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lucyfilmmaker
01-30-2013, 10:26 PM
Hi everyone,

I'm wrapping up a YA urban fantasy/dystopia type novel, and I've been very careful to keep out foul language and graphic romance. It's not that I personally have an aversion to them (IRL I'm part sailor, especially while driving), but I would like to think it would also appeal to the MG set and don't want any roadblocks for kids that want to read up.

My question is this: Is this something that would be important to an agent? Important enough to include in a query?

Thanks!

Cyia
01-30-2013, 10:36 PM
No. Agents don't care.

YA has language, foul and otherwise, routinely in the narrative. YA is YA. It's not YA and MG or YA and adult or even crossover. You write for one age group, and if others take a liking to it, then even better.

There was "language" in the first books of Harry Potter, btw, and they're firmly MG.

Fantasmac
01-30-2013, 11:22 PM
A question like this make me worry that you aren't reading enough in the genre you write in. Lots of YA novels have colorful language and lots don't. Like Cyia said, agents won't care. Your languages choice really aren't worth mentioning in the query.

Toothpaste
01-31-2013, 01:55 AM
Actually it does matter if you want it to appeal to MG readers too. Sorry. I am firmly in the write whatever you damn well want to camp for YA, but I came from MG, and I know that when it comes to MG language is a whole other thing. If you are going to use "bad language" it needs to be an important point to the story, not just colour. MG is a totally different beast to YA. It doesn't make it any less amazing or thought provoking or innovative. But there are more restrictions. Or at least you are taking a much greater risk that your book won't have a broad appeal with MG. Remember, librarians and teachers and parents are the majority of book buyers for MG.

So if your plan is to write crossover, then yes, I think keeping language in the back of your mind makes a lot of sense. But no, don't mention your focus on language. Just say something like "it's a YA book that can also appeal to MG readers looking to challenge themselves".


Cyia - what "language" was in the first three Potters? Sincere question as I can't think of any myself and that would make for an excellent counter argument.

Cyia
01-31-2013, 03:24 AM
Cyia - what "language" was in the first three Potters? Sincere question as I can't think of any myself and that would make for an excellent counter argument.

"damn," "bitch," and "hell" are the ones I remember off the top of my head. Most of the time, it was phrased as things like "Ron said something that made Hermione yell "RON!" but the adults had a few.

The "damn" was in reference to the letters, via the uncle. (No damn letters today!)
The "bitch" was in reference to Harry's mother, via the uncle's sister (phrased as a dog metaphor - one bad bitch spoils the whole litter)
The "hell" was usually Ron, IIRC. (bloody hell)

Oh, and I think they called Snape "bastard" once, but I'm not sure.

Toothpaste
01-31-2013, 03:35 AM
"Hell" "Damn" and "Bastard" are fine for MG. And I don't think "bitch" appeared until HP went into YA territory (book 4 onward).

That being said, you will still find people who will be offended by the first three words. But it's totally acceptable. I think I used both "hell" and "damn" in my MGs. But stronger? Like the f word, and asshole, and shit etc. That is a MUCH larger risk for MG.

So I guess we need to define what is "language" in the first place :) .

Cyia
01-31-2013, 04:00 AM
"Hell" "Damn" and "Bastard" are fine for MG. And I don't think "bitch" appeared until HP went into YA territory (book 4 onward).

That being said, you will still find people who will be offended by the first three words. But it's totally acceptable. I think I used both "hell" and "damn" in my MGs. But stronger? Like the f word, and asshole, and shit etc. That is a MUCH larger risk for MG.

So I guess we need to define what is "language" in the first place :) .


Exactly. Where I come from, the first 3 would have been shocking in a "kid's" book for most parents.

(The reference to Harry's mom was in book 3, when he "blew up" the aunt and ran out of the house.)

Also, something you put in your other post just hit me. I think there's a miscommunication.

I wasn't saying that it's not important to tailor the language in your book to a specific age group. What I meant was that it doesn't do you any good to try and make a book crossover between MG and YA or YA and adult because that's not really something you have control over. Write the book for the age group you're aiming for and the rest happen if it happens. You can't worry that a book aimed at 15 year olds won't appeal to 11 year olds, because it's not "meant" for 11 year olds. 11 year olds will still likely pick it up, and may even love it, but if you try and tailor it for more than one group at a time, it's likely to read muddy to both.

(Good grief... that's a ramble, isn't it. Sorry, if I'm not making much sense. I've been doing post-op with my Mom and I'm a little brain-frazzled at the moment.)

lucyfilmmaker
01-31-2013, 08:30 PM
Thank you all for your responses! When I say “foul language” I was mostly thinking about gratuitous f-bombing that I’ve seen a lot of lately.

If I’m being honest with myself, the reason I ask is because my “author bio” is a bit thin, and I’m probably grasping at straws with things to mention in the query itself. I guess less is probably more.



I wasn't saying that it's not important to tailor the language in your book to a specific age group. What I meant was that it doesn't do you any good to try and make a book crossover between MG and YA or YA and adult because that's not really something you have control over. Write the book for the age group you're aiming for and the rest happen if it happens. You can't worry that a book aimed at 15 year olds won't appeal to 11 year olds, because it's not "meant" for 11 year olds. 11 year olds will still likely pick it up, and may even love it, but if you try and tailor it for more than one group at a time, it's likely to read muddy to both.

This is exactly what I needed to hear! I overanalyze things, and this made me realize I should probably just be writing.

quicklime
01-31-2013, 09:19 PM
Thank you all for your responses! When I say “foul language” I was mostly thinking about gratuitous f-bombing that I’ve seen a lot of lately.

If I’m being honest with myself, the reason I ask is because my “author bio” is a bit thin, and I’m probably grasping at straws with things to mention in the query itself. I guess less is probably more.


.


people without prior credits get signed EVERY DAY. And it is great to have a credit to wave around, but a pretend one isn't any better than none at all. Write a good story, and a good query. I'm not sure there's any way you could phrase "My book doesn't say 'fuck' in it" that would help land a sale

Phaeal
01-31-2013, 09:56 PM
Remember, librarians and teachers and parents are the majority of book buyers for MG.


Yes, a good reason to avoid "language" if you're hoping for MG readers. The lack of "language" seems to reassure the adults. Meanwhile, the kids are out in the schoolyard, telling each other to fuck off.

:D

Kathleen42
02-01-2013, 12:19 AM
Thank you all for your responses! When I say “foul language” I was mostly thinking about gratuitous f-bombing that I’ve seen a lot of lately.

If I’m being honest with myself, the reason I ask is because my “author bio” is a bit thin, and I’m probably grasping at straws with things to mention in the query itself. I guess less is probably more.



This is exactly what I needed to hear! I overanalyze things, and this made me realize I should probably just be writing.

I agree with not mentioning the language and I wouldn't worry about your author bio. I had no relevant publishing creds and my post-secondary education and occupation were in the visual arts and graphic design. I didn't include anything about myself in my query.

victoriastrauss
02-01-2013, 05:35 AM
I recently got a 2-star review from a reader who was deeply offended by my use of "bastard" to describe the status of the scorned illegitimate daughter of a nobleman. She felt it was an epithet no matter how it was used, and inappropriate for a YA audience. You can't please everyone.

- Victoria