Tag Archives: publishing

My Problems with “New Adult” Genre

readingWikipedia describes “New Adult” as “a developing genre of fiction with protagonists in the 18-25 age bracket. The term was first coined by St. Martin’s Press in 2009 when they held a special call for “…fiction similar to YA that can be published and marketed as adult—a sort of an ‘older YA’ or ‘new adult’.”

Without going into a long rant about this emerging genre (and whether it’s really necessary or just a marketing fad), I can’t help noticing that yet another genre is defined through the age of its protagonists. While it’s understandable that a book for kids may have an eight year old protagonist, I simply don’t buy the whole age of readers = age of characters (or the good old YA rule: “your characters should be a few years older than the target audience because the kids read up”). In a way, I understand why this is happening, but I think it’s very limiting. After all, you can have a very adult book with a 5 year old protagonist. Also, as much as teens (or readers in general) like to read about characters who are “like them” I do not buy the idea that readers are so narcissistic to only want to read about characters who are in the same position as them. If we go this road it can easily slip into a belief that readers want only to read about people who share their gender, race, ethnic group, sexual orientation… see where I’m going with this?

The problem with YA and New Adult genres is a different one, but it still operates under the assumption – a false one, I’d say – that readers only want to read about themselves. The whole publishing world and marketing operates under this idea, and it drives the industry. So it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

There is also another problem when it comes to the New Adult genre. On the surface, it basically deals with protagonists of a certain age and common issues in this age group. The thing is, some of the issues such as sexuality, identity, finding your place in the world – they are all common in the teen/Young Adult group, too. Perhaps not in the same way, but they are present. I have a feeling the emerging new genre only makes a sharp difference at the arbitrary line that is 18th birthday/high school graduation. While it’s true many people’s lives change after high school, it is a transition and not a clear cut.

Having genres so clearly divided is  not productive because once you start thinking about the necessary age you need to give to your protagonists, and about the issues you can (and can’t) explore, it becomes limiting, and it is never a good thing with fiction. I admit, I understand the need that books for children should be limiting in this sense (if nothing else, because of your readers’ reading level) but I don’t see it for other genres, including Young Adult or New Adult.

In the basic sense, it is limiting because you can’t just have a book that will follow your protagonist from the age 14 to 20. If you want to market your book, you need to either make it YA (and stop at high school graduation) or a general book for adults – but in this case, the tone and voice of your novel must be different. Similarly, you can’t have a mixed group of characters aged 15 (your POV character) to 25. It just breaks the genre rules.

I am sure you can all name some successful books that easily break these rules. But it’s still true that rules exist for marketing reasons and these reasons are not always beneficial for writing itself. They are limiting without a reason. Because God forbid that a teenager might want to read about a character in her 20s.

Photo credit: © 2006-2013 Pink Sherbet Photography via photopin cc

The 7 Pillars of Writing

Writing process is individual, and what works for one person might be completely useless for somebody else. Still, here are some essential things most writers need to learn how to do (in their unique ways):

Reading

You can’t be a good writer if you don’t read. Read a lot, read good books, read bad books, read books of the kind you want to write. It’s more than just having fun: reading makes you understand what works and what doesn’t work in a novel.

Inspiration

Learn to recognize a story idea when it presents itself to you. This is one of the rare effortless moments (everything else is hard work), so learn to embrace it. When something seems inspiring, or when you start thinking about a plot idea or a dialogue, make sure to write it down.

Outlining

Outlining is expanding your idea, and it’s all down to your unique writing method. No two writers do it in the same way. There are plotters and pantsers. Plotters like to have every single thing planned before they sit to write the first draft. Pantsers start without an outline, but that doesn’t mean they work without one. For these people, a first draft serves as an outline. Whatever you do, you need to find a way to expand your initial idea into a coherent story. Since there are many different ways to do it, you need to find the one that works for you. The only way to know is to try and see what suits you.

Writing

This is the actual process of putting words on paper. Never (ever, ever) mistake an outline or a story you have in your head for the actual writing. If you want to be a writer, you need to WRITE. You need to put those words on paper (a real or electronic one, doesn’t matter) to produce a first draft. It’s not easy. Most of it will seem like rubbish, and a lot of it will be rubbish. You’ll experience frustration, inspiration, confusion and a writer’s block. It’s important to keep writing. If you have to, set a strict regime. For example, write two hours a day. No exceptions. You’ll write even when it’s the last thing you want to do, even when your words seem like the worst crap ever written. This is the only way to get it done with the first draft and the only way to practice your craft.

Revising

This is another big step. You need to learn how to turn that mess of a first draft into something that makes sense. Again, the revising process is highly individual, so you need to learn what works best for you. Some people start with identifying problems with the story. Others revise line by line. Some include Beta readers right from the start. The only seemingly universal thing about the revision is that you shouldn’t start it right away. You need to put your story aside for a while and get back to it later. All stories will need at least one revision, probably more. However, you also need to know when to stop revising. There’s no need to do a 14th revision of a story. At one point, you just have to let it go and move to your next story.

Sharing

You can’t write a good story without some constructive criticism (emphasis on constructive). This is what Beta readers are for. In a way, this step is part of the revising process. Some people prefer to share their material with Beta readers right from the start, while others choose to make the story as good as possible. Some even share the material in the process of writing the first draft, or even before, when they’re outlining or thinking about good solutions. Whatever you do, understand the importance of Beta readers (and other people who can help you). You need this feedback; no book exists without readers.

Publishing

Not all writers want to publish their work, but unless you’re writing diary or a story for yourself, chances are you’ll want people to read your story. There are many ways to bring it to the readers, from sharing it among your friends or publishing it on your blog to seeking a commercial publisher. Each of these methods require a different approach, so you need to know what you want for your story and you need to understand the rules of the game. If you wish to be published traditionally (or even if you want to self-publish), you will need to deal with the business side of writing. Many writers refuse to think about writing in commercial terms, but you need to understand how things work in order to choose the best path for you and your work.