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JoNightshade
11-28-2007, 05:47 AM
So I don't usually write or read YA, but I have this short story... It's 10K and it's been published in a small but reputable literary periodical. It's been a few years, but I've always felt a bit sad about the fact that it has only been read by a very small audience. I'm wondering if I should try expanding it into a YA novel for two reasons:

1) The protagonist is a 14 year old boy.
2) There's no way I could inflate it to mainstream novel length, but I could expand it to 30 or 40K, which would be appropriate for YA. (Right?)
3) The writing style is very simple and straightforward.

So my question then is whether it is appropriate for the YA market. I have learned from Shady that nothing is too "edgy" for YA, but that's not really my issue. I guess my issue is how I approach it, and whether I would be "speaking" to teens. Mainly I am concerned whether teenagers would be mature enough to grasp my points, or whether they would be misunderstood. Perhaps I should just summarize the story. Here it is:

My MC is a 14 year old boy trying to survive as a freshman. This unfolds over the course of the story, but essentially his mom was really screwed up and committed suicide when he was in grade school. There was no dad in the picture, but it turns out his mom did put a name on the birth certificate. The guy doesn't know if the MC is actually his son (since the woman slept around so much), but he was still deeply in love with this woman who was so terrible to him. The MC looks so much like his mother that when the guy sees him, he has compassion and takes him in as his own. He never performs a paternity test because he doesn't want to know. Unfortunately as time goes on and the MC ages, he only looks more and more like his mother. The dad starts to wonder if his love for the woman is influencing his actions towards his son (eg he lets his son's beautiful curly hair get a bit long because it is just like hers). He is afraid of doing anything remotely inappropriate so when the MC is about 10 the dad stops touching him altogether and essentially cuts him off emotionally.

Fast forward to present day. MC still looks a bit effeminate, which makes it rough for him at school. He has no friends and he is still very young emotionally. He has intense longings for his father's affection but thinks this makes him "gay" because of what everyone else assumes about him. Then a new senior girl shows up at school. She's an army brat, hates everyone, and decides to force her "friendship" on the MC. They form a weird relationship, he ends up confiding in her, and she "helps" him by undressing in a bathroom stall. He realizes maybe he's not gay, she tells him not to assume anything about himself based on what other people say, but to find his own path. Turns out she's hiding a pregnancy and ends up running away at the end. MC is brokenhearted, turns to his dad for comfort, the relationship is slightly repaired.

Okay so that's like... the surface story. There's a lot of other stuff going on, including my MC having issues with bed wetting.

I guess the reason I'm iffy about making this YA is because it really skirts the edge of pedophelia. (I can't spell that word.) The relationship between father and son is really weird and I do stay on the safe side, but I'm afraid it might not be interpreted that way by teens. (Or their parents.)

The other thing is that I made absolutely no judgments in the story. I present the facts and what the characters are thinking and no more. So there's no moral guidelines at all. I realize this might be okay in YA but personally I feel a bit weird about it. Even my adult stories usually steer things one way or another, but this one is definitely out there. I think for that reason it's really good, but perhaps for adults?

If anything, I think the main "moral" point of the story is that our society forces young people to choose what they are way too soon. If you're an effeminate guy, suddenly you're labeled as "gay" by your peers because of their own fears about fitting in. So before you even have time to grapple with sex at all, you have to choose whether or not you're going to put yourself in this predetermined category.

Soooo yeah, I'd appreciate any advice you YA writers and readers may have.

scarletpeaches
11-28-2007, 05:54 AM
Well, bear in mind I'm speaking as a 31 year old woman, but a regular reader of YA also. And a writer of it too. ;)

I'm sure there are YA books that have dealt with paedophilia, homosexuality, teen pregnancies and so on, so the issues themselves aren't 'too edgy' as you say. It all depends on how the book is marketed I guess, although many YA novels are crossovers, are read by adults too. Look how many have dual covers. One for kids, one for grown-ups.

I say go for it. One point I would make is, you mention 'simple' language. I couldn't say exactly what you mean by that as I've never read any of your work, but don't talk down to the reader. That'll turn teens - or, indeed, anyone - right off. Just use your own natural voice as a writer. If, however, simple language is your natural voice, then fair enough, but don't adopt a YA style of writing. Just write the book and if it turns out to be YA, or romance, or horror, or literary...so be it. That's the kind of writer you are.

OverTheHills&FarAway
11-28-2007, 06:07 AM
I agree with SP.

Don't talk down. Don't tell anyone what they should think. It applies to all kinds of writing.


And may I say. That is right up my alley of things I like to read. SO, when you DO turn it into a YA ;) I will read it!

JoNightshade
11-28-2007, 06:07 AM
I say go for it. One point I would make is, you mention 'simple' language. I couldn't say exactly what you mean by that as I've never read any of your work, but don't talk down to the reader. That'll turn teens - or, indeed, anyone - right off. Just use your own natural voice as a writer. If, however, simple language is your natural voice, then fair enough, but don't adopt a YA style of writing. Just write the book and if it turns out to be YA, or romance, or horror, or literary...so be it. That's the kind of writer you are.

Oh, no, that's not what I meant. I have several "voices" and most of the time the one I use is very spare, simple prose. (My other one is a convoluted 18th century prose with long sentences and big words. :)) In this case I just meant that it's not anything super literary and doesn't have a lot of big "adult" words that would turn off younger readers.

Anyway thanks for your advice, I appreciate it. Maybe you're correct about "just writing it." :)

Shady Lane
11-28-2007, 06:38 AM
The other thing is that I made absolutely no judgments in the story. I present the facts and what the characters are thinking and no more. So there's no moral guidelines at all. I realize this might be okay in YA but personally I feel a bit weird about it. Even my adult stories usually steer things one way or another, but this one is definitely out there. I think for that reason it's really good, but perhaps for adults?


This is what makes a good YA book.

Way too many of them are trying to teach us something.


Go for it.

JoNightshade
11-28-2007, 06:39 AM
This is what makes a good YA book.

Way too many of them are trying to teach us something.

Go for it.

But... but... you NEED to be taught! Teenagers are STUPID! ;)

::Jo hightails it away from Shady::

Hapax Legomenon
11-28-2007, 06:41 AM
But... but... you NEED to be taught! Teenagers are STUPID! ;)

::Jo hightails it away from Shady::

But I'm writing an adult book! I need to teach them, too! Adults are STUPID!

Shady Lane
11-28-2007, 06:41 AM
*Shady searches pockets for pepper spray*

I was gonna say 'shotgun' but I'm too much of a hippie.

Hapax Legomenon
11-28-2007, 06:42 AM
*Shady searches pockets for pepper spray*

I was gonna say 'shotgun' but I'm too much of a hippie.

Mind if I give you a hand? *Whips out blackjack*

JoNightshade
11-28-2007, 06:48 AM
::Jo turns on her invisible force field:: Neener neener neener!

Okay, honestly I was just kidding.

To elaborate on what I originally meant... none of my books in any way dictate moral truths to the reader. I never try to "teach" anyone anything. But of course, since I'm the author, and I'm a person, themes central to my own beliefs usually pop up. For instance, Ghosts of Ivy House presents the notion that killing really bad people might not be a "sin." I'm not bludgeoning anyone with the idea, I'm just exploring it.

But I feel like this story doesn't even go that far. And I feel weird about NOT coming down firmly against pedophaelia (which I still can't spell). Maybe I'm just worrying about nothing here.

Danthia
11-29-2007, 01:40 AM
The subject matter sounds fine for YA if handled correctly. ie. as long as it serves the story and isn't there for shock value or gratutious drama. Lots of tough subjects are tackled in YA these days. One thing I noticed though, is that your word count is more middle grade length (YA is more in the 50-70K range) and this story sounds too mature for middle grade readers. So if you went YA, you'd probably want to aim for 50K.

Another thing I noitced was what looked like a lot of subplots. YA novels tend to have fewer subplots and be a bit more starightforward. They deal with complicated issues, but the plots themselves aren't as complex as adult novels.

Worst case, write it and see where it goes :)

KimJo
11-29-2007, 03:03 AM
In reference to word counts, YA word count is a very variable thing, from what I understand; I've seen published YA novels with only around 20,000 words, and some with counts of 100,000 or more.

Carrie R.
11-29-2007, 03:06 AM
Actually, I think if done right this book could be fascinating. The story certainly intrigues me and I'd read it!

JoNightshade
11-29-2007, 08:30 PM
Thanks everyone for your help. Now if you will permit me, one more question. :)

This story is interlaced with small bits from the dad's POV. Would that still be ok for YA or is it more appropriate for the whole thing to be from the kid's POV?

brainstrains
11-29-2007, 11:29 PM
Wow, you know, though things like pedophelia really MAKE ME SO ANGRY, I think this could be fascinating. No, just because it's about a topic that infuriates people, and it's for YAs, does not mean that you have to preach about how wrong it is... actually, that's probably one way NOT to get published as a YA writer.

30K might be a little short for a YA, but I think based on the info you stated above that that could be stretched out.

I would stay away from doing too much narration in the dad's voice-- maybe a snippet before each chapter would be fine, but I think most editors and agents would rather have the kid tell the story. Of course, there's no hard-and-fast rule. Depends on how it's handled. If it's compelling and that's the best way to get your story across, nobody will argue.

ishtar'sgate
11-30-2007, 07:15 AM
The other thing is that I made absolutely no judgments in the story. I present the facts and what the characters are thinking and no more. So there's no moral guidelines at all. I realize this might be okay in YA but personally I feel a bit weird about it. Even my adult stories usually steer things one way or another, but this one is definitely out there. I think for that reason it's really good, but perhaps for adults?


Your story line sounds like it would appeal to teens. I don't think teens are any different than adults. I don't like books where the author makes judgments and presents moral guidelines. I want to read an interesting story. Period. I'll make up my own mind as to whether or not the MC or some other character made right or wrong choices. Teens will do the same and we really need to let them, not try and steer them where we want them to go. They'll balk anyway. :D
Linnea

Aslera
11-30-2007, 07:47 AM
As for the ending of a book, it reminds me, in a good way, of Bridge to Terabithia, which is hands down one of my favorite books of all time I-don't-care-if-I-read-it-in-fifth-grade. If you haven't read it, at the end, Jesse goes tearing through the woods and tries to destroy what he and Leslie built up. And his father who until that point had been very emotionally distant from Jesse finds him and pulls him into his arms and comforts him. To me, that was the biggest point. After not reading it for 10 years and then reading it before the movie came out, I always knew that that was going to be the biggest thing for me. That was the epiphany. It is something that my 10yrold mind grasped and held onto...and it is something my 20yr old mind still held very dear.

So basically what I'm saying is that I like the sound of the book, and that I am glad you'd bring father and son back together in the end.

JoNightshade
11-30-2007, 08:16 AM
Actually for those who are curious, my ending is a bit double-sided. My MC is crying because his friend has left, and he's saying "She's gone, she's gone." The dad comes in to comfort him, but the dad knows nothing about the girl. The dad, in his own grief, assumes the boy is talking about his mother. So he comforts the MC and says "I know," but in reality, he doesn't know. They're each grieving over their separate losses. But in a sense they both get what they need.

Anyways thanks everyone for the input. This project has now been temporarily derailed as I do some more rewriting on my WIP, but I'll get around to it sooner or later. :)

Cassidy
11-30-2007, 09:22 AM
Thanks everyone for your help. Now if you will permit me, one more question. :)

This story is interlaced with small bits from the dad's POV. Would that still be ok for YA or is it more appropriate for the whole thing to be from the kid's POV?

I'm playing around with this question too. I am working on a YA novel at the moment which is told in two voices, those of a teenage girl and her mother. Not sure yet how well that will work or whether I'll stay with that-- I'm 3/4 of the way through a first draft so it could change. I'm finding it interesting to write anyway.. but I'll finish the draft and see what others say when they read it... and go from there.

I'm curious though-- what are you liking about having the two voices? And what are you not sure about?