Wednesday, June 8, 2011

3 Musts to Write Young Adult Novels.

YA World Wednesday.

So many writers are flocking to write young adult novels. And why not? This genre has a lot to offer. For the most part they are clean reads that have no limits. And if you're a great writer, you might even get an entire series. Think Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Hunger Games. These stories sold a lot of books. Why? Not only were they well crafted novels, but they appealed to a wide audience.

So what does a writer need to do to write YA fiction?

First and far most, you have to think like a kid. Second, and very important, you need to write at their level. And third, never, ever preach.

Think like a kid . . . 
Some people believe older authors can't write good YA fiction because they can't possibly think like a kid. Give me a break. Did they ever hear of research? And I don't mean going online or reading books. That's one way to go about it, but the best way is to go right to the source. While I was writing many of my YA novels, I was a counselor in the Young Women's program in my church. I loved working with the youth, and boy did I learn a lot. So find a good source, do your homework, and before you know it you'll be thinking like a kid.

Write at their level . . . 
Now this is not to say to write down to them. On the contrary. What it means is making sure you have context that helps describe difficult words. It means phrasing sentences like a teen would. And it also means writing about issues that are important to them. Give your main character baggage that some teens deal with every day. Either they yearn for acceptance from their peers, or they desperately want a boyfriend/girlfriend, or they might be dealing with critical self-esteem issues they don't want to talk about. Give the readers someone they can identify with at their level.

Never, ever preach . . .
This can be tricky. But becomes less of a problem if you show and not tell your story. A story plunges into dangerous water when it starts with telling instead of a scene. A well written scene pulls the reader in, not only at the beginning of the book, but especially at a critical point in the story. Let the character live, feel and breath. Let them work out their problems and learn. Getting deep into the point of view of your main character helps avoid this ugly trap.

These are three very important things a writer needs to deal with in writing YA novels, but I'm certain there are more. What have I missed? If you write YA, what do you find most difficult and how have you worked around the problem?


  1. Great list! I'm writing a MG book right now, and it helps that I've always been in touch with my inner child. I can easily go back to my memories of my childhood! And when I get stuck, since I'm a child of the 80s/90s which was ages ago (LoL), I turn to my nieces and nephews. They're between the ages of 6 months and 11 years, so it helps a lot talking to them and observing them!

  2. Great tips! Now is definitely a good time to be writing YA.

  3. Laura:
    It always helps if we can tap into the inner child within. I don't know about you, but I refuse to grow up. What a great resource to have nieces and nephews to ask questions. I'm sure your book is awesome.

  4. Talli,
    Yep, now is the time. If I remember right, don't you have a book coming out very soon? And isn't it YA?

  5. yep, definitely good tips. It's also good to get beta readers from the target age group too.

  6. Lynda,
    That's a great tip. Beta readers who are the age group your book is targeting. Excellent. I did that when I wrote some children's concept books. Kids are amazing and smarter than adults think.

  7. Your three tips cover a lot of ground. It helps if the writer has teens in the house! That helps with voice, language, etc.

  8. Julie,
    So true! Having teens around 24/7 would be a wonderful help in writing YA.

  9. Excellent list, Kathi. We have been youth pastors twice, and kids do need their own genre.

  10. Jeanette,
    Thanks! As a youth pastor, I'm sure you know what I'm talking about when it comes to loving your calling with the youth. And I agree, they do need their own genre. :)

    Thanks for stopping by.

  11. The YA market is so huge that it's probably worth considering. You offer some great tips. Maybe someday I may have to reconsider what I've been trying to do with my writing.

    Tossing It Out

  12. This is very good!
    I am writing a children's book right now so more babyish...
    I could never write a YA book...Not good enough...I should take some English writing class :)
    little bit tricky when English is not your first language.
    Have a super week end!

  13. Arlee,
    YA is worth trying. And there's no limit what you can do with the story lines. Thanks for dropping by. :)

  14. Le Chateau,
    Picture books appeal to everyone not only children. I've written nine concept books for children, a little different, but still a lot of fun. And I think they are very difficult to write, so my hat is off to you.



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