How to Write a YA novel, the Jeff Ross way

I think I'll make this an on-going post. In fact I'm considering making some videos, but then you'd have to stare at me as you received my wayward advice. Though you might also do what I do when I 'watch' writerly videos and cruise other sites at the same time.


Point the first: There's no one way to write a novel.
Sorry, maybe you thought I was going to give you the secrets. I don't have the secrets, because there are no secrets.
I think some authors get into a groove and do it the same every time. As in, they plan or don't plan. They work from 4am-10am every day, weekends off. They begin at the beginning and end at the end.
Then there are the rest of us.
Here are two ways I have written books lately. The first, a  new novel, due out Fall 2016, I wrote in a couple of days. It's short (for the Orca Soundings series), which doesn't mean it's any easier. Just that there's less typing involved. I wrote for 6 hours one day and 5 the next and amassed 16,000 words. I let it sit for a week, went back, spent another few hours on it, added 3,000 words, deleted 2,000, and set it aside for two days. Then I read through it, felt good about it, and sent it in. Now I haven't received an edit yet, so who knows, it could have all fallen apart, but it didn't feel like it. Not at the time anyway. I had planned each chapter before writing.  I had the characters down. The ideas.
It's about skateboarding so I was excited to work on it. I always knew what was going to happen next so, with absolutely no surprises, I could spend more written steam on describing 50-50 grinds and kickflips to those who have no clue what those things are.

Now, compare and contrast.
Back in late 2013 I had this idea for a book about a car going through the ice on the St. Lawrence River. I had no idea why this was happening, but there it was. It was a scary vision to say the least. It kind of haunted my dreams now and then. I stuck that scene in a couple of different books, but it never really worked. It needed to be the INCITING INCIDENT (more on this in the future). 
So, I began working on a book where one night 3 teens lives are forever changed on the St. Lawrence River. Where everyone makes good and bad decisions and then the cost of these decisions drives the rest of the novel.
I worked on this for a good 6 months, then edited it and gave it to my wife to read. She liked it (she doesn't always, just saying) but didn't like the ending.
Neither did I. It got weird. It went all over the place. It was like the end of Mulholland Drive. Actually, it was like all of Mulholland Drive in that it made NO SENSE.
But I had a new idea already. A new book I had already begun. So I kept working on that one and those three teens just disappeared into the past.
Since then I have written 5 other novels. FIVE. Some short, some longer. Then, as I was about to begin yet another project, I noticed the file called YA St. Lawrence  and wondered what the hell that was.
I opened the file and found this book. Immediately I saw it was not just the ending which was the problem, it was that the whole narrative voice was flat. It was all in third person, following each of the three teens. All three of them ended up alone. I decided to change a couple of things. First, they needed more friends. They needed to be with people. To talk. To live. And two, two of the characters needed to talk right to the reader.  They needed their own voices.
So now, over a year after I'd set it aside for 'a bit', I'm more than half done a re-write of what is feeling like a good YA crime novel. I love writing crime and will continue to do so. But the crime needs to be set in a moral question, and this novel has a lot of moral questions. To the point where, as I'm reading, I consider what I would do myself. Which I hope future readers will do as well.

So, there's no one way to write a novel. In fact, it seems as though I've done things a little differently with all 9 of my published (or soon to be published) novels, never mind those 11 or so that languish in a digital drawer. How you do it is how you do it, and that totally depends on the book you're writing. I hate to sound artsy, but the book sometimes demands you to work in a particular way. As long as it ends up in a way you like, who cares?