Young Adult novels are extremely popular right now. I myself write Young Adult fantasy. But there can be a lot of confusion around what YA is. At the writer’s conference I attended last month, one speaker talked about what makes good YA. Here’s what they discussed.
First of all, good writing is good writing. The same things that make writing successful in adult books will work to make good YA as well. Character, plotting, and theme apply to YA as much as they do adult books.
The biggest difference is the audience. YA actually has two audiences. One is the adult gatekeepers, like publishers, teachers, and parents. Two is the actual teenager who will read your story. This is children age 12 and up. Really successful YA fiction appeals to both adults and teenagers. To do this you need to have age appropriate subjects and adventures. This includes the vocabulary and language you choose. But don’t oversimplify and don’t talk down to your readers. Teenagers may be inexperienced, but they are not dumb.
Another key is character. The protagonist should be 13 to 17 years old, with most characters averaging 16 in YA books. They have to be likeable, relatable, or both for your readers to connect with your story. No one wants to follow a character they have no interest in for 200 pages. Your protagonist should also act their age and behave age appropriately. Remember your audience and write a character they’ll believe and will want to read about.
Next let’s talk about POV. YA books are usually in first or third limited POV. These are the POVs where the reader is very close to the character and are therefore more immersive, which teens prefer. Also, be sure to limit the number of different POVs you utilize in your story. Especially first person POVs, which can get confusing when there’s more than one.
Finally, we have tone and plotting. Listen to how teenagers really talk and write in that tone. When it comes to plot, YA books are simpler than adult books with less subplots. Once again this doesn’t mean to oversimplify. YA books are just more focused. Outline your story when you are finished (if you didn’t start with an outline) to make sure the story structure is strong and that you’ve hit all your plot points.
These keys should help you to better understand YA and how to write it. What are your best practices for writing YA? Share below and happy writing.