I spent most of one day this week reading Goose Girl. I couldn't put it down and actually really liked it. As I finished though, I felt a bit, well, manipulated. Almost as if Shannon Hale had made a list of Ten Elements Contained, Whole Or In Part, in a Commercially Successful Young Adult Novel and then set out to ensure that her novel contained all ten elements.
2--Said protagonist (usually female) starts out a bit bookish/shy/clumsy/awkward/misfit/etc.
3--Protagonist is not necessarily beautiful, but there is SOMETHING about her and at the other end of puberty (which always ends at like age 17 with these girls, what is UP with that?) the something becomes beauty which draws all to her.
4--Princesses and Princes.
5--Falls in love unwittingly with the man she is already betrothed to
8--Physical hardship that stretches the protagonist beyond their normal comfort zone
9--Facing impossible odds to do some terribly brave task
10--Happily ever after with said Prince/love interest
Anyway, that aside, I believe the story had a lot of heart and although it was a little formulaic and predictable, there are other cool things. I love the talking to the wind bit. I always wanted the wind to swirl around me and take my hair like that. But to be able to control it! Goddess-like. Some of her descriptions are also quite beautiful and she has a very clever way of turning a phrase. I am sure I'll read her other books too.
Confession time. I've been working on my own fantasy novel since I was about 13, or earlier. Maybe, at least in my head, ever since I heard the story of the girl-warrior, Joan of Arc. Robin McKinley and Madeline L'Engle fanned the flames of my love for the fantasy story. My novel has really taken a life of its own in many ways: I feel these characters as close to me as family members. That probably sounds strange to some of you. Anyway, I began the draft in its current form 8 years ago. The problem is that lately my most complete portion of the book feels more like a middle part to a trilogy. (That should probably go on the list above as #11.) But after I read Hale's book, I can't help but think that my novel may have a chance after all. It is the kind of thing I would have devoured when I was a young teenager.
I've done some writing lately--blogging, letters, bits and pieces of stories--but to REALLY write, I need the kind of time I don't have. When I'm really novel-ing I need stretches of two hours or more at a time. My first half hour is just a warm-up to get me back in the mode of that particular story's tone and rhythm. I used to stay up late to do it, but my a.m. papers have taken that off the table.
Maybe I just need to suspend all housework for the next year.