To Be (Me) or Not To Be (Me) by Neil McGowan
I’ve been writing crime fiction for many years now, and in a parallel vein (pun intended), horror, for even longer. I understand the conventions of the genres, and my books and stories are generally well received.
However, starting about four years ago, I started writing Young Adult fiction as well. Not quite crime, and not quite horror (although there are elements of both in there), and with a generous helping of adventure and grounded fantasy.
I now have two books completed, with a third plotted out (and ideas for a further two after that). I also have a couple of books that sit in the metaphorical bottom drawer, as neither of them are suitable for publication – I see them as my coursework in learning the craft of writing for young adults. I may revisit them, at some point, but equally, I quite like the fact they’re sitting there as an indication of how I’ve improved.
And it is different, writing for young adults. Pacing, sentence structure, syntactical construction; all of it is different to the way I’d approach a book for adults. Chapter length, for example, I find is much better when shorter – I’m averaging between 900-1500 words a chapter, as opposed to around 3000 words in an adult novel. Concentrating each chapter on a single idea serves multiple purposes – it allows me to tighten the writing (as words really matter) and forces me to focus on distilling a complex idea into something transparent on the page. It also helps with the pacing.
There’s also point of view – YA tends to work much better when written in the first person – it allows you to get inside the character’s head and explore their motivations. An added benefit of this is it keeps you in their mindset, experiencing the story from their perspective. Quite a neat way to avoid head-hopping within a scene.
Back to my dilemma. When I publish these books, should I use my real name, or should I use a pseudonym? I don’t really want readers of my adult fiction to pick the YA stuff up and be disappointed as the style is quite different (my adult stuff tends to be much darker).
First thoughts are that I should develop an alter-ego when writing for young adults. This would allow me to keep everything separate and compartmentalised. However, it means double the investment in time when it comes to marketing, and I’m a bit rubbish at that anyway. So I had a look about to see if there were authors who successfully crossed genres like this and stayed under their own name.
Surprisingly, there are one or two – C L Taylor writes adult crime thrillers and young adult as herself; Kathy Reichs has also done the same. Seems it can be done, then.
But – and it’s a big but – these author have an entire publishing house’s marketing department behind them, and are already established names. I’m just one person, fitting everything in between the day job. Much as I am a cynic who believes most advertising is a waste of time, these authors seem to have a PR team who have managed to position them perfectly in the market.
I think I’ve talked myself into a pseudonym, there. Now the next question is, what should it be? Sigh, more questions to answer.
Good luck with choosing a new name, then practice signing it with a flourish!