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?