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How to categorize my work???

Posted: May 18th, 2010, 5:33 pm
by myangelie04
I'm having trouble defining a genre for my novel. It's about a 21 year old man with telepathic powers, and the 18 year old girl he falls in love with. In my opinion the story is too mature to be considered YA, but it may be too tame to be considered Paranormal Romance. If it falls somewhere in between, how do I pitch it in a query letter?

Re: How to categorize my work???

Posted: May 18th, 2010, 6:37 pm
by bronwyn1
If the MC is the 21 year old man, then it's not YA (IMO). But if the MC is the 18 year old girl, then it could be YA, because YA readers usually like to "read up" (i.e. read about older protagonists), but at the same time, most YA protagonists are between the ages of 15-18.

Is the relationship between the man and the woman the central part of the book? If so, then I'd say it was Paranormal Romance (YA or non YA). I'm not a Romance expert by any means, but I think anything where the relationship is central can be considered Romance, 'tame' or not.

Hope I could help! :)

Re: How to categorize my work???

Posted: May 18th, 2010, 8:15 pm
by Robin
Thinking Paranormal Romance as well, unless you've dialed up the sex, then it may be erotica... You may want to check with RWA (romance writers of america) for their standards.


Re: How to categorize my work???

Posted: May 18th, 2010, 8:43 pm
by gonzo2802
It's a paranormal romance if the story revolves around the relationship between the two characters and happens to have a paranormal element to it. As long as (and this is the part I didn't know at first)the story ends with a happily-ever-after or a to-be-continued upswing. Romance folks are VERY strict about wanting a positive outcome in the end. If it doesn't end happy, or at least with some positive momentum, it's not romance.

Re: How to categorize my work???

Posted: May 20th, 2010, 8:39 am
by Nomad0404
Based on that how would you categorise the movie (yeah I know it's a not a novel but it's the first thing example that came to mind) Message in a Bottle.

That's Romance, possibly a Romantic Tragedy.

Actually speaking of which what is Romeo and Juliet then? The greatest love story ever told (so some say!) doesn't have a happy ending though does it.


Re: How to categorize my work???

Posted: May 20th, 2010, 9:21 am
by Ishta
Romeo and Juliet is considered to be among Shakespeare's tragedies.

Re: How to categorize my work???

Posted: May 21st, 2010, 2:56 am
by Jessica Peter
Uh oh, that's the gray zone! The one panel I was at in the Romantic Times Convention had just this discussion. That's a really tough character age to get published, because if the 21-year old is your protag it's not YA, and it struggles in the adult market as well.

The "too tame" doesn't affect the labelling as Paranormal Romance. As others have said but in different words, what makes it romance: 1) the romance is the main plot; 2) there's a happily ever after or "happy for now" ending. The heat levels can go anywhere from sweet to scorching (erotic romance...).

If I were you I'd either:
- make the 18-year old the main character and call it in YA
- just call it Paranormal Romance and let an agent/editor make a change if necessary

Re: How to categorize my work???

Posted: May 21st, 2010, 10:16 am
by myangelie04
But if I make it YA, does that mean I have to take all of the intimacy out? None of it goes into detail at all, but I've heard that YA doesn't have any sex at all. I wish I could form my own category, but something tells me that wouldn't go over too well with any agents or publishing companies.....

Re: How to categorize my work???

Posted: May 21st, 2010, 11:17 am
by bronwyn1
IMO, I think you can keep the sex scenes in and still make it YA. There's a whole genre called "edgy YA" that deals with stuff a lot worse than the occasional sex scene (i.e. graphic drug use and addiction, rape, etc). YA has "grown up" a lot over the years.

Re: How to categorize my work???

Posted: May 21st, 2010, 11:38 am
by polymath
Categorizing a work for pitching purposes is a good practice. A best practice is to stay loose. Edgy young adult paranormal romance seems sufficient for thought exercise purposes. The pitch ideally would show the edginess and wouldn't have to be remarked. The pitch ideally would also show the young adult, paranormal, and romance facets too, but agents like to know that a writer knows the category of a work. Young adult paranormal romance is sufficient. Target audience and marketplace genre categorization.

Amatory romance conventions aside, out-of-category romance is a genre category that's at the head of the popularity pack. Out-of-category romance melds genres. Science fiction or fantasy romance. Romance that's not purely in the Romantic movement conventions of favorable outcomes and Poetic Justice outcomes. Anti-hero/heroine protagonists, deuteragontists, triagonists. Historical fiction romance. Literary fiction romance. Thriller romance. Etc. I'm finding labeling anything literary is a least best practice, though. That decision is not a writer's to make, peer review of the literary review kind defines it.

Edgy does more than one thing. It can get a book on restricted audience lists, increasing target audience appeal. R rated material has high young adult appeal potential. Edgy young adult material is popular with the audience bracket for its frank explorations of the issues young adults face, with emphasis on independent identity formation. Edgy independent identity formation has high originality potential.

The simple convention of romance novels of the amatory kind is Sexual Tension built by the suspense question of will they or won't they meaningfully connect and leaving that outcome in doubt until the bitter end and, of course, satisfactorily resolving it. In young adult romance, the resolution outcome is no more limited than adult romance fiction possibilities. However, my opinion is a resolution should in some way portray an unequivocal, irrevocable transformation of self-identity. Coming of age, in the case of young adult, including but not limited to a loss of innocence.

Re: How to categorize my work???

Posted: May 21st, 2010, 11:44 am
by myangelie04
Wow, I've spent alot of time researching genres, and I'd never seen anything about edgy YA. Everything I read about YA made it sound like it needed to be completely chaste and well-behaved. Thanks for the info--this is my first time out, and I just really want to make sure I give myself the best chance possible of being noticed.

Re: How to categorize my work???

Posted: May 21st, 2010, 3:30 pm
by bronwyn1
Yeah, it's a small genre, but "edgy YA" is growing. There's still a lot of bubblegum type stuff (and that's okay. I like to read bubblegum type stuff occasionally), but there's definitely room for something more serious and graphic. Some examples: ... 380732238/ "Smack" by Melvin Burgess ... 439507529/ "Martyn Pig" by Kevin Brooks "Go Ask Alice" by Anonymous (probably the quintessential "edgy YA" book about drugs)

And of course stuff like THE OUTSIDERS or CATCHER IN THE RYE were the first real works of "edgy YA"

Re: How to categorize my work???

Posted: June 29th, 2010, 8:57 am
by insomniacfoetus
Post deleted.

Re: How to categorize my work???

Posted: June 29th, 2010, 2:44 pm
by maybegenius
A YA novel doesn't actually even need to be classified as "edgy" anymore to contain sex. Many of them contain sex or sexual feelings, even if the content isn't graphic. I mean, the Twilight saga had sex, and I hardly think of them as especially edgy. The standard "rule" anymore is that if there is sex, it tends to happen off the page or be implied rather than shown. If the sex act is described at all, it is in tame terms - no below-the-waist body parts named, no description of thrusting or anything like that. Anything more than a very tame scene in general terms will bump it up to adult.

Anyway! I agree that you're placing yourself in an awkward position with the ages of your characters. One publisher in particular is trying to establish a new genre called "New Adult" which is supposed to bridge the gap between YA and adult, which you would fit in nicely, but I don't think it's a "thing" yet. It's going to be very difficult to place a book that is not quite YA and not quite adult.

I agree with whoever suggested making the 18-year old the main character and calling it YA; that seems a good bet. Another possibility is making BOTH characters younger, or making them both older. Is there a particular reason why these characters HAVE to be 18 and 21?

Re: How to categorize my work???

Posted: June 29th, 2010, 4:08 pm
by cheekychook
I don't know the specifics of today's YA market/publishers, but sex has always been a topic that is dealt with in YA literature. Judy Blume's Deenie, Then Again Maybe I Won't, and Forever were all published as YA novels in the 1970s, as was Sandra Scoppetone's Trying Hard To Hear You. These books cover everything from "what's normal" for adolescents (male and female), to first sexual experiences and relationships, to homosexuality. Teen readers tend to devour books that deal with issues that are important to them and, let's face it, sex is important to them.

In terms of deciding whether or not a book falls into the YA category, I would think that the context and manner in which the sexual issues are addressed would be the determining factors. Are you thinking this storyline will appeal to teens? Or is it more geared toward the college age group? Or more for adults who want to read about college-aged characters? Are the characters engaging in more mature thought/activities or are things kept more simple?

There are actually plenty of books that are about "older teens" or people in their early twenties that are not YA books, at all. I spent all morning at the dentist's office today, and I think my brain is still numb from the overuse of novocaine, so all that springs to mind are Nicholas Sparks' many of them at least start with characters who are in that age group.

I totally sympathize with your struggle to decide which genre your book is, it's one of those things that seems like it should be obvious but often is not.