There are a lot of misconceptions about Young Adult or YA Fiction. That it is fluff and nothing but, while somehow being full of issue stories. That it doesn’t take as much effort to write YA because the demographic, 13/14-year-olds to 18-year-olds will allow a writer to get away with just about anything. That YA is a genre in the traditional sense. Even that you can’t have sex, violence, swearing, or other material adults find objectionable for young adults to read in it.
Much like so many misconceptions in life, none of these things are true
Young Adult or YA Fiction is, for example, not a genre in the traditional sense, but a marketing category based on the themes and the age of the character. Which means that a YA story can be any genre. Horror, Romance, Contemporary and Literary, Scifi & Fantasy, Historical. All of these genres under the YA umbrella are equally able to support the theme of teen concerns and coming into yourself that is the hallmark of this awesome market.
Then you have the graphic content issue. There isn’t much to say except that you can have sex, violence, or swearing in YA stories. Even graphic swearing, violence, sex etc. is allowed as long as it isn’t gratuitous. Which may seem strange to some, but I like to think of it as the following: if a story is about a teen struggling with cutting, trying to survive a serial killer classmate or school shooter etc., then swearing or graphic violence aren’t out of place. They are part of the story and it is our jobs as writers to represent the story in as true a form as is possible. Glossing over a teen who cuts, or the swearing in a YA Horror novel doesn’t add anything to the story itself. Letting the story be what it is, graphic content and all does.
The same can hold true of any other YA story; if the story is actually enhanced by the graphic content, whatever it may be, then removing it doesn’t make any sense from the story perspective.
Which, finally, brings us to the reason I love writing YA. The combination of almost anything being allowed as long as it isn’t gratuitous, the wide range of genres within the market, and the innovative combination of genres and themes many YA stories cover. It’s a heady combination as a writer, to have that type of freedom and only be expected to write a good story.
And if you love something, like a specific type of writing, why not put in the time and effort to write stories in that market yourself?
The belief a writer should write what they love is what keeps me writing the genres I do. Graphic Horror stories aimed at the Adult market, Fantasy and Science Fiction, and yes, the various genres you can find in YA.
And I wouldn’t change that for the world.
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