When your writing style begins to lose its mind…

Did you know that could HAPPEN? It’s a true fact, believe it or not. I just discovered this, roundabouts yesterday. Here I thought I was being so awesome–I was starting off the New Year the right way: writing. This short story just kept coming and coming until I’d sacrificed multiple hours and 11 pages of notebook paper to its altar. Then I went to read it. My face looked a lot like…this.

Only less yellow. Anyways…

Whether you’re really conscious of it or not, everyone has a writing style all their own. It’s something you do naturally, without thinking about it, because that’s just the way you write. You probably don’t even realize what the nuances of it are because you just do it. But let me tell you: when you depart from it, you know it.

I didn’t understand this story right after I wrote it and I still don’t understand it a day after I wrote it. It is so not me I don’t know what to do with it. It’s lack of coherency is probably another problem I have to fix… But the thing is, I know what it ISN’T: it isn’t what I normally write. And I’m not talking genre or characters or anything like that. I write fantasy all the time, my MCs tend to be girls–it was actually a story idea I started months ago but never finished. The rewrite yesterday turned into another beast entirely.

The thing about writing is that it’s a fluid craft. It changes when you change, and you change day-to-day. Your writing one day won’t be the same the next day, and it doesn’t always get better consistently either.  You probably already know that the best writing comes when you’re in that “mood” that is really hard to find but always amazing to be in, as our friends from Calvin and Hobbs by Bill Watterson understand. And sometimes that creativity is just strange. Like this story I’ve got here. I’m going to need a decryption machine in Gibberish to understand just what’s going on. But you know what the funny thing is? I like it. I like it a lot. No, not the story. What the story represents.

Sometimes you start feeling like the way you write is tired and tried, but the problem is that you think you’re stuck with it. You think that this is the way that you write and, while you can learn to write better, it’ll always have that same flare to it. You started doing them because you thought it was cool, but now it’s like you’re stuck on them. I certainly thought I was. I had seven different stories started in my notebook, and I didn’t think I could write one of them well, so I just wasn’t writing. That is probably the worst thing you can do.

You know what, maybe it will take you all seven stories to get one paragraph of amazing writing. Maybe it’ll take you all seven stories to get a sentence. That’s okay. Just let out the words that want to come out and stop thinking about it. Yes, what comes out might make absolutely no sense, but that’s okay too. That’s nonsense you wrote. And maybe it’s less nonsense than you think.

Review: Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

4 stars

No one knows why Juliette’s touch is fatal, but The Reestablishment has plans for her. Plans to use her as a weapon.

But Juliette has a plan of her own.

After a lifetime without freedom, she’s finally discovering a strength to fight back for the very first time–and to find a future with the one boy she thought she’d lost forever.

 

Buckle in, ladies and gents. This is going to be one heck of a book review. Why? Because I have so, so much to say about this book–and, trust me, not all of it is good.

Shatter Me was a book I was dying to pick up. SEVEN DIFFERENT AGENTS went flying after this manuscript. Seven. And this is Mafi’s first novel. SEVEN. A regular author is lucky to find one. So, clearly, this book had to have something LIFE CHANGING in here. So of course I had to read it.

The beginning of the book didn’t disappoint me (my personal opinion is going to be part of something I explain later on, hence the constant repetition of this fact). All I could think at the time was, “Whoa. WHOA. GUYS. OHMYGOD WHOA.” This lasted until halfway into the book, when my pure and utter entrancement with her writing style gave way to the reviewer in me who watches for every little slip up a YA author can make. Mafi made a HUGE one, one that I’ve discussed before with fire–and now have to discuss again. But anyways, after that, I couldn’t get back into her writing style. I started to evaluate it clinically, and reading reviews on Goodreads made it clear to me why this book–this amazingly written awesomeness that wowed me into submission–is struggling to hold a 4 star rating.

Mafi’s writing style doesn’t belong on a YA shelf.

Okay, that sounds harsh on both her and YA readership, but in general that fact is true. I hate to bring back up Twilight but–whatever you think of the book–you have to agree that the writing style there is ridiculously simple. And it’s a worldwide phenomenon. Those two things are related. YA readers read YA because they don’t want to be bogged down in the complex, fantastical sentences that run amuck in, say, literary fantasy. One thing I’ve always heard said about writing YA is keep it to the point.

Halfway through the book, I remarked to my also writer boyfriend that I wanted to write down every one of her unique descriptors to steal for my own, but that would mean paraphrasing the whole book. It was upsetting to realize that that’s not a good thing. Shatter Me caught all this attention from ADULTS. Adults who read YA all the time and are just begging for something as refreshingly different as Mafi’s. Personally, as a writer myself, I would like to worship the pages her writing style waltzes over. But the typical young adult browsing the shelves that Shatter Me sits on just don’t have the patience for the way it’s written, and that makes me sad.

But now you are wondering, why is the book given four stars here? Why not five, if I love it so much? It’s because halfway through the book, Mafi violated one of the worst clichés every in YA literature, and I cannot forgive her for it.

Uh oh. I think I am going to rant after all.

Romance is one of the biggest things in YA books. Doesn’t matter what the genre, it is ALWAYS THERE. I don’t mind this; sometimes I even quite enjoy it. But I am still at a loss as to why adults think that 99% of females see some hot guy and instantly fall eternally in love with him. And you know? I’d be fine with it sometimes, because some girls are over dramatic, but ALL THE TIME? And WORSE, when the guy is also instantly like, “You are mine forever.” PEOPLE. SERIOUSLY. STOP. I literally can’t take it anymore. Shatter Me was one of the worst offenders of this I’ve seen in a long time. Juliette and Adam haven’t seen each other in THREE YEARS, since the NINTH GRADE, and they’re professing their eternal love for each other within five seconds, and it includes several speeches about how the other embodies all the strength, beauty and/or goodness that the speaker thought was no longer left in the world. Someone shoot me.

Granted, Mafi’s writing style has already given Shatter Me a otherworldly, unreal feel to it, so I would have honestly been willing to accept a little bit of that. But…the way they talk to each other? No. Nonono. I’ve had a boyfriend for eight months, and I STILL wouldn’t tell him, as he was dying, “You have to get better so I can memorize every inch of your body with my lips” (or at least that’s the general sense of the quote). Just…no.

You know what’s worse? I honestly don’t know what to think of this book. The thing between Adam and Juliette burns me something fierce, and sometimes I want to give it three stars. I won’t give it any less because of the way Mafi writes, and sometimes because of that I want to give it more. Sometimes, for brief moments, I can forgive Adam and Juliette because their love just adds to the overall exaggerated tone of the book. I just…honestly don’t know what to do with Shatter Me. I fell in love with Mafi, but I came to dislike the book. I didn’t know that HAPPENED. Half the reason I am so angry with it is because I love it just as much as I hate it and I can’t freaking pick a side. I will certainly be picking up the sequel because I can’t NOT, but I am going to send out this one wish: Please let Mafi write a book worth her. She could do SO MUCH and have writing that just blows the mind but…that’s all wasted on Shatter Me and it’s audience.