September 21, 2012

Pamela Greenwood on Editing YA




What makes it YA?

Translation: How can I help my client evaluate a manuscript in terms of its potential as a book for the young adult marketplace?

Recently an editor colleague posed just question to me. Her client had written an adult novel, but a friend of the client had suggested it would attract a young adult audience. My colleague asked: “How much sex is allowed in a young adult novel? This one has a fair amount of ‘fooling around,’ though only one true lovemaking scene. Would this disqualify it from young adult status?”

The short answer is probably not. One sex scene would not automatically bump the story up to the adult market. But there’s a lot more to it, for editors, librarians, parents, and teens themselves. The label “young adults” represents a wide age range: preteen through high school, though the upper end is open. Many YA books are of interest to adult readers (not just those with vampires or Harry Potter in the cast of characters). And many adult books are widely read by teens; in fact, you can find discussions of crossover books on various websites. Here’s a list that might interest you: http://www.bookbrowse.com/browse/index.cfm?category_number=128

I’ll be teaching an online focus class starting October 16 on editing young adult fiction for editors that will include what’s appropriate regarding sexual content, asking these kinds of questions: How does it work in the scope of the theme? What effect does it have on the characters? Does it change the trajectory of the plot? Another important consideration for young adult authors is creating an authentic teen voice, and how that grows out of the character’s experiences and motivations. Ask: Is that voice as believable in the fooling around scenes as it is in the other encounters the characters have and in the decision-making reflections?

There’s more information on this four-week class and registering at the Author-Editor Clinic website. 

--Pamela Greenwood

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