YA Novel Challenge

This is my two hundredth post! Can you believe it? I’m proud of myself for posting on this blog almost every day, and you know, it’s changed my writing in ways I could never have imagined. I write more easily now, more quickly. And I think the quality of my writing is actually higher.

I set myself that challenge last fall, when I began this blog: write a blog post a day. If you look at my statistics from various months, you’ll see that there are months when I didn’t do that, months in which I couldn’t keep up. But for the most part, I did. It feels like an accomplishment. Now I’m setting myself another challenge. In June, July, and August, I have to finalize my dissertation: write the introduction, make final revisions to the three chapters. But I want to do more than that.

I want to write a YA novel.

And I’m not the only one. I’ve set myself a challenge, and two other people are setting themselves the same challenge: write a YA novel, or at least part of a YA novel, in three months. Those two other people are Nathan Ballingrud and Alexandra Duncan, who are both wonderful writers. We’ve barely had time to talk about the details yet, but I think this is what it’s going to look like. We’re each going to set goals for ourselves and try to meet them. My goal will be to write 1000 words a day, every day. That goal is based on the fact that a YA novel is typically around 75,000-100,000 words long. It’s also inspired by Holly Black’s statement that she wrote Black Heart in 81 days. Those three months will give me 92 days in which to write a YA novel. Well, at least the first draft.

I don’t yet know what Nathan’s and Alexa’s goals will be. I’m going to ask them tonight. We’ve talked briefly about getting together to critique our manuscripts, and I’m hoping that I’ll be able to do that in person at least once. Which means flying down to Asheville, North Carolina, where they both live, later in the summer. Asheville is one of my favorite places, and I haven’t been there for years, so I’m very excited.

The novel itself will be based on a story of mine that was published on Strange Horizons: “The Mad Scientist’s Daughter.” The story won the Strange Horizons Readers’ Poll for best story, it was one of the storySouth Million Writers Award Notable Stories, and it’s now a Locus Awards finalist. So I get the sense that people respond to it, and I think what they respond to most are the characters. Well, I want to write the further adventures of some of those characters. I’m not going to give you any more details now, because I have a lot of other work I need to get done tonight, before I leave for Wiscon on Thursday. But I’ll start giving you more details when I get back.

Why am I telling you all this, rather than keeping it a deep, dark secret? First, because I’m going to be posting about my progress. Word counts, perhaps excerpts, certainly thoughts about what I’m doing. I’ll try to post about my progress at least once a week. Hopefully, Nathan and Alexa will decide to do that as well, and I’ll be able to link to their posts. Second, because I know that many of you are writers and might be interested in doing the same thing. So if you want to take up the YA Novel Challenge and write a YA novel, or part of one, in the next three months, please feel free to tell me about it, let me know how it’s going. Just if you want to, you know. (But wouldn’t it be fun?)

I’m writing this a bit prematurely because there are a lot of things Nathan, Alexa, and I still need to discuss, but I wanted to get this post up tonight because I have a feeling that tomorrow night is going to be one of those mad packing nights I often have before conventions. When I will be trying to find a clutch to go with my dress for the banquet, and that sort of thing. (I think the dress will be a burgundy velvet dress I found at a thrift store. The sort of dress that Jane Morris would wear to the Wiscon banquet. I still need to pick out the jewelry, but I have some garnets – somewhere.)

So there you are, the YA Novel Challenge. Will I succeed? I will certainly fail at various points along the way. I’m expecting that. But I’m very excited about this project.

I think it’s finally summer.

Do you know how I can tell? The lilies of the valley are almost done blooming. I cut several today and put them in a vase. They smell heavenly.

But also, I have two summer projects that I’m looking forward to: finishing the dissertation, and this one. I can’t wait to start.

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24 Responses to YA Novel Challenge

  1. John Stevens says:

    Excellent. Spring is the season for setting goals, it seems; I wrote about my own briefly in response to a challenge from Caitlin Kittredge. I look forward to following your progress!

  2. Briana says:

    This is so great, Dora! ^_^ I’m excited for you. Should be a ton of fun. I remember you reading that story at B&N during Alpha, and I thought it was such a fantastic idea. And the story itself was great. So to hear that you’re going to expand on the idea to turn it into a YA novel is awesome! ^_^ Can’t wait to hear your progress as you go along too. (I might see if I can work on something this summer too…)

  3. Amy Sundberg says:

    Sounds like a great plan! And also do-able. I wrote my second YA novel in three months (and I even took weekends off). Can’t wait to hear more about it. πŸ™‚

  4. Nathan says:

    Uh oh. No backing out now! πŸ™‚

    I’m looking forward to this!

  5. Yeah, no backing out now, Ballingrud! πŸ™‚

    Briana, glad you remember the story! It would be great if you decided to do something. If you do and you post about on your blog, let me know and I’ll link to it . . .

    And I’m glad you all like this idea! πŸ™‚

  6. Heather Shaw says:

    Hi Dora! Great idea! I’ll do it, too; I have a YA idea that I am hoping to write quickly, and I think this will be both motivating and more fun!

    I love your blog, by the way. I find your entries, especially the ones on writing, very inspiring. Thanks for linking them from FB, too; I almost always come over here from there.

  7. Livia Llewellyn says:

    Actually, the novel I’m currently writing – FrankenNovel! – is YA. Also 1k words a day, every day. Also around the same length, to be finished by the end of the summer. Summer YA-ing is in the air, evidently.

  8. Alex Wells says:

    What a great idea – I have read your story in SH and loved it – a favorite genre area of mine, so I can’t wait to read something longer!

    I finished the first draft of my YA novel in progress in three months earlier this year. The second draft is taking a lot longer, but the feeling of success on completing the first one was great.

    It was funny though, I had thought I’d have a lot of fanfare in my mind about it, but by the time finished, I had been writing steadily every day for three months, and it just seemed sort of normal. Not a letdown at all, just something I did. That was kind of cool in that way.

  9. Nivair says:

    This is awesome! I’ve been working on this challenge myself but it’s so much better to know I have comrades. πŸ™‚

  10. Oh, how wonderful! That’s a great story, and I would love to see a novel come of it.

    I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a YA novel. Maybe I’ll sit down and do more than toy with it, so I can accept the challenge as well. I find big writing goals like these always work better in company–why NaNoWriMo is so successful.

  11. Hooray! I’m glad that so many of you are interested! I should put together some sort of list, something to keep track of what everyone is doing. And remember, you define the goals, so if it’s a first draft, that’s great, if it’s a revision, that’s great too, whatever you need to work on!

    Heather, I’m glad you like the blog. πŸ™‚ Yeah, writing 1000 words a day, which is essentially what I’ve done on the blog, has changed my whole mindset about writing. Now it’s just something I do every day, like brushing my teeth. But more fun . . .

  12. Alex Wells says:

    I’m in for sure! I want to be done with the second draft by the end of August so this is perfect – I can sure use the support.

  13. I’ll post about this tonight, but if you’re in and you intend to blog about your progress, and you want me to add you to the list of people I’m linking to, send me the URL for your blog and I’ll add you. My email is tgoss@bu.edu. (If you look up top to the right, you’ll see that I’ve already added Nathan and Alexa . . .)

  14. Holly says:

    I so enjoyed that story, but even separate from that HOW EXCITING. Ahh!

  15. I would say that you are aiming at the very top end of word count for YA fiction. More typical length is anywhere between 50k (for contemporary/realistic YA) up to 80k (for fantasy/paranormal YA). Some books are, of course, longer – as much as 100k does happen, but definitely more for fantasy and usually for established authors.

    Examples of debut novels in popular YA series that have done very well (both in sales and critically):

    Melissa Marr’s WICKED LOVELY = 76,000
    Carrie Ryan’s THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH = 88,000

    (I’d estimate Holly’s WHITE CAT at around 75k.)

    I’m not saying this to be picky at all! I just wanted to say that you could set the bar a little lower on word count, that’s all. Makes things easier. πŸ˜‰ I found out a while back that some publishers specify an average word count for the YA novels they accept (one of the big publishers has theirs at 60,000 words).

    Good luck!


  16. Jeff P says:

    I’ve heard you read that tale twice now, and am excited there will be a novel expanded from it.

  17. zunger says:

    I think that’s an excellent idea, both as a way to get a project done, and as a way to get a project that has nothing to do with the dissertation done. Also, β€œThe Mad Scientist’s Daughter” would make a great YA novel. πŸ™‚

  18. Just the kind of challenge I need at the moment. I have been focusing a lot on flash fiction lately but have two ideas for YA novels and one YA novel started that could really use more attention. I think this is just what I need. I am in too!

  19. Karen, that’s very useful, thanks! I think I’m going to aim for 75,000 and see what happens . . . Reminder: if you’re in and you’re going to blog about it, do send me your blog URL!

  20. Eugene says:

    Good luck with this! Sounds like a great challenge and I hope I can read all your YA novels one day. I expect they will be awesome.

    I don’t have any choice but to revise my YA novel this summer, already underway but going so slowly. Watching everyone’s progress with their projects will be a terrific inspiration.

  21. Well, if you want to blog about it, Eugene, let me know and I’ll add you to the list! πŸ™‚

  22. I’ve been considering tryout a YA novel…I’m in. (Now I just hope I hold to it.)

  23. Samantha Henderson says:

    I’m late, but here! Can I join in? I have a half written YA that I deleted entirely because it needs to be rewritten. I would love to have more motivation!

  24. Sara McClory says:

    That’s awesome! The YA world can be fun to write in. I can’t wait to see what you do! I just started the query process (24/7 Doomsday) for a YA I wrote, and rewrote and rewrote! lol- I did start another one and was surprised how quickly I was able to finish the first draft. So glad their are more people attempting this! Good luck!

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