Young Adult books get a lot of bad press nowadays. Read these tips to creating amazing Young Adult books for a teen audience – and beyond.
Here are WriteMentor‘s 5 tips for writing a great Young Adult book.
Know your audience for Young Adult
Who reads Young Adult books? Teens, right? Not necessarily! By some market estimates, over 50% of readers of Young Adult are 18-64 (according to this article in Publisher’s Weekly). That means if you write a Young Adult book, you’re writing for what’s knows as a ‘crossover’ age group. Your book doesn’t have to follow the normal conventions of children’s books when it comes to language and some content, but it also needs to be age appropriate for teenagers who come to your novel. Don’t be afraid of writing YA because you think teens aren’t reading – they need books too, and adults are heavily invested in this genre. Young Adult novels are also typically as long as an adult book, so you can captivate your audience for even longer (although don’t go overboard – see a comparative list of Young Adult word counts here on author Hannah Holt’s website).
Know your character motivation
Something that does continue to confuse a lot of writers looking to move into Young Adult novels is character motivation. A Young Adult book is not simple just a book with a teenage protagonist, it’s a book where the protagonist is experiencing Coming-Of-Age themes. The personal changes and emotional growth we all experienced in our teenage years needs to be explored here – whether you’re writing a contemporary romance, or a Sci-Fi drama set on Mars. This is why the industry is quite set on the protagonist being under the age of 18 – not yet an adult, but starting to explore those adult emotions and responsibilities. If you’re MC is over 18 and lives independently from their parents/a parental figure, that probably means it’s New Adult, but that’s a topic for a different coffee break!
Know your Young Adult voice
Voice is absolutely key in nailing the Young Adult genre. Kids are smart, way smarter than adults, and they will catch you out if you’re pretending to be a teen. I hear you: How can I write a Young Adult novel if I’m an adult? Lived experience! One thing all authors have in common is we were teenagers at some point. Heartache, peer-pressure, first love, intense emotions – we’ve all been there. So take those memories and make sure you explore them, whether it be in the halls of a high school or from the belly of a dragon. Speaking of setting – you should try and match the dialect and tone of your MC’s voice to their surroundings. If it’s contemporary, find out what slang that age group are using. If it’s dystopian, consider the slang those teens might develop from the oppressive world around them.
Know your Young Adult tropes
One of the worst rumours going around about Young Adult books are that they are full of tropes. Well, this is true to an extent, but it’s not a bad things! As long as you are aware of the bad tropes, or are willing to invert them, you can still write that love triangle that teen readers seem to love! There’s even a great website that Alwyn Hamilton once spoke about in a panel, TVTropes, that’s worth a look for a full list.
Know your plot
Whether you’re a plotter or a pantser, it’s a good idea to know roughly where the story is going. The Writementor Community Learning Hub is a great place to check out plotting modules to get you started, as well as a whole range of other things. A good book has a great plot, YA or otherwise!
Want to learn more about writing captivating YA? WriteMentor runs a 6-week WriteMaster YA course led by author Alexandra Sheppard. Find out about this and our other courses.