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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

#9 - Age Appropriate Material (HOWNTWAN)

This is the ninth article in the semi-comedic series, How Not To Write A Novel (HOWNTWAN). The first article in the series can be found here: What's Your Story About? Keep reading during the next couple months for the rest of the series.

9. Age Appropriate Material

It goes without saying that the surest way for an Indie Author to ensure he keeps his day job, is to write age non-appropriate material. Graphic sex in a Young Adult novel is an absolute no-no. Also writing that includes blatant swearing, overtly anti-religious texts, etc. Now, to be sure, I’m not saying that writing any of this is wrong - just not appropriate for certain audiences. It is important to understand who your readers are.
And it’s tough understanding the requirements for a particular age-group. And this is why a lot of first-time authors just write a book and see where it ends up. Wrong again! What if your book is 95% appropriate for ages 12+? What do you do with the other 5%? And what about the plot and the language used? Does your book contain “Timmy went to the store,” or does it contain “Timmy perambulated toward the small building set back amongst the small tenements, where from day to day he bought necessities?” Let me tell you, one of these is not intended for youngsters to read and enjoy.
And it’s the same for dialog. “‘What the crap are you doing that for?’ Simon said, watching Ed scrape a swastika onto the water-tower,” is not age-appropriate material for younger children. Heck, it’s probably not appropriate for a Christian audience, but that’s another matter.
Then there’s the subject of sex and its related activities. How much can you get away with in a young adult book? How far is too far when it comes to description? Let me ask you a couple of simple questions first. Do you have children of your own? Are you writing for children of the same age or younger than your children? Unless you can answer yes to both these questions, consider very carefully whether it’s right for you to be writing in the YA genre. And if you did answer yes, make sure you don’t write anything that would make you blush if you had to read the story aloud to your son or daughter.
Even day-to-day topics can be difficult. Take for example the concept of heaven. Most younger children have been introduced to the idea of heaven, but it’s been kept very vague and fluffy. If you’re considering writing a story all about angels and demons, perhaps this isn’t for the younger audience.
I could go on. There are a million different topics and viewpoints I could write about, but I think you get the idea. 50 Shades of Gray wasn’t written for grade schoolers; just as Dr. Seuss wasn’t written for my summer vacation pleasure.

There’s no easy way to write this essay without keeping to the sensible facts. The truth is, age-appropriate material is a sensitive topic. I understand this is part of a series of articles about How Not To Write A Book, but I had to tackle this topic. Ignore it at your peril. You don’t want to be known as the perv who writes YA. Trust me, you’ll never, ever leave your day job if you do.

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