If you haven’t noticed by now, I’m a tarot reader. And I see tarot cards in a lot of my everyday life, both in small moments and huge. Like the one that happened today.
For a while now, I’ve been looking at All Will Suffer Me as a young adult novel. Not necessarily as I was writing it. But from the start, I had it in the back of my mind that it would be in on the young adult shelves. So when I started querying and pitching it on Twitter, that’s how I categorized it. As a young adult epic fantasy novel.
Yet there have been signs all along that my assumption wasn’t quite right. And today, all of those signs came together in one big bolt of lightning to successfully dismantle the last six weeks of effort and planning.
Because All Will Suffer Me is not a young adult novel. And that’s kind of awesome.
I should have known that something was up when one of my beta readers asked me about the audience that I was going for. He made some very good points about how some of the content wasn’t really YA-friendly. But I rationalized it away, thinking that I shouldn’t shy away from certain topics. With all the talk about how authors insult teen readers by talking down to them, I figured being upfront and honest about certain aspects of my characters’ lives would be fine, if not appreciated.
Then another beta reader, and my brainstorming partner, chided me on limiting myself and my story just to make it fit into a certain category. He told me that I should just write the story the way it wanted to be told, and worry about what category it fell into later. And for the most part, I did that. But I still held onto the belief that it would be a young adult novel.
Later, I joined a writing workshop where my first five pages were critiqued. And while everyone liked my writing and wanted to read more of the story, there was a bit of a divide in the criticism. The other writers kept mentioning that they wanted to know more. They wanted more explanation of my main character’s motivation. They wanted to know more about the secondary characters in the scene. They wanted to have everything spelled out. And while they would have learned everything that they wanted to know if they had been able to read further, it struck me as odd. Especially when the guest mentor in the workshop only wanted to see small telling details — a word here, or a line there. It made me wonder if it was an audience thing, but I don’t know how old any of the other participants are, so I couldn’t say. Yet, given their writing styles, I don’t think we were on the same page. But still, I continued to tell myself that I had written for a younger audience.
So when I started sending the book out to agents, I categorized it as young adult. And for the most part, I’ve gotten some great feedback on the story. Apparently character development and world building are my strengths, and my main character has a fresh voice (according to a couple of nice agents). I’ve even gotten some requests, which makes me happy. But maybe that’s another sign: Three of the four requests were from agents that handle both young adult and adult fantasy.
Then today, I got notes back from a potential critique partner. One that only works with young adult, and is passionate about young adult fantasy. All of the notes had to do with there not being enough explanation for my character’s feelings and actions, and not enough description of the setting and the relationships between the characters. Which is the exact opposite of what everyone else who has ever read any of this book as said.
Of course, my first reaction was to wither and die at my desk. But then I took a step back and listened to the Weekly TarotScope from Louise at The Numinous. Then I followed her advice and wrote down all the things that I’ve been worried about. And as soon as I did, everything became clear.
All of my beta readers have been older adults. And they love the book. The younger folks who have read some of my book? Not so much.
One of the things that I hate about young adult books is all the explanations about feelings and descriptions of settings and characters. I’m a huge fan of the telling detail and using setting and description to convey the POV character’s mood.
Most importantly, my favorite books all come from adult fantasy or paranormal romance series. Looong-running series that follow characters through their lives. They do cool shit, and fall in love, and have casual sex, and start families. And that’s what I want to do with AWSM. I want it to be the start of a long series, where I — and my readers — can follow these characters for the long haul. And I want to be able to explore topics and themes that are near and dear to my heart. Like sexuality and spirituality, and how the two intersect. I mean, there’s essentially an orgy happening in a scene in AWSM. Pretty sure that’s not YA-friendly.
In fact, from what I’ve read and scene, none of the things that I’ve done or want to do in the future are YA-friendly. Realizing that is like pushing an anchor off my chest and rising to the surface of the ocean. And now that I’ve seen the light, I realize that most of the things that I’ve been doing these past few weeks has been all wrong. Because it’s all been based on an incorrect assumption. Which is what The Tower is all about.
I could get all butt-hurt about it, and lament the fact that I essentially have to start from scratch. But I’m not. I could write back to the potential CP and tell her that she’s wrong, and lash out at her. But I won’t. Because it’s not her fault that I was wrong. She went into this thinking it was a YA novel. So, she did exactly what she should have. But now that I know that I was mistaken, I can adjust and move forward. And since I now that I’m writing adult fantasy, I can let go of the things that haven’t been working for me. Which means that I now have the space and opportunity for things that will work for me, and in bigger and better ways.
I find this hilarious now, because those realizations can all be summed in three tarot cards. Which, not-so-coincidentally, I mentioned a couple weeks ago, because they’ve been coming up in my readings a lot. I even took a picture and shared them on Instagram.
So now that I know what’s really going on, I can move forward. Which means I’ll probably be withdrawing my query from most of the agents that I’ve submitted to, if not all of them. And I’ll realign my plans and goals with what I really want to do and create and explore. And maybe in the future, when the Universe sends me sign and sign after goddamned sign, I’ll pay attention. It’ll probably save me a lot of grief.