Thursday, 21 February 2013

Some Things I've Learned So Far (PART ONE)

This is the first part of a 3 part series entitled: SOME THINGS I'VE LEARNED SO FAR.

Today's post is about: CLIFFHANGERS

I've been navigating the BIG and SCARY publishing world for almost a year now. Hate to break it to anyone, but after a year it's still BIG and SCARY. But I've (hopefully) learned a few things along the way. My 1st draft of my manuscript is almost complete (!) and I'm ecstatically ploughing on to get to the revision stage. I've immensely enjoyed writing my first draft, and stalking authors/agents online and generally sharing my love of YA with anyone who will listen.

The thing is... there's a lot of conflicting information available to aspiring writers out there. For instance:

RULE #1: EVERYONE HATES CLIFFHANGERS AND WILL HATE YOU IF YOU WRITE ONE SO DON'T WRITE ONE EVER.

I hear this one a lot. A lot of readers abhor cliffhangers. But even before I was reading from an aspiring author's perspective, I didn't hate cliffhangers. Sure, they're often infuriating, but in a good way! I love finishing a book entirely breathless. But this advice is touted like a law. NEVER write a cliffhanger. But is it ignored by successful writers? Let's take a look:

-Lauren Oliver's DELIRIUM (a spectacular book that I JUST read, review soon!) ends on a pretty epic cliffhanger. It's also a Kirkus-reviewed NYT bestseller that's becoming a television series on FOX. So go figure.
-Marissa Meyer's CINDER also ends with a cliffhanger. It's another NYT bestseller whose movie rights are being shopped.
-James Dashner's THE MAZE RUNNER also ends of a cliffhanger. It's a fabulous book and casting for the film adaptation has begun.

Solution? There are clearly varying degrees to cliffhangers. YA author Erin Bowman wrote a pretty awesome article on Publishing Crawl that deals with the concept of 'soft' and 'hard' cliffhangers. For the most part, I totally agree with her. Everything she says makes sense. You can end on a cliffhanger IF you resolve a lot of the questions your book asks. 'Hard' cliffhangers, those which ROCK YOUR (fictional) WORLD, should be avoided. This is where the confusion comes into play, because I'd say that the three bestselling books mentioned above (and many more) all end on HARD cliffhangers. I guess it depends on the book, your agent, your editor and a lot of other factors, none of which are entirely clear.

So what should aspiring authors take from all of this? Well... it's up to you. Best advice ever, I know. But really, I firmly believe in writing what's best for your story. If you end on a 'hard' cliffhanger, but it's what your story called for, then do it! A lot of agents believe in the 'write YOUR story, YOUR way' mantra, so I'm sticking to what I think my story needs, and trying not to nitpick myself into irreversible self-doubt based on arbitrary rules.

And you should too!

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