Monday, October 10, 2011

Writing for teens and young adults...

I am 22yrs old and even I am at a loss on how to approach this subject! The YA genre is booming right now and like many writers out there, I want to jump on this train while it is still rolling! Twilight, Harry Potter, Eragon and Hunger Games are all extremely successful YA novels. So how can you break into the YA niche and what does it take to become a successful YA novelist? 

I wish I could tell you. 

You see, as a teenager, I never read books in the YA section. Not once. Whenever I went into a bookstore and wandered into that section,  I almost always saw a majority of 11-14yr olds perusing the shelves. No self-respecting 16yr old is going to shop where the "kids" go to read their books! Although YA is supposed to target 13-18yr olds, tweens are usually the dominant consumers. High school students want something more sophisticated to read and college students, pffft! If they have time to read at all, they're not going to go into the "kiddy" or "young adult" section of the store! So there's my dilemma! I feel I am "too old" to go into the YA section of the store but I wish there were books that targeted my specific age group. I'm so tired of the "16yr old protagonist." I want to read about 21yr olds. 

I am currently writing a YA novel...but I want my target demographic to cover 17-22yr olds. I want to write about violence and sex without traumatizing my audience. 

I used to think all YA novels were Christian-themed girl scout stories about HOW YOUR BODY IS CHANGING and such, haha! Reading Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins completely changed how I view YA. In fact, Hunger Games is what inspired me to write YA in the first place! I've heard about "Edgy YA" but I don't know how well they sell... 

I don't know. I'm still mulling it over. I want to get in on the YA craze but I don't want to market myself to bubblegum teeny boppers. 

What do you think of the YA genre and what do you think is appropriate subject matter for YA?  


J.A. Beard said...

YA writing is less about subject matter and more about perspective. In that sense, I don't really think there's any true restriction on what you can write.

Even something as mainstream and commercial successful as Harry Potter, while not exactly super-gritty or graphic, is still a story that starts out as MG where nobody but bad guys died then progressed into YA where the bad guys are killing good people left and right, torturing people, et cetera.

Sex is all over the place in older YA in a variety of context. Death. Religion.

This isn't just even an age thing in my opinion, but even having the narrative reflect more the adolescent view point. Sure, everybody says "I was smart/aware/different from my age", but people do think differently as adults.

With that in mind, sex, violence, or whatever can be addressed.

I mean YA is everything from wish-fulfillment stories about supernatural boyfriends to things like Speak, which is a very dramatic book dealing with the aftermath of a rape.

BTW, what you're describing 'older YA' is sometimes referred to as 'new adult'. I'm beginning to wonder if in 10 years or so, it will be its own actual category because there is that whole age bracket where people, particularly with college-types, where you don't have the full responsibilities/goals/mindset of mainstream adulthood, but you're past the dependency that accompanies being younger.

The main 'hole' I've seen in YA subject matter is LGBT stuff. There's so much different reports and controversy swirling around the topic that it's hard to tell how much of it is publisher prejudice, crass economics dictated on perceived read throughput, people not thinking to write them, et cetera. Probably a combination of the three. It also might be a reflection of the fact that a lot of LGBT-types stay in the closet during that period of life. Dunno.

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