Saturday, February 22, 2014

Tessa Woodword: Writing New Adult Fiction

Tessa Woodward sitting in a garden of books.
An eight-year veteran of HarperCollins, Tessa Woodward edits romance, women's fiction, mystery, and some creative nonfiction.

She gave us the seven essentials of writing New Adult fiction, a category that's so new there really aren't experts yet. In the past year, though, the category has gained steam, especially at HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster.

"We've taken New Adult and decided it's going to be a thing," she said. "And I'm glad, because I really like it."

Here's a sampling of the seven essentials she's learned along the way.

The first rule of New Adult: There are no rules.

The first NA book she encountered (TAKING CHANCES by Molly McAdams) had a love triangle, which is common in YA, but not at all in romance, which tends to be one guy, one girl, and a happily ever after ending.

Another rule that was broken: You can't set a book in college. This turned out not to be true.

Also, throw out the idea of what a writer is. Many success stories just wanted to tell a story, not be a writer with an MFA. Books can also come from anywhere, not just agents. The Internet and sites like wattpad have been huge.

Rule 2: NA is not YA with more sex

Most of them do have a lot of sex in them, but you can't just age up a YA and "add some dirty scenes." They are not the 50 Shades of YA.

At their core, NA novels are romances. YA is much more about coming of age and finding your place in the world, where NA is coming of age and finding your place in a relationship.

Rule 3: The audience isn't 18- to 24-year-olds

It's women who are older than that, primarily. And the titles tend to sell best in e-book (and it doesn't matter whether they are trade paperback, e-book original, or mass market titles).

"As long as you're going to have a great e-book publication," she said, "you're set." 

The books need to be high drama and high emotion, and after that, anything can work.

"Emotion is key. Oh, the drama in these books. I kid you not," she said. These arguably unrealistic fantasies take you out of your humdrum college experience with libraries and watered-down beer. "As crazy as some of them are, they're enjoyable."

1 comment:

  1. I write suspense thrillers. I was challenged by friends to write a YA. Half the people I talk to say there are rules—the other half say not.
    In The First of Jules, my protagonist is a seventeen age old prodigy child. She holds a masters from John Hopkins in quantum physics and a minor in computer science. In two weeks she will begin her PhD program at The South Padre Island School for Advance Nanoscience Research in Texas. Jules has one last goal, the Women’s World Gymnastics Championships—her last hurrah. She wins—.
    When her classes and internship begin, a couple of classmates don’t show up for class, it’s written off as rich girls being rich girls—they are off gallivanting. Jules thinks differently. Her mentors and support group want her to concentrate on her PhD, but Jules starts her own investigation. She tries her best to keep everyone in the dark regarding her little project, but when the girls start showing up dead—the situation changes.
    Now, I want a mom to feel safe to buy this novel for their YA child. But I want to keep it interesting enough for the NA arena. There are no curse words. There is mention of sex, drugs, and rape, but not the act. There are acts of murder, not extremely graphic.
    How do I classify this novel?

    Warmest regards,
    Gene Hilgreen