5 Ideas to Ponder on Before Writing a YA Novel
What do aspiring young adult writers need to know
If your line of work involves dealing with young adults, you’d agree that it can be quite challenging to keep them interested. One of the best ways to catch and hold down their attention is by letting them read young adult (YA) novels. However, not all would be beneficial for them. To be sure that you are giving them the right material, why don’t you try writing your own YA novel?
Before you start drafting your first YA novel, you must be aware that YA is, in fact, only a marketing classification and not a genre. A YA novel can belong to the romance, fantasy, horror, mystery, sci-fi, or any genre you could ever think of. Take Divergent, Eleanor & Park, The Fault in Our Stars, and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children as examples of popular YA books . They are widely different from one another, but the same set of readers read them: the young adults. They are the YA writers’ target market.
The following are some ideas to ponder on before you start writing your YA novel:
Write in simple prose.
If you’ve been an avid reader of YA novels, you may have noticed that they are often told in first-person voice. In cases when they are not told in first-person, they are still told in a clear and easy-to-understand manner.
Although there is absolutely nothing wrong with writing complex prose, most writers of YA novels would prefer simple prose because it allows them to attract a larger readership. The story is told as it is, using simple language. There is little need to read between the lines to understand the underlying message that the story holds.
Avoid using the typical YA clichés.
Clichés are everywhere, but they are most rampant in YA novels. If you want your novel to be unique and something that the readers would be able to identify without having to compare it to a similar book in their shelf, you must do your best to avoid the following YA clichés:
The clichéd protagonist
This character takes the lead in your story. Although some of the bestsellers we have today have protagonist clichés, not every book’s fate is the same. Shape your protagonist into someone who is truly unique.Avoid making him/her…
In YA novels with a concept like this, the protagonist loses his parents in a tragedy and is often placed in a foster home with abusive foster parents. But there are other plot variations, too. The idea of the protagonist being an orphan can trigger readers’ emotions, but it has been used multiple times in YA novels now, making it one of the clichés that you must avoid if you want your novel to stand out from the rest.
- Harry Potter (Harry Potter)
- Mia Hall (If I Stay)
- Cassie Sullivan (The 5th Wave)
The ‘Chosen One’.
In YA novels with a concept like this, there is nobody else who can save the world other than the protagonist himself. Along the way, he finds out that he is involved in a prophecy and then he seeks help from a wise adviser to get a deeper understanding on how to fulfill the said prophecy. The idea is empowering. However, it has been used by young adult fiction writers over and over again.
- Harry Potter (Harry Potter)
- Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games)
- Anakin Skywalker (Star Wars)
A socially awkward human being.
In YA novels with a concept like this, the protagonist is either shy, socially awkward, introverted, or is basically against any form of human interaction. He likes to keep to himself by reading books in a quiet place, playing video games, or observing passersby. This idea is effective in making most of the readers relate themselves to the protagonist, as everyone has gone through the awkward stage. It stirs empathy. But then again, it’s always the same.
- Bella Swan (The Twilight Saga)
- Eleanor Douglas (Eleanor & Park)
- Charlie Kelmeckis (The Perks of Being a Wallflower)
Someone caught in a love triangle.
In YA novels with a concept like this, the protagonist is caught in a love triangle between two characters who have no similarities at all. They fight for the protagonist’s love, and in the end, he/she must choose one. This idea is quite effective in dividing the readers into teams. Some fans will root for the brooding bad boy, while others will prefer the nicer guy. Keep in mind that your YA novel would work just fine without throwing in a love triangle, just like The Fault in Our Stars and Eleanor & Park by famous YA authors John Green and Rainbow Rowell.
- Peeta – Katniss – Gale (The Hunger Games)
- Edward – Bella – Jacob (The Twilight Saga)
- Will – Tessa – Jem (The Infernal Devices)
The clichéd world
A lot of YA novels in the fantasy genre are set in a post-war or post-apocalypse world. Although these can be a good break from reality, there is one important thing that authors tend to overlook. Oftentimes, the books don’t explain how, when, and why the war or apocalypse happened. It provides little explanation of how the remaining people survived and got themselves into a fenced city – a protected area that they cannot escape from without having The Chosen One to set them all free. It happens all the time in YA fantasy novels.
- The Hunger Games
- Warm Bodies
- The Host
Make your reader’s dreams come true.
You had dreams you wanted to fulfill when you were a child, and so does your readers. When you get older, all of those would seem silly. However, fulfilling those dreams is one of the elements of a YA novel that make readers drawn to it. The characters in YA novels are often brave, creative, passionate, and unstoppable. They go beyond their limits to get what they want. Readers will see themselves in your characters, especially in the protagonist. And when their favorite character triumphs, they will feel a sense of fulfillment as well. It’s as if they were there. It’s as if they were part of your novel, playing that character.
Transform yourself into a young adult.
When you’re not a teenager anymore, it can be easy to talk down to the younger audience. However, when your young adult readers feel even just a tinge of condescension in your tone, they might just put your book down. Children, teenagers or young adults, and adults all have their own preferences, priorities, and language. When you’re writing a YA novel, do transform yourself into a young adult – an equal to your readers. Fill your story with concepts that they would understand. Write your story like you know what’s on their mind.
Keep in mind that you will have adult readers, too.
Although YA novels are generally aimed at the young adult audience (ages 12-18), many older adults are still fond of reading them, especially those who have read a lot of YA novels in their younger years. According to statistics, adults are more likely to purchase YA novels compared to teenagers. Adults are also more likely to give a proper assessment of your book.
Once you have a clear idea on what you want your YA novel to be, start writing. Just keep on writing until you have the next bestseller in your hands. A lot of young adult writers have made it big in the publishing industry. You will probably have to revise your novel over and over to get rid of inconsistencies, but always remember that the road to creating your bestselling YA novel will never be easy. Like what the famous operatic soprano, Beverly Sills, used to say, “There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.”