Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The First Day of the Rest of Your Life

If you've read your share of YA novels, you've probably noticed just how many start on or around the first day of school. Probably the most obvious reason for this trend is that lots of stuff can HAPPEN on the first day of school. Some people were gone having adventures over the summer, some might have been working--earning money for cars or college, and usually there's one or two people touched over summer break by the Puberty Fairy (in so many good OR bad ways). 

Everyone brings their summer baggage with them to the first day of school, and it mixes with the usual back-to-school mood engulfing each student--whether they're excited to be there, dread every moment from September to June, or don't seem to care if they're sleeping in class or at home. 

This is a natural point for authors to maybe...bring in the sexy mysterious new guy. Give the main character an exceptionally bad day. Or perhaps have an alien horde attack the school. The possibilities are endless! 

I started the first book I wrote (now in a drawer gathering dust) on the LAST day of school. Coincidence that it will never see the light of day again, let alone ever get published? Probably. But one piece of advice I've heard repeated at almost every writer's conference: Start your book on the day everything changes. 

You can't argue with a good device when it works!

Emily Hainsworth is the author of THROUGH TO YOU, (Fall 2012 Balzer+Bray / HarperCollins), a sci-fi novel about a seventeen-year-old boygrieving for his dead girlfriend until he discovers she's still alive in a parallel reality--one where he's the one who died. For more information, visit her website.


  1. oooo, that IS great advice - "Start your book on the day everything changes." Love it. And yeah, the first day of school is a natural starting point--so many new things and everyone thrown back together again after various individual adventures, it's just ripe for drama!

  2. Thanks, Heather! Yeah, I've heard that advice from a few different places now. It does seem pretty spot on! :)