06 October 2021

Crossing the Lines

It's the first Wednesday of the month, which means it's the posting day for the Insecure Writer's Support Group! Click here to learn more and sign up! 

This month's optional question is: In your writing, where do you draw the line, with either topics or language?

Uhhh, have you been here before? Then you know that I DON'T draw the line. Actually, if we're going to go along with some literal and figurative moments in my novel, I only draw the lines in order to cross them (it's called Uneven Lines, after all). Look, see, actual lines:

I would like to think that I wouldn't write something any more extreme than the relationship in this book (because it's been very hard to figure out), but you never know what ideas will pop into your head. Never say never, right? But I will probably think twice about writing about a taboo subject again. 

This sort of relates to my struggles with trying to finish UL. You know, besides my lack of motivation and energy. I've had a hard time seeing the ending and I think it has a lot to do with figuring out who exactly is the audience for this book. It reads like YA (it's from the point of view from a 15-year-old), but there are a LOT of adult themes. There aren't *sex scenes* per se (except maybe one), but there are *sexual* scenes (about half of them are solo, if you catch my drift). And they don't hold back on the detail.

So that's part of my problem. If the previous sexual scenes were very detailed, I feel like the potential sex scene would also have to be detailed. It just fits the voice of the main character. But I feel like this book can't be YA if I go there. My struggles with the ending are part of this because I'm not sure anymore if this is the ending the story needs. But I guess that's a whole other problem that I'll have to figure out. 

One of my subplots, on the other hand, feels VERY YA. It involves high schoolers and coming of age and all that crap. I also worry about my subplots weighing down the last third of the book. I also think about how my two sequel ideas feel very New Adult. Is someone who reads the first book when my MC is 15 also going to want to read about when he's 20 and 22? 

So who exactly is the audience for my book? Besides myself?? Maybe figuring that out will help me figure out all the rest. 


  1. I agree that you have to figure out whether this is YA or adult and the ending before you can really move forward. And if you decide to keep it YA, read some recent YA debut and other authors to see how they show their sex scenes. You might need to tone it down a bit to fit your audience. But if that's your audience, especially with a strong YA subplot, that's what you have to do.

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  2. That is tough because the sex parts will be a tough sell for young adult.

  3. Is it self-published, or through a publisher? If it's self-published, I say write it however the heck you want to write it! As the mother of a teen, I've realized that they're far more aware of this stuff than I was at their age. After all, they've grown up with porn only a click away. My 17 year old recently read one of my darkest, kinkiest novels. I honestly didn't want her to read it. I thought it was too much for a teen. But I also didn't want to be that mother that said no. She loved it. She also said, "Relax, mom. I've read fanfic that's way worse." 🙄 So my personal opinion is, don't limit yourself at this point. Write what you want to write. If you need to, you can sort it out in revisions.

  4. In my one (and only) middle grade, I knew my grandkids would read it--their mother, too. So I was very careful on language. In my adult books, I use what fits the MC.

  5. Figuring out target audiences is tough!
    The YA/NA crossover is difficult too - I'm not sure how the read-through for that would work. There are definitely different vibes for both target groups. I think there is more implied than on-page sex in YA, but I haven't read much of the new stuff in the last few years.
    So many tough decisions! Wishing you luck!

  6. Your dilemma sounds like one I've faced before. My critique group asked if my current wip was YA. I tend to write characters with a young voice, which makes people think "YA" but no, the content is certainly not.

  7. Just because the MC is a teenager doesn't necessarily mean it has to be a YA novel. Maybe it's just plain adult. But if you really want to explore the YA route, sex scenes/sexual situations are certainly not unheard of in that genre. Today's teens are a lot different than previous generations.

  8. Interesting dilemma, and you've got good comments to work on, too. I find the YA/NA area unfathomable, and as I don't enjoy reading it, it hasn't helped. Marie's comment is especially helpful, I think. If you were going with a publisher, they'd certainly have a view.
    Good luck!

  9. My series started when the main character was a teen then the rest were college and beyond, so I was happy when NA became a genre. You might have to find a way to age up or something with those kind of sex scenes.

  10. I can definitely say I have read books that span generations, not just a half decade. I have no problem seeing a character age. Actually, I like the idea. I love reading about the character's children, too!

  11. I love the genre - New Adult. I think YA is too limiting. I struggled with my first book on what genre it was too. And glad to hear I'm not the only one who crosses lines.

  12. As a young adult, I read books with sex scenes (Valley of the Dolls, etc., anyone). And I do think high school age readers will follow a character to college and beyond, because I did. But maybe that's not allowed anymore.

  13. I have read YA with sex scenes but I admit I don't read that genre a lot but some.

  14. Got to nail down that audience, but it's tricky. Some YA is quite steamy, and a lot of readers are not teens. They're upwards of thirty! This does not make it easy for the writer to choose how to craft the story.

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  16. Does it come down to "what's necessary to move the plot and character development forward"? If scenes do that, then they are part of the story. If they can be removed and it not really make a difference in the story, then that's your answer too. Finalizing the audience can be hard yet helpful for the story. I love stories that move a character from young adult, say, to college age and beyond. I think that's where some of the most successful TV shows shine. Take "Modern Family" or "Heartland" for example. You are taken along with the actors for the journey, changes, growth, etc. I think it helps build loyalty. Just my two cents. Thanks for your blog(s). Always helpful and makes us think.

  17. Keep working at it, you'll get it. Knowing which audience you want to market to is important. Yet I do see YA books growing into NA books as the protagonist(s) age.

  18. That's a really good point, about genre. I had one of my earlier YA novels turn into a historical romance because of the added kissing and so on, ha ha! It also meant I had to raise the ages of my characters -- that's something I feel squiffy about. Even if might be historically appropriate for teens to be doing certain things, I feel a lot more comfortable about it if the characters are in their 20s!

  19. That kind of reminds me of SE Hinton's The Outsiders. Very dark themes and scenes, but the characters are all teenagers. Somehow she made it work. I loved that book.

  20. I just finished reading a book about teenagers and it included sex scenes; it was called Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun. I assumed it was a YA book because it had so many references to things that teenagers would be most familiar with, like Snapchat, which I didn't fully understand because I'm middle-aged and I still can't grasp the point of Snapchat. And Judy Blume wrote YA books, in addition to books for kids and adults, and I remembered she included sexual content in some of the books about teenagers. I think that's one reason she was a controversial writer, but I always loved her work because she could write her stories so convincingly from a teenager's perspective.

  21. My editor pushed me to use F-bombs in certain instances but I refused. That's my boundary. Limited mild swearing yes but it's minimal.

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