Thursday, June 2, 2011

Writing for Age Groups

My current WIP is the first attempt I've made at writing YA (Young Adult). I got a little panicky after that first ah-ha moment when I realized my story made much more sense if aimed at young adults, rather than adults. It was a breakthrough that got me over the hump of finding the right way to start the novel, as well as where to take it, so at first I was excited. After that, I had to jump into research, research, research (you'll find that's what I do with most things). It was hard to find much good information on how to write for YA, what needed to be different, that sort of thing, but I attended a panel at a conference last year that gave me the boost of information I needed to jump in with both feet. It was as simple as hearing the following paraphrased information in answer to an attendee's question: "YA is no different than writing for an adult, but the characters are young adults, themselves, and the issues lean more toward issues that affect teens, more than adults. There can be sex, profanity, and serious issues."

"Okay," I thought. "I can do that."

Little questions come up as you go through, though. Is this exciting enough? How long should it be? Do these issues touch enough on what's happening to young adults, or is my age range too young or too old?

When I set myself free to just start writing, though, it was easier to get through the questions and get something on paper. Sort of a free your mind, the rest will follow situation (a little En Vogue for you there).

A conversation with a friend the other day made me think of what age ranges I didn't feel I could write for, though. I am reading a lot of Middle Grade stuff with my son, and I don't know if I could do that. It has to be exciting, there has to be some good pacing, but it also has to be at the right level for MG readers to understand and enjoy it. It needs to be slightly more simplistic, from what I've seen, than a YA or adult novel. I don't have to worry that young adults won't understand what I'm writing about, but with MG I figure you have to be more careful. You also have to monitor yourself more strictly with MG than with YA, because, despite what we parents might like to think, teens have seen, done and said more than MG readers. They've had a few more life experiences. It's okay if they read profanity or even a well-done sex scene (for me, personally, I'm not sure how comfortable I would be writing a sex scene for teen readers, but I imagine it may come up in the future).

Children's books would be fun, but hard. I know what I like to read with my kids, but I wouldn't want to just sit and search out something to write about, as most themes have at least been touched on in some way, shape or form. I'd have to have been inspired to write something, I think, and go from there. In the meantime I'll just continue researching it by reading with my kiddos.

All this to say, being a writer doesn't automatically mean you can or want to write for every age group. It's an interesting thing to play around with and experiment with, and I look forward to it through the coming years.

Is there an age group you couldn't write for? Why do you feel that way?

Happy Writing!

P.S. I will be back on live this coming Tuesday and will hopefully respond to any comments this weekend.


  1. Hmm... I think we may put a little too much emphasis on writing for an age group. I mean, 100 years ago elementary school kids were reading what we now call the classics and consider to be adult books. But kids read them. And had no problem with them.

    I'm not sure exactly what I'm trying to say other than that I suspect that we may not expect as much as we should from our kids. We don't expect them to be able to read The Three Musketeers; therefore, they can't read The Three Musketeers.

  2. Shannon, this is what I call "moral compass." No matter what you write, be it adult, YA, literary--there is a niggling sense inside your head that will not permit you to go outside your moral compass. Now, this doesn't mean my hero in, say, a contemporary romantic suspense will look at certain situations in the same way in which my historic hero would. They don't even have the same vocabulary--and I'm not talking about just proper English. I'll never forget the first time my contemporary guy thought of his... ah, well... you know... as a word I personally do not use in my own everyday vocabulary. It shocked me, and that's putting it lightly.

    Be that as it may, the vernacular fit for him and the situation. So, why did my moral compass allow for it if I would never use that particularly colorful word myself? Beats me. Fact is, the story & characters will let you know what to do. Personally, I don't like this YA on the market with teens sassing their parents to the point of cussing, etc. (although I know they really do), acting out to the point of supreme idiocy (even though I know they do that, too)... I mean, who wants to look up to a hero and/or heroine like that? I certainly don't. And I certainly wouldn't want my kids to, either.

    By the way, Andrew's absolutely right about the classics. Amazing that some of what we read as kids then has been banned now.

  3. Andrew, good point on the classics. My 6 year old son desperately wanted to try my Kindle, but I didn't have any kid books on there, so I pulled up The Count of Monte Cristo and gave it to him (speaking of Dumas/Musketeers). I was surprised when he was still reading it a few minutes later.

    Alyssia, I don't like that aspect of books for teens and such, either. Same goes for television shows geared toward teens and tweens. I'm not sure why it's so popular right now.

    Maybe you were able to use the word for the character because you were in his head as much as yours?

  4. I may have to get a kindle just for that purpose. My younger son is -always- so resistant to trying anything new I give him, even though he's liked everything I've given him. I want him to read Treasure Island, right now, but he's being very resistant to it. :(

    I'm going to be tagging you in my next post. It should go up tomorrow (Sunday). I hope.

  5. It's funny you talk about this, because I've been thinking a lot about audience lately. I have projects that I want to write for every age range, but I've been focusing on children lately. I think our brain switches gears and turns a different way when we write for different audiences. That's one good reason to practice writing in different genres, though not necessarily every one!


  6. I'm currently writing YA and might venture into Adult... not sure about MG. I guess it would be a fun challenge but I'm not super attracted to the idea.

  7. It is interesting that you are experimenting with different age groups. The YA audience sounds like a nice fit, but you can always try something else later if you're open to it. Julie

  8. I won't go younger than YA. It's such a fun age to write for :D

  9. Andrew, if he likes technology and such, I'm betting the Kindle (or any e-reader, for that matter) would help.

    Carla, I think that's true. I actually got an idea for a MG novel after I wrote this. But my next project is just adult.

    Jo, that's how I feel, too. I did get an idea for MG, but I have no idea if I could pull it off were I to actually sit down and start writing.

    Julie, very true. What is writing if not expanding horizons?

    Jolene, it is, indeed!