The Line in the Sand: Y.A. and N.A.

I’ve been reading Young Adult (YA) novels for quite a few years now, and for the most part, it’s always been easy to determine where teen books end and adult books start. Times have changed though, and now we’ve entered into the beginning of an era of a new book category: New Adult (NA).

New Adult novels have come into their own very recently – I’d say within the past few years. As of right now, NA books consist of characters that aren’t quite teenagers anymore, but aren’t really considered full-fledged adults yet either. If I had to take a guess at the age range of the protagonists in these novels, it would be 18-24.

In this grouping, writers have a whole new set of issues and problems for their main characters to work through. Going off to college/university, moving out, having a serious and committed relationship – these are just a few of the important topics which can be touched on in a NA novel. There’s a similar presence of a “coming of age” story found in the YA genre, but in NA the choices seem to have a greater impact on the long-term future of the characters. Where YA focuses on learning who the characters are as people, NA features characters determining what it means to really be an adult.

New Adult novels have less constraints on the so-called “rules” YA authors face when trying to get published. Some people like to argue that NA novels allow for more intimate scenes to be published in them – which is true – but I don’t believe this is a requirement of this genre. Instead, I like to think that the NA genre has an added benefit by having the choice for these more graphic scenes. Technically YA novels can get published with sex scenes in them – I’ve read books that have it, it’s just not as common and definitely more toned down. The whole “fade to black” tactic is commonly found in YA whereas NA has the freedom to describe the emotions the characters are feeling in the moment.

So, why am I writing about this particular topic, you ask? Well I’m currently facing a dilemma of listing my first-draft completed trilogy as a YA novel or NA novel. Technically my main character is a young adult: she’s seventeen at the beginning of the first book and it focuses on her journey through her last year of high school, but by the time the final book comes around, she’s now nineteen and part way through university. On top of this, my trilogy deals with some loaded issues (rape and abuse) that can sometimes be considered too heavy for the YA genre. In many ways, my main characters are a hybrid between these two genres: new adults living in young adult bodies. They deal with some of the problems people five or six years older than them would normally handle, yet at the same time have the petty issues involving high school to handle as well.

When it comes right down to it, I know I’m going to have to make the tough decision and determine once and for all which genre my trilogy stands in, but for now, I guess it will just remain up in the air, floating somewhere in between two extremely good options.

Until next time.


Point of View: 1st or 3rd?

I’ve been writing since I was a little kid. My first story was about two pre-teen spies, the youngest members of a top secret spy organization in Canada. They fought big baddies with cool gadgets, all while attending regular public school. Yes, Ali and Jay were my first dabble into the world of writing and creating stories, but when it came time for me to start the process of putting the words down onto the page, I had a crucial decision to make.

Why am talking about some unfinished kids story I wrote years ago, you ask? Well, it’s because that crucial decision I had to make was which point of view (referred to here on out as POV) I was going to use. At the time, it was an easy decision. It had to be third person. Every book I’d read up until then was written that way. It was all I knew.

Recently, I’ve been struggling with a POV decision in my latest manuscript project, so I thought I’d share my conflicting struggles here and do what I usually do to work out an issue: write it out. Currently, my story is being written in third person POV, but everything I’ve worked on over the past four years has been first person POV. Here lies my problem. Which one works best? What are the pros and cons of each?

So, we begin.

Third person POV is the most commonly found POV in novels, though some will argue first person is making a compelling surge into the marketplace. The immediately obvious reason why third person works well for writing is the freedom it gives you. Having your narrator separate from the story allows for them to jump from character to character, providing the reader with a wide lens of the story’s universe. This can be very helpful if you have a multi-plot novel, where you constantly need to jump around covering different events that are happening. This freedom also works in a different way though, as it allows the author to write important scenes without the protagonist present. Out of all the pros third person presents, this is the one I always wish I have when working in first person.

Some people argue that third person allows for easier transition between characters if you have a multi-character POV story – and I understand why this is the case. It’s much simpler to keep straight who the story is following if the reader is constantly being reminded of the character’s name. In first person, it’s more difficult to garner than separation.

One of the biggest things I think third person POV novels are good for happens to be genre-specific. If you’re writing a thriller or mystery – or just something that has a lot of suspense – third person is a very enticing option. Why? Well, the reader doesn’t ever know if the protagonist is going to die or not. Because third person isn’t inside of the character’s head in the same way first person allows, the reader can’t confirm if they survive or not. For example, if the narrator sounds like “I went to the store”, the reader can assume the character survives their excursion to the store since they are now commenting on it. In third person, however, where the narrator sounds more like “She went to the store”, the reader has no idea what happens afterwards.

Other pros:

  • Protagonist character descriptions are much easier, since the narrator is easily able to view everyone
  • The narrator is USUALLY more objective and reliable than first person POV since they aren’t an actual character involved in the plot of the story

In the other corner is first person POV. This is the POV that I write most frequently in, so I would say it comes most naturally to me, though it definitely has its flaws. Here, I’m going to focus on the benefits of first person.

Personally, I believe that the best part of first person POV is the personal connection the reader gets to the narrator (which most of the time ends up being the protagonist). Being able to get inside the mind of the character means most of the time it’s easier to relate to them, since the reader experiences everything the narrator is thinking and feeling. Naturally, it feels more intimate to have a narrator as a first person POV. Not only do you get to understand how they think, but you feel as if they’re telling you some sort of an oral story and to some extent feel like you may be along for the ride.

Character development falls somewhat into my previous point about intimacy with the narrator. Due to the nature of first person POV, the reader gets to discover things about the narrator-character that normally couldn’t be show or told if done so through a different narrative structure. You can discover hidden traits of the character through their word choices, sentence structures, speech patterns, thought processes… just to name a few.

First person POV also allows for an easy blend between real life and the fictional world a reader explores. Since we experience our day-to-day lives in first person, experiencing everything first hand, it’s a good fit to have a story told in the same manner. This mirroring of real life adds to that intimate bond a reader forms with a first person POV narrator.

Other pros:

  • First person POV can create a narrative filter if an author wishes to lead their readers down a particular path – an unreliable narrator can cause confusion, or even plot twists
  • Works well for specific genres – especially Y.A., due to the nature of the genre

In closing:

I’m not going to say whether first or third person POV are the better option; I believe that both can be effective if used in the right way. As I’ve already mentioned earlier, I prefer to write in first person POV, though I think that’s mainly because I feel I can get inside the head of the characters I’m working with if I write from them.

Both choices present challenges, though I think using a few tricks these problems can be solved. For example, third person has issues with character intimacy. I believe that isn’t necessarily a bad thing all the time – some distance and space from the characters can sometimes keep things from getting muddled up. Another solution to that problem? Write in character-focused third person POV, where the narrator follows one character at a time and is allowed inside the head of that particular person when following them.

First person has issues with creating scenes where the protagonist isn’t present. There’s an easy fix to this problem, I believe, and it’s writing a piece with multi-character POVs. By including other perspectives, not only does it keep the story fresh and interesting, it allows for parts of the story which happen when the protagonist isn’t around to exist in the narrative.

Overall, I think determining what point of view to write in depends on what you as an author want to present to your reader. There are positives and negatives to both options, though with enough creative thinking, the negatives can be turned into something better.

So I’ll leave you with that for this time. If you have anything you’d like to add to this discussion, please leave a comment. It’s always appreciated.

Until next time, and keep writing!


Plotting and Pantsing

Have you ever started working on a piece and not realized really what’s actually going to happen? Well, I have, and let me tell you, it feels kind of weird.

This past month I read in a Writer’s Digest magazine article that there are generally two types of writers: plotters and pantsers. Plotters are people that plan their novels out meticulously before they even write a word down. Pantsers are the exact opposite – they pretty much run with an idea and see where it takes them.

Now, I’m not trying to say that I’m completely a plotter (I’d actually consider myself some form of a hybrid “plantster”), but I definitely have some structure whenever I start a new project. Usually, what I have written down originally ends up changing or being scrapped entirely for something different, but I’ve learned over the years I’ve been writing that I need a bit of structure in the beginning to get me started.

With that in mind, let me inform you about what’s currently going on with me and my latest writing project. I began working on this particular piece back in August of last year after spending some time with certain characters in a novella I was writing just prior to that. At the time I started writing, I had three characters in mind: the main character, her best friend, and her love interest. I knew their names, brief ideas of what they looked like, and that was it. Well, other than one small plot idea I really wanted to slide into the novel somewhere.

I hadn’t yet found this article on plotter and pantsers yet, and if you go back and read a blog post I wrote partially about this project in September, you’ll see just how much of a panic I was in stressing about my dilemma.

Since that moment of panic, I’ve written just under 30 000 words and as of this very moment, I still don’t really know what I’m exactly writing about. Yes, of course I know more now than when I started working on this last summer, but that’s all come from what I’ve learned about my characters, not what I’ve pre-planned. The difference here is that I’m no longer stressed out about it.

What I’ve found the most interesting about this little experiment is that I now know I can let my characters drive the story, as opposed to making my characters try and follow something I’ve already decided should happen. Now don’t get me wrong, all of my characters in the past have told me what to do at some point in the novel writing. What I mean to say is that I’ve never written something without a specific plot point in mind and let my characters create those plot elements all on their own.

So what can you take from this? Well I know that for me, trying the pantsing style of writing has actually turned out to be quite refreshing and not nearly as stressful as I thought it would be. If I were you and I was stuck with writer’s block, or just looking to get a different part of your creative brain going, I’d try switching things up a bit. If you’re a plotter, try pantsing. Yes, it might be more stressful than you’re used to, but maybe it will bring you a new perspective on your characters like I found. If you’re a pantser, try plotting. Who knows? Maybe some rigid structure might help you finish off a scene you’ve been slaving away over for the past few days. After all, what’s the worst thing that can happen?

To everyone who reads this and tries something new, I’d love to hear about your experiences. And as always, keep writing, everyone!

Until next time.

And so the journey begins…

It’s summertime. I’m done exams, I have no school until September and all I have to do is work at my job, so you would think that I’d be able to sit down and finally get some writing done, eh? Ha! Like that will ever actually happen! Of course, now that I have the time to write I couldn’t come up with a bloody idea if my life depended on it. That’s always how it seems to be with me; I have the time, not a single idea appears… I don’t have the time, a million thoughts are bustling around inside my head. It’s so frustrating.

Well, now that that little rant is done, I guess I should probably make some introductions. I’m an aspiring writer working my way through university (half way done!). Writing is my passion and my life; without it I don’t know what I would do. I’m here on this wonderful blogging site because I have practically the worst case of writer’s block imaginable and I’m trying to get unstuck. Somehow I thought that I could achieve that by letting all the craziness in my head escape onto the page through words.

So this blog will be filled (hopefully) with all those thoughts and ideas trapped inside my head. Maybe it will be a recollection of some memories, maybe it will be a small snippet of something I’m working on, or maybe it will just be a bunch of complete gibberish. Whatever ends up being written down, I hope that it leads to that triumphant moment when I can scream up to the clouds “THE WRITER’S BLOCK IS GONE!!!!!”

Enough for now though. As per usual, my messed up writing brain has deprived me of the words I seek to continue writing this entry. So I shall end this off by saying just one thing: Please, writer’s block, be kind to me and go away soon. Thanks.