i have issues

Okay, not that it’s really a secret or anything (it’s been linked right there in my “about” box since forever), but I write this silly little neighborhood story about my Sims characters. And what sparks this discussion is that everybody LOVES Dallas and Lucy, a young couple in high school – it’s impossible not to love them, they’re adorable, lol! I identify best with Dallas, who is right on the cusp of eighteen, consumingly attached to this girl (as is she in return), but has to decide if he has enough faith in their relationship that he could go away to study abroad for two years while she finishes high school, knowing that at their age, it’s likely she may not be waiting for him when he gets back.

Apparently, I get teenagers. I’ve heard this too many times to even count. I don’t know how, since I never even considered myself one – and perhaps this has something to do with how my husband claims I never grew past the maturity level of a seventeen year-old? But when I write about young people, I’m told they’re convincing and true. So why then do I feel this VIOLENT opposition to admit that I’m writing YA fiction?

And please, no offense to YA writers, I’m really just trying to understand where I’m coming from on this. Why does it feel like a dirty word? It feels like settling, to be bluntly honest. It feels like I would be doing it because I’m not good enough to write mature grown-up fiction. Or maybe the fact of it is I’m only twenty-eight, and NOT mature enough to write grown-up fiction?

The thing is, I want to be read by adults, and while I believe that some older teenagers might really enjoy my stories, my favorite age to write aren’t actually teenagers at all. This is where I get confused. I honestly think I tend to poke fun at my teenage characters until they reach about the age of seventeen or eighteen, where then, I’d honestly consider them little adults. Literal, young adults.

These are usually college kids, or the older high school kids – the 18-24 year olds. They’re out on their own (or almost), taking care of themselves as best they can, making their own mistakes and dealing with their own consequences. What I LOVE about this age is that they’re really making their very first life-altering decisions (and life-altering mistakes), and they’re having to do it all on their own.

Is that YA? Yes, they are young adults, but adults still. And almost entirely not teenagers. I always thought YA fiction was meant to be read by teenagers (I’m thinking 13-16 year-olds). And to be quite blunt, you probably don’t want your thirteen year-old reading about the kinds of things real eighteen to twenty-somethings say and do and think. So is there a category of fiction for the quarter-life crowd? Can I invent one?

But then, I do feel better about being lumped in with youth writers when I find that wonderful (and very mature) books like The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Who Will Run the Frog Hospital are classed as YA. And two of my very favorite books, A Prayer for Owen Meany and The Cider House Rules, both revolve around young people growing up. So maybe my books will be called YA? Maybe it doesn’t matter? Maybe I should just write the damn thing? 😉

Friday ‘Fess Up:

I’m still digging and trying to get my hands into this new version of my novel. Not another new version, but the same new version I’ve been brewing for a few months now. But this came to me yesterday, in Lexi’s voice as if she were speaking right to me (don’t you love it when your characters speak right to you?) – Lexi, by the way, is twenty years-old, married (!!!), and a biology major in college:

“I think it’s best you know that I’m the sensible one of this little trio. Danny and Hannah, as much as I love them, they’re quite honestly from the moon.”

I love Lexi! 🙂

5 thoughts on “i have issues

  1. I can’t speak for anyone else, but the reason why I say you get teens is because of the way you treat them. A teenager’s life is a real thing that is not always peachy keen. Adults forget that teens do have problems that they have to learn to deal with. It’s like adult training. If you miss those vital years of training while you’re a teen, geeze is it tough as a clueless young adult. (*Has personal experience at that* I’m just lucky that the man I found actually thinks that my cluelessness is cute, and at least he has some experience. XD) Of course, being a teen is sometimes also a silly thing. Sometimes they freak out over little things because they are still kids. You manage to treat them as adults and show them as kids.

    I have read some really really good young adult books while in high school that have stuck with me for years afterwards. (I’m 29 here myself.) They weren’t necessarily happiness and sunshine, and they didn’t leave out the sex or confusion of being a teen (though they weren’t graphic about it of course). Maybe you should challenge yourself to find some good young adult books? Look online for honor classes reading lists. That’s how I read most of my YA books– summer reading lists.

    But mostly, you just need to write this book. It sounds awesome. Just write and remember you can edit later. I’m not a real writer so I probably shouldn’t be giving any advice, but I wouldn’t worry about the audience or who you’re going to market to until you get the entire story out and are ready to edit it.

    My last suggestion would be a book called Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. I took a couple of creative writing classes in college for fun, and our teacher had us read that book. Every so often I pull it out and read it again. (Usually before Nanowrimo.) I don’t know if you’ll like it, but she’s very big on just writing to write and get it out; then thinking and worrying about it later. She’s also big on the idea that you can edit later, so don’t let yourself edit while you’re writing.

  2. For a long time I struggled with whether or not to write YA. I had originally planned to become a literary and fantasy writer (odd combination, I know, but they were my two biggest loves). I loved reading YA books, but it was my dark secret that I hid from everyone. I kind of felt like I would be shunned by the serious writers for even admitting to be interested in YA.

    Then I failed at getting any interest at all in my literary or fantasy works. I took a break from writing and decided to just have fun again and write something that I didn’t care whether it ever sold or not, that was just for me. I wrote a young adult book–on the very young end of young adult, as in ages 11 to 15. Completely unplanned, but it was what came out and I realized that I loved it more than anything else I had ever written. It felt right. That book was published last year, my first ever published novel, and it made me accidentally become a YA author.

    I don’t follow any of the arguments that go on in the writing world about which genre is better or more challenging than the other, because they’re all challenging in their own way, but I will say that writing for teens has been the most rewarding thing I’ve done so far in my life. I’ve met so many readers at appearances I’ve done and get emails and messages from readers that mean the world to me. They tell me how something my characters did or said affected them or related to their own situations, or ask me for advice on problems they’re having because they feel a connection to me through my characters and feel that I understand their lives better than some of the adults they know. I feel very honored to be accepted into their world like that and have learned and remembered just how complex teens are!

    I’m not offended at all that you’re resisting thinking of yourself as a YA writer, just giving some input on the fact that I’ve been there too and understand the struggle. 🙂 YA has changed a LOT since we were teens and in the last few years has been broken into many smaller sub-genres within it. I tend to write the younger, lighter YA because my overall intention is to make readers laugh. But there are also YA books that are very deep, literary, or that focus on college-aged characters. There’s “edgy YA” which tend to be the books that you might not want a 12 year old reading. Also, age of the characters doesn’t always classify a book into a certain genre. Catcher in the Rye, probably the most iconic “teen” book there is, was actually written for adults. So if you want to write about teen characters and target the stories toward adults, you can. Or vice versa. 🙂 I actually have a short story I wrote a few years ago that’s narrated by a ten year old, but it is definitely meant for adult readers!

    I like this quote from your entry “What I LOVE about this age is that they’re really making their very first life-altering decisions (and life-altering mistakes), and they’re having to do it all on their own.” Sounds very much like what I hear YA authors saying. I always say that what I love best about writing YA is that the characters are experiencing their firsts–first loves, first kisses, first heartbreaks, first huge mistakes that change them completely.

    Sorry for the really long comment! I don’t know if my babbling helps any at all, LOL. I can give you input on my experiences in this market, but I know it’s really something that you have to decide for yourself. Or else a publisher has to decide–I’ve read about several YA authors who originally wrote their books for adult readers, but their publishers decided to market them to older YA instead. In the end, you just write what you want to write and ignore the labels because they really don’t mean anything. 🙂

  3. Oh, wow! You guys are awesome! Do you see how immature I am, fishing for a pep talk? LOL! But this is exactly what I needed 🙂

    Lunar, honors reading lists, that’s a great idea! And I’m going to check out that writing book too.

    Shana, I knew you were a writer, but I didn’t know you wrote YA! I’m so glad you read this! Such great advice – all of it! The most encouraging thing, I think, is that I can write the book the way I want to write it, and let the publisher decide what shelf it goes on. That helps a lot. Thank you for rambling! 🙂

  4. (I apologise for the length of this, my fingers just wouldn’t stop!)

    Okay, I’m going to comment even though a big part of me is wanting to crawl beneath a chair and stay there (I’ve no clue why, but posting at “adults” personal blogs makes me feel tiny and clueless xD). I came across your blog aeons ago but I’ve been too chicken to really post anything up until now.

    Being 18 I have to agree with the sentiments that you “get” teens and I think it’s partially because of what Lunar said, that you realise and understand that teenagers too have problems that we need to take care of and deal with and that our lives aren’t necessarily “easier” than the life of an adult.

    I can relate to several of your sim-teens, on various levels. I can for example really relate to Dallas and having to decide whether to stay or go (I believe I might’ve mentioned it in a comment or on my blog, but either way – I did wonder for awhile whether or not to go to Britain to study, in the end I decided not to, but up until I made my decision I was feeling very doubtful (I still am, but I figure since university in Norway is free it makes the most sense to start here and see how it goes)).

    I also relate to Summer, mainly losing a mother at a very young age and I really like how you’ve made her deal with it. Like the post were Tyler made a “dead” joke and remembered that he really wasn’t supposed to do that – I’ve gotten and still get that a lot. No one really knows what to say and when they do make a joke like that some seem horrified that I’m going to break down and cry (I won’t, unless it’s a particular mean joke I do have a sense of humour and don’t take everything to heart). Somehow I think she might even have enjoyed the fact that he for a moment “forgot” about her dead mom and just treated her like she was an ordinary teen, I know I long for people to do that sometimes.

    The one sim-teen I relate to more than any other maybe though is Melissa. I love her! She’s awkward, shy, silent, curious, intelligent and quite honestly – a whole lot like me! All of your sim-teens seem real, but Melissa especially so since I can’t help but relate to her and feel with her no matter what she does.

    I think that the fact that you actually sit down and wonder why teens do as they do help a lot. An awful amount of adults tend to wave just about anything a teenager does as “meh, she’s a teen, she’ll grow out of it” or something. I know, as do many others my age, that I’m not “old” yet, but that doesn’t make my or others opinions any less valid or true and that’s something you not only bring up as a problem but also seem to understand in a way a lot of people don’t do.

    I’m 18 yet I feel like I’m 15, 32 and 50 all at once sometimes. I can be conservative, childish, idiotic, silly, grown up, rebellious, bored, thoughtful, insightful, nostalgic and a whole set of other traits and from the posts you’ve written both in your sim hood and about your book it’s pretty clear to me that you take all of this into consideration when writing. That’s something I appreciate and truly like.

    As for YA books – well, it should come as no surprise that I read those, should it? (Although even for me, who’s 18, that’s a bit “embarrassing” to admit since I’m supposed to be reading “serious” and “adult” fiction. (Honestly though, while some people might find it interesting to read about a 40 year old who lives in the countryside and haven’t done much with his life, who has problems with his in-laws and a wife who spends all her time elsewhere, it’s really not my thing. Sounds boring, probably is boring and I won’t read boring, ever.)

    I began reading a lot of YA when I was just 7-8 (I ransacked the library XD) and let me tell you, times have changed! I’ve read YAs where the characters have had sex, smoked weed and gotten drunk! That was truly taboo when I first began reading (or so it seemed) and something that’s utterly refreshing as well. The YA genre has also attracted more adults as of late, probably because it’s finally been realised that we teenagers are more than hormonal beings wanting to stay out late, annoy our parents and have our way.

    I don’t read a whole lot of “contemporary” YA (my love for fantasy, urban fantasy, fairies, vampires, werewolves tend to sway me elsewhere!) but I know that several of those books deal with the same things and I’m thankful for it because for the longest time it seemed like you had to go from 15-year-old fiction to 35+ year-old-fiction if you wanted something more “mature” to read. (Though that might simply be the Norwegian book market)

    YA has sort of split up a bit, there’s 13-14/15, 15-17 and then 17-18 (at least that’s how I see it) and generally a lot of the books that are at the end of the scale could easily be worked into regular fiction/fantasy/etc the only reason why they haven’t is because they deal with teenagers. (Several fantasy books have teenage heroes for instance, before just having a shiny sword and magic would toss you into the fantasy category, now a lot of them end up in YA instead).

    Okay, that was an endlessly long ramble, I blame chocolate, exams, cola, the fact that I should be sleeping and night-time boredom! Hopefully it helped, or didn’t put you to sleep at least 😛

    Oh and I replied with Vildea since I technically go by that too XD Valneanne is sort of my sim-related username while Vildea goes for anything else, feel free to just call me Vilde though, less confusing probably 😛 (I also added my personal/book blog but it’s mainly because if feels unnatural for me to not leave a link XD)

  5. Vildea, Hi, and I’m glad you commented! It feels weird to be called an “adult,” LOL! I suppose I am one, aren’t I? Though, technically, at 18, so are you 😉 It’s all relative, isn’t it? Except that I’m not getting carded for wine anymore, and I have about five gray hairs!!! Shocking!

    I do love that you all are saying YA has become so versatile. It’s very reassuring. I guess one of my biggest worries is that I wouldn’t be able to be brutally honest and true about what my teenaged characters do and think (which, from my own memory, is often anything but pure!), or that I would have to “make good examples of them” instead of just illustrating the life and decisions and consequences of a young person for what they are. I don’t know if that makes sense, lol!

    I love writing Melissa! I was also very much like her at that age.

    Oh, and I’m sorry if these next couple of stories about Summer break your heart a little. You know, similar backgrounds and everything, and they made me bawl like a baby just writing them.

    *sigh* It’s good for the soul, though, right? 😉

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