My Inner Critic: Still A Mean Girl After All These Years

I am not gonna lie–I had a serious case of the post-NaNo Blues. Early December was a time of gigantic transition for me–from finding out that I had gotten into grad school to quitting my day job once and for all, it’s been a little nuts. Add to that the lack of noveling obsession and you’ve got one very out of sorts writer lady. While it was pretty awesome to have all that time on my¬† hands, the downside was that I didn’t have a lot to do with it.

I know now that my brain just needed about a week of rest after all the November craziness, but of course I never want to give myself a rest. I wouldn’t call myself a workaholic, but I do know I have some issues with allowing myself to just take a damn break. I kept carrying my little Alphasmart around and demanding inspiration to strike–as you can probably tell, that’s not the best way to get things flowing, now is it?

Anyway, after I finally did give myself permission to just recharge a bit, the ideas did start coming back. Even during NaNo, I had an inkling of what I wanted to do afterward, but nothing really concrete. I knew I wanted to do something for young adults, but I wasn’t entirely certain what. I don’t really have any experience writing YA fiction, so that was very daunting. Even when I was a young adult, I didn’t actually write YA fiction–I was too busy trying to be grown-up and literary.

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Which brings me to my recent revelation. I know who my Inner Critic is. I’ve met her in real-life, in the flesh. We’ve had slumber parties together. She is different from my Inner Editor, who occasionally comes in handy. My Inner Critic is needlessly, well, critical and totally lacking in useful information or advice. My Inner Critic is my early-teenage best friend, Jennifer. In my mind, Jen is still 15 years old and retains the power to reduce me to a self-conscious pile of mush. Of course, I know now that Jen had a lot of really bad self-esteem issues that she deflected by focusing on making me miserable, but there’s still a part of me that is afraid to try things like YA fiction because her voice is still in my head saying, “You don’t seriously think that a REAL writer would spend their time on something like that, would you? What a joke!”

Well, I’ve started my very first YA novel and I’m enjoying it so far. I love my characters and I love the casual tone I’m using. And I finally get to use the first-person and feel totally comfortable with it. How cool is that?

So, to the mean girl inhabiting my memories and still pushing me around after all these years, I commadingly say–

STFU!

Oh, and I’m writing longhand again. Somehow, it just makes more sense to me for this book. Maybe because I spent so much time scribbling in notebooks as a teenager, longhand writing is something that I associate with teen angst. And it gave me a good excuse to go shopping for pens and the perfect smallish notebook. So, yeah, that was pretty sweet, too.

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The “I’s” Have It

I’m not sure why I feel so reluctant to write stories froma first-person perspective. There’s nothing wrong with it, of course. I think that my use of the third-person is probably due to the fact that most of the books I read are in the third-person. Not sure why. I think it’s just a coincidence.

But something about this story told me that it needed to be written in the first-person. I could hear this character’s voice pretty clearly and it just didn’t feel right to start writing… Blah, blah, blah, he thought. I tried–it didn’t work. Plus, if I used the third-person, I would immediately have to reveal a little too much about the identity of the narrator. With the first-person, this can be put off a little bit to add suspense. In the case of my current story, the narrator is someone who is living under an assumed name, trying to get on with their life, when a few things from the past come flying back in. Their identity is an important part of the story–not the main part and certainly not something that I’ll save until the end to reveal–but it gives the story a little bit more of an initial hook if the reader is left wondering why all of this weirdness is happening and why this guy seems so matter-of-fact about it.

So here I am writing lots of “I’s” and actually getting to say things. It’s odd, but somehow I seem to feel more comfortable writing in the first-person. I think the only reason I have been shying away from it while working on this current novel is that I intend to change perspectives occasionally and was afraid that this might confuse the reader. Of course, this is me trying to edit myself while writing, which isn’t a very good idea (at least for me).