Switching Genres: YA versus NA (a Guest Post by Raine Thomas)
Thanks so much for the invite to participate in your Indie Month celebration, Lyn! It’s a pleasure to be here.
When you mentioned the idea of a guest post about writing New Adult versus writing Young Adult, I thought it was brilliant. I actually just sat on a panel about this very topic at the Indie BookFest conference here in Orlando. The other panelists had some great insights on how they approach this, and I’m happy to share my thoughts with your readers.
First, I’ll begin with my own opinion about what constitutes New Adult. This is a highly debated topic, as the genre is still emerging within the publishing industry. In fact, New Adult Contemporary Romance is arguably the hottest genre on the market right now. So what is it?
I define “New Adult” as stories featuring characters in their late teens to mid-twenties (usually capped at around twenty-six), who are finding their way in the world. These characters are usually experiencing many “adult” things for the first time, including college, being away from home, making important life choices, experimenting with things like sex, drugs, and alcohol, and often having their first serious relationships.
The content of NA stories tends to be of a more mature nature than YA, but this doesn’t necessarily mean graphic. This is one of the most debated aspects of this genre, and was a popular subject on the IBF panel. Each of the panelists, myself included, agreed that a story doesn’t have to include graphic sex to be considered NA. Novels featuring graphic sex just for the purpose of including it, we agreed, constitute either straight-up romance or erotica, which is the subject for another post altogether.
Does sex happen among people in this age range? Sure! Does that mean it has to be a part of a New Adult story? Not at all. Now, if it’s a romance, readers will expect some level of intimacy. Whether it’s graphic or “fade to black” is really up to the author.
To me, the chief difference between writing New Adult rather than Young Adult has been less about the characters themselves than it has the sub-genres of the stories. I write YA fantasy romance, but my NA books are contemporary romance. I find that keeping the dramatic tension flowing in my New Adult books is more challenging than in my YA books because I can’t just throw in a battle scene or an encounter with a two-headed troll to generate conflict. Most of the conflict in NA contemporary is internal, which can be difficult to depict. Still, it’s been a pleasure rising to the challenge!
Another key aspect to writing YA versus NA is being aware of my audience. Some of my YA readers are kids in middle school and some are grown women with grandchildren. I want to be sure the stories are appropriate and enjoyable for all levels of my readership. That means that I curb the cursing, violence, and romance at a place I’d feel comfortable for most ages to read. With New Adult, that isn’t a concern.
Regardless of whether I’m writing YA or NA, I develop thorough character sketches and plot outlines before I start writing. My goal is always to deliver a story that grabs the reader’s interest and holds it until the end. I think authors of either of these genres can transition between the two as long as they stay true to their voice and their audiences.
And, hey…those younger YA readers will all grow up one day and want something more grown up to read from their favorite authors. If you also write NA, you’ll be ready for them!
Author bio: Raine Thomas is the award-winning author of a series of YA Fantasy Romance novels about the Estilorian plane, including the Daughters of Saraqael Trilogy and the Firstborn Trilogy. She’s also the author of the bestselling New Adult Contemporary Romance, For Everly, and a new NA title releasing on October 17th, Meant for Her. She’s a proud member of Romance Writers of America and is a contributing blogger to The Writer's Voice. When she isn’t writing or glued to social media, she can usually be found on one of Florida’s beaches with her husband and daughter or crossing the border to visit with her Canadian friends and relatives.