August 17, 2011

Can I Do This?

If you were lucky enough to be Liz Poole, a hotel night auditor named LurkerWithout, or an agent with incredible literary sense, you would have had the opportunity to read my manuscript JEHOVAH'S HITLIST. This is a manuscript where I explain why just because the protagonist is 15 years old doesn't make it a young adult novel. The thing is anything but a young adult novel. ...depending on how you wish to raise your children. If you're okay with intense amounts of violence, profanity, nudity, sex, and drugs, then perhaps this is a YA book. Otherwise, we'll just assume it's not.

I've mentioned that before, so why am I saying it again? Because now I am writing a young adult novel. More specifically, I'm writing a middle grade novel (for a younger audience than YA, if you don't know the difference). Things are going swimmingly. I've only been at it for a week and I'm about to hit the 20,000-word mark. That's progress! Things are going great!

Well...yes, but I'm starting to run into something the euphoria of being so prolific has to date kept at bay. I've never written for this audience before! I write hard, cruel adult content. How am I supposed to write for 10 year olds?!?! Here I am cruising along and they have THE HOBBIT and A WRINKLE IN TIME and HARRY POTTER to read. What is this? PRINCE OF CATS? It's nothing. It's tiny. It's not my market!

*pulls out hair*

Who would have thought that the hardest thing for me to write would be content for kids. You wouldn't think so until you try it. But once you try it, you're all ooohhh, now I see.

Like if I were to write Sesame Street, this is what you'd get:


  1. *checks self* yes, as a matter of fact, I AM lucky enough to be me! Yaaaay!

    I concur. Writing outside your normal age group is a PAIN in the ASS. There. I said it. It's true. All the normal stuff goes right out the window. And kids aren't stupid, so you can't just write dribble. It has to still be good. There's the rub.

  2. Funny -- as a crossover YA writer, I hardly ever think about the fact that I'm writing for teens, since the genre has matured so much, and so much more is allowed these days. I do read a lot in teh genre though, to get the expectations. MG is a different animal though. I greatly admire the people who can go back and forth btwn diff age groups.

  3. the genre has matured so much, and so much more is allowed these days

    I tried to write a post on this topic, but I couldn't do it without sounding mean. I may try again some day. In brief, I agree that the genre has matured, but what is quantified as "dark" is actually "dark for ya." With the exception of some good contemporary pieces that focus on social subjects, "maturing" seems to mean "allowing more violence." It's much like the PG-13 rating for a movie. You can have Bruce Willis kill a bunch of people but you can't say fuck or be naked.

    For me, if I'm writing for an adult, my characters will shout fuck while they're naked killing people. If it's right for the story.

    In Jehovah's Hitlist, a novel with a 15-year-old main character, he has a four year old son, something I don't think would ever be permitted in YA or MG.

  4. Whoops, forgot to suscribe to the comment thread. Have you read much YA lately? Push, by Sapphire, has a main character who has her first child at age 12, after sexual abuse by both her father and mother, and after having another child later, finds out she's HIV positive. Plenty of swearing and on screen sex. Tender Morsels (fantasy) takes the cake though. Forced abortion, anal and vaginal gang rape (of both men and women), incest, and bestiality. (Although, to be fair, I don't consider Tender Morsels to be YA, even though the copy I got from the library was shelved in the children's section, and the book is marketed as YA.) Swearing is generally fine now too, although you have to have a good reason for it.

  5. I have not read Push or Tender Morsels. Recent reads have been Hunger Games trilogy, Healing Wars trilogy (MG), Incarceron, City of Ember (also MG).