I recently read a post that talked about sex in YA. And it really got me thinking about what it was like for me growing up.
I am the oldest daughter of my family, but I have two older brothers. There are three years between me and my younger sister, and five between me and my youngest sister. My middle sister was never much of a reader, but when it came to the "nitty gritty details" (like sex, kissing, boys, periods, etc) I was the one she came to. Somehow it's easier to go to your older sister than your mom, according to my sister.
That isn't to say my mom wasn't always there to talk to. She was very open about things such as periods and kissing, but when it came to other things she wasn't quite as forthcoming. I remember when I was in sixth grade, my middle school made us go through sex ed. When I got home, my mom and I sat down and talked about vaginas and penises and how babies are made. I don't remember much of the details of it, but I do know my sisters never went through similar situations (though I'm not entirely sure why).
My youngest sister is nearly as big a reader as me, but since I am five years older than her, my books tended to be more mature in content. (Read: they had kissing and killing.) I distinctly remember my mom asking me the content of my books not because she was concerned that I was reading them, but she was concerned about my youngest sister reading them. She didn't want her to read graphic details about kissing, killing, and sex. My books were never explicit--I was into books like The Hunger Games or Meg Cabot novels.
As my sisters grew up, I made sure to remind them periodically that if they ever had any questions about boys, they could feel free to come to me. (Like my sister said, it's somehow easier to go to your sister than your mom. Maybe because sisters won't ground you?) I've made sure to tell my sisters certain things so that when they start to date, they go in prepared. So they won't have to worry about some boy telling them that if he has a boner and doesn't follow it with sex, bad things can happen to said boy's penis.
But I'm rambling. Back to the point of this post. It's not a bad thing to have sex, kissing, and killing in YA fiction. I actually think it's a really smart thing to talk about. Kids are growing up faster and faster in our world. My youngest sister knew a girl in fifth grade who got caught having sex behind the gym. In my opinion, it's better for kids to learn as much as they can so they go into situations well-prepared, rather than hearing false information. (This isn't me saying fifth graders should be having sex. Far from it! I may want my youngest sister to be well-informed, but every time she tells me she told a boy who wanted to make out with her to fuck off and leave her alone, I applaud. She's fifteen. Plenty of time for making out to come without doing it with horny freshmen boys.)
That's why I have sex, and killing, and kissing in my books. The world is a dark, scary place at times. You can't really go a single day without hearing about some recent shootings or attacks or threats from one country to another. We learn about war all throughout school and death tallies are often facts we need to memorize for tests. I'm not saying people should write about killing for the fun of it, but for the impact it can have.
In my book, there is a war. And during war, people will die. One thing my agent loves about the manuscript is that I make it clear that in war, no one is safe, least of all the people we love. There is also a lot of kissing, because teenagers and kissing go hand-in-hand. Plus, I like romance in my books. There is also sex. It's more or less a fade-to-black scene, but I make it clear that yes, these two characters have just done the dirty. But it's safe and consensual and done in a tasteful way so that teenagers can know not all sex is scary, especially when it's with someone you love.
I am quite certain that if my book is published, I will be getting emails like the one talked about in the article I mentioned at the beginning of the post. And I appreciate parents wanting to protect their children. My mom did the same thing, and I love her for it, but I will confess that sometimes I let my youngest sister read books with kissing.
But I'm proud of my book and the topics it covers. The nitty gritty details should not be glossed over, because that makes it out to seem like they are something to be ashamed of. So long as what you're doing is safe and consensual, if it makes you happy, you should feel free to go ahead and do it.
I've heard many authors talk about how their writing processes change from book to book. It can even happen from book one to book two in a series.
For some, they swear by outlining and rigorously keep up the same format. For others, it changes from outlining to pantsing and so on and so forth. I am one of the outliners. I love to outline my books because it keeps me going on a straight trajectory. My books tend to run on the long side (hello 106,000 word revised manuscript...*gulp*) and so I need to have a map of sorts to keep me from going on too long.
Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.
For THE WAYWARD DARK (the book I signed with) I started with a seven point plot structure for each of my main characters (of which there are three). This helped me to map out the hook, the beginning arc, the midpoint, the ending arc, and the resolution. I then followed that plot structure to make my outline, mushing together each of the main characters' stories into one flowing outline. If I recall correctly, it was ten or eleven pages of handwritten notes with occasional quotes or reasonings interspersed throughout. It was easy to write the book with this plot structure and outline.
I'm finding that with my new WIP, the one I intend to work on while THE WAYWARD DARK is on sub sometime in the near future, is...a whole different ball game. I've started several seven point plot structures and gotten nowhere with them. I've tried outlining with my tried-and-true bullet points and dashes flowing down the page. They aren't working, so I decided to try something a bit different: I broke the book into four separate parts, and jotted short notes down for what I intend to have happen within each part of the book.
Now that I have that down, I intend to make each part a separate piece of paper (because I have to outline by hand. I find my writing flows better that way, though everything else [drafting, summaries, synopses, etc] works best when typed out in a Word doc). On that paper, I'll go into even more detail about the beginning, middle, and end of each of the four parts.
It's not the normal way of writing. In fact, I don't even know of anyone who has outlined this way before (if you do, don't hesitate to let me know!) but I'm equal parts curious and excited to see how well this way works out. Because sometimes books just refuse to be traditonally outlined. It's weird to say aloud and accept, but it's so strangely true.
I, for one, often feel the pull of pantsing a book but 99% of the time I resist it. It winds up making my books a mess (and again, they tend to run on the long side. Better for everyone that I outline so my thoughts remain cohesive). It's interesting to see how certain books (things we come up with out of our own heads) demand to be written differently from others, even if they're in the same genre, world, or even series.
And this is just how I outline. My world-building, social structure, culture, and magic systems documents, as well as drawn maps of the world, help but always follow different paths to completion. Sometimes the world comes to me before I even start outlining (as was the case with my new WIP), and sometimes I figure the world out as I go (as was the case with THE WAYWARD DARK).
But that's enough blathering. Long side, remember? :)