Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Deciding Whether to Write YA, NA, or Adult Books

*I use Grammarly's plagiarism checker because ‘imitation is the best form of flattery’ is not always true! Don’t be a copycat!*

Someone recently mentioned to me that they noticed I’ve written books for young adults, new adults, and adults, and asked how I decide which age range to write for.

It wasn’t easy to come up with an answer, because I don’t really choose the characters’ ages - they kind of tell me how old they are, and I just go with it.

When I wrote my debut novel, Blue Sky Days, it was adult romance. The characters were in their twenties, and it seemed right at the time. When I dug the book out years later and decided to publish it, I’d recently become a book blogger and had discovered the amazing world of young adult books, so when I was rewriting Blue Sky Days, I changed the characters’ ages to make them in their late teens and early twenties. I considered it YA because Emma, my main character, is 19. New adult hadn’t become the phenomenon it is now, so I categorized it as ‘upper YA’.

When I wrote my second novel, The Game Changer, the subject matter worked better with older characters, so I made my main character, Melody, the same age I was at the time I wrote it - 28. After writing Blue Sky Days, I thought I’d stick with young adult for the rest of my career, but then I realized part of the beauty of being self-published is that I can write whatever I want, so when the idea for The Game Changer came to me I ran with it. Even though I consider it women’s fiction, I’ve seen a lot of reviewers categorize it as new adult, which I suppose it could be since Melody is going through huge changes in her life and learning a lot about herself, which is one of the greatest things about new adult books, in my opinion.

For my third novel, Waiting for the Storm, I knew Charlotte, my main character, would be a teenager. She came into my mind fully-formed as a seventeen-year-old girl who had just finished high school. It’s another book that falls somewhere in between YA and NA with reviewers, because Charlotte’s a teen, but she’s finished high school and is trying to figure out what to do with her life. I couldn’t have imagined her any other age, though, and I don’t think the story would have worked if she’d been younger or older.

And finally, for my upcoming holiday novella, The Most Wonderful Time of the Year, my main character, Ginny, is twenty. Why? To a non-writer it probably sounds ridiculous for me to say ‘because she told me so’ but that’s basically how it went. I knew she’d been seventeen when her Grama died and that was three years ago, so that made her twenty at the time of the story. This one falls into the category of new adult, but I think it will appeal to fans of YA and women’s fiction, too. Ginny’s had to grow up fast in the last three years to get ready to take over her Grama’s business, but over the course of the story she learns to have fun in a way she hasn’t since her Grama died, and I think - and hope - that will appeal to people of all ages, especially when you throw in the magical Christmastime feeling that permeates the whole book.

As you can see, there’s no real rhyme or reason to how I choose my characters’ ages. I go with what feels right for each story, whether that makes the main character a young teen, an upper teen, a twenty-something, or older. I have story ideas in mind with characters who range in age from sixteen to thirty. I love having a wide age range of characters - it keeps me on my toes!

If you're a writer, how do you decide on your characters ages? As a reader, do you only read about certain age groups?


1 comment:

  1. Sometimes they tell me and sometimes I have to look at what their story is about and I have to figure it out from there. As you know, my upcoming novel started as a YA novel but when I re-wrote it this summer one of the biggest changes it went through was becoming an NA book. This has allowed me to develop some of the themes I wanted for the book in ways that I would not have felt comfortable with if I had kept the characters younger. I also feel that the characters' ages, and what's going on in their lives in my new version is more plausible and believable for the plot and the world I have chosen.

    One of the biggest challenges I know I face with my Sealer Saga is that I have various characters of different *actual* ages, and that they can be at very different stages of maturity despite this. For some characters, like Sarena and Kesyl from SP, I've got it a bit easier because they have (at least *mostly* in Kesyl's case) grown up in real time, in a 'living world'.

    Other characters, especially some of the older Sealers (for anyone not familiar with my book thing 're-imagined Greek Gods') can behave very differently depending on the situation. Their actual *age* does not always play a leading factor. Zakariah is 1,000+ years old but he has never experienced actually being alive. He has spent his whole life in the Underworld, which is a 'divine' realm where time moves differently. Meanwhile Kyden (10,000 years old) and Avish (1,200 years old) both speak, act and think like guys in their mid and early twenties, respectively.

    I think the biggest challenge, for me, is that NA speculative fiction (fantasy, sci-fi, paranormal, etc.) has not had nearly as many books released for it as contemporary romance has. Figuring out all of the rules for my genre within the context of what NA is (basically making sure there's a REASON my books are NA, rather than just trying to cash in on it) is something I gave a lot of thought to before I re-wrote my novel, and which I'm paying a great deal of attention to now that I'm (finally!) at the editing stage. College life doesn't get to be the star in my book, even though Hycanth House is a small, privately owned college. But the way that Kesyl and Sarena's relationship develops, the way they deal with problems (and the problems they deal without outside of the book's main premise) etc. were all things that required a lot of work to be 'right'.

    I will close by saying that I totally agree with you about the benefit of being self published being that we are not required or obligated to write the same genre, or for the same age group. While my focus will likely remain on the Sealer Saga for the foreseeable future (I'm *so* anxious to write Lucian's anthology, Sealed With A Kiss!) I also have ideas for a YA super villain novella, an NA contemporary romance and a set of dark, steampunk fairytales. The challenge isn't finding *something* to write, but rather deciding what to write next. I'll take that over the alternative. :D