Day One of NaNoWriMo and the Epiphany About New Adult Fiction

Yesterday, November 1st, was the first day of NaNoWriMo. I’m already off to a slower start than I’d like at 1200 words (the goal was 1700) but I get the feeling that I’ll make up for it.

Part of what had me going slow (those 1200 words were agony to write), was the fact that I didn’t know who my audience was. Well, I knew who I wanted my audience to be – but everything I had read up to that point said that that audience doesn’t exist. It was agonizing – I was debating with myself, do I write for 13-18 year olds, or do I write for Adults (i.e., people far too mature to read Young Adult fiction).  Something clicked. I finally asked myself: why do I have to decide?

That’s when I googled “College Aged Protagonists”. I needed to know how to write about a group that no one markets to and still make it interesting. Could a group of 20 something’s be appropriate for young adult fiction? Could they be mature enough for the adult section? The truth is the answer is no to both questions. However, books about college aged protagonists do get shelved in both sections – sometimes at the same time – and that is that. But books like The Magicians by Lev Grossman would probably do best in a New Adult section. Or Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan, which has been drawing criticism from people saying it’s too adult for the Young Adult section where it has been placed.

So what if there was a genre specifically for that age group? The group of 18-26 year olds that don’t necessarily feel like they belong in the real world yet, but are getting past the point of caring about teen issues. There is a genre – the problem is that no one is shelving it yet.

Enter St. Martin’s Press, 2009. They held a contest looking for the best “New Adult Fiction”. No, they were not asking for new erotica,  but they were asking for fiction that fit into that category of appealing to 18-26 year olds. Someone won the contest and they were published but unfortunately after that, New Adult never got off the ground. But that doesn’t mean people aren’t crying out for it. In my searches, I found numerous forums discussing the obvious lack of fiction directed at this age group. Publishers will tell you, “college kids don’t read”. But that’s not true. Sure, a lot of us don’t have the time to finish a book a month, but I definitely read throughout college. Maybe I’m the exception and not the rule, but tell that to all the others crying out for this kind of fiction. Tell that to the young adults who are already too mature for Young Adult fiction. I was reading Adult fiction at 15 because I had surpassed Young Adult – but looking back, I can tell you that I was not ready for a lot of the things I read.

And what about the adults who still devour Young Adult fiction? Look at half the shows on the CW and Fox and ABC and NBC and so on….a good portion of those shows could be considered New Adult – and they’re the most watched shows on television.

I’m calling for a new category in bookstores and with publishers. I want to see a category that’s directed at the lost group, the people that the entire publishing industry seems to have forgotten about or intentionally neglected. I don’t feel well represented in books and I want that to change. I want to write about people my age, and not to have to choose between 16 and 30. I think people will read. I think they’ll devour it.

If you write it, they will come.

What do you think about New Adult Fiction? Is it a good idea?

5 Responses to “Day One of NaNoWriMo and the Epiphany About New Adult Fiction”
  1. Maggie says:

    I love this post. I have had similar thoughts myself because I’m in that age group and I find myself stuck between YA novels and adult novels. Sometimes the YA characters feel immature to me, since I’ve already been through the awkward teenage years, and sometimes I don’t completely relate to characters in adult novels.

    A lot of what I write has protagonists who are between the ages of 18-26. I know it would be difficult to publish and market, but as you say, “if you write it, they will come.” I think the audience for these types of books is already there… we just have to find a better way to attract them to what we’ve written.

    • I think it makes perfect sense to write characters in our age group because we are that age! That’s why it seems so strange that, for all of the writers in our age group, there aren’t more books about protagonists within our age group. Or there are, but they are categorized so that we’ll never find them.

      It’s refreshing to know that the demand is there. Now someone just needs to supply!

  2. c.g.reyes says:

    I love this post too. I think you could extend your age bracket though. I was just speaking with a friend and while I’m considered an “adult” at 32, the adults look at me as if I’m still young and I’m not a young adult. I also agree with Maggie’s comment, the audience is there, we need to market it better.
    I too am off to a slow start for nanowrimo. I haven’t even started yet. I’ve been thinking, I still need my plot outline, character sketches and I want to start blogging again, and so I keep piling more on to my plate and something’s gotta give.
    Anyways, thanks for the post. Good luck with nanowrimo 🙂

    • That’s definitely an interesting thought – although the age bracket of 13-18 doesn’t necessarily stop people my age from reading young adult, and I don’t see why an age bracket of 18-26 would actually stop older adults from reading in that category either. Something to think about for sure!

      Good luck with NaNoWriMo yourself! Outlines are definitely helpful, at least for me. Blogging is something that usually falls by the wayside for me during NaNoWriMo, so good luck with that too! : P

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  1. […] been a little over a year since I posted about New Adult Fiction, but in that year the conversation has spread far more than I ever expected. A year ago, a google […]

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