Boundaries. They need to become visible, definable at times. A librarian, stocker, or customer needs to know where to shelve or find what book they want. Publishers label in genres to fit our expectations. Marketers use genre to advertise to their target audience. Boundaries make good reference points but can become muddy or inconsistent in the book world. Writers need to guard awareness of their intended genre as they write. Perhaps that is why there were so many genre questions at the writeoncon workshop. Agents and editors answered many questions to define the differences between Middle Grade (MG) and Young Adult (YA). A few mentioned New Adult (NA), a bridge between YA and Adult books. You can read all the great articles, but, since you’re here, enjoy my summary on the topic.
1. The agents were especially asking to see more manuscripts in MG.
2. Basic Differences between MG and YA are seen in both the voice and sentence structure. The voice of the MG story shows kids discovering, learning how they fit in their own world, being part of a group, growing up is the main experience. The YA voice shows youths who are learning to stand out in their world, learning to fit in a world that it bigger than themselves, they can look back on growing up experiences because they’ve already lived them.
Author Claire Legrand gave us a list of things to consider in MG vs YA:
Age: Tweens or Teens? Avoid that between age of 13. Another boundaries problem.
Romance: Kissy-Kissy or Kissy-Kissy? Innocent discovery of romantic feelings, no lust vs undertones of sexual awakening.
Swearing: Darn or Damn? Swearing doesn’t fit the MG voice, even if real life might. Don’t insert just to be edgy, needs a purpose like fitting the tone, setting, or emotion. Remember, schools and libraries buy books too.
Violence: PG or PG-13?
Experience: Internal or External? How they experience or perceive the world.
Journey: Only just begun or Finally getting somewhere?
Awareness: Observing or Analyzing?
Language: Simple or Complex? Both in dialogue and sentence structure.
Voice: 3rd Person or 1st Person (Or Does it really matter)? Do what works best for the story.
3. New Adult generally contains college-age or post-high school characters for high school and beyond readers. NA isn’t big enough yet for its own category, causing the headache of where to place it—YA or Adult? Yeah, that’s a Catch 22 situation.
4. When querying or pitching, an author needs to give her book’s genre. Pick the biggest one that fills the bucket. Don’t name it a YA futuristic paranormal romance with a western flare. Which one dominates? Who is the core audience? Let the other elements come out in the story without mention.
5. Don’t write specifically for the new trend you see. Chances are agents have searched through hundreds of manuscripts in that genre’s theme to find one or two they love enough to take on. By the time a book is sold and published, the trend will be worn out. Just write a great book! Strong voice, strong characters, emotion, high stakes—all that good stuff. Yeah, no one said it would be easy.