Wednesday, March 2, 2011

YA is Not a Genre

Announcement #1:
I've succumbed to Twitter! Follow me and I'll follow you back. Look for me as Artzicarol.

Congrats to the following 3 winners chosen courtesy of!! Yay!

Donea Lee, Kimberly, and Lois D. Brown (click to visit their websites)

Winners, email me at artzicarol [at] gmail [dot] com to arrange to receive a manuscript critique or a copy of Junction 2020. If a critique, send one chapter (or entire manuscript if a picture book).


I've heard writers say their writing genre is young adult , or YA. This isn't technically correct. YA is a CATEGORY rather than a genre. This is important to know, because you will need to state your category as well as your genre when you query agents and editors.

The following are categories or classifications of writing:
Young adult, middle grade, picture book, adult fiction, graphic novels, non-fiction, biography, memoir, poetry, new adult (college-age characters and situations), etc.

Once you choose which category to write in, you can select what you like to write within that category. For instance, you choose to write YA. But what kind of YA do you want to write? Horror? Paranormal? Fantasy? Those are genres.

Here is an alphabetical list of genres with brief descriptions; these usually refer to novels or short stories. This list is probably not comprehensive. There can also be blends or sublevels of these genres, such as Historical Romance or Paranormal Horror.

Chick Lit: romantic comedy; searching for the perfect man, shoes, and clothing
Christian fiction: exploring Christian themes and/or with a Christian world view
Contemporary: stories set in present times; often "issue" books (anorexia, suicide)
Cozy Mystery: with less blood, violence, & sex; often with elderly/animal detectives
Cyberpunk: science fiction or advanced science with a low-life/underground society
Dystopian: bleak, oppressive utopias gone bad (often combined with post-apocalyptic)
Fantasy: can be light or high; generally involves magic & often set in a different world
Historical: set in times past; even if set twenty years ago it can be considered historical
Horror: containing scary, bloody elements that make people scream and shiver
Magical Realism: contemporary stories with a twist or hint of magic; often romantic
Mystery: the traditional "whodunit," involving clues and problems/crimes to solve
Paranormal: a human world involving supernatural creatures, abilities, or powers
Paranormal Romance: romance (often sensual/erotic) involving supernatural creatures
Post-Apocalyptic: dealing with life after some cataclysmic, world-altering event
Romance: involving characters who meet and fall in love; often formulaic in plot
Science Fantasy: a blend of science fiction & fantasy elements; magic may be involved
Science Fiction: based on science/hypothetical scientific developments, like space travel
Steampunk: advanced technology meshed with steam power & Victorian-like settings
Thriller: fast-paced mystery/crime novel involving major-league adventure/danger
True Crime: non-fiction mystery that is actually true; fast-paced and reads like fiction
Urban Fantasy: fantasy (involving magic, fairies, etc.) set in a very human-type city
Urban Fiction: no fantasy elements, set in a city, usually w/ violence, gangs, drugs, sex
Women's Fiction: stories about women (middle to upper class) & their relationships

Click HERE for info on intriguing CyberPunk derivatives such as: Atompunk, Clockpunk, Dieselpunk, PostCyberpunk, BioPunk, NanoPunk, Elfpunk, Mythpunk, Nowpunk, Splatterpunk.

What CATEGORY or classification do you write in? (YA, MG, adult fiction, poetry, etc.)
What GENRE is your favorite, that you write the most?
Can you think of any other genres to add to this list?


  1. My category is YA and my genre, as far as I can tell, would be realistic fiction. But now I'm a tad worried since I don't see that on your list!!

    Welcome to twitter, Carol. Thanks for tracking me down.

  2. My genre is Romantic category is adult fiction.

  3. I'd have to say my category is Adult Fiction, although I am going to try which the genre will most likely be contemporary since the focus will be on a transgender teen...good explanation...

  4. Woo hoo!! Thanks, Carol! I was SO hoping to win an awesome critique from you. I'll e-mail soon~ :) Congrats to Kimberly and Lois as well.

    Ok - the whole genre thing? *shakes head* This list is particularly helpful, because I think I've gotten it all wrong for my novel. I've got a few that I would classify as women's fiction, except they have a fantastical element to them, but they are set in real times, so... same thing for my YA projects - today's world, but fantastical element. I'm going to go with - Magical Realism? (so sad I have to put a question mark behind that...) Thanks for the great list, Carol!

  5. Good luck and have fun with Twitter.

  6. I love to read middle grade fantasy, but I only write contemporary for some reason...too lazy for world-building I guess :) Thanks for the clarification post!

  7. Congrats to the winners!

    Classification: YA and adults. (I do have an idea for a MG series, but haven't started it yet.)

    My favorite genre to write: fantasy/paranormal.

  8. Great post! My current WIPs are adult urban fantasy, but I'm planning an MG/YA dystopian later this year.

  9. Still trying to figure out if my story is YA or MG, but it's definitely fantasy.

  10. Congrats to the winners!

    Wow, that's a lot of 'punks'! I would love to dabble in steampunk sometime.

    The genre I write is YA fantasy. That's mainly what I read, although I will pick up any genre in YA if someone suggests something.

  11. Nice list. My book is technically science fantasy, but I've heard a couple agents say they don't want to see genres listed like that, so I just call it sci-fi. Same with cyberpunk.

  12. This is the best list of possible genres I've seen. Thanks!

  13. I didn't realise there were so many different versions of punk. I love the idea of clockpunk. I might write a short story based on that :)
    Mainly I write YA fantasy, my latest (as you know) is steampunk fantasy.

  14. Me? Adult fiction. Genre: science fiction/paranormal. I knew what category I wrote in, but I needed your genre breakdown, so thanks very much!!!

  15. Oh, forgot. Congratulations to the winners!

  16. Aha! Makes sense - that's why I've been calling mine historical MG. Though there's one tiny bit of time travel in there... I don't want to say historical fantasy MG though because fantasy seems to imply so many other things.
    At least my historical romance is straightforward enough.
    Thanks for the list!

  17. Welcome to Twitter, girl! And I LOVE the list! could I copy it? I would love to paste this into word.

  18. I LOVE this list Carol. I've been wondering about genre's and what each of them really are. I did have a published author tell me once, though, that being a little general is okay if you're not sure where your book should be. She said that the agent will help you get more specific if they decide they want to represent your book.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog! I might've said this before, but did you know that we are both in Oregon? Awesome.

  19. Heading over to follow you on Twitter!

  20. This genre breakdown is great! I needed a distinction between urban fantasy and paranormal.
    Current novel is adult paranormal, next project is YA paranormal.

  21. I think I can comfortably say I write YA bio-punk (at the moment).

  22. I've been making that genre mistake. But I don't say I write YA. I say I write YA contemporary, so I guess I save myself from the mistake after all. :D

  23. THANK YOU!!!! i've been trying to explain that whole YA is not a genre thing to these people who think that YA is just for girls!!! ugh!!!

    love Love LOVE the genre breakdown!!!

    i write YA, but i'm dabbling in different genres... i guess i would say magical realism or psychological horror... it's hard for me to differentiate genres, so i'm TOTALLY bookmarking this post!!!

  24. OMGosh! Thank you so much, Carol! I can't believe I won. Congrats to the other winners!

    I write MG and YA, mostly dystopian.

  25. Thanks for that informative post.. here in Australia, I've been told we no longer call it Christian fiction - it's now considered Inspirational fiction - interesting.

  26. Wow - great list! I can't think of a thing to add to it. I primarily write YA. Most of it is Urban Fantasy, but I do have a dystopian that I finished for NaNo. It's waiting on the rewrites.

  27. It gets even more confusing when you write across genres!

    Very helpful list.

  28. What a great genre list! Stating my genre is easy, but I have friends who write hard-to-place books. I'll direct them to your list.

    I write adult fiction, contemporary inspirational romance. For fiction, I mainly read romance or classics. I also read tons of non-fiction and magazines.

  29. Thanks for that list, it helps a lot to have clarification on all the different genres... Except now I'm not sure if my latest WiP is Magical Realism (a genre I don't think I really knew about) or Paranormal Romance... What exactly is the difference there?!

    At what age of characters does a novel stop being YA and start being New Adult?
    I have a WIP with characters aged 16 to 18, so that's YA, and another with characters around 22, 23, 24, so that's New Adult, right? What about in between?

  30. Congrats to the winners! Thanks for that list of genres! Very helpful. I write historical and romance:).

  31. I write Christian speculative/supernatural--that would probably be paranormal, but I don't think the CBA uses that term. I would also call my books magical realism, which traditionally doesn't have magic, but rather elements of the supernatural woven naturally into the fabric of the story--as if it were just an ordinary occurrence. The modern definition may be a little different. I read anything and everything, except strict genre romance.

  32. Yay for Twitter and for winners! I write chick lit - although many have been saying it's now called rom-com or light women's fiction.

  33. Didn't realize that dystopian was distinct from post-apocalyptic. This was helpful & fun - thank yoU!

  34. Great list! Very helpful with the definitions.

    I write YA/MG and Fantasy or Contemporary (so far).

  35. That word category is exactly what I was looking for. I didn't think genre was the right word, but I didn't know what else to call it. Now I know!

  36. Congratulations to the winners. And thanks for explaining the distinction between genre and category!

  37. What a great breakdown! I write YA contemporary, and what a coincidence, that's what I read.

    Welcome to Twitter. I'll look for you!

  38. Thanks for defining the genres! There were a few that I wasn't sure about. I have three YAs that I'm working on. Two are high fantasy, set in the same world but with different characters, and the other is historical.

    I followed Stina's link over here, but I've seen you on some of my friends' blogs. I think you might even have critiqued for me at last summer's WriteOnCon. I'm not on Twitter yet, but I look forward to reading more of your posts :o)

  39. Congrats to the winners!

    I mainly write YA, although maybe I should consider changing it to be new adult (and maybe I should pay more attention to the fact that this is a category!!). Anyway, YA romantic fantasy? I guess that would be the best way to describe it.

    Great post, Carol.

  40. Thank you for this list, Carol!

  41. Great post. I appreciate the list. I think it is too easy to get confused in all the choices, but this sums it up for everyone a little better. Thank you. I write, YA and Adult, but my genres would be paranormal, paranormal romance, mystery and contemporary.

  42. Thanks for the list! I'm always wondering what genre certain books fall in.

    I'm YA Fantasy.

    :-) Followed you on twitter.

  43. You're right. And your lists are pretty thorough.

    My main category is YA. My genres have been fantasy and one paranormal romance. Next I want to try out an idea I have for a dystopian.

  44. The list is really useful, thank you :)

    I'd say I write YA paranormal, dystopian and contemp :)

  45. PS--If you have a chance, stop by my blog today. I have something waiting for you there :)

  46. This post was seriously made for me! I had just emailed my friend two hours ago about what genre she thought my novel was in (having trouble) she tells me her thoughts and gives me your link, in two seconds flat I've found what my genre is and couldnt' be happier! Props to this fabulous post! I cannot thank you enough for being my guardian angel!

  47. This was SO helpful. Thanks for the clarification!

  48. Great Post! I write YA/MG Christian fantasy, sci-fi, sci-fan. Plus, I write poetry, and some adult (ish) fantasy, sci-fi, and sci-fan stories. I have a historical fiction book idea, and I tried to write a romance once. Once. Probably not going to happen twice.

  49. Thank you thank you, I've been crying to mostly deaf ears that YA is no more a genre than Adult or Middle Grade. I've just been invited to a new group blog with writers from different genre's, and I'm supposed to represent the YA genre. They are so going to be surprised at my posts. I write in the contemporary romance and literary genres, with one published in the YA category, and another in the Adult category still looking for a publishing home.

  50. This is awesome, I'm going to bookmark it for future refernce. Thanks so much!!

  51. My Category is in between Young adult and New Adult, and write in the genre of horror and dystopian.


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