Tuesday, April 22, 2014

How I accidentally wrote a new adult novel

I'm somewhat embarrassed to say that I've only recently discovered the emerging literary genre of new adult fiction. I'm more embarrassed to admit that I've accidentally written one.

What is new adult, you ask? Let me go back a couple of years ago to a fiction writing class I'd had in college. We had each just begun outlining our novels and I had grappled with the idea of a protagonist in her later teens just on the cusp of adulthood. Could I do this? Since young adult fiction had been (and still is) so wildly popular to all ages, I knew just how many stories were out there about young girls in high school. But a girl entering college? No one was doing this.

Would anyone want to read my story about a girl trying to "figure things out" in the adult world? Would younger audiences relate to her? I didn't think an older demographic would fit my story, but there didn't seem to be an in between.

I'll have to change her age, I thought to myself. Set the story in high school. Still, I felt that I was betraying my creative instincts. After all, everyone tells you to write the story you want to read and I wanted to read about this girl just beginning college. This was what I knew, and what I felt inspired to write.

It was around that time that I realized how many of my friends were reading YA novels. I thought, surely if my friends 18-22 were reading YA novels then why wouldn't they appreciate stories that centered around someone going through some of the same things they were? So I decided to follow my gut and write about a young dancer beginning her freshman year at the Juilliard School of Dance and her best friend who's struggling to find her dream career.

Believe me, in no way was I thinking I'd be starting a new literary genre. On the contrary, I was going in circles trying to figure out a way to sell this story once it was done. Would I promote it as YA or would it be women's literature? How could I find my niche in those ginormous markets?

Fast forward 3 or 4 years later and imagine my surprise when I learn that while I was muddling through my fifty-some revisions, a new genre has popped up out of the wood work: a genre highlighting those in-betweeners, the ones that have left their adolescence behind but not yet fully embraced adult status.

Sarah at cleareyesfullshelves.com has a great couple of podcasts in which she goes more into detail on the characteristics of the trend. You can listen to them here. 

So that's how I accidentally wrote an NA novel. I just wish I could say I thought of it first... ;)