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Sunday, November 06, 2011

Seven Things To Remember When Writing For Young Adults

Well, here we are going into the second week of NaNoWriMo and I'm proud to say I'm still going strong. I feel more inspired this year than I have in previous NaNo attempts. I think it's because not only am I writing a story that I have fallen in love with, I'm also writing in my favorite genre: Young Adult.

Now, don't be mistaken. Just because you write for young people doesn't mean it's easier. In fact, it can be even more difficult because younger readers are much more difficult to engage. Yes, us older readers are more fickle because we have grown into what's comfortable for us and we're unwilling to waver from that comfort zone. But young readers really expect to be entertained. And whether that entertainment comes from vampires, warewolves, paranormal, romance or fiction based on everyday issues, they have the same high standards adults do.

I thought in tribute to my current WIP that I'm working on for NaNo (it's tentatively called, UNDERTOW), we could have a chat about what to bear in mind when writing for this genre.

1) Use a voice that is within your age range, but that's 'real'. Don't try being all 'in the know' with the way teens talk because you'll ultimately fail. Get the jist by hanging out with or, at least, listening to their chat then be as true to that as possible. They don't expect you to be right in their realm but they expect, at the very least, that you understand them.

2) Tap into what they like, not what's 'in'. One thing I've discovered recently is that although this group of people appreciates having a variety of the Twilight stuff that's all the rage, many of the tweens, teens and young adults out there aren't completely absorbed into that genre. Take the time to research their 'likes' and write based on that not just what's in. Believe me, they'll appreciate it.

3) Give them a voice. There are many things this group of young people are going through that they don't always have the guts to discuss on their own. Give them the platform to do so by writing something they can relate to. There are issues like teen suicide, depression, body image struggles, break ups, bullying and many others that they want something to turn to but don't have it. Be brave enough to give them that voice.

4) Don't preach, lecture or talk down to them. Believe me when I say that nothing ticks young people off more than when they're reading something with an enforced message telling them how they have to be. There are ways to weave a story that both engages them as readers and isn't too preachy while respects who they are as young adults. Tap into that and write from there.

5) Tune in to their talk. I have read so many books geared to YAs that have actually been embarrassing to read because the author tries way hard to be hip and in-the-know. I've said this before but adults writing for young adults must remember the different perspectives they have. They aren't going to talk to a peer the same way they'd talk to their parents. And they aren't going to talk to a hip grown up the same way they'd talk to their parents. Take the time to listen to how they talk to whom and in what ways. They don't all talk like Puffy!

6) Remember your audience. In this genre, you're writing from the perspective of a young person. You aren't writing as an adult reminiscing her life as a young adult. Do whatever you need to do to stay in that mindset whether it's interviewing this group, listening in on them or simply reading all you can in the same area within this genre you want to target.

7) Read anything you can get your hands on in the area you're writing in. Okay, okay. I've said this before too and I know you all know this already but it needs to be said again. Read all the books from your favorite YA authors. Obviously they know what they're doing if they have tons of books out there that young people are still reading!

That's it for now, my friends. I am just over the halfway to my NaNo goal. While I was writing today, I thought of one of my favorite authors from my tween and teen years, Judy Blume. Did you know she's still writing for young people? She still rocks because she taps into young people's lives; understands their thoughts, emotions and interests; and always stays current on their likes. She is an inspiration and many of us have the talent to reach the same level she has. We just need to be willing to keep going and stay connected with our youth.

Good luck, keep going and happy writing.

Chynna (an aspiring YA best selling author!!)

PS: If you are NaNo'ing, I'm on there as Chynna_L. 'Friend' me and let's support each other!


  1. As a teen myself, I agree with voice. Personally, an YA voice should have a "time-less" quality, so it can apply to a narrator from twenty years ago just as easily. If it's too "hip", there's a chance the book will become stale in the next five years.

    This is a problem I'm yet to see in books, but it's a huge problem in advertising and at least a few comic scripts (one does those character still look trapped in the 80's. Just because it's an educational script...)

    Summary: Don't try to be rad. You'll fail in any time period.

  2. What an awesome comment, Co. Thank you for your input. It really helps to hear from tweens, teens and young adults who are reading the books we put out. After all, you are who YA writers aim for and we should be true to your voice.

    'Don't try to be rad' should be a YA Author's bumper sticker. ;)

    Thanks again!



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