Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Writer's Alphabet - Y is for Young Adult

This is a timely post since I was just conversing on facebook with someone on this very topic.  I started my writing and publishing career with the young adult genre, so it is close to my heart. Over two years ago, I wrote a post on writing YA and I want to share it here today.  If I have missed anything, I'd love you to let me know.  Thanks and enjoy!
  1. Remember at all times that writing for teens doesn't mean write as though they are stupid. They aren't. In most cases, they are highly intelligent kids, learning about themselves and the world around them, and feeling their way through some of the most enlightening period of their lives.  Respect that.
  2. Don't trivialize what they are going through.  If your think the scene you wrote sounds like a bad after-school special, it probably is.  Treat your characters with dignity, no matter what you have them going through.
  3. Don't think the lingo and terminology from YOUR youth will still play today.  It won't.  At the risk of aging me, the Valley-girl crap is O.U.T.  Your readers will realize it almost on the first page if you try and fake it.  If you intend to write for a specific age group, you have to spend time with them.  Join a library group and read to them, volunteer at a school, or just go hang out at the beach.  But do it A LOT.  One hour at the mall won't do it.  Teens have a whole different language and it will take time and dedication to master it.  There is no Rosetta Stone for teenspeak.
  4. Understand a teen's attention span is about the same to us as our life is to the life of the common housefly.  SHORT.  You have to capture it on the first page or they toss the book/ipad/kindle aside and grab a DS/Wii/PSP instead.  There is no world-building/character-study/working-up-to-it-ness allowed in a middle-grade or young, young-adult book.  You have to slam them into the action IMMEDIATELY and keep them there for the whole first chapter.  They have to be asking questions at the end of the first paragraph and wanting answers or you already lost them.
  5. Covers are EVERYTHING.  Splashy, gaudy, dripping with color, or with a teen just like them on the cover and they will buy it every time.  Think of every Sarah Dessen book you ever saw.  What's on the cover?  Something that relates to a teen-aged girl, right?  Look at her latest one....back view of low-rise jeans, bottoms covering the feet, hands stuffed in the back pocket in the classic "What-EVER." pose.  That cover SOLD that book.  Plus her name of course....synonymous with teen angst and empathy.
  6. Here's the plus side:  If you get all that right, teens practically DEMAND books they love get
    made into movies.  They buy and buy and buy until agents and movie producers sit up and take notice and before you know it Mandy Moore and KStew and Emma Stone are lining up to play your angsty teenaged heroine in a movie based on your book!  (So I dream.  We all do.  Whatever.  Move on.)   
  7. All I'm saying is everyone thinks it's so easy to write YA and I just want you to know, it's not.  Just remember, as complicated as you were when you were a young adult, consider putting all THAT done on paper.  Right?  I rest my case.

1 comment:

  1. So NOT easy to write. My YA/NA I've been writing for over 7 years. I've churned out about 20 adult contemps in that time!