This spring and summer I rewrote a YA novel that I started 10 years ago. Just going back to an older piece of work was an adventure in embarrassment and wondering what the hell I was thinking. And, to add to my whole I-want-to-hide-under-my-bed-forever feeling, one early reader pointed out all of the typos, stupid phrases and character flaws — including the many ways in which the main character wasn’t engaging.
To that reader I am forever grateful, and should the book ever see print, he will be properly acknowledged. Every writer should be so lucky as to have a reader who cares and takes the time that this guy did. Criticism — especially thoughtful, sensitive, constructive criticism, as I received — is a gift. But sometimes even the squirmy, mean kind of criticism is key to growth.
So my character grew. She got tougher and sassier. She got a point of view and a better wardrobe. And, at the book’s conclusion, I even dared to gaze four years into her future and see who she’d be not as a high school kid but as a college grad about to start her own life. I found that I liked her then. I liked how who she had been set up the groundwork for who she’d become.
This week, while reading through blog coverage of New York Fashion Week (something my fashion-savvy character would no doubt be into), I came across one of those “what I wore” features where fashion industry people show off their insanely expensive and often uncomfortable-looking ensembles for going to the shows. Among them was this picture of Naomi Nevitt, a shopping and market director. “I love riding the subway between shows, listening to punk music at full blast to decompress a bit, always trying to remember to be myself amongst the chaos.” See the whole slideshow here — Naomi comes in at slide 38.
I just knew that my character would think the same thing, five or ten years from where I left her at the end of the novel. She’s be cool like that. Stylish, but on her own terms, and with her teenage rebellious edge in tact. And she’d be like, screw heels, I’m wearing these giant creepers.