Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Whoops! MG versus YA

I've mentioned my fantasy YA novel, Alexia's Pen before. I had the honor of placing in a recent writing contest on a blog and my awesome prize was a query critique by the amazing Beth Revis, author of Across the Universe.

She read my initial query and asked if the story was actually MG.

Oh... can we say whoops?

It's been years since I read a MG story. Well, other than Harry Potter that is.

The thought that Alexia's Pen might actually be MG startled me. But then to some extent, it made sense. After all, I started to write the story in the 6th grade.

And I'm no stranger to blurring lines. Take my Kingdom of Arnhem series. It's intended for adults but can be enjoyed by young adults as well. I purposely wrote those books that way.

So now I have a decision to make. Do I try to cut down an already tight story? Because at 79k, that's considered too long for MG. Or do I try to make the story more YA by making it edgier?

I'm not opposed to making Alexia's Pen MG. That doesn't bother me. What bothers me is that I thought it was YA. So now I'm doing to make Alexia's Pen more YA. It's gonna get darker. A lot darker. There won't be the possibility of a question of MG versus YA anymore.

Has this ever happened to you? Has a story started one way and ended up a different genre? Do you know the cut-off between MG and YA?


Jamie Gibbs (Mithril Wisdom) said...

I've heard in passing of a few novels that have blurred the line between MG and YA, and I've read one self published story that was definitely MG, but was presented to me as a definite adult novel. My annoyance was unbound, hehe. The story was too long for MG, but the content most definitely was so. MG and YA fiction are fine with me, but I tend to go into each kind with a certain mindset, so if I'm expecting adult and end up with MG, it throws my expectations in a bad way. Up until that point I didn't understand the need for distinction between MG, YA and adult fiction. Now, I appreciate it.

Holly Ruggiero said...

Tough situation. I don't know where the cut off is physically or writerly. I tend to think of Harry Porter as young adult because of some of the themes.

Cherie Reich said...

I have stories that jump the lines all the time! Labels are really only for the bookstores and libraries, so they know where to put the book.

Two of my YA novels, I'm having to lower the characters ages a little to make them firmly in YA instead of borderline adult.

I read a blogger's post a long time ago about the differences between MG and YA. One thing really stuck out. In MG, the characters are more about saving the world. In YA, the characters focus more on self and relationships. It doesn't necessarily have to do with what's in the story (think of Harry Potter and how it does get very dark but still considered MG because they're saving the world and not focusing too much on who's hooking up with whom). If that makes any sense. *laughs*

Amanda Borenstadt said...

I wrote what I thought was an adult novel, but turned out to be YA. It turns out that is what I write. I think you have to be true to what you write. If it's just too long, maybe you actually have a novel with a sequal or even a series! :)

Colene Murphy said...

Firstly, I'm sooo jealous you won that!!

Secondly, do whatever you feel makes the story better. If cutting it down and turning it more MG will make it better do that. If making it darker/edgier for YA do that! You're the only one who can say what your story would be better as.

Carol Riggs said...

I ditto Colene; it really depends on you, as well as your particular story. Not helpful, I know. It could be that the very TONE or VOICE is more MG, the way sentences are phrased and so on. If not, then tweaking situations and scenes to make it darker would help. Subject matter is one thing that determines whether something is MG or YA.

Talli Roland said...

Can't help you with MG vs YA, but I wish you well! I sometimes have issues with whether I'm writing women's fiction or rom com; sometimes I need to either tone down the comedy or ramp it up a bit!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I think it depends how old the main character, so it's up to you if you want to change the age or not. They didn't have 'middle grade' when I was that age, so no idea otherwise.

Lydia Kang said...

Hmm.I know when I'm reading MG it's MG and same with YA. There are some books out there that are technically YA but read more MG (like Nobody's Princess).
What will you end up doing?

ciaraknight said...

I don't know how adult it is, but I know most of the middle school I'm at (6th, 7th and 8th grade) All read twilight. Yes, it's young adult, but could your novel be the next crossover? Food for thought. Most of the middle grade WANTS the edgier read, but with the comprehension level they can follow, without talking down to them. Again, just a thought.

Rebecca said...

I don't think that making a story darker or edgier will necessarily make it seem more YA. It is more likely that your story simply feels younger because of your main character herself. How old is your main character? Are her thoughts/actions/voice like that of a young adult (highschool age) or a young girl (middle school age)?? Think about her internal struggles and whether they match the age of your character. Also think about your target market. Will your book will appeal to 5th, 6th, 7th grade students, or will it appeal more to high school students?? I write both MG and YA and I work in a school library, so these are questions I have to consider from two perspectives--when recommending books and when writing them.

I suggest that you read some great MG fantasy books. I suggest the Septimus Heap books by Angie Sage, Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke, and the Fablehaven books by Brandon Mull. Just to get you started. :-)

Nicole Zoltack said...

Great points, Rebecca. I'll definitely have to check out those books, thanks for the recommendations!