Thursday, May 30, 2013

Evolving as a Writer

No question about it: Young adult fantasy fiction made me a writer. It drew me in, kept me hooked, and provided a much-needed escape from the angsty woes of middle and high school. Adding my voice to that particular genre seemed like the natural next step, and for about the last eight years, I assumed that I would be a YA writer forever. 

And then I grew up.

Now, that’s not to say that I don’t or won’t write YA or that I have stopped reading it. That’s definitely not the case. But lately I find myself wandering this strange borderland in my writing, wherein I want to use YA style choices and young characters, but I also want to talk about complex issues, adult situations, sex and sexuality, etc., and I want adults to read it, too. I’m certainly not underestimating teens’ ability to deal with that kind of subject matter, but when does a novel cross the line from being for teens to being for adults? That line seems blurry at best, and I’m constantly flirting with it.

There’s been a lot of talk lately about the emerging “New Adult” genre, and since no one seems completely sure what that is, maybe that’s where I am. However, much of the work dubbed NA seems to focus largely on college party culture and sexy times (with covers resembling Harlequin romances), which isn’t really what I’m trying to do. This conundrum is starting to worry me because I’m approaching the end of my current project’s first draft and have begun to wonder how I’ll label it when I query agents. 

“This light sci-fi novel is targeted toward-- um-- people, I guess.”

And all the agents go...

I’m coming to terms with the fact that my writing is constantly evolving and will probably continue to do so for the rest of my life. We all have to be open to whatever new creative ideas pop into our heads, even if they mark a departure from what we’ve produced in the past. All I know for certain is that I’m an SFF writer, and I doubt that will ever change-- but then again, who knows?

Has your writing evolved and changed over the years?


  1. New Adult seems to involve college-age and older individuals dealing with, as you mentioned, adult situations. As for me, I write for the middle grade audience. I finally reached that conclusion this year.

    My writing has evolved because I take it seriously now. I didn't in the past, which is why I wrote so many parodies of others stories. Now that I've taken it seriously, I find that I finish more novels.

  2. I can relate to this. I've always said that the reason I like the YA that I like is because it deals with real issues that I think should be discussed and thought about. When I think about writing YA, that is what I would want to talk about. I don't want to sugarcoat it; I want it to be raw and real. However, now that I've started studying English Education, I have a new perspective on the subject and it makes the line more difficult to approach.

    What will my target audience be able to handle? What will parents think is too far? What will they buy their kids/let their kids buy? What will be too risky for teachers to take to the school board? (and so on)

    These are things I can't answer so my solution is to just write what I think is right. I recall my own experiences as a teen and young(er) adult and try to think of what I wanted to read as well as what I should've read. I don't worry about trying to reach an adult audience at the same time because I researched the YA reader trends for my YA Lit class and discovered that the genre has an increasing adult audience anyway, one that has nothing to do with pre-reading for parental approval.

    As to whether or not my writing has evolved, it definitely has. I used to think I would never write non fiction and I thought memoirs were for the famous (and old). Now at just 24, I'm starting one. I wasn't sure if I would ever write literary adult fiction, but now I want to, and every time I see a predictable suspense/horror/mystery flick, I want to write one that's not so predictable. I think the more I experience, the more I want to dabble in. Sometimes I think I just want to do it all, but I haven't given up on my old YA dreams.

  3. I haven't really heard much about the New Adult kinds of novels so I can't really comment towards that but I think when labeling your work it should be okay to call it YA in the beginning and if it becomes an issue then try to change it? I assume there is a way to peddle slightly more mature YA novels, since it seems kind of a broad genre to begin with.

    I think as long as you feel it fits the tone of YA novels and fits well in that genre than the more mature details will work themselves out. I remember reading YA novels that at least hinted at sex or more mature things going on.

    As for my writing, yes it has evolved quite a bit from time to time. I think it really changed when I stopped obsessing over sounding exactly like writers that I had read a lot of. I think it's good to analyze other writers' pieces but you don't want to sound exactly the same.

  4. Well, as one who's supposed to have my ear to the ground, I was missing this about the new category of Adult Fiction--thanks for the link. Here's another one:

    Looks like the genre focuses on the "firsts" of life. I know the genres can be a little frustrating--they're really in place for the sake of selling books. Publishers need to be able to tell bookstore owners where in the store to place their books. That's it. Very practical. But as the method of selling books changes, I think those categories may become more fluid.

    As for your writing changing, it probably will as you age (speaking from my oh-so-aged-and-mature-standpoint). Your interests and focuses and "depths" will change, but I think your voice stays much the same. The voice in your writing I believe is much like your speaking voice--people know you when they hear you, they don't need to see you. The same goes with your writing voice; it's just a part of you.

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