All Because of Chickens

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Saturday Morning Musings: MG/Tween/YA/New YA – the hard genres to write

Happy Saturday and here's to a super one!

I don't know about other authors, but it's been suggested to me that writing is easy. You just sit and write. What's so hard about that? Wish it was that easy.

Then there's the argument between writers about which genre is easier. Between fans, too. For the longest time I knew some who believed writing for the middle grade, young adult, tweens was the easiest. It had to be. After all there aren't any adult themes and the audience isn't looking for deep reading.


Oh so wrong.

Readers of middle grade, tweens, YA demand...and deserve...just as much as any other audience.

You guess it, our Musers are sharing on this topic as well:  Why is Middle Grade, YA, New YA, Young/youth harder to write for than other genres and their audience?

It’s not that it’s harder but a writer needs to nail the language of the youth presented in their books, along with social issues they face nowadays in a realistic pattern. Coming across as preachy turns off a middle grade reader. The hard part is showing a ‘lesson/virtue’ without the child realizing they just learned something.

So from all the genres in your question to us, as a writer, I would say that middle grade is hardest to write.

I am not sure that these genres are harder to write for than other genres. The thing you need to remember is that you have to grab your reader right away so long descriptions on the first page won’t work. Also this age group really needs to identify with the character right away. You need to make your character approachable. That doesn’t mean that your character needs to be a person or grounded in reality. But it does need to be a character that your young reader would want to know. One important thing to remember is never to write down to this age group. Always write on a slightly higher level and explore anything that will appeal to your reader. Only do it in a way that will grip your readers. Also don’t preach or make it seem like your idea is the best. Kids want to make their own decisions about whether what the character is doing is right or wrong. So don’t have a moral at the end and don’t use your character to prove some point. If your point happens to work in the story that is great, but unless it is an integral part of the story, young readers will just ignore your work and move on.

As far as actual writing, young readers can read long involved stories as we have proved with Harry Potter, but within the writing, the sentences need to be short and crisp. Your characters need to be involved in activities which would be age appropriate and they need to react in age appropriate ways. So dialogue is very important and dialogue is a very big part of creating a world in which kids feel comfortable. There has been a lot written about using or not using slang and as far as I am concerned, using slang of the moment might backfire. Try to make your slang as classic as possible. I have been criticized for not using the current slang and actually I was told that it is better not to put that into your book. It can date your book and writers want their books to live on so they can be passed down through generations. Finally, your characters need to be believable and appeal to both the kids and sometimes their parents. A lot of older people have read my books and tell me they see themselves in the characters. If you are interested in seeing how all of these elements come together, check out a YA book yourself. I hope you will check out mine to see what all the fuss is about YA books.

I think that generally, teenagers are a very demanding audience. Many are eager to leave behind anything they perceive as childish, although they often aren't ready for adult books. With a heightened sense of self and a desire to keep up with the latest fashion, many of them demand that their literary heroes are as up to date as they are, using the latest jargon and aware of the most recent fads. The further a writer gets from their teenage years, the harder it is to identify with people from that age group. I think I can still remember keenly how it feels to be a teenager but times have changed and I can only imagine how, for example, social media, which is a recent development, might have impacted on me.

For me, the YA genre is harder to write because as a forty-something adult, getting the voice down can be difficult. Using the right language. Walking the line between confident almost-adult and nervous still-not-an-adult behaviors. All the things that make a YA character believable, make them someone a teen recognizes from their peers, is much harder to capture through the life-colored lenses of an adult.

It's hard not to make the character react in a more adult fashion, or use language that was popular when you were a teen. But doing either of these things makes the character unbelievable, unrecognizable to today's teen.

And that's why I find the YA genre difficult to write in. But, I accept the challenge, and hope the language I've used, and the reactions I've given my characters will resonate with teens today and in the years to come.

They're harder because they're narrower. While romance is aimed at women over thirty, which gives you fifty years, YA is 5 years, so you have to get a story that appeals to that narrow band of people. Lots of themes, like getting over a divorce, or a death, having a midlife-crisis, changing jobs, accepting life is going to be mundane but be happy for the little things in life, will not have any interest for most kids (there are always exceptions and kids who will read anything they get their hands on - but they're already reading adult fiction).

Time moves more slowly for the young, so the story has to move faster, the pace of events in the story has to be rapid and so the story must be one which permits impending crisis and a quick resolution rather than slowly building up and boiling over. Not every idea lends itself to that so only a few can become a good YA novel.

There's also a tension between what the reader thinks they should read and what the adults think is appropriate for them to read. If a kid picks up an adult novel, then we assume if they're able to digest the story, they can also handle the topics and events therein also. I remember reading the rape scene in Lord Foul's Bane, the first book of Stephen Donaldson's The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant at around fourteen.

But to put such a scene in a book whose target audience is fourteen might raise a few eyebrows, to put it mildly. And yet, the story might require nasty things to happen, so striking a balance between the needs of the story and the needs of the reader, or at least their perceived needs, is challenging.

Keep reading and dreaming. If there’s anything you’re curious about just drop me a note:

1 comment:

  1. The Cyber Gremlins were at it again, they ate new Muser Terri Bertha's Saturday Morning Musings:

    I believe writing fiction for the young audience is more difficult because the writer has to remember that young adults have limited life experiences and a different perspective on those experiences than an adult. Tweens and teenagers are struggling to learn their own identity while dealing with the transition from being a child to an adult.
    The writer’s dialogue needs to be simpler than writing for adults to mimic younger conversation and perspective. The goal is to have the reader empathize and feel like they are ‘walking in the character’s shoes’.
    In my Spooky Twisties series, the kids have a ‘we can accomplish or solve anything without an adult’ mentality as this is an important part of growing up. This is an age of discovery and first time experiences where ‘the world is their oyster’ abounds with opportunities.


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