The stories we read and write
Revision update: It’s coming along. I’m still working on the first eight chapters, where I split one chapter into two, and cut down the others a LOT. I still have some research to finish up that could mean I’ll be making changes, but I feel like I’m making some progress, although small steps. Would still love to have it finished by the end of this month, but time is going by so fast, the end of the year is looking more and more reasonable.
I added a new link to my blogroll of Blogs By Writers today, for MiG Writers, written by the members of a critique group of MG and YA writers.
I found it through a link to their post about the difference between middle-grade and young adult. It’s an older post, but still relevant, interesting and well-researched, but my take away from the whole thing is that definitions are only guidelines.
The article discusses word counts a lot, and I’ve talked about word counts a lot on this blog. Some commentors said word counts don’t matter because the Harry Potter books weren’t within the recommended word counts, but that is only true for the first book, and by the time the first book became a bestseller, J.K. Rowling could write an encyclopedia and the publishers would probably have welcomed it. Well, maybe not, but you get my point. Established writers have different rules.
Another interesting part of the post is what constitutes an MG vs. a YA story-wise. Mostly, it was a coming-of-age-type theme for YA and protagonist around 16-18. For MG, theme is learning about yourself and age is 10-12. Now, again, there are always exceptions. I just finished Suzanne Collins‘ Underland Chronicles series and, although her protagonist is 12, the themes and subject matter are decidedly YA. An editor recently told me that she considered that series YA. It’s much more cut and dry in Collins’ newer books, with her Hunger Games protagonist at 16.
For me, I don’t believe writers should shape their story to these guidelines if something else will work better. I don’t think of middle grade or young adult when I get story ideas. The character’s ages are dictated by the story. I didn’t start my books thinking I wanted to write for a middle-grade audience, it just sort of worked out that way, and one of the book ideas I have is definitely a YA.
The story ideas I get coincide with the kind of stories I like to read, and as a big child myself, I lean toward stories that are fun and take me to another world (not necessarily high fantasy, but something that changes my idea of the current world). To me, Terry Pratchett‘s Disc World series fits that bill, even though all those characters are adult. The stories are simple, exciting, funny and touching. That’s what I love in a story, and most of those kind of books, I’ve found, are middle-grade.
Do you read what you write? How do you think of your stories before you write them?