Saturday, January 15, 2011

Can I Get Away With This?

When the original idea for my WiP came to me, I thought it would best suit MG readers. The central conflict targeted that age group or so I thought. As the story unfolded, that original conflict shifted and became more of a side conflict. Another stronger conflict emerged as I began to develop my 2 main characters. The story has taken on an unexpected direction and I like it a lot. I did develop an outline but I've only been referring to it when my chapter ideas dry out. So far this method has worked for me and I'm about halfway through the novel.

So here's my dilemma. I'm not sure if this is a MG or YA novel and it's becoming a distraction. My original MG storyline is leaning much closer to a YA. I've included flirting, teasing w/ some crude comments in dialogue, and some mild language. I've been calling it Upper MG because it's definitely on the older end of MG but I'm not sure if it crosses into YA territory.

What I'm wondering is if I can use certain words in this category. There aren't many but I do use the word "slut" (in a joking way rather than someone calling someone else this word), "damn," and there's a strong sexual inuendo in a teasing scene. The thing is I wouldn't expect to read these words/phrases in a MG novel, but middle schoolers (7th and 8th grade) would definitely use this language. 1) I've heard them use it (but thankfully not from my own kids) and 2) I remember my own middle school years when it was cool to sprinkle our conversation with a few choice words and all boys seemed to think about was our - ahem - changing bodies.

I know it's early and I still have half a book to write, but I can't help but think it's never too early to know the category my book falls into. I think I'll stick with Upper MG for now and see how the rest of the novel unfolds.

Any thoughts? Do I need to pick MG or YA or can I call it Tween or Upper MG?


  1. I thought I'd bookmarked the article but some time back I read a nice breakdown of the difference between YA and MG books. It didn't categorize upper MG, but I think it's like the old days when there were PG movies and R movies and no category in between. I like yours.

    Anyway, here's an interesting article and they address some of the things you've expressed concern about, especially the language.

    Good luck!

  2. The advice I have followed (from writers, authors and agents) is that the age of the MC is a deciding factor. 16/17 is classic YA. Anything younger and you are looking at MG.

    The rules are constantly changing though, and YA itself has gone through quite a transition in recent years. Perhaps the same is about to happen to MG, with language and situations once deemed "not age apporopriate" now becoming more accepted?

  3. I don't like the trend toward bad language and overt sexuality that YA is taking. If MG starts going that way too I'll be really upset. It's all a trend anyway. It won't last, the pendulum will start swinging the other way soon enough. Write what you love, ignore the trends, and you may have something that outlasts them all.