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Writer's Room => Kidlit Genres => Topic started by: andy-mizell on November 27, 2020, 03:41 PM

Title: Which Genre For My Book?
Post by: andy-mizell on November 27, 2020, 03:41 PM

I have written a fairly short, currently 28k word chapter book, which is also currently a true bullying story from my childhood that last from kindergarten through 12th grade. I am at a major point now after receiving feedback from editors. I need guidance on where to categorize my book before moving forward with any type of revising. I feel like my choices are:

A) Fictional Memoir - where I use all fake names and I also maybe add fictional settings on purpose in order to disallow the reader from being able to potentially determine who the bully is. However, this is still risky because I want to use my real name as the author.

B) Middle Grade Novel (based on a true story) - I have been told that if I select this category, that I need to rewrite my book so that the main character remains one age throughout such as 11 years old or 12 years old so that the story begins and ends in 8th grade.

C) Young Adult Novel (based on a true story) - same as above but with the main character being 17 or 18 and where the story takes place around senior year.

My heart says that if I go with choice B or C, then my story will not hold the same impact or meaning because part of the power behind the story comes from the fact of it lingering on for so many years, but it has a positive ending after all of those years. I want to choose choice A, but I can't sleep at night knowing that if I choose that route, then there could be a potential chance of the bully finding out about the book and wanting to do something about it.

I would like to choose choice A but try to beef it up a bit so that it is closer to 35-40k words. I could do a lot better with my fictional descriptions of characters and places. Also, I feel like I could add a few other literary elements to enhance the complexity of the book. If I do that though, I just want for people to still know that it was based on a true story with some characters and elements within the book changed to protect the privacy of others.

If anyone has read the recent "Hey, Kiddo" graphic memoir by Jarrett Krosoczka, I feel like my story follows a similar structural pattern in the sense that it lasts from young childhood all the way to the end of high school. The major difference though, Jarrett's story uses all real names because the people he had to worry about were family members, so he essentially had their permission. His story has made great impact and I feel mine could do the same. I just need help in figuring out how to do it the right way.


Title: Re: Which Genre For My Book?
Post by: Vijaya on November 27, 2020, 05:05 PM
:welcome Andy and congratulations for writing what I imagine must have been difficult, yet cathartic. I've read very few novels and memoirs that span such a wide age range. One of the best is An Na's A Step from Heaven. It's an immigrant tale and makes an excellent mentor book for what you are trying to accomplish in your own book. The bulk of it is MG but it is usually shelved in the YA section. I read David Small's graphic novel Stitches and it covers a wide age as well. El Deafo by Cece Bell is definitely MG. I also wrote a memoir about stuttering--Tongue Tied--that spans a large age range (I even go past high school graduation) but the bulk of it centers around the difficult MG years. I think often that less is more, esp. if you zero in on a particularly difficult year so that there's an external plot besides the bullying. Fictionalizing it will give you the leeway to do this.
Best wishes as you continue to read and write and hone your story.   
Title: Re: Which Genre For My Book?
Post by: andy-mizell on November 27, 2020, 05:22 PM

Thank you, Vijaya. In real life, the three major events occurred in 3rd, 7th, and 12th grade, with 12th grade being the climax. If less is more, how do I squeeze 13 years of school life into a middle grade novel? I feel it could be doable if I made the storyline last from 5th-8th grade with the climax in 8th grade, but if I do this, then I won't be following the MG novel rule of remaining one age throughout. I do not think it is doable to portray this story in one school year like 8th grade only. I guess now I am wondering if I choose to focus on MG, then I can no longer call it a memoir of any kind, correct? Also, thanks for the book recommendations. I have been looking at these too.
Title: Re: Which Genre For My Book?
Post by: Vijaya on November 27, 2020, 05:31 PM
Hah! It's always a challenge squeezing many years into one. Perhaps now is the time to read and see what other stories resonate with you, how they are handled and then figure out what's best for yours. Try it different ways and see how it shapes up. You never know until you try. All best.
Title: Re: Which Genre For My Book?
Post by: andy-mizell on November 27, 2020, 05:45 PM
Thank you for your guidance!
Title: Re: Which Genre For My Book?
Post by: Debbie Vilardi on November 27, 2020, 06:28 PM
First, let me say I hear your fear of the bully in this. I always hope the person has grown up and grown as a human, but you do have to be careful for legal reasons.

Fictionalizing is one way to be sure you can't be accused of libel or slander. Find the story in your experience. The facts are not the story. Think about all of the episodes of Law and Order that were ripped from headlines and condensed into 45 minutes. They go to the emotional truths and distill those, using them to make the audience think. Trust your readers, and be brave.
Title: Re: Which Genre For My Book?
Post by: andy-mizell on November 27, 2020, 06:38 PM
Yes, and you are correct that the bully has grown as a person. It is everyone else telling me to be careful, which makes sense in the long run.

I like your comment of "find the story in your experience." I think I need to dive into that for a little bit to see what I can come up with.

Thanks, Debbie!