Random Inspirations

Welcome to my blog, full of fun inspirations and insights on writing, self-publishing, and more!

Reflections on Clean YA Fiction

Is it just my imagination, or is Young Adult fiction getting more and more mature? And I’m not just talking about the sassy, wise-beyond-their-years main characters–I’m talking about the steamy sex scenes and adult language that seem to be pervading the genre.

I have no problem with these things, since they’re part of life. Nor do I have a problem with the writers who incorporate these elements into their stories, as they can be very entertaining for teens exploring a new side of themselves.

But, when I’m writing, I prefer to keep it clean. I grew up reading clean YA, and there’s something beautiful about keeping that innocence alive. When I write, I think not only of critics and book sales, but of the average reader: a fourteen year-old girl discovering herself, for example. I think of her motivations, her desires, her likes and dislikes. And my target reader is always on the innocent side, as many girls that age are.

Whenever I write a scene, I also ask myself: Would my parents be proud to read this? How about my grandparents? How about my future kids?

Asking myself these questions has always kept my writing clean. It also prompted me to end my two-week hiatus from the blogosphere and post my viewpoints on swearing and sex in YA fiction.

When I'm writing, I prefer to keep it clean. :)

When I’m writing, I prefer to keep it clean.

  • Swearing in YA: Teens swear–no doubt about it. And so do some school-aged kids, new adults, middle-aged adults, elderly people…the list goes on and on. But when I write YA fiction, I prefer to avoid profanities. As my great-grandpa always said, “People who swear have an insufficient vocabulary in which to express themselves.” I don’t mind swearing (in moderation) in everyday life or even in books. But when I’m writing, I take Great-Grandpa’s challenge and find other words to express myself–especially when my audience may include readers as young as a precocious age nine or ten.
  • Sex in YA: Erotica is everywhere, and it’s even creeping into YA fiction. (Hopefully, YA erotica is not the next big thing!) But I never include sex scenes in my writing. Although many teens are active, a lot of readers aren’t, and it’s great to preserve that innocence. Capturing the magic of a first kiss can be just as emotionally stirring as a sultry sex scene–and it’s infinitely more age-appropriate.

I did some research, and it seems like many writers are in my squeaky-clean corner. Click here to watch a super-fun video posted by the Parenthetical Chicks that drives my points home. Enjoy!

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A Midsummer Night’s Reflection

Tonight was one of the most beautiful summer nights of the year, at least in Chicago. As dusk fell and I was eating dinner, I checked out the most recent reviews of my Kindle eBook, the short story A First Time for Everything. Between the demands of wedding planning and preparing the condo for sale, my writing had been playing second (or third or fourth) fiddle, and I wanted to see what I’d missed.

I was astounded to find that First Time now has 4 1/2 stars instead of 5. The first 7 reviews were all 5 stars; they were posted by friends and random young adult readers who’d bought and liked the eBook. The eighth review, however, was…gasp…2 stars!

The author of the review was obviously an older person (as evidenced by her comment that the book was for “juvenile readers”), and she liked the writing style and content, but said the story was too short and had ended as soon as she’d “gotten into it.”

This brought me to the inevitable conclusion that I’d begun to reach before my (first ever–sob) 2 star review: When writing short stories, there is such a thing as too short! First Time was originally entered in a contest for short stories up to 3000 words, and before self-publishing it, I’d fleshed it out to over 4000 words. I figured 4000 words (roughly 15 pages) was a good length for a short story, and the plotline, characters, and conclusion seemed complete.

I began having second thoughts when Antonio pointed out the lengths of some other teen short stories on Amazon. A few were the same length as mine, but the others were 25 pages or 30 pages or–what?!!–almost 100 pages! At first, I rolled my eyes, thinking about the “short stories” I’d grown up reading. What the heck is a hundred-page short story? A novella?

But I guess this review was a wake-up call. People say teens have short attention spans (Don’t we all?), but there is such a thing as too short. That’s why I’m taking the time to add to the new short story I’m writing. It’s super-fun Amish teen fiction with dynamic characters, but obviously, 15 pages is too short. And I want everyone, whether a true YA reader or an older adult who still thinks of YA fiction as “Juvenile Fiction” to feel satisfied at the end.