, what I want to know as well.
Natalie is the author of The Akasha Chronicles, a young adult paranormal fantasy trilogy. When not writing, blogging, Facebooking, Tweeting, Wattpadding or eating chocolate, Natalie nurtures her young daughter, plays with her two young cats, and feeds her dog too many treats.
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