The Art of Science: Day 2

See the blog tour stop at Jamie Eyberg’s blog, A Continuity of Parks.

I did know Jamie in school, though he was a few years ahead of me so I can’t say we went to high school together. I knew his sisters better then.

One of his questions did get me thinking, though. Young adult or middle grade? We apply these labels according to an age level, but how many of us truly fit those little boxes? An age range is a guideline and it’s up to the parents, educators, or the youngsters to figure out what they’re ready to tackle. It’s a tough question, but it does help readers to have that information.

At least, that’s my opinion. A student might not read at the specified age level but may consistently be above or below. Knowing that would guide those students to where they need to be.

Or am I making it too difficult?

Thoughts on Mother’s Day

Recently I read a book (an adult novel) where the main character lived near his parents. Next door, in fact. An injury prevented him from doing many things on his own, and as a consequence his mother often cooked or one of his parents would drive him around. While he hated being dependent, he didn’t have many other options.

Young Adult (or even Children’s) novels often differ from adult novels. Adult novels often lack the parents and siblings found in the younger genres. Part of this might be due to setting: at those ages people must interact with parents and siblings (if any) because they live together. Even orphans have foster families or extended families to fill the gaps.

And as any young adult knows, those family relationships are ripe for conflict. Something always provides conflict at home – usually someone. Who do you pick for the bad guy – Dad? Mom? Siblings? All of the above? To make a good novel, the conflict must be strong; the worse the bad guy can be, the better for the story. Often the mundane details from ‘real life’ are too dull to hold the reader’s attention for an entire novel.

Is that a comment about how our adult lives change? We’re no longer with our family from our childhood; we grow and change and build new families. It made me think, anyway.


Writing, or editing. It’s always one or the other that ocupies my time.

I took a chapter from 3600 words to 2500 today. Most of it wasn’t correcting passive voice, either, though I did manage that. My NaNo Novel from last November has a lot of things that need tightening, and it needs added conflict.

The difficult part is sometimes knowing what to cut and what to keep. It’s YA, and since it occurs in school I think I should have some details of school (I like to do little school details here and there), but I don’t want to beat the kids over the head with it, either. There is a balance between how much school and home life is good, I’m sure, but I haven’t found it yet.

I figured out the parts I want to focus on for this story, and I’m trying to dump the rest. I had an unrelated spelling test, so I deleted it in all its gritty glory. (Oh, don’t worry, there’s a copy. I always keep a copy of the original version in case I get rid of too much or I need to change the focus later. No use trying to remember what it was. I can compare drafts if need be.)

My original estimate was 2500 words per chapter, so I find it amusing to hit that now. I think I should be able to do that with most of the chapters in this book. Some of them are under right now – one of the drawbacks of a writing spring – but at least the story is down so I can tweak it as needed. I find it much easier to focus on the essence once it’s written.

Writing sprints like NaNoWriMo give a good opportunity to get the story down. Just can’t forget that it’ll need a few good edits when you finish.

A Theme

Seems like a lot of shows cover teen pregnancy these days – not just TV, but also in the movies. Some make more publicity than others, but often it shows some choices that aren’t the best for teens, but so many of them make – whether they’re thinking about it or not.

It’s a difficult topic for a YA writer. Do you put on your kid gloves and pretend sex doesn’t exist until marriage? Do you get in the gritty and gruesome side and show actual choices teens face? Do you take a middle road and acknowledge it? Do you show your personal opinions in the writing, either way, and risk alienating those on each side of the fence who make up the readership?

Each writer must make the decision for herself. Those decisions color everything we write and make our books more personal. Personal, meaning closer to the writer’s thoughts and closer to readers. I haven’t tackled this topic yet, but it doesn’t mean I won’t.

The Limits of Genre

“A YA novel is gritty and gruesome in a way that a middle grade novel never would be.”

While researching my latest novel, I came across this sentence. The “gritty and gruesome” part stuck with me; I really enjoy writing to the teen/young adult age group and part of the reason why is because of those two words.

I grew up reading Judy Blume. A lot of her more famous books covered life as a child, but there were also some books in there that talked about getting older and larger issues. Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret, Deenie, and forever… are a few of those. She also wrote some novels for adults. In all of her books she treated her audience fairly and wrote the story as it needed to be told. I really respect her as a writer because of this, especially after listening to several children’s authors who believe everything must fit into their lowest category of sold books.

What I’ve learned from listening to writers and readers is that everyone has a limit of what they’ll read and enjoy. I understand this – it’s part of the human condition. I don’t feel like it should limit me on what I want to write and share because I also happen to publish young adult novels. One day I might write a picture book, but I don’t think that should limit me from putting a fist fight in another novel somewhere or mentioning that two (adult) characters had sex. It’s part of the story: leaving out those parts make a lot of stories weaker and less believable.

I love the genres I write. I would be ecstatic to become one of those names people think of when they talk about authors. More than anything I want to share the stories in my head, but I don’t want to limit them or pull my punches because I also write to a young audience.

I also don’t want to write a weaker story and say I had to because I also write for children. I’d rather take credit for my failings and say it was because I wasn’t comfortable writing the scene or that it went against my core values to take it farther than I did. If I market a book to an age group, I’ll fit that age group. If the book is to adults, then expect some adult content. I expect that of the books I read and I won’t give less to what I write.