Elaine Fraser is a published author of Young Adult Fiction and has recently made the decision to move to Adult Fiction. In this post we look at the main elements of the two styles.
You are currently transitioning from a published author of Young Adult books. Let’s look first at Young Adult writing – What advice do you have for YA writers?
I was a high school teacher and wrote my first five books specifically for the YA market. My goal was to write books for teenage girls that inspired them to live beautiful lives. My book titles mirror this theme.
My non-fiction books Beautiful: beauty tips for the soul and Too Beautiful: more beauty tips for the soul are used in prisons, hospitals and schools.
The characters are grappling with typical life issues and spiritual concerns that affect a lot of girls. I hope that the growth of the characters will inspire the readers to live a life that’s bigger than they’ve ever dreamed and encourage them to live for the good of others, not just themselves. Life is not perfect and choices have consequences, but we always have the chance to take a new direction and that’s one of the central themes of my novels.
I think you have to create stories that resonate with a particular audience. Connection with teenagers is important, but telling a good story is of primary importance. I have a few teen readers who read my manuscripts before they are published. I get them to give me a critique of the writing, but also to tell me if anything doesn’t ring true with them or there are flat spots in the plot.
I’ve just finished my third novel, Amazing Grace, and, because it’s about someone struggling with their sexual identity, I’ve had two people who identify as gay/lesbian read the manuscript to give feedback. I also have a university student who studied Literature critique, as well as a fellow writer.
I am constantly working towards improving my writing to make it palatable to young readers. I research thoroughly by talking to people, reading Facebook posts, watching YA movies and reading in the YA genre as well as research papers.
As a teacher I knew that when I said anything in a classroom of teenagers, that I had better be honest, full of integrity and also vulnerable. These qualities are at the forefront of my mind when writing for young adults. They are a tough audience and don’t easily accept inconsistency or patronisation.
How have you changed your writing for Adult Fiction? As in, apart from theme, what else do those looking to make the transition have to work on?
A YA novel is fast-paced and written with not a lot of telling. A YA novel tends to be all showing. YA protagonists are very much focused on the present. What is happening now, how they feel in the moment, they care about what problems they have now. When writing for adults there is more scope to develop the character’s perspective on life. Adults can be more reflective and analytical. They have a wider perspective of life and think more about consequences. Therefore, decision-making is often more drawn-out as adults tend to be less impulsive, especially if they have family responsibilities.
Adult novels tend to be longer and things can unfold a little slower with perhaps more subtlety. Undercurrents and challenging moral dilemmas can be explored in more complexity. Like in YA, the voice in an adult novel tends to reflect characters that readers identify with.
The adult novel I’m writing dissects a marriage and also tells of a story from an earlier generation. It’s more complex and wrapped up in the subtle and complex interactions between partners, children, extended family and intergenerational influences than any of the YA books I’ve written.
I found that writing for teens has taught me to be sure of having an honest voice. Teens are shrewd, seek authenticity and are quick to judge. I keep that in mind as I write and hope that the voice of my protagonist will ring true and they will say, ‘I know someone like that.’ Or, ‘That’s how I feel.’ I think this is the same for YA and adult fiction.
As I continue to work on my first novel for adults, the voice of the 45-year-old woman echoes the voices of a compilation of voices of women I have known. I have the space to explore the complexity of a marriage and I’m attempting to articulate the emotions and concerns that many readers may relate to.
At the end of the day, my YA books are expressing a voice for teens and the adult novels express a voice for adults. The concerns are common to the age group of the protagonist and the human condition. The telling of the story may be slightly different, but at the end of the day a compelling story that relates to your audience is what matters.
A poem by Judith Morris inspired by the 2014 Art of Writing
A disparate group of
Enters the ring
“Will they laugh,
Or insult me?
Test my resolve
Interrogate, unnerve me?”
Of writer’s block
Silence your fear
Someone will mock
All gathered here
“Have I got
What it takes?”
Don’t even consider
Up to the mark
When writers share
Feel the energy
Wow at the talent
Alive in the room
You’ll find within!