Back in August, YA writer Joëlle Anthony compiled a pretty comprehensive, interesting list of things that are overused in young adult/children’s literature. I’d seen it before, but I came across it again today after it was linked from another blog, and I, of course, did what anybody with an unpublished YA manuscript would do: I counted up how many of these YA clichés my story contained.
I am guilty of:
- #12: A dead mother (not a focus of the narrative, but a fact in the life of a character)
- # 8: The diary, either as the entire format, or the occasional entry (only a few entries, very brief, necessary to the mystery plot)
- # 5: Raising one eyebrow (I probably did this. It’s a fave of mine because I wish I could do it but woefully cannot. I couldn’t tell you where I used it in the MS, but it’s probably in there.)
That’s it! No oppressed vegetarians, no wannabe artist or writer characters, no saying “‘rents”, no fuddy-duddy names (though I guess that’s debatable), no genius younger siblings, no She’s All That rip-off plots, and most of all no red hair. Most of my characters have brown hair, with the exception of one protagonist whose hair is blonde. Large scale avoidance of these clichés, of course, is no guarantee that an editor will be interested in my manuscript, but at least I won’t be falling into traps that might mean auto-reject. That I know of.
Oh, and a quick progress report: My revised MS is back with my agent, who downloaded it onto a Sony Reader and is taking it, digitally, to the London Book Fair with her. Even though I sort of want a Kindle for the tech geek in me, I actually don’t think I’d use it ever, but these digital readers must be such a relief to agents and editors who used to have to carry around tons of pages wherever they went.