In today’s reading world, everyone (don’t quote me on that number) is reading young adult. People like young adult. It reminds them of a time when they didn’t have as many cares or worries in their lives, and it helps nurture their inner child. With so many of adults having their hopes and dreams dashed on the cliffs of life, it’s a nice haven to retreat to and remember when the world was in the palm of their hands.
So what’s required to write young adult fiction? I think a lot of authors assume it’s easy to write young adult fiction, because young adults aren’t as prudent with their reading as adults, right? Wrong! Young adults can pick out stuff that doesn’t make sense from a mile away. Let me tell you a little story. The other day my nieces were down watching “Bones” on Netflix. Boothe is chasing a bad guy through this populated area; around houses, over fences, and into a backyard. The bad guy ducks behind an urn that holds a bush, and comes out with a kid. My niece says “Come on, where did that kid come from?” It was a thought I didn’t even entertain, but she picked it right up. I assume the kid was scared and ducked behind there? But we don’t know because we weren’t shown that.
So, even though you are writing for young adults, you have to make the story believable within the confines of the story. What does that mean? Well, we assume you aren’t always writing about the real world, and might have some elements of the fantastical in your writing. But even then, it has to make sense. A spell that is designed for one thing can’t suddenly do something else. Or even better, I was reading a book the other day (which I’ve stopped reading because it wasn’t realistic even given the theme) and this teen told off an older person and the entire town started cheering in victory . . . when have you ever seen that happen? Or when you have a kid who is so awesome with fighting get kidnapped pretty easily?
So what makes a book young adult? Not the quality of writing. You have to attack your book with the same care and forethought that you would attack an adult book. Make sure your story is tight and thought out, make sure that it’s realistic given the story, make sure there’s no inconsistencies, and certainly no points that are going to make any audience roll their eyes and say: “yea, right.”
I will post some of my old blog posts about editing in the future, so you can get some help there. But right now it comes down to beta readers: those first readers that tell you if the book is working or not. Try giving the book out to someone in the targeted age range, and then also one to an adult to see if it stands up to their expectations. But the main thing to remember: young adults aren’t dumb, you can’t slap something together and call it young adult and get away with it. Your story has to be solid, your writing great, and please no unbelievable parts. I don’t care if you’re writing fantasy, there still comes a point when the reader can think: “alright, that character really wouldn’t do that,” or “I thought he said trolls had stone-like hide, but that knife cut through to an artery?”
Above all, write your book for yourself. If you’re proud of it, then you did good. If there is any doubt in your mind, maybe you should examine it further and figure out why. Good luck, and happy writing!
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