This month we’re talking about transitions in writing and in life. “Transition” is a soft and gentle word for a serene flow from one thing to the next. “Transition” is also fancy word for “change,” and as we all know, change is a no fun whatsoever.
Death is a transition from life with a person you love to life without them. Childbirth is a transition to a lifetime of worry about a person we love more than we love ourselves. Love is a transition from being alone to being a couple. Covid is a transition from enjoying people and parties to fearing them.
Change is hard because the familiar is gone, replaced by something alien and uncomfortable. Writing in a new genre is hard for all these reasons. The voice changes. The reader expectations are different. It involves learning new things and looking at writing in a different way.
I’ve always written my YA books in first person, present tense. It was never a conscious choice, the voice inside my head just comes out this way. When my agent suggested trying third person on my next book, I was scared but I gave it a shot.
It was like learning to write all over again. There were new rules and different conventions. Showing and telling were done in different ways. There’s the whole issue of head hopping and dual POV’s.
I hated it. But as I continued to plug away, I realized I can do things as a writer in third person that I can’t do in first person. There were some new tools in the toolbox, different ways to give the reader information, new ways to express things. I started to enjoy it. Then I decided to make things harder by switching genres, too.
The book I’m revising now is historical women’s fiction written. The protagonists are a little older. It’s written in third person, and I think it’s my best book so far. But every new book is the best book I’ve ever written because I’m always learning, getting better, honing my craft.
I can only do that by embracing change, through willingness to take suggestions and try something new. Change is hard but the rewards are huge.
My next book is a departure from YA, too. It’s an idea that’s been rattling around in my head for years and the genre is dictated by the plot. But if I hadn’t written this last book in third person, I would not have had the courage to write this next one. It’s also contemporary, another change, because I need a break from the incredible amount of research required for my last two books.
YA will always be my first love, but I’m ready to transition to something new for a little while, because I’ve learned that we can’t change if we don’t grow, and we can’t grow if we don’t change.