Since hitting the internet hard with the unwanted presence like a stinking corpse on the windshield, I’ve come across hundreds and hundreds of ‘YA authors’. Twitter is especially packed with them:
‘Jenny Bloggs – I love my cats, my crochet class and I’m a YA author’
‘Jeremy Snaggleforth the Third – YA author and nuclear physicist.’
They’re everywhere. What baffled me at first, is what YA is all about. It’s all about demographic: Young Adult. These writers aim their work at readers between the ages of 14 to 18 (with differing reports swinging a couple of years in either direction). There’s always been this niche in the market. Philip Pullman and Terry Pratchett are a couple who spring to mind as potential jet-setters. And then, of course, came J.K. Rowling with the Harry Potter novels (mentioning that should generate a few hits mwahahaha). And the YA ‘genre’ exploded. It seems to me that anyone who’s anyone trying to be an author is tuning into the YA bandwidth and cranking the volume.
Now, in case I’m about to sound like a grouch, I want to state that I love it when a new sub-genre comes along, if only because of the nifty names people come up with. I have a weakness for Steampunk, as previous readers may already know. Then there’s Splatterpunk, Bizarro, Supernatural Romance (Bloody Twilight!) and even Cybergoth which I only found out about while researchign this post. The word Cybergoth conjures quite the nightmare image doesn’t it? Terminator meets Gormenghast? What a combo! Anyways, there are hundreds of little subgenres floating around in the briny sea of fiction like plankton.
What bothers me is that YA isn’t a genre, or a subgenre. Despite stating its demographic (useful if you’re submitting to Literary Agents), it’s astoundingly vague. So far, I’ve come across ‘YA authors’ that write sci-fi, romance, fantasy, and a host of other major genres. It’d be impossible to have a YA section in a bookshop. Maybe an entire YA Waterstones would be better. So what’s the point? Well, it’s this: Is YA a bandwagon? Does its vagueness make the term itself defunct? Like saying ‘milk’ out loud a hundred times, does it simply become a sound with no meaning? Apart from generating hits on Twitter, does the term ‘YA’ serve any function at all?
And, since we’re pondering the purpose of things. What’s the point of this post?
I’ll tell you, because I can see you’re fused to your seat in anticipation….
It’s a friendly warning. Coming from a fellow ‘writer’ such as myself, I certainly hope no one is assuming that writing for this age group is easier than any other. It’s harder! Young adults are sharp, insiteful and have the attention span of a goldfish with a traumatic brain injury. For aspiring authors, restricting yourself to a demographic could be a dangerous approach. Think of it this way: No author calls themselves a ‘fantasy’ author or a ‘horror’ author. Those tags are applied by other people. People who own shelves and catalogues. Just write your story. Enjoy writing it. And, if you please, pitch it to the YA audience. But don’t label yourself. Others will be quick enough to do that for you.
Thanks for reading.