Sunday, April 4, 2010


Since I have not been able to sell my last two picture books I’ve decided to bite the bullet and delve back into YA. Why not?
I’m fifty pages in, and every time I get stuck I ask, “why not?” We are so conditioned (at least I am, as my students can confirm) to ask “why.” One of the reasons I’ve been avoiding another novel is because I’ve felt that the field was becoming full of shoulds. It should be about vampires. It should be a potential series. It should use modern technology. I have certainly asked why of all these and more, and then hid under my bed cowering in fear (along with many of my colleagues and peers).

Asking “why” implies that something is not working, someone doesn’t understand what you are trying to say, right? Asking “why not” implies that you have an idea, maybe a wacky, bizarre, crazy idea, but you might as well try it.

For example:
WHY NOT have a trainjack in a contemporary novel?
WHY NOT kill off some important people? (and I don’t mean kill as in take them out)
WHY NOT have your character join a circus?
WHY NOT put her in serious danger around every corner?

I mean, if it doesn’t work after the first draft so what? Then you can ask the annoying “why” questions and fix it. (I still believe at some point “why” is necessary, so, dear students, don’t think you’re off the hook.)

Try it. Why not? Or as I prefer, Why The %&#! Not?
You might find it incredibly freeing.


  1. Great advice--Maybe you should design the next Hamline Low Residency t-shirt with one of your bunnies shouting, "Why the %&#! Not?"

  2. Cool. I'm going to try this. I have lots of why's keeping from writing so I'll turn them into why nots and see what works. Thanks for the tip.
    **and the technology thing is hard to keep up with. The movie playing sunglasses I hoped to add to my book have already been featured as "cool" on Operah. On the other hand, it's really how the technology is used that makes the story not the other way around. I mean the book isn't an ad, right?