~ By Chanel Cleeton
New Adult (NA) is an exciting new category in the current fiction market. NA is full of coming-of-age stories focusing on a protagonist’s journey through a new phase in their life. In many ways NA fills the gap between young adult fiction and adult fiction. NA protagonists typically range in age from 18 to 26. Popular themes in NA include: moving away from home, starting college, graduating college, first jobs, first serious relationships, fear of failure, empowerment, joining the military, sexual exploration (read this at lockthecock for a little bit more of an example), and so much more. NA is focused on exploration and personal growth, challenging characters with new obstacles and responsibilities.
While NA is full of potential for many genres, contemporary romance has been at the vanguard of the category’s success. There’s a natural relationship between NA and contemporary romance— many titles focus on real-world challenges like moving away and experiencing college life. Popular titles like Wait for You by Jennifer Armentrout writing as J. Lynn, Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire, and Faking It by Cora Carmack, have all fueled NA’s success. For those of you thinking about writing NA, these are some great titles to start with to get a feel for the category.
Across the different genres and themes, there are some common threads within NA. The category is heavily influenced by characters’ emotional growth and internal development. It is most often characterized as representing a transitional phase in characters’ lives— they have one foot out the door and yet have not fully transitioned to adulthood. This transitional period provides many opportunities for crafting internal and external conflict.
Often there’s an intensity to the insecurity of not fully knowing who you will be and the pressure of growing into your own identity. This feeling pervades NA. Authenticity is key. You want the reader to identify with your characters’ emotional development. Drawing on your own personal experiences and harnessing them into your story is a great way to make sure your work captures the essence of this period in your characters’ lives.
One of the exciting things about writing NA is the category’s depth. NA is full of some fabulous college-set stories and there are so many exciting aspects of the college experience that really lend themselves to writing contemporary stories. But NA isn’t just about life in college. There are so many other opportunities— from first jobs or internships to other phases in your characters’ lives. The great thing about NA is that there’s a freedom to it and an opportunity for writers to push their creative boundaries.
Ultimately, the NA community is a really exciting place to be right now. There’s a huge potential for growth within the category. Because NA is still rather new, the category is still defining itself, shifting and growing. While there is a certain “essence” to NA titles, diversity will play a key factor in the category’s growth. Play around with NA, harness your own experiences and emotions, spin them to create a story readers will fall in love with. NA is all about pushing past boundaries— for both your characters and yourself as a writer.
Chanel Cleeton writes New Adult contemporary romances and Young Adult thrillers. Her New Adult debut, I SEE LONDON, will be released by Harlequin (HQN) on February 1, 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. Learn more about Chanel at www.chanelcleeton.com.