Writing New Adult Fiction by Deborah Halverson

Writing New Adult Fiction - Deborah Halverson, Sylvia Day

I have the urge to applaud Halverson for putting together this part guidebook part workbook on how to write New Adult. She covers everything between outlining your novel to the general mindset of a "new adult" to techniques for creating authentic voices and characters, to how to get your novel published. Many parts, such as conveying emotions and basic structure can be used for other categories and genres than just NA. It's brilliant advice for anyone, both published authors and aspiring authors. If more NA authors incorporated Halverson's advice and techniques I doubt this genre would suffer from the stigma that surrounds it.

As a "new adult" myself, I agree with many of the points Halverson does. She repeats the most prominent parts of a new adult's life such as for the first time being truly on their own away from parents viewing every step and guiding them through life. That, and the general feeling of optimism – a feeling I share in regards to my own future, but in general I am actually a rather pessimistic and cynical person – and the stress that comes when our expectations are crushed by reality. On this part I cannot agree more. New Adults are an optimistic bunch of people in search of who they are and who they want to be even if some of us have already found who we are at this age. (Speaking from experience here, not hard facts.) Simply put: Halverson hits the nail on the head on this part.

I strongly appreciate the tips she gives on structuring the novel, how to build tension, creating characters... basically everything that has to do with the actual writing and structuring. It's obvious Halverson is a brilliant editor, and given by this book, a good author as well as teacher. The way she explains how to incorporate sensibility in the narrator voice is spot on. Truly, I wish more authors did this in their novels as this is a common issue in the NA genre.

That said, I concede that Halverson has great advice and know her stuff. But. There's always a but, isn't there? Some things I can't agree on, not even a little.

First thing, Halverson explains how to create a supporting cast of secondary characters, who they are and what part they should play in the story. She mentions lovers, friends, co-workers... the basic stuff. Then she comes to the part on "adults in positions of power".

Generally the older folks are nonexistent or in the extreme periphery, like the professor who lectures but hands you off to the hot assistant teacher. Or the detective who shows up on-scene but doesn't do much but push a few buttons before he leaves ... In teen fiction, these old folks are more omnipresent even if they keep hands off, but in NA you can ban them almost completely and really should.

I'm well aware that the new adults social circle isn't filled with people that are older, but to suggest banning older people from the narrative is plain wrong. I find two issues with the concept of banning these people. First, as a new adult myself I do not have close friends that can be considered "old", but here's the thing. I know older people, and I find them an important part of my life. Not as guidance counselors or people that I go to for wisdom. These are people I know see as equals, and they interact with me as an equal as well. That means, if I know they have the knowledge I need, I go ask them, and they will not meet me as a child. They meet me as an equal.

Second, I find it problematic for the reason that the heroine/hero is a new adult. This means she/he will have to interact in a world full of older people in position of power. While doing this they must find who they are in a world that no longer treats them as children, but as equals. To be blunt: New adults must face the hard reality that they are viewed as adults. And having people of power that aren't their parents of relatives. By banning adults in position of power would take away one big part of finally being an adult. Note that I am in no way saying they need to play a big part of the narrative, just that I believe banning them is the wrong thing to do.

Moving on, we come to the matter of the two main characters (if there's a romance).

Women want the man who is sincere and loving and who needs us for his inner completeness, even as he's physically yummy and able to stand up to outside threats.

There's nothing wrong here. I just find that every example takes for granted that the two main characters are of opposite genders. Then there's my personal preference that a man shouldn't needme, at least not for his "inner completeness". But, as I said, this is a personal preference. Halverson does mention that NA is a place to explore sexuality, and I wished she'd discussed this further and made examples that would take LGBT characters, too, apart from the typical hetero relationship.

However, my biggest issue is when Halverson goes on the topic of character's looks. (She does this very briefly.)

When Beauty knows she's beautiful, Beauty is likely to be alled a bitch. Women are quite conscious of their own flaws, so they will relate to a female character who demonstrates that she's conscious of hers even as everyone else tells her she's hot stuff.

I've seen several reviews point out exactly this. That women who are secure in their looks and knows it aren't as well received as the ones with insecurities. Personally, I like female characters that knows they are "all that". I'm so darned tied of heroines that are insecure of their looks and need conformation from the male love interests. Also, if we continue to have female characters that are very modest about their looks, this reaction of calling women a "bitch" will remain, something I find disturbing to think of. I will say this is a problem in society in general and a bit bigger than what women call each other in fictional stories. But still. We continue on this topic though.

Perhaps she can worry that the outfit she must wear will accentuate the wrong things, or you could send her into a scene on what she'd call a bad hair day and have her totally turn on Mr. Hot Stuff anyway.

Here we continue on the topic how women are judged by their clothing. Most of those that have read my reviews know why I find this problematic. But, to shorten that long rant and put it simply: slut shaming is wrong and judging a woman by the way she dress, wether she dresses sexy or conservative, is wrong.

Then we have the topic of the male character's looks.

The male lover does need to look mighty fine. Perhaps he's not a model, but he's got the general features we can agree on as appealing: nice hair; a healthy, strong physique; strength and gentle touches as the situation calls for.

Notice that there's no need to have the male lead be modest about his looks. I'm not saying he isn't allowed to be confident in his looks, but I feel the need to point out the double standard here. In fact, despite what many may say, men – certainly men in this age group – can be very away of their looks, both positive and negative. These days men have some high standards they are supposed to meet just like women and, speaking form experience, this can make them insecure just like women, albeit they might not voice that insecurity as women can. This need for men to meet certain standards are raised here. The male lover is supposed to have a "strong physique", and as the previous quote said, be labeled Mr. Hot Stuff (or alike). Another point that should be addressed in NA is male leads that aren't meeting this criteria. That would be wonderful. Not all women (or men) prefer men that are excessively strong. I know, this is fiction and the hero can be very dreamy, but I believe this is part of the reason why NA is called "sexed up YA". Again, to put it simply:we need more heroes in NA that aren't considered God's gift to mankind in the looks department.

Now that I've addressed these issues, I will back up again and say that this book is great. It offers many tips that authors should take to heart. Despite my issues – sorry for long post on those, by the way – I would recommend this to pretty much anyone writing NA or hoping to write for this genre. It has great insight on how new adults think and behave as well as the struggled they face. If you're planning to write NA, read this book before you publish your work. It'll help you immensely.