I'm working on a novel now that's a mix of noir and horror, and while I'm not setting out to write a YA novel, it could fit as such since it's from the perspective of a 15 year-old protagonist. This got me wondering what the rules are for YA. I know explicit sex is okay, and violence needs to be toned down, but what about profanity? Does that need to be limited? Any other guidelines/rules people know about for YA fiction? I know we have some editors following these posts, and any help would be appreciated.


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Dave, I Googled "Rules for Young Adult Fiction" and hit on two items on the first page. The one that starts "Five Rules" is a blog, I think, and says somewhere that mild expletives are OK. You might find more precise info if you look longer.

I was at an event recently that had a panel of YA authors and one thing they all said was that pretty much any book these days with a teenaged protagonist gets filed as YA. Some of the authors were fine with that because, like us genre writers, they're told there could be more sales but others referred to it as the YA ghetto.


In your case you're already established as an adult author, so it probably doesn't make any difference.



I've always believed in reading what I'm trying to write.  Pick out similar books and see what they're like.  I work in a middle school library and I know middle grade is different from YA, but I'm not seeing a lot of sex in the books we have.  Darren Shan writes middle grade/YA horror.  Have you read any of his?  Rick Riordan's Olympian books are solidly middle grade, but more fantasy than horror.  Still, getting a feel for things like language and sex would give you a good start.  You going to be the next James Patterson?

J.E., good advice, but I'm not setting out to write a YA novel. Instead, I'm working on an adult novel with the aim being to appeal to the same audience for The Caretaker of Lorne Field (which is almost everyone except YA). BUT since my protagonist is a 15 year-old kid I figure if there are certain rules I can be aware so that my novel is also appropriate for the YA market without making dramatic compromises for what I want to do, then I might as well do that and see where the chips fall.


What I've had with Caretaker is readers telling me they were going to give the book to their children to read, probably more because they felt their kids should read it instead of that their kids would want to read it. I knew kids weren't going to get into a book with a grumpy 50 something year-old protagonist, and that was pretty much the feedback these parents would later give me, that their kids found the book interesting but they didn't connect with the main character.



When do you think you'll finish this YA book?

CJ, my focus is on writing an adult noir/horror thriller which could also turn out to be a YA book. For whatever reason this book is writing faster than most, and I'm thinking 8-weeks total. But I'm always overly optimistic.





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