Thursday, December 4, 2014

Let's Talk New Adult

Hey guys, hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! Over here, we are super stoked about Stef's beautiful daughter and Andee finishing her Master's~ *diploma and baby confetti everywhere* so go on and congratulate them!

Today I want to get into NA, aka the New Adult category. My latest manuscript is a NA fantasy and I sort of went on a Twitter Thing a while back about some of this, but I wanted to collect things ~*coherently*~ in a post. So gather 'round the internets, kiddos, bust out the snacks, and let's talk NA.

First, a quick primer if you're unfamiliar:

Wait wait, so what is NA? 

Okay, so this is a legit question and it's one that we're still answering as writers, truthfully.

New Adult is an age category (similar to MG, YA, adult, etc) with protagonists in their "new adult" years, aka the free space after high school where you start work in the professional world, go to college, enroll in the military, or any myriad of life options. Part of the beauty of the category (and also this point in life) is its infinite possibility.

What makes a manuscript NA vs. adult is actually similar to what makes something YA vs. adult: it's the perceptions of the characters and the lens through which the story is told. You can easily (and it's def been done) tell a story about characters in college meant to be read by adult audience, just like how stories about teenagers are not necessarily YA.

Okay, cool. But why are people saying NA is a trend?

This comes back to our age-old adage here on the ranch: publishing changes slowly/is just slow, period. It's hard to tell what's an emerging, permanent thing and what's the latest life-fast-die-hard trend in the market.

I, personally, would like NA to be a permanent thing. I think that it's been around long enough to justify this (keeping in mind that I've just been a literary agent intern and editorial intern and Not a 100% Vetted Industry Professional), and I think it's a category that people are approaching cautiously but optimistically. You look around, you see NAs getting snapped up in PM, you see literary agents listing NA as a category they rep. Indie authors are doing fantastically with NA.

Still, there's a chance it could be a trend, a bubble that will burst, and that we're just riding it out and reaping the benefits of the NA market until it gets over-saturated/the same thing that happened with Paranormal happens.

Okay, primer over. Let's get down the to heavy lifting.

What is NA, really? 

Again, no one is really satisfied on this yet. Search for new adult stories on Amazon, and you'll find that the bulk of them are about kids in college, tend to be contemporary romance, and almost always feature sex.

Which, in itself, is fine! I like those kinds of stories, and I think they are necessary and great. I am glad we have them in NA and I don't want them to go away.

What I don't want is for them to be the entirety of the category.

Imagine if YA were only dystopians. I know I wouldn't read it as much. (And I have nothing against the dystopian genre or its writers-- I just got Way Freaked Out that one time in junior high when we read THE GIVER and my paranoid self has been ruined ever since. Same thing with mysteries. I do read an occasional one and really dig it, but only reading those? Nope nope nope.)

It's the diversity of genres that makes me love YA. Fantasy is my heart and soul, but I've loved getting to explore contemporary, paranormal, and tons of other stories in there. I like reading about Hazel and Augustus navigating the real world with a very real disease, and then seeing June and Day face off in one of the most epic games of cat and mouse I've ever read.

I think NA can have the same breadth, but I also think it's up to us as writers to make that happen.

Is sex a requirement of NA? 

This comes back to how we define NA, what it is now and where it could be going. Right now, it does feel like a requirement to have sex in a NA book, especially graphic sex.

I've heard NA described as "finding your place in the world" versus YA's "finding yourself." I don't think that's wrong, but I also don't think that's totally accurate. As an NA (does 25 still count? I'm still inexplicably in college?) or a former NA, I don't consider myself totally figured out. I view NA as more "finding yourself around other people" or as learning to be interdependent in contrast with learning to be independent as a YA.

Sex is an important part of interdependence. Is it always necessary in an NA? I don't think so. I think it's something that should be addressed, like if a character is choosing to wait, or knows they're asexual, but if we're talking about how NA protags fit into their worlds, then I definitely want to know how they fit into another, most significant other's world, too.

And like in YA, I want to see a variety of sexual experience and levels of explicitness. Right now, the scope is pretty narrow: most NA veers toward graphic of-course-they-have-sex romance. Again, not a problem on its own, but real new adults-- aka the people whose lives we NA writers should be imitating through our art-- have a wide scope of interactions. Sometimes you have a terrible break-up in high school, a fun fling at a house party, and then you're alone again for months.

To sum it up, I really want to see NA exhibit a greater breadth. I know some writers are looking in that direction (and I have my eye on you, 2015 and 2016 releases), but what do you guys think?

What do you want to see in your NA?

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