Nano – Update


Quick post!

I’m a little behind in my Nanoing, but I’m hanging in there! I’m finishing up a work-related project today (maybe into tomorrow), then I’ll have revisions which will hopefully leave me some time to work on my Nano project, too.

Until then, here’s my progress:


For those of you participating, how goes your story? And feel free to add me if you feel like it!


E.C. Orr




Hey guys! I was just wondering if anyone else out there was doing Nano this year? For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, Nanowrimo is National Novel Writing Month, or Nano for short ’cause that’s a mouthful. I’ve attempted it in the past and never managed to finish – which is ridiculous because my profession now has me writing twice that in a month… But that’s not the point.

The point is, that it has come once again! Nano takes place every November and it’s really just a personal challenge to see if you can write 50k words in a month. It’s harder to do than you might think, but it can be a lot of fun! And sometimes you just need that extra kick to get yourself down to business and writing your novel.

So I just wanted to see if anyone was taking the challenge? I’m doing it this year, though I know it’s going to turn out bad. It always does, but I’m determined to work at it! At least try, right?

If you want more info on it, here’s the link: Nanowrimo!

Feel free to comment on whether or not you’re doing it below or if you have questions, etc. I’ll do a real post later (I know, I totally bombed the Halloween Read-a-Thon… So much for plans. It was a super lame Halloween for me and it sort of breaks my heart, but such is life).

Thanks for checking in!


E.C. Orr

Writing: Unluck by E.C. Orr


I haven’t posted anything of my own writing on here before, but I was thinking about it and maybe I should. After all, if I’m going to go around running my mouth about “how to write a novel” I should probably give you guys an idea of how I write, right?

Anyway, I’ve been working on a handful of different things (my personal stuff, not my work stuff which I can’t share because of legal reasons; NDAs anyone?) that are at varying stages of undone. I was trying to pick something that I could share that was short, but good – the hardest part, really… some are just awful – and I decided I would just wing it with the prologue of my would-be-novel Unluck. It’s about a group of teens who are cursed by what’s known as the “unluck”, something that was placed upon their family generations ago by a sea witch.

Here’s the opening scene:

We stand in a row, a line of evenly spaced bodies, bare feet tucked into the damp sand. Thirteen of us, thirteen kids on the edge of adulthood, standing beneath the moonlight at the water’s edge, just staring. From here, it looks like eternity. Like the night sky pin pricked with white cap stars and rolling nebulae of impossibly beautiful colors. Colors that don’t exist in a black ocean, that couldn’t possibly be shining from beneath the waves, but somehow are.

It’s not beautiful like it should be though, not to us, not to me. It’s just an endless ocean with dark secrets and promises, beckoning us to search.

We stand there together for long minutes, just long enough for the waves to start lapping at our ankles. The water’s cold against my skin, sending a skittering of goosebumps up along my flesh, but I don’t flinch, I don’t shiver. I just stare. And then I take a step forward.

We all do, in unison. That first step is always together, a joint effort on our part, a reminder that we are in this together, as one. After that first step though, we become disjointed and erratic. Sawyer shakes out her wispy blonde hair, longer than it was, but only barely brushing her moonlit shoulders. Beside her, Jessica is already thigh deep in the water, Emma and Rileigh trailing after her, all three looking like sirens about to call poor, hopeless men to their untimely deaths. Casey is carefully undoing his shirt, frowning at it, muttering about nice clothes and not having any foresight, because that’s Casey. He’s the kind of guy that reminds you this isn’t magic—or maybe it is and he’s just on the wrong end of it.

Levi cannonballs into the water and it splashes at me. Several drops hit the sirens in front of me and I can see Jessica glare, but no one speaks. No one ever speaks.

I’m halfway into the water, my hips finally submerging into the icy, lulling waves. Ahead of me Sawyer waves me forward. She isn’t under yet, but her shoulders are only barely above the water, pale and silvery in the moonlight. I can tell even from here that her clothes are gone and maybe I’d blush at the thought that I’ll lose mine, that everyone will lose theirs, too, except that it happens the same way every time and maybe I just can’t make myself care anymore.

Besides, I’m not looking at Sawyer. And I’m not thinking about Levi losing his shorts or Casey mumbling about his ruined slacks or Jessica bravely removing her bra before she’s even completely under.

No, I’m not looking or thinking of any of them. I’m looking at him.

I turn back, twisting my body at the hips, because I can’t not go forward and I can’t go back, but I can look. I can watch as he stands there, taller than me and everyone here, even Levi. I can see that he waits longer than the rest of us, but not from fear. There has never been fear in his eyes, the color of the sea, of crashing waves, of foam and summer and storms. No, he’s not afraid. He’s waiting.

When his gaze catches mine, that’s it. My breath hitches and everything slows. The world seems softer in that moment, the sounds far off and whispering, the waves stilled as though the ocean is holding its breath, too. Then he takes a step forward. And another. I don’t move and his eyes don’t leave mine, not until he’s standing beside me. Beneath the surface, I feel his hand brush against mine.

Then he looks away and we dive.

I know it’s very short, but there you have it. The opening to Unluck. I’ll try to post more excerpts from my own stuff once in a while. Let me know what you guys think and share some of your own stuff, too, if you’ve got it!


E.C. Orr

Unpublishable Fiction to Full-Time Freelance via Meg Dowell

A great look on how to make something out of your passion for writing – and a look at how you might find  your career unexpectedly. How it might be something different than you originally thought.

Meg Dowell always posts great stuff, so if you haven’t checked out her blog, mosey on over and take a look! I highly recommend her. 🙂

It took a long time for me to realize I would probably never be a great novelist.

via How I Went from Writing Unpublishable Fiction to Full-time Freelancing — Novelty Revisions

Free eBooks

UPDATED 9/26/2016


I’m being lazy right now (well, not really; I’m working right now, so no time for long blog posts!), so I thought I’d do a quick one about free books. Because who doesn’t like free books?

First, places to look for free ebooks (I’m sure there are others, so feel free to list them in the comments below!):

  • Amazon (obviously not all are free, but you can find lots free ones if you look around and there is even a site/app that will look for the free ones for you. If I can find it again, I’ll post it.)
  • Instafreebie (I receive emails for free books from here, so you will have to give them your email and I do get quite a few from them, but it is always for ebook suggestions and they’re all free books.)
  • Google Play Books (like Amazon, you can find good deals, cheap ebooks, or free books. You just have to look around.)
  • ReadForReview (not guaranteed to give you free books, but you can ask for them and you have 2 weeks to post your reviews on Amazon. You do have to give them your email. You can earn points towards an Amazon gift card – but these are HONEST reviews. You do not have to leave a positive review to earn points towards the gift card.)
  • Freebooksy (I signed up via email, however, you don’t need to. You can just peruse their website, too. It lists ebooks that are either free or have gone on sale for free for a limited time. They’re *mostly* through Amazon for Kindle, however, a few are for other platforms also like Nook, Kobo, and Apple.)

Next, a quick list of books I got for free on Amazon (and a quick note as to whether you should get them, too):

  1. A Reluctant Assassin by JC Morrows (Haven’t read it yet. Fantasy. Reviews suggeest it is heavy in romance despite the cover and the summary, but no one has straight up put down the writing. Reviewers have mentioned some lack of character development and that this is a shorter story. Had one reviewer say the formatting was weird, but I haven’t noticed it.)
  2. True Calling by Siobhan Davis (Haven’t read. Dystopian. Several bad reviews claiming poor writing/too much teenage drama. One suggested it was a lame version of the Hunger Games. That being said, the reviews are primarily high and it seems like those who liked Matched would enjoy this one.)
  3. Inborn by Amy Saunders (Haven’t read. About an alien girl hiding on earth with the ability to create portals. Only 9 reviews, most high. Suggest it is slightly confusing, but interesting. Ends on a cliffhanger. Writing is suggested as being pretty good, but with a few errors.)
  4. Shades of Valhalla by Ellis Logan (Haven’t read. Fantasy about Fae and Celtic and Norse mythology. I will definitely be checking this one out. There are only 15 reviews, but the lowest is 3 stars and that’s a mistake with the site. Listed as compelling and fast paced. I hope it lives up to these reviews.)
  5. Entangled by Nikki Jefford (Haven’t read, paranormal romance. Has quite a few reviews, mostly high. The few low ones suggest that they didn’t like the “teen antics” or the language of the novel/how it was written. Suggest that this is less about paranormal stuff and more about teen romance.)
  6. The Breeders by Katie French (Haven’t read yet. Dystopian, focusing on population problems and the need for women to reproduce as there are so few of them. Reviews are high, but several of the lower reviews suggest that the story lacks depth and “consequences” despite the potential darkness for a story like this. I’m on the fence about this one, because it sounds like it could be really good – or really bad.)
  7. Nightfall by E.L. Middleton (I haven’t read it, but wouldn’t recommend it based on reviews mainly because God plays a very strong role and I don’t necessarily care for that in my novels. If this doesn’t bother you, you might like it anyway. It’s a zombie novel.)
  8. All the Dead Arising by Jamie Campbell (This is a novella. Haven’t read it yet. YA Horror. There aren’t any reviews, so it’s difficult to say one way or the other. All the adults are wiped out, the children are left to fend for themselves. Interesting premise, so I’ll check it out. Let me know if anyone else has read this yet.)
  9. Ghost Park by Heather Beck (Novella, horror, haven’t read. Two high reviews saying that it’s really well written and has all kinds of creepy twists and turns. There is one single star review and I’m inclined to trust it more. It claims the book is short and not in the least scary. The reason I think this may be the most indicative review is because the book is only 23 pages. It might still be scary, but it’s doubtful.)
  10. Chosen: Ghost Academy by K. E. O’Connor (Horror, haven’t read, but interesting premise. Ghosts who don’t move on have to struggle through their deaths and deal with leftover problems. It sounds really interesting and the 8 reviews are high to middling – nothing below 3 stars. Will definitely check out.)

I don’t know if you guys have noticed, but this post turned into a not so quick post… Anyway, hope you guys enjoy some of these and let me know if any of these are no longer free so that I can make a note of that! I’ve found a lot more than ten, but the post got super long, so I think I’ll just do posts like these every so often to go over the free ones I’ve found.

If any of the links are incorrect or broken, please let me know. Also, if you’ve found free ones yourself, let me know in the comments below!


E.C. Orr

Book Recs [Writer’s Resources]


If you’re interested in being a writer, as many voracious readers are, you might be like me and really appreciate some good resources for writing. Whether they’re how to guides or what to do next tips, any information is useful, right? (Well, no, not *any* information, but there is a lot of good stuff out there and it’s worth looking around.)

I’ve been doing research on several different topics for a while now, the main ones being “how to get published”. (This will probably be my last topic on my How To Write A Novel series, but I haven’t decided yet.) This is a really difficult question to answer because it’s so involved and has so many different defining factors. Just because you’ve written an awesome novel doesn’t mean that you will have a bestseller or even be published!

Crazy, right?

Which I think is why a lot of authors have gone the self-publishing route. (Let me be clear, I don’t disagree with this at all! If you can get with a big name publisher, more power to you, but it’s not all sunshine and daisies even then. It still involves a lot of work, a lot of selling yourself, and a lot less money than you need to live.) This means you, as the author have to be a *lot* more involved in the whole process. From editing to book covers to blurbs and marketing and formatting – all of that now falls on your shoulders. (For the record, a lot of this is *still* on your shoulders even when you get with a big name publisher. Unless you’re a big name yourself, you’re not going to get as much attention, money, or effort from your publisher as most people think.)

Makes you think twice about doing it, right?

Probably. But it shouldn’t. Because if you really want to get your book out there, but don’t have to cater to picky, conglomerate publishers who aren’t going to like what you’re writing, just because you haven’t already sold something, then self-publishing might be the answer. You get paid very little, but immediately. (Possibly more, but maybe not.) You have control over what’s in your book and on your book. And you, ultimately, make all of the calls.

So it’s not all terrible. It’s just a lot of work.

Since this is so much work, I thought I would throw a few informational resources out there for you guys to check out.


Free and generally much shorter than a book, websites tend to be packed full of really good information that is easily accessible and broken down into bite sized, easily digested chunks of information.

Here’s a good list of resources that I like to use:

How to Write Shop – YA query letters (this site is good in general, but this post is about a query letter which is the first step to “selling” your book to a publisher or agent)

7 Tips to Promote Your Self-Published Book – Joanna Penn is AWESOME and I’m going to list one of her books later. Check out her site for general writer’s info, but this post is about marketing your book once you get it “live”.

Marketing Tools for Self-Published Authors – this one isn’t as “pretty” as the others in formatting/setup, but the info is good. Just go to the bolded points in the article to navigate.

40 Publishers That Accept Unsolicited Manuscripts – this one is really useful because a LOT of publishers will only consider looking at your manuscript if you have an agent. And having an agent isn’t necessarily bad, but you should definitely get some info on that before diving in. So if you’re not sure you want an agent, check out these publishers.

5 Elements … to Sell More Books – a good read with some suggestions on how to get your book to sell. A nice, quick read.


Successful Self-Publishing by Joanna Penn – this one has a lot of really useful information in a very easy to read format. I love Penn and appreciate her suggestions. (I think she’s got a series of informational books on similar subjects, but this is the only one I’ve been reading thus far.) Her ebook was free on Amazon. (Amazon | Goodreads)

Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell – this is good if you’re just starting out. It focuses on craft and the specifics of writing more than the publishing aspect. (Right now you can get this from Amazon for free if you have Kindle Unlimited.) (Amazon | Goodreads)

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Brown and Dave King – you know I’m all about editing! For those of us on a budget, this is a good resource for doing as much editing on your own before investing in a real editor. (Amazon | Goodreads)

45 Master Characters by Victoria Lynn Schmidt – I haven’t read this one personally, but it gets strong reviews and sounds like a good resource for anyone struggling with coming up with characters. (Right now you can get this from Amazon for free if you have Kindle Unlimited.) (Amazon | Goodreads)

The Mental Game of Writing by James Scott Bell – I’m including this one even though I haven’t read it yet just because I really WANT to. It’s on my list of “to buy when I have the money” (nonfiction version). It looks really good and if you’ll notice another of his books appears on this list, too, so I’m very hopeful. That being said, I haven’t read it so go to this one at your own risk – and if you do, let me know how it is! (It’s only $2.99 as the Kindle version.) (Amazon | Goodreads)

There are TONS more out there and if you guys have some recommendations, share them in the comments below! I’d love to hear them.

I know this was mostly focusing on publishing this time, but I hope that you guys get something out of the other books, too. I’m going to continue my How To series soon, but in the meantime, these can tide you over! The Kindle versions of some of them are pretty cheap and even free for those with Kindle Unlimited! If they aren’t, I always recommend searching for used copies, but stay away from sites that you’re unfamiliar with. I made that mistake just once in college and got off lucky – they didn’t get my personal info or my money, but it was a near thing. If you aren’t sure of a site, search for reviews OF THE SITE. They’ll usually tell you if you can trust them.

(Additionally, some of these may be duplicates from me other post about writer’s resources here. If so, I apologize!)

Thanks for checking out my post and I hope that it helps you guys out some! If you’ve got helpful tips or suggestions, share them below. I love to hear them.


E.C. Orr

P.S. If any of the links are wrong, please let me know so that I can change them. Thanks!

Why You Need an Editor via CCrawfordWriting

A great post about the importance of editing and why you should invest in *outside* editing whenever possible.

All writers have felt it, that temptation to skip the editing phase of writing, say “It’s good enough,” and be done with it. But trust me; you don’t really want to do that. There are actually some interesting psychological reasons why a writer simply can’t produce the best work without some objective input. While writing a […]

via Why You Need an Editor (even if you ARE one) — CCrawfordWriting

Genre: Post-Apocalyptic, Apocalyptic, and Dystopian – What’s the difference?


The other day I was talking to my significant other about books and genres. We were talking about The Road by Cormac McCarthy and The Long Walk by Stephen King (he’s a big King fan and is always trying to get me to read his work; I, who has been told that I should write more like King, tend to grumble and say he’s not that great, but I suppose I’m only biased) which somehow digressed into a discussion about genre. Specifically, what’s the difference between Post-Apocalyptic and Dystopian? My SI was under the impression that these two genres are one in the same.

I’m here to tell you they are not.

I decided I’d go ahead and break it down here, though I’m sure most of you can hazard a guess at the difference. I also decided to lump Apocalyptic in there, too, because it seemed to be the theme for the day.

Starting at the beginning: Apocalyptic genre.



1. the complete final destruction of the world, especially as described in the biblical book of Revelation.
2. an event involving destruction or damage on an awesome or catastrophic scale.
  • “a stock market apocalypse”

*Taken directly from Google

So the apocalypse is more or less the end of the world. Which would suggest that there can be no after the end of the world, right? Since it’s the end and all… Which is why “apocalypse” is more like “the end of life as we know it”. So things get bad, societies crumble, the world goes back to the stone age, and we’re all struggling to survive amidst a complete social collapse of world order.

More or less.

People are still alive, they just don’t live like they used to.

Now, in terms of genre, Apocalypse generally means “the ending of the world”. If someone tells you that they’ve found this really awesome apocalyptic book, they are probably talking about books that are in the midst of a world-ending calamity.



The Stand by Stephen King


Left Behind by Tim LeHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins

Both of these start off where the world is normal. It’s like a contemporary novel in the beginning – but it quickly unravels into the end of the world. The stand, being that it’s friggin’ long, goes farther and ultimately becomes both Post-Apocalyptic and Dystopian (to an extent), but it’s more the exception than the rule. A book that focuses on how the end comes about falls into the Apocalypse genre. Anything after is going to fall into one of the other two. (Probably.)

Left Behind is similar, though I believe it’s a series that goes farther than simply the apocalypse.

Both of these have religious undertones, but that isn’t strictly necessary for this genre. The fall of society can be caused by a stock market crash, aliens blowing up the white house, or a revolution. All it needs is the destruction of our society as we know it.

What happens after: Post-Apocalyptic.

Post-Apocalyptic is basically what it sounds like – “post” meaning after and “apocalyptic” meaning the end of the world. So, “after the end of the world.” Simple, right?

This genre focuses on the aftermath of the end. In the Apocalypse genre we endured the alien invasion that destroyed the white house and killed the ruling government. Now we’re left to deal with what happens next. Society is left in shambles and those few survivors are left to try and scrounge through the wreckage to find useful things for this new way of life.

Generally, this is years after the end. Maybe only a few; maybe several hundred. It depends. The main point of this, however, is that society hasn’t managed to rebuild yet. Whether that’s because of war against the aliens that attacked has prevented another society from emerging, or because the survivors are two busy trying to survive to figure out how to band together and rebuild, it doesn’t matter. All that matters is that they haven’t managed it yet.



The Road by Cormac McCarthy


World War Z by Max Brooks


Blood Red Road by Moira Young (Might fall into this category, but I haven’t read it so I’m basing this mostly on synopsis)


Mortality by Kellie Sheridan


The Host by Stephenie Meyer

These stories focus on how people survive afterwards. If you notice, there are two zombie books listed here. That’s because zombie novels tend to be post-apocalyptic. Why? Because the end has happened (or is in the midst of happening). People can’t really rebuild thanks to the constant threat of zombies. Instead, they are left to survive in the wreckage of the world that was.

Perfect example of Post-Apocalyptic genre.

A not so perfect whole new world: Dystopian.

Finally, we arrive at the final category in our “it’s the end of the world and we know it” genre list. Dystopian. This is the one that’s thrown around so much, it’s probably what brought you to this post in the first place. It’s the one that everyone’s searching for on Goodreads and Amazon. It’s what authors tried to tap into when it became the Next Big Thing in YA literature.

But what does it mean?

First, you’ve probably noticed that “dystopia” sounds a lot like “utopia”. Coincidence? I think not.

Utopia is a perfect society – and it doesn’t exist. It’s more of a philosophical concept of “what if”. What if there was no more war? Bam, utopia. What if all countries got along? Utopia. What if there was no crime, no rape, no stealing or cheating or any of those other awful things that plague our otherwise decent human societies? Utopia.

If we could fix all of the problems in our world, we would be left with a society that had no issues. A thing in which everyone was happy and no one died for reasons beyond natural old age.

If it sounds too good to be true, that’s because it is. A utopia is impossible to actually achieve. There are any number of arguments as to why, but my favorite is this:

We are human. We must eternally strive for goodness. For freedom. For peace. For equality. But we are incapable of ever truly attaining these things. Because we, unlike animals, unlike machines, are individuals. We think independently. We disagree on everything from favorite colors to what equality truly means. The only way to truly achieve utopia would be to have every human on earth be exactly the same.

Sort of a terrible concept, but there’s hope lingering in it. It’s in the striving towards being better that humanity really shines through. It’s the only thing out there that makes us truly awesome, so never stop trying to be better.

Ahem, off of my soapbox now.

Now, just because we can’t achieve utopia, doesn’t mean we don’t try, right? And in the trying, we end up with works of fiction that are “dystopias”.

A dystopian society is a society that seems like utopia. On the surface, it seems perfect. Usually, this perfection manifests in one area specifically. “Everyone is equal.” That sounds great! Except the only way to make people equal is to take away their free will. Not so great. And that’s the point of a dystopia. It’s important that the society looks perfect on the outside, but from the inside we see that everything is really, really wrong.



Divergent by Veronica Roth


Anthem by Ayn Rand


Uglies by Scott Westerfield


1984 by George Orwell

And a whole slew of others. These novels showcase a society that has tried to make itself – and often deems it to be – perfect. But as readers, we sense that society to be oppressive. The characters within it have given up something precious in order to function within this society – and often rebel against it in order to tear down said society and restart.

Note that all of these, more or less, have focused on something important – in Divergent, each faction focuses on values and in committing to just one, they ensure peace; in Anthem, no one is allowed to invent or discover for fear that we will become better than one another, the focus being equality – that has become so warped it no longer creates the good society everyone was trying for.

Ultimately, Dystopian novels are about seemingly perfect, but really warped societies that are oppressive. Another important point is that they are set in the future. They have already gone through the apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic stages to arrive at this rebuilt, dysfunctional society. Maybe we only get little pieces of this history, but it’s there, lurking in the background.

What about the Hunger Games?


For those of you who don’t know, I’m a HUGE Hunger Games fan. (I even have a mockingjay tattoo.) But you might have noticed that I didn’t include it in any of the lists above. I have Divergent, but no HG. What gives?

Well, in short, I’m not quite sure it fits.

If you ask anyone who’s read the series, they’ll probably tell you it’s a dystopian novel. Me included. That being said, I’m not really convinced that it is.

If you noticed my definition, you’ll see that an important part of dystopia is that the society seems perfect. And for anyone who’s read the Hunger Games, you know that it is *not* perfect. Nor does it seem anywhere close to perfect.

If anything, we know right off the bat that this society is awful. Destructive. Unequally balanced in power and wealth. We know this because Katniss comes from the poorest of the poor. She’s disillusioned to the point where there is no question about the awfulness of this world. So if we know this from the get-go, can we really call this a dystopia?

We might, if we were in Effie’s head. Or even Cinna’s, maybe. We might if we were from District 13 where the rules are suffocating, yet in place for a very valid reason, and is the other side of the Capitol coin. These perspectives would show us a world that on the surface looks like it really could be the perfect society. Effie’s life revolves around fashion and wealth. From her perspective, everyone is happy, healthy, and indulgent. To her, rebellion – initially, at least – would be one of the worst things. But as we get farther into how the society works, we’d see how terrible it really is.

But from the perspective of District 12, there is no questioning what a terrible world we live in. So I’m inclined to say that you *can* call this a dystopia for brevity’s sake – because can you imagine having this conversation with a die hard fan? – but it’s not really.

(You could probably make a similar argument for 1984, I’ll admit, so that one maybe it’s a great example of dystopia either.)

So what do you guys think? Are you sold on my distinction? Do you agree with my examples? Do you have some of your own? Share them below!


E.C. Orr

YA’s not a Genre – or is it?


While exploring the world of writing the other day, I came across a post rant about how YA is not a genre. And I got to thinking, “Gee, didn’t I just do this big long post about how you need to know your genre – and whether or not it was YA?”

Why yes, yes I did. (How To post.)

And while I wasn’t focusing on YA as a genre *specifically* it occurs to me that I do treat it as a genre. Which made me consider whether or not that’s really fair. Objectively, I understand people’s frustration at Young Adult being listed as a genre.

Technically, it is an age range, not a genre. Just like Adult is an age range. And Middlegrade and Children’s and the whole lot of ’em (and New Adult, but that comes with a whole other list of biases and hatred and I’m not going to get into it here. It’s out there, be aware, and know that a lot of people don’t like it). It is a means of suggesting right off the bat, before you’ve even looked at synopses, titles, genres (or rather subgenres, depending on how you look at things), or even the cover. You know what age range it’s focusing on and that gives you the idea of who should be reading it. Right?


I think that understanding of YA is part of the reason that I treat YA more like a genre. It has to do with the concept that Young Adult is the appropriate age range for a novel – which means if you’re outside of that range, you probably shouldn’t be reading it. Well, there are a couple of problems with treating it like that.

How age range specificity can be complicated – and a little unfair.

First, this means that if you are 13 (YA generally starts at 14, more or less), you would be relegated to Middlegrade, regardless of your reading level, tastes, or general voraciousness. Sucks to be you. It also means that if you’re 19, you should be reading Adult books. Period. Because YA is also not for you (it stops, generally, at 18). Even though you want to *write* YA books. Even though you *relate* to what’s happening in YA books. Even though you enjoy writing style, subject matter, and sometimes just the general escapism offered in YA books – things that maybe are more difficult to find in Adult books. And finally, it means that if you’re between 14 and 18, you can only read YA.

And before I get a bunch of “That’s not how it really is though!” let me say that this is an extreme example. But it’s not an invalid one. A lot of people honestly think that adults should not be reading YA books – even though adults are writing them. And a lot of people feel that young adults are not ready for the subject matter in Adult books. So the example I’ve offered you above? Really not that crazy. I just don’t think it’s valid.

Which brings me to point two: YA is fluid.

Over at TeacherofYA, she posts reviews on books and does two very interesting things: she gives an “is this appropriate for the classroom” verdict and “what is the REAL age range for this book”? Both are really interesting ways of writing reviews and I think they go a long way towards helping people understand that not all “age range” books are created equal.

I’m bringing this up, because YA as a suggested age range rather than a genre doesn’t really work. Have you ever noticed that some YA books have sex, drugs, suicide, rape, abuse, and death in them? Have you ever noticed that others deal with depression, political issues, government, oppression, social injustices, racial issues, and just about everything else under the sun? Awful mature subjects for books geared towards teenagers, right?

How can we say that these books, which are still technically YA books, are appropriate for the same age range as books that are (still YA) featuring clean romances with little more than kissing and absolutely no violence?

Simple, we can’t. Because they aren’t appropriate for the same age range.

Call it what it is: A genre.

Which suggests that using YA as a suggested age range rather than a genre doesn’t work. Not unless we get into super specific break downs that are not only focused on age, but suggested maturity level. Which is okay, but it narrows the area of YA books even further – and makes it harder for people who are interested in a wide range (yes, I like gruesome zombie books, but I also like mysteries and sweet romances and dystopians, all in YA) to find things that might appeal to them.

But treating YA like a genre allows us to search for these books and find things that we might have otherwise passed over. Now, I still think there should be warnings on books – appropriate for 18 year olds, but not 14 year olds; deals with sensitive subject matters; appropriate for all ages; etc. – but I think we should also treat YA as a genre which focuses on the struggles of teens.

 I’m going to call it a genre whether other people like it or not, because that’s really what it is to me. It’s the “top” genre and other distinctions are the subgenres below it – paranormal, romance, horror, dystopia, etc. It’s the easiest way to distinguish books from one another, to categorize them based on how a reader is looking for things and how they ultimately are going to find what they like.

Sure, some people are going to disagree with me, but I’m okay with that.

Let me know what you think about genre, classification, age range, and whether or not I’m just being crazy about this whole thing! Comment below.


E.C. Orr