Chronicles of Ink and Paper

One agent suggested my novel was young adult. This surprised me because I wasn’t trying to write a young adult novel. The main character is a teenager though. But I never thought I was writing for teens.

Writing for teens…that’s a minefield. Well, it can be. Adults are allowed to read anything without much of the world getting into a snit. Okay, that isn’t entirely true, but you know what I mean. Suddenly what had seemed tamed in my novel then seemed dangerous.

Which isn’t to say the agent was wrong. I just hadn’t seen my novel in that category, and if I need it to be in that category, how will I be expected to change it? And my other novels…will I be expected to be a young adult author?

This is rather putting the cart before the horse. (The printer before in the paper?) The agent who suggested this decided she couldn’t represent my work–too tough a sell in today’s climate.

The thing is though is that I am liberal when it comes to reading. My parents let me read anything I picked up. My grandmother had treated my mother the same way. If you could choose the book and stick with it, you could handle whatever was inside.

Of course, I never picked up anything extreme, like porn. Well, that’s not entirely true. My dad’s second wife had a magazine of stories hidden–sort of–under her pillow. My step-sister showed them to me. I was about 10 or 11. The magazine looked like Reader’s Digest. I read half a page and put it down. The story gave me quite a shock and I knew I didn’t want to (and shouldn’t) read those stories. So, I didn’t stick with it.

Nor did it cause me to rush out and find a boy.

Au contraire.

But anyway. Adults worry a lot about what young adults read. And they should know what kids read and they should know their kids. Obviously. We know this and have heard it before.

But it felt different when I thought about being the writer instead of the parent. Writing for adults is so much easier! Right?

Young people are better fans though. Don’t you think? Do you love any book now as much as you loved a book as a teen?

9 thoughts on “Chronicles of Ink and Paper

  1. ontheplumtree

    YA is indeed a minefield. It has been suggested that my own work Orange Petals in a Storm fits that category also. Again, I wrote it for the whole family. Maybe because my heroine is 11 years old. But it is symbolic also. Skyla McFee represents the soul, the pure, beautiful aspect of self that guides us from within if we know how to listen. It is a wisdom story. Sometimes, being obsessed with genres limits and restricts creativity.

    1. There isn’t a category that is good for everyone. I mean, it is like a rated G film–yes, it is safe for any age, but you know that rating puts off some people as if G means baby. Those categories can be useful and they can be obstacles. They can keep some people away.

      Which I guess is something like you said in your comment. 😉

      Your story sounds beautiful by the way.

      1. ontheplumtree

        Thank You, Marta. I seek beauty in ugliness, light in dark…the soul shines through it all touching us with purity and innocence.

  2. It’s true, the young are more passionate fans. I see it in my memory and reflected in my reading nieces. I see what you mean about the difference between seeing the youth market from the perspective of a writer vs. a parent. I think they (young people) expect something from an author that they wouldn’t get from the other adults in their lives. Particularly their parents.

    1. I’d love to have passionate fans, but wouldn’t like finger-pointing parents. Well, I suppose I’d be fine with it, but I’m still considering the YA label.

  3. Great Post. Your words resonate with me, Marta. My parents adhered to the same guidelines– whatever I could handle, but I must admit, some of the most shocking lit I ever read was from my h/s library. Flowers in the Attic, anyone? It was not my cup of tea, and felt much like your magazine experience. It is amazing what YA encompasses.
    So while I worry about the same issues with my work, I won’t tame the content. The best we can do is keep it honest and portray it with dignity.

    1. Oh, Flowers in the Attic! I read that series in high school. I remember reading them and thinking, “Wow. This is my step-mother’s biography.” What crazy, twisted books.

      Keep it honest. Yes. That’s what I want. I just hate worrying about the label!

  4. I had the same thing happen via a beta reader. I hadn’t considered the possibility of my novel crossing over to YA, but once it was pointed out I saw it as an opportunity. I can market it either way to an audience or an agent. 🙂

    1. I’m probably going to go with it, but it takes some rethinking of how I saw my work and what the label means to me. I really want to do the right thing for my work.

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