As many of you read in my last article, agent Lucienne Diver of The Knight Agency asked me to send her 30 pages and a synopsis after my pitch at the Colorado Gold conference! I’m still so excited! I also promised to tell you all more about what happened in that pitch, so here we are, as promised :)
The story actually started the day before my pitch to Ms. Diver. Saturday, when I attended a class she hosted called “When is it YA?” I discovered something: in my attempts to write a Young Adult novel, I had actually written an Adult Fantasy. (She recently posted her presentation on her blog, check it out!)
Before anyone gets the wrong impression (too late?) I want to clear up some definitions here. In the publishing industry, an adult fantasy does not mean it is a sexually-oriented novel. That would actually fall under erotic literature. Adult fantasy means the fiction is targeted for an audience 18 years or older.
As I sat in the class, one thing started to become apparent: Chronicles of the Sentinel was not, by the industry’s definition, a YA story. The most obvious reason was that the 3 main characters are 22 years old. While a 22 year old person is actually considered a young adult, in the publishing industry, YA ends at 18.
More than that, it’s also what the story covers. While Chris, Emmi and Alycia are college students, the majority of the story does not take place at school. In fact you only see the college campus in chapter 1, and that’s it. They are very much college-age individuals dealing with personal and interpersonal issues you might expect from college students, but these issues also easily bleed through into the post-college realm.
After discussing this with Ms. Diver during my pitch, I was surprised when she told me that marketing CotS for adults rather than YA was a good thing. It has become difficult to sell YA Fantasy in the current market, but Adult Fantasy is selling. In other words, it would be easier to get CotS published as an Adult Fantasy at this time.
From Just Right to Too Short
This has one unfortunate side effect: at just over 72,000 words, CotS:Legacy was just the right length for a YA novel. But for adult fiction, it falls short of the generally accepted minimum of 80,000 words.
That means I have some work to do. Ms. Diver pointed out that it could still work at 72k, but if possible to expand on it before sending her my 30 pages and synopsis. So that is what I have set out to do!
For starters, I’m reading through the novel chapter-by-chapter and, where I feel it is needed or appropriate, I am enriching the language. While I’m only 4 chapters in as of last night, I’m already realizing a mistake I had made: thinking that I needed to keep the language super simple for YA readers.
The fact of the matter is, young readers read up in age (a fact I learned at the conference.) I know I did, I was reading adult-targeted fiction since before I even started writing. I remember reading Lord of the Rings at age 11, and while I found it excruciatingly boring in parts (which I still do, even though I love it!), I devoured it and finished very quickly!
I should have never written down in the first place. So in all honesty, going back through CotS:Legacy now, I’m really glad to be able to make the small changes and additions. I don’t know that doing so by itself will make the novel reach 80k words, but it’ll be worth it, and so far in 4 chapters I’ve increased the word count by about 500.
One thing I’d like to do is increase Alycia’s character development. Like Emmi and Chris, she does go through a change in book 1, but it is much less pronounced, and I felt in the end that I hadn’t given her as much attention as I should have.
So that is something else I’ve been doing as I’ve gone along. I’ve given her more attention, let her come alive as all good characters do, and this will be an additional focus throughout the novel.
I do not want to add anything arbitrary, but I want readers to have the chance to fall in love with her! So instead of massive sections here and there that would ruin the flow of the story as it stands, I’m adding tidbits here and there, little character nuances to give her life.
Ms. Diver did not give me a deadline for when I should submit the pages to her, but this is my life, and just as I did while I first wrote CotS, I’m treating it like a 2nd full-time job. So I’m giving myself a deadline of completing this revision by Sunday. I don’t know that I’ll actually succeed, but it is an attainable goal.
I’d like to try to then read through the novel one more time, to ensure I didn’t mess up the flow. Right now, it seems like it flows very well, and beta readers seem to agree with that! I don’t want to sacrifice that flow just for an extra thousand words.
Final Thought – I’m Relieved It’s Not YA
Some of you might be surprised to read that, but honestly I’m glad to be writing in Adult and not YA, for one important reason: as I’ve started developing book 2, I’ve realized that fitting that story into a YA-length novel would be difficult at best.
But with 80 to 90k words to work with, I think book 2 will fit the bill perfectly, and will leave me room to develop all 3 of the protagonists as deeply as I want :)
As always, I’d love to hear everyone’s thoughts!
Thanks for reading,