I don't know about you, but before I start a manuscript, before the first word, before the first letter flashes on the screen, I do NOT think about genre. I just write. For me, 'genre' is a foreign word, Greek, (actually it's French)that stifles rather than encourages my creativity.
I first discovered my difficulty with that foreign word when trying to market my second completed manuscript. (Yes, the first is serving duty as a dust collector - doing a great job!)What did she mean, "What genre?" I squirmed in front of the agent as I murmured, "Romance." What did she think? This was RWA's national conference. What else would it be?
Then came the flurry of questions: Contemporary or Historical? Category or Single Title? Mystery? Women's Fiction? Sweet? Spicy? I started sweating. Erotic? Paranormal?
I left that pitch session determined to educate myself. But what I found made me think it would be easier to pull all my hair out, one strand at a time, than to split the often razor thin differences between the romance genres and their sub-genres.
Then I started writing YA. Simple, right? YA is YA. Or so I thought as I wrote that new manuscript. But when I started hanging in YA circles and heard rumblings of MG vs. YA my eyes crossed. I held my newly completed baby and wondered yet again, "What have I written?"
Well, thanks to a great break-out session at SCBWI's MidSouth Regional Conference in September, led by editor Alexandra Cooper, I realize I've birthed a full-blooded YA. Ms. Cooper clearly defined MG vs. YA, and given her position, I'm inclined to believe she knows whereof she speaks.
According to Ms. Cooper, it's all about . . . number of pages.
Bet you thought I was going to say the protagonist's age. Yes, that's part of it. But, surprisingly, so is the number of pages. The average MG has 150-200 pages. YA has more.
The biggest difference, however, is plot trajectory. With a MG, the plot runs the course of Home - Away - Home. Here, Home represents the ordinary world of family/friends. Away represents the challenge or opportunity that spurs growth. (Think cliques vs. individualization.) The character grows up a little, but in MG he/she always winds up back at Home. Wiser? Yes. More sure of self? Absolutely. But still at home.
In YA, the plot trajectory is Home - Away. Period. The protagonist starts at Home, but his/her challenge/opportunity pushes them toward independence. He/she may, in the end, still live with Mom and Dad, but it's obvious that those days are numbered. The YA protagonist is clearly ready to stand on her/his own. There is no real going back.
I hope these distinctions help you recognize your baby's family. But either way, keep writing. There are always hybrids! :0