I bet you freaked the hell out if you've come to the conclusion that a major overhaul needs to be done for a WIP to change every character (or just your MC's) age. I can tell you when I had this happen, and I came to the same scary conclusion, I was definitely not a happy camper. So, the next questions is... how do you decide which way to age a character?
I had a manuscript that I wrote as a New Adult piece, and while it works in that age category, I'm not sure where it will work BEST. But then the next thing I needed to think about was WHICH way to go. Since it was NA I could go down to YA or up to Adult. To make my decision I had to consider a few things.
When considering age category and plot:
- The plot you have - what category would it work best for? In my manuscript one of the two twists would be most unique and surprising for one of the categories. The other works for all three. But uniqueness is something to consider. There are plot twists that have been done and overdone in certain age categories, but they may be fresh for a different one. But not just uniqueness, the plot itself may just work better for YA or Adult or NA. These are things to consider.
- Characters is the next thing I thought about. My love interest, my MC... which age would they work the best in? Which age would they be more relatable, more unique, less unlikable? (Because let's face it, I realllllllly prefer the broken and unlikable characters. The more messed up the better.)
When considering writing career:
- Where are most of your ideas? Does this one fit into what you write the most of? If a lot of your ideas are thrillers and this one is a romance then that will be a huge factor. Honestly, looking at your career in a long term way is really important. As much as we all wish we could write every idea we have with no problems, that's just not the case. As authors we need to establish ourselves in one area or another before branching out. If you have more Adult ideas than YA that's something to consider. You can switch it up during a career, but as a general rule you must first have your feet firmly planted on the ground somewhere before jumping. Another thing to consider is the difference between YA and Adult marketplaces. In YA the same rules don't apply as they do in Adult. In YA you can write a fantasy, then a horror, then a romance. In adult you need to establish yourself in one genre before having a chance to move on. So - in a really long nutshell - you must think about where you see your career going. Think about which category you want to write in first/more. Think about which genre you want to write in more/first. Think about which category/genre you have the best and most ideas.
- Where do you excel. While passion and desire are important things to consider, so is talent. What marketplace will you soar in versus treading water?