Monday, February 9, 2009

Young Adult

Let me start by saying this: I'm glad high school is over. I was fairly lucky - I got good grades, I was able to play sports, and I had a fair amount of friends, but I still had a handful of people who made it their life's mission to make my life a living hell. As I went to boarding school, they had plenty of time to plan their attacks.

I've moved past that time in my life, but something about that time in my life has continued to draw me in. The feeling like no one else understands you, that no one has ever experienced what you're going through, the first blush of new love... I still get swept up in those stories. I'm drawn to movies about teenagers and recently the latest round of teen tv shows have sucked me in.

I always figured it was just me refusing to grow up, but as I've learned more about writing and written more myself, I'm beginning to think there's something more. The novel I started for NaNoWriMo has three points of view: two adults and one teenager, Becca. The story revolves around something that happens to Becca and addresses how it affects all of them, but while I was writing I found myself wanting to focus on her, to keep telling the story from her point of view.

I'm not so dense that I didn't question whether the story should only be told from Becca's perspective, but at the time I decided to keep going as I wrote it. I still wasn't sure how a few plot points would work out and figured it would be resolved through Becca's father's POV. I set the story aside at the end of November and returned to my current MS, but the nano novel has stayed in the back of my mind.

Enter the Twilight series. I really enjoyed the books and caught myself noticing similarities to how Bella and Edward's relationship plays out and how mine does. (I swear Becca's name wasn't based on Bella's...) Not the plot, just little interactions between the characters, things they do, that sort of thing. That was the first time I realized that maybe I was on to something here.

I've mentioned my curiosity about writing young adult (YA) to a couple friends, and they've said they think my voice lends itself to YA. Of course that made me question my level of maturity, but who am I kidding? I always say I don't feel like an adult, so who better to write for teens?

Then I read this post by agent Kristin Nelson. She talks about how she feels she stumbled into representing YA and how her husband wasn't at all surprised by the decision. It's given me a fresh perspective on the thoughts bouncing around in my head. I know my current wip is not YA, even though the MC is 19 years old, but I don't think I want to settle on one genre, not yet.

What about you? How have you found your genres?

29 comments:

Lauren said...

I've always been a fantasy reader so that is what I write. That being said, I have an idea for a middle-grade fantasy, but I am going to write that for my nieces and might not try to worry with getting it published.

Jenna said...

You know how I've struggled with this big time and I still do. Whenever I get stuck I inevitably turn back to old WIPs and get sucked into a story that is completely different than the one I'm trying to finish.

I'm all over the map--women's fiction, YA, and stuff that I can't nail down. It's so hard and knowing that agent's don't want genre-hopping writers makes it harder because I know I should be narrowing my focus at some point.

But that said, I do think you have to explore different writing styles, voice and genres to really find your perfect niche.

Janna Qualman said...

You've expressed yourself very well here, and I identify with all those things from one's teenage past that still feel so rooted to today. I think you and I are a lot alike in that way.

And I think it's fantastic you're assessing yourself this way, perhaps winding toward the writing home you're meant for. That said, it doesn't have to be a concise decision right.now., or one you feel like you'll be stuck in, but it's exciting you're finding your way. Good luck!

Melanie Avila said...

Lauren, I've never read YA before Twilight, that's why I'm a little surprised to find myself leaning that way.

Melanie Avila said...

Jenna, yes, I know exactly how you feel. Along with YA, I also want to write something humorous.

*shakes head*

I do agree about exploring writing styles. It's too early in my "career" to be worry about narrowing it down right now.

Melanie Avila said...

Thanks Janna. :)

spyscribbler said...

I struggle with it every day! I don't know what I'll write. That's what this year is about: I'm going to write five or six novels in different genres, and see which one "catches."

I love the passion of love at that age. It's so pure and full of angst!

Melanie Avila said...

Spy, I still can't believe you're going to write six of seven novels as an experiment.

spyscribbler said...

Five or six! Five or six! And I'm secretly hoping the first one will catch so that I don't need all that experimentation, LOL! :-)

Turkey Lurkey said...

Write the stuff you enjoy, submit and see what happens. :) (Aren't I helpful?)

I love the quote used in "Bird by Bird." Writing is like driving a car at night with the headlights on. You can't see whats far ahead. Just the stuff directly in front of you. I've learned to just take a back seat to my brain and type what comes to mind. If it turns out to be YA, great! If it is Adult, super! If it is an instruction manual on how to program a 1978 digital thermostat, even better! (Because I really need to figure out how to program mine!) ;)

Melanie Avila said...

Spy, well that sounds much more reasonable. :)

Melanie Avila said...

Turkey, LOL! But that is a very good point. I'm really not over-thinking this - I just wanted to share what I'm thinking.

Laurie said...

A bit random, but this post and previous ones asking for good reading recos made me think you might like the book "Prep." It's a couple of years old but REALLY good. Though I did not go to prep school myself, a lot of the teenage voice really hit home for me. Just thought you'd be interested :)

Melanie Avila said...

Laurie, that's funny because I was this close to buying Prep on a couple different occasions. I know the author wrote something else I was interested in as well, but my mind is a complete blank right now.

Thanks for the recommendation!

Donna said...

Writing YA has nothing to do with maturity level (I think . . . OMG Shaun the Sheeeeeeeeeep!!!) but just, really, the style of writing.

I write YA, much to my insane surprise. I knew I was fighting something writing my first book and once I succumbed, it all flowed and then I realized, wait a minute . . . this is YA.

Then I started reading. And yes, it's is YA and I love writing for it. I just love YA voices.

I'd recommend wandering into the YA section of your local bookstore (no shame, hold your head high! I do but then I'm not that tall) and start browsing. Read more of the genre (beyond Twilight and its wankery) and and see just what makes YA YA.

What really helps is to browse YA book blogs, especially blogs by teens, to get a sense of what they're reading and what they like. But keep writing and just listen to the voice. You might find out that Becca isn't really 19 but maybe 16. And 19 isn't beyond the scope of YA. It's still on the high side but still can be technically YA.

Melanie Avila said...

Welcome Donna, thanks for your input!

I am thinking I want to read more YA, but I don't really have any options for that right now. There aren't any bookstores here beyond the expensive airport (and the selection there is limited), the only library is all Spanish, and we can't afford to have books shipped. So... for now, I daydream. :)

I know my MC in my incomplete wip could fall into YA - she's only 17 and it's definitely told from a teenage perspective. My current wip, The Other Side, is the 19yo, but he's NOT YA. :)

colbymarshall said...

I tried to venture into a new genre (thriller) recently, but what I found was that I just wanted to go back to writing women's. It comes way easier to me. It's not to say I'd never want to write another genre again, just that I enjoy women's way more.

Melanie Avila said...

Oh yeah, and I'm not ashamed!

Melanie Avila said...

Colby, so that's one genre you can cross off your list, eh?

Janet said...

Well, if this one sells, I'm a fantasy writer. If it doesn't, something else. ;o)

Zoe Winters said...

I found paranormal romance through being a big psycho buffy fan. Was big into fanfic and then found paranormal romance through my association with the Buffy fandom.

And Erotica, well how I found that genre is probably TMI haha, so I will just let that one be a secret. (I'm not sure there is an "innocent" way to find erotica)

gypsyscarlett said...

Hey Melanie,

I firmly believe one should listen to their instincts. If some little voice in your head is telling you to try YA- go for it.

If you're not sure that is a genre you'd want to stay in while building your writing career, you could always use a different pen name for it.

Melanie Avila said...

Janet, I like the way you think.

Melanie Avila said...

Zoe, LOL! I think I can imagine...

Melanie Avila said...

Gypsy, I've had that in the back of my head, especially since I "know" a couple writers who already do that. I'm figure I'll worry about it when I ever get to the point that I'm actually looking at publishing contracts.

Nadine said...

I don't think I have found my genre yet - I have three books and they are all different genres.

I have thought about writing YA, only cause I feel 12 a lot of the time, lol. My sixteen year old neighbor called me an Adult this weekend. It made me do a double take, lol.

Melanie Avila said...

I don't feel like an adult either...

My 15yo niece just labeled me one of her top friends on facebook, so I think that proves I'm not very mature. :P

Michaeleen said...

What about Judy Blume? She wrote YA but was actually a very good writer and pretty insightful too.

Melanie Avila said...

Mike, that's an excellent point. So I just need to publish twenty books in one genre, then I can branch out. ;) But seriously, she writes very well for both age groups.