Thursday, 16 June 2011

Writing Novels and Things #2: Young Adult

What? No, I'm not referring to myself, but thanks for asking!

Spiderman Muscle Costume, Size: Child S(4-6)

I am, of course, referring to Young Adult Fiction, as that is what this blog post is about! Firstly, it should be said that Young Adults in fiction land are not, for the most parts, adults. Webster's dictionary (or, more truthfully, Wikipedia) defines YA fiction as:

Young-adult fiction or young adult literature (often abbreviated as YA) is fiction written for, published for, or marketed to adolescents and young adults, roughly ages 14 to 21.
Which is actually quite old when you consider that Harry Potter counts as YA. But then so does Catcher in the Rye, apparently, so I'm not entirely sure if the name actually means anything. Or maybe my dictionary is broken. Stupid Webster's (not Webster's).
 Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition

Anyway, so the novel I'm writing is fantasy YA, which puts it in the same genre as things like Harry Potter and Twilight. Which is fine, obviously, and absolutely not something I worry about. I do wonder though, would the kind of person who likes stuff like that, these so-called young adults, like to read a book about talking salmon...?

There isn't a great deal of romance in my novel, because the main characters are thirteen and it felt icky giving them those kinds of feelings, but there is some. There's a good sense of peril, I think. The two main characters have Real World Problems, as well as the ridiculous fantasy stuff they encounter. It's suitably emo, I think, with a dash of comic relief. I feel like all of these things are the ingredients of a decent enough YA novel (and really I would love it to be a series), only... well there's the bloody talking salmon.

I love the salmon; he's my favourite character. He's dangerous and scary and funny and a bit mean and he was just a joy to write. I want him in my book, which is good because really the whole plot revolves around him, but there's one inescapable truth about him, that the best writer in the world couldn't avoid. And it's this:

Fish are not sexy.

Fish/human hybrids, yes, of course, very sexy. But a normal, slimy smelly fish? Well, it's no Mormon vampire or Mormon werewolf, is it? I suppose, to be fair, not every YA novel is about Mormon sex... Just, like, 85% of them, right?

The point of this post, really, is a-few-fold.

Harking back to my post on Revision, or the aside within it, one must remember that research is super important. If you're not the biggest reader of a certain genre, but you want to write in it (I think a million Creative Writing teachers would tell you not to start in the first place but that is not me), then you need to research the industry. Looking back, maybe I could have made the whole tone of the thing a lot lighter, angled it more to kids, if I were looking to sell a book about a talking salmon.

Yes, I did work very hard on that pun.

The other thing is that even if you know a lot about that sector of publishing, maybe, maybe, it's good not to have a book like all the others. Admittedly, the concept of talking animals has probably been around longer than talking humans, but I don't think anyone could accuse my novel of being a Twilight rip off.

So know your genre. Then un-know it, so you don't write the same as everyone else. And then, make it good! And that is writing YA.

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