New Adult is a writing category that is slowing building momentum in the publishing marketplace. With the success of Cora Carmack’s, LOSING IT series, and other writers like Jennifer Armentrout, writing as J. Lynn, starting to pen books with New Adult themes, agents and publishers are starting to take notice of what these stories can offer to a reading audience that is constantly hungering for new ideas.
Today, I’ve asked author, Chanel Cleeton, to share her thoughts on this evolving category, and what it means to actually write New Adult.
Getting to a New Adult State of Mind
By Chanel Cleeton
Writing New Adult is all about capturing the spirit of being eighteen to twenty-six years old. This time in your life is a huge transitional period—you’re facing new adventures like finding your way in the world, starting a career, falling in love, and leaving home. New Adult is also about juggling the responsibilities of adulthood without having the experience or complete confidence you may need to face the challenges thrown your way. As a writer you want to convey this spirit to your readers—creating relatable characters and situations. I find that personal experience is one of the best tools you can utilize when writing New Adult.
For me, at twenty-eight, my New Adult years are a very recent memory. I draw a lot on personal experiences and my friends’ experiences. I find that this brings authenticity to my characters. For example, in one of the scenes in I SEE LONDON, my heroine talks about changing the assigned ringtone for a certain guy in her cell phone so she’ll know when he calls. It’s a little thing but something I totally did when I was single. I’ve had readers comment on it because they’ve done the same. Putting realistic details and emotions in your book goes a long way to connecting with your readers and making your characters authentic.
If you’re interested in writing New Adult, real life is a great source of inspiration. Even if your New Adult years were a while ago, still think back and remember how you felt during those years. Think about the challenges you faced, adventures you had, and changes you went through. Think of pieces of your past and experiences that you can put into your characters. If you’re around teens or twentysomethings, they are also a wonderful resource.
Another step to adopting a New Adult mindset is to read widely within the category. Books like Easy by Tammara Webber, Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire, Losing It by Cora Carmack, and Wait for You by Jennifer Armentrout, writing as J. Lynn, are all staples. Reading these books will give you a sense of the category’s origins. That said—New Adult isn’t just about contemporary romance. The category is developing and evolving over time and the New Adult spirit is prevalent whether you’re writing dystopian or contemporary.
Popular culture can also be an excellent inspiration for writing New Adult. Shows like Girls, Felicity, Vanderpump Rules, Ugly Betty, later seasons of Gossip Girl, Veronica Mars, and One Tree Hill, are all representative of the New Adult spirit. Movies like 21, Pitch Perfect, Legally Blonde, and The Social Network also depict the challenges and adventures of life as a twentysomething. Magazines like Cosmopolitan and Glamour are also great resources—especially the sections that include reader input.
Honestly, writing New Adult can be challenging and a little scary. As a writer, it can push you outside of your comfort zone. The current market is pretty sexy. That doesn’t mean you have to write steamy New Adult stories—I firmly believe that there is room for all heat levels. If you want to—great. If you’re uncomfortable—find what works for you. I wrote Young Adult before switching to New Adult and it was a challenge for me to feel comfortable writing sexy scenes that weren’t the fade-to-black that we so often see in younger stories. But in my case, an increased heat level fit my characters, and I went for it because it was the best thing for the story. That said, it’s still not as hot as some New Adult books and that’s okay.
There are many ways to capture the New Adult voice and it all goes back to the need for diversity within the category. There’s room to write different types of characters with different backgrounds and experiences. There’s room for hot stories and sweet stories, room for contemporary and other genres. New Adult is rich in possibilities and you have to find the story you want to tell. Don’t be afraid to write New Adult because you don’t think you fit the current market. Make your own path.
Ultimately, there is no “right” answer to finding your New Adult voice. While the New Adult spirit is about change and transition, there is a lot of room for diversity within the category. We need diversity to grow and appeal to readers across a broader spectrum. If you’re interested in writing New Adult, I highly recommend reading some of the books that define the category and immersing yourself in the lifestyle. That doesn’t mean you can’t write something totally different, but it’s important to understand the foundation. At the end of the day, the key to writing New Adult is creating a story and characters that will resonate with readers. I hope you fall in love with New Adult as much as I have!
Chanel Cleeton’s New Adult debut, I SEE LONDON, will be released by Harlequin (HQN) on February 3, 2014, followed by a sequel, LONDON FALLING, later in the year. An avid reader and hopeless romantic, Chanel is happiest curled up with a book. She has a weakness for handbags, puppy cuddles, and her fighter pilot husband. Chanel loves to travel and is currently living an adventure in South Korea. For more on Chanel, check out her website, follow her on Facebook, Goodreads, or Twitter.