Writing a Young Adult Novel? Here’s What to Keep in Mind

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The market for young adult fiction is extremely popular and profitable, thanks to the abundance of popular YA book series such as Harry Potter and The Hunger Games. If you’re interested in writing your own novel for teens, here are some important things to keep in mind, so you can successfully write a great young adult novel.

Writing a Young Adult Novel? Here's What to Keep in Mind 1

Get the POV right

First, you must determine if your novel will be told in first-person or third-person narration. Using the first person is great for building a strong connection with the reader–and it’s an easy way to slip into the narrator’s mind and show off their personality. However, it can also come across as overly casual and even immature.

Third-person can be a little trickier because you need to find that fine line between the narrator seeing everything and being able to judge the actions of other characters without tipping it into an omniscient POV.

The POV also ties in with your character’s age. Kids are not entirely formed people–they have plenty of flaws, but they’re growing and learning. If you want your reader to like your main character, don’t make them an adult in their heads, even if their physical age is teen-aged.

Keep your target audience in mind when coming up with themes

Try to reflect on their lives in a way that makes sense for your audience. Close to a fifth of young adults are unemployed after high school, and this situation often leads young people down very different paths from those their parents took when they were young. So when writing, keep these themes in mind for you to easily find young adult publishers who would be interested in your work. It’s important to keep young adults in mind. So ask yourself, “Are young adults going to be able to relate?” If the answer is yes, then you’re on the right track.

However, publishers can also see your work as a marketing opportunity to reach young adults and help inspire young readers.

Writing a Young Adult Novel? Here's What to Keep in Mind 2

Use the right Voice/Language for your Young Adult Novel

When writing a young adult novel, there are several things to keep in mind. One specific aspect is the use of voice and language. The language you use should be appropriate for your story’s target audience. You want to speak to teens in their voice or language, and not talk down to them like adults would do (which they hate).

The importance of having a voice or language that’s relatable to your audience can not be stressed enough. Since young adults are at that in-between stage, they’re not quite considered adults (although slightly past teens) and everyone likes to be spoken to like they’re intelligent individuals.

Make sure your character’s age suits your audience

Your main characters should remind the reader (or even better: an actual young adult) of himself or herself. The story world may differ from reality, but you still want it to feel familiar to your young readers. Make your protagonist a character that teens can identify with, and let the young readers feel that they are part of the story.

It is important to make your characters realistic, but don’t go overboard with this at the expense of your plotline. Give them room to develop and make choices on their own, but still, guide them in a way that’s appropriate for their age.

If you’re writing for young adults, they will expect a certain level of maturity from the main characters. A fifteen-year-old protagonist may not be able to make many difficult decisions and often needs guidance from an older person, while a seventeen-year-old teenager is more likely to act on his or her own, but still may need help solving any conflicts.

Don’t get preachy

It isn’t so much about what you do and doesn’t say in your book, but how you say it. You can be open and honest without being overbearing or too wordy. After all, the purpose of a Young Adult novel is for young adults to read them. They’re smart enough to understand that there are always two sides to every story, and it’s much more effective to show a debate rather than say “here is why side X is wrong”

If you do feel the need to take a side or show a certain action as incorrect, make sure that there is at least one character in your book who agrees with this view, whether it’s a love story or just about romance. Even if you’re not directly addressing your readers, it will make your characters feel more real and give them a personality that readers can connect with. At the end of the day, you’re writing for young adults – treat them with respect, and they’ll appreciate your work.

Keep your stories full of short, descriptive sentences

The lives of teenagers and children are filled with loud music, lots of friends, and simple pleasures. Writing in short sentences can really capture this feeling and make your stories more authentic.

If you’re writing a book targeted at middle schoolers or young adults, you need to take extra care to keep your sentences short, simple, and descriptive. Using complex sentence structures in your writing can confuse the reader or create a pace that is too slow for them to appreciate. A young audience tends to favour shorter sentences that are easy to follow.

This will make it easier for them to understand what you are trying to say. If they are struggling to process the sentence due to its length or complexity, that can spell trouble for your story.

This doesn’t mean you should write everything in short one-word sentences. The occasional complex thought is allowed if it’s an interesting statement about something new in the plot or causes a change of direction.

Write hopeful endings

Upon first planning out a young adult novel, the author might want to come up with a thrilling page-turner as well as something intriguing to keep readers interested. There are many elements that can translate from traditional books, but being aware of the YA audience is key.   

Writing a young adult novel can be done as long as the author has an open mind and is willing to think from the perspective of their target audience. And let’s face it, most authors have been teens at some point and probably still are! Right?

Young adults reading fiction want more than anything for everything to work out in the end. They must feel that their lives can be better if they only believe, and a young adult novel is a good place to start on this journey of self-awareness.

In conclusion, new young adult authors are advised to keep their audience in mind while also staying true to themselves. There are many elements of traditional writing that can translate, but being aware of your target audience is key.

Write the best story you possibly can and try your best not to be preachy. Keep descriptions short and sweet, using simple sentences whenever possible. Treat your young adult audience with respect, and they’ll appreciate your work. And write hopeful endings that will give teen readers something to live up to. Remember, writing a novel is an art. It may take some time to become experienced in this field, but in the end, it’s all worth it!

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