Hello there! Thanks for checking back to the Alley this week! The Pitch Contest with Entangled started yesterday and will be open until the 12th. Be sure to check it out and pitch away if you want to participate. Assistant Editor at Embrace (Entangled's NA line) Nicole Steinhaus gave us some extra insight into Embrace yesterday, and is back today to give us even more insight to NA and what she has seen in her assistant editor position. Thank you, Nicole! And thank YOU, our fabulous readers, for stopping by!
People have said New Adult straddles the line between Young Adult and Adult literature which I think is a great way to think about it. For many readers, there comes a point when they’re ready to read something a bit more mature—in content, voice, and perspective—but aren’t ready to jump from reading about high-schoolers to adults already established in their lives (steady jobs, knowing exactly who they are, etc.). This in-between time can be messy and heart-breaking, fun and exciting, and shouldn’t be skipped over.
To me, New Adult is about characters who are learning to fly, so to speak. Exploring new freedoms and discovering that being “grown-up” is kind of a lot of work! Much of the discussion about New Adult surrounds the withstanding of the category, whether it will last in bookstores and, to be honest, I don’t know the answer to that. Though, I’d say from how NA has evolved in the last six months, especially with the rising number of best-sellers in this category, there are obviously people who want to read this kind of book.
Today I want to talk about some elements we look for in New Adult submissions and also those that turn us off. For those of you who don’t know me, I have kind of a unique perspective on New Adult being it’s the majority of what I edit, but also because it’s what I write (my NA debut, STRIPPED written as Brooklyn Skye, is currently on three best-selling lists). So I hope this post clarifies some of the muddiness that surrounds this category.
What we look for when acquiring NA:
*Voice is key when writing New Adult and is where many writers fall short. An authentic NA voice touches greatly upon the outlook of your character, how he/she sees things through the eyes of someone who’s survived high school and now realizes the world will not crumble at their feet if their boyfriends break up with them or they argue with their best friends. Teens often have this invincible nothing will happen to me attitude, thinking more in the immediate present, and somewhere around the late teens/early twenties start to outgrow it. They start to realize their actions affect not only themselves, but the people around them, their futures, etc. So when I say “voice,” I don’t necessarily mean dialogue (though that counts too).
*Experience is another important element of New Adult. Being in a place in life where your character is starting to realize his/her actions and struggles and decisions bear more weight than they did only a few years back is vital. As readers, we want to be sucked into this confusing time. We want to live it and figure it out and grow with your character, and in the end we want to feel like maybe this character is just a tad closer to knowing who he/she is.
*Avoiding clichés and breaking the mold. When New Adult started emerging last year, many of the titles were very much alike (I don’t want to name names, but if you’re well-read in the category you probably know which ones I’m talking about). At Embrace, we’re looking for stories that don’t necessarily mimic what’s been done before. Unique writing styles, distinctive characters who are really struggling to figure out who they are…this is what we want to see.
*Not all NA has to be set in college (or start with the character moving into dorms!). I don’t know the exact statistics, but I do know not everyone continues their education after high school. Some join the military, some get or stay in their blue-collar jobs, some become successful entrepreneurs, some get pregnant and drop out of high school then struggle through raising a family, or live at home with their parents…We’re looking for ALL types of stories.
*Not all NA is contemporary. In fact, on the release list for Entangled Embrace we have yet to acquire anything contemporary (and, yes, we’re looking! Have a fun, sexy—not erotic—contemporary? Pleeease send it to us!)
*Not all NA needs to include sex. I think people are starting to get past the “New Adult is YA with sex” misconception, but we’re still seeing sex being thrown into stories simply to have it in there. General guideline: If it doesn’t fit with the plot, don’t include it.
And there you have it! I hope this helps. Happy Writing