When I started my first novel I didn’t intend for it to be Young Adult. But I was twenty-one years old and trying to write from experience, which led me to a seventeen-year-old main character. I took the first chapter to my creative writing class and several people, the professor included, said it was YA.
That novel – the one started in college – is the manuscript I’m currently querying. It’s been through many iterations, but the premise remains the same one I dreamt up ten years ago.
But what’s next? Now that I’m older and (presumably) have more experience from which to write, will I move away from YA? I don’t think so. My work in progress is about a sixteen-year-old boy. The story I hope to write after that is about a seventeen-year-old. Though I didn’t mean to write YA when I first started, I’ve now chosen the genre.
I love YA – both reading it and writing it. Here’s why:
The Common Experience: Growing up is a common human experience that everyone in my audience has had to (or will have to) deal with. It’s a roller coaster we can all understand. There’s something inherently true and real in a coming of age story, whether it resembles our own upbringing or not. It allows for a level of empathy and understanding that makes the genre more appealing to me.
Subtle Drama: I write YA contemporary – realistic stories about fictional kids. In these stories there is always a level of drama that’s inherent with growing up. I believe this natural drama allows stories to be powerful without being “out there” or overly dramatic (to an unbelievable place). Yes, you certainly have YA books that are filled with extreme situations and characters. But my preference is to write about regular kids in unusual or complex situations, and let the drama of the story mix with the drama of the age group in order to make a compelling – but relatable – book.
My Literary Youth: I devoured books as a kid. Although I still love to read, my literary consumption was greater in my childhood and teen years. It’s then that I fell in love with stories – both reading and writing them. Books were a great escape, a way of getting outside myself, a window into other lives. Many of the books I read as a teen have stuck with me, continuing to be influential in both my life and my writing. Maybe it’s nostalgia, but I love the idea of writing for an audience similar to my book-loving, curious, impressionable teen-self.
There are other reasons, of course. But these are the first that come to mind and, perhaps, the easiest to articulate. Maybe someday I’ll decide to venture into a new genre. But for now, YA is where I want to be.
Writers: Why do you write in your genre of choice? Readers: What draws you to (or away from) Young Adult books?