Friday, 17 October 2014

Why YA?

It feels like everyone's writing Young Adult these days.

I never felt young, so YA isn't for me. I hated being a child and couldn't wait to make my own decisions and eat ice cream for dinner or lie in bed all weekend if I wanted. To me, childhood was restrictive and suffocating and I fought against it constantly, so I have no desire at all to write about an age when I was fiercely independent with nothing to be independent about. Then I realised the 10,000-word prequel to my current WIP (work in progress) has Ariana at seventeen years old. Accidental YA. Hurrah! Except if it ever sees the light of day it'll be self-published. I'm not trying to sell it to anyone.

It's pretty discouraging when you don't write YA to find it's the big thing, or any other category that doesn't seem popular. Most agents take YA, because it sells, and far fewer take urban fantasy or magical realism or mystery or whatever the hell my WIP is. Particularly baffling is that New Adult is supposed to be university-age main characters but my research shows many writers are being told it doesn't sell. Why do people want to read about high school but not university? I suppose pretty much everyone goes to school and not necessarily higher education, but I read crime thrillers and I've never been murdered.

Are so many authors writing YA because it's where their interests lie, or because it sells? You can't move for YA writers, in all categories, or agents looking to represent them. Romance and erotica sell too but they lean more towards e-publishing - if you want books on shelves it feels like you've got to write YA. Anyone writing well or commercially enough to get published is doing great, and I have no desire to denigrate YA or those who write it, but I hated pretty much everyone I went to school with and can't think of anything more hideous than having to rehash it.

Who's reading all this YA? I know there was an article written about how adults buying YA is shameful or something and I think people should read whatever they fucking want so I'm not saying anything against that, but it can't all be thirteen- to eighteen-year-olds. There aren't enough of them. I'm sure other people have far fonder memories of school and first love than I do. The concept of me having to choose between two boys when I was fifteen is so outrageous it makes me laugh. I was no more attractive then than I am now.

But as ever current trends elude me as I slide into fuddy-duddydom. (It's on the map next to crazy cat ladydom.) If I'm ever fashionable it's an accident. I'm sure by the time my WIP is finished the trends will have moved on again, and agents will be hanging up signs saying "No witches!". Then what? I don't know. Maybe 60,000 words about high school and first love. In my case it'd be horror rather than YA, though. Horror's a tough sell too.

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