I have a confession to make.
It’s not a pretty one. You may even wrinkle your nose and shake your head at me as you’re reading this. But it’s okay, you can judge me. I certainly deserve it.
Okay, here it is…the truth…
The current manuscript of Canary that landed me an agent is nothing like the version I started to submit to agents. I sent out what I like to call my PG version of my story last year. It was full of the stuff that Disney movies are made of. It was something you’d see on the Family Channel.
My new version, however, is entirely different. It might not be shown on network TV before ten p.m., it may require a parent’s permission at the theater if you’re under the age of thirteen, and it may even stir up a little controversy and make parent groups angry (well, hopefully just the groups that don’t open the book and give it a chance).
And you know what, this is the version that I love.
You see, when I started writing the book about two years ago, I thought too much about what adults who read the book might say. I held back with my writing and the story. I restrained my character and wasn’t true to my vision or her actions. That’s a dangerous path to walk on, because in a sense, I was censoring my story. I was cheating my characters, my voice and most importantly, my readers.
I was lucky, though. I had an awesome reader who realized that the story I was telling was deeper than what was on the paper. She saw that there was more going on with Kate, and she pushed me to explore what it was. I worked all summer long on revising the book (yay for being a teacher and having the summer!). Those weeks were hard because my main character Kate took me to some dark places. I stuck right beside her, though, and worked through her pain so she was able to triumph in the end.
What I need to realize was that I wasn’t writing my book for the critics, I was writing my book for the teen readers, and I’m embarrassed to think about how I was one of those potential “critics” who may not believe my readers could handle the truth.
There’s something to be said for telling the truth in writing and not shying away from tough topics. Bad things happen in life. It’s pointless to create a world where everything is butterflies and rainbows (although if there’s a unicorn in this world, I may love it!). Some of my favorite books deal with very tough issues, and I love the books because they do show life.
I may end up with critics or people who don’t like how truthful I may be, but I don’t care, because I want to tell Kate’s story best story that you can. I may have been silent about a lot of things in my first draft, but now I can say with confidence that Kate is truly getting her story told now in Canary.
What do you think? Is it important to be truthful? What are some downfalls to this type of writing? What books do you feel follow this philosophy?