The Edge Blog including: Miriam Halahmy, Dave Cousins,Bryony Pearce, Sara Grant and Paula Rawsthorne. They are all authors of 'edgy' books. As someone who has done a whole PhD on the ideas behind 'edgy' books I found myself very relieved when I was agreeing with everything they were saying. Maybe my research wasn't too far off the mark!
Firstly what is 'edgy' fiction? They suggested it would be issue driven and contentious, though they did point out that issues can differ from person to person. They also highlighted how if you were too passionate about trying to get a message about issues across you could lose sight of your story. This was a message that hit home for me. HAM AND JAM was the second novel for my PhD. The first had to be abandoned for exactly that reason. I was so busy trying to get sex, drugs and alcohol into the narrative I lost sight of any potential story. It was like walking through treacle. The story felt forced and contrived so was placed in a very deep bottom drawer after my Upgrade. Luckily, and eventually, the idea for HAM AND JAM appeared which was totally story driven.
The panel also suggested you have to be comfortable with what you are writing whilst also being willing to stand by what you have said if you are dealing with contentious issues.
The team came up with some excellent tips for writing for YAs including needing lots for the reader to connect with. It was also suggested that you should have a post it note near where you write just saying: 'Entertaining! Gripping! Thought Provoking! Engaging!' You need to ask yourself does my writing meet these requirements throughout. A good reminder. It was also suggested that you should treat each chapter as a scene with the idea you should 'jump into the middle of the scene and hit the ground running.' In other words, 'late in and early out'. Really good advice.
As someone who already has an elderly character, Finley McGinley, in my novel I was very pleased to here the panel say that YAs might drive the story but there is nothing stopping you having other adults in there. Phew! Another good tip was to be careful with slang, technology, films and music - what is contemporary and cutting edge now may have disappeared off the scene by the time your book is published. Go generic or make it up was the suggestion.
All in all it was a great panel and I now have a pile of books to read as at the time of the conference I had only read Miriam's excellent book HIDDEN but am now the proud owner of THE TRUTH ABOUT CELIA FROST, ANGEL'S FURY and DARK PARTIES with FIFTEEN DAYS WITHOUT A HEAD now on pre-order. I know what I will be reading over Christmas.
Now an aside, today I was taken totally by surprise, a very good friend presented me with a signed copy of his book which I have watched evolve with great delight over the past year and have had many discussions about. And yes, I confess, I am thrilled by it because it was so unexpected.Thank you AM
And now a bit of Norah Jones because it is Friday at the end of week 10 and I am very tired so the thought of going away somewhere sounds very appealing instead I have a weekend of marking planned.