's Avatar

Susan Brooks April 20, 2016 - Writing

The Writer's Bag of Tricks

When is it YA?

I was scrolling through a Twitter pitch fest a while back where I favorited pitches I liked. If I favorited the tweeted pitches, then the authors knew to send me their pages. There are several of these pitch parties on Twitter, including #PitMad* and #Pit2Pub*.

My point, though, is if you scroll through the pitches, you might notice that the largest percentage of pitches seem to contain #YA in the pitch. #YA means that the writer believes their completed manuscript is a Young Adult (YA) novel. We discussed last week that YA is big business, and this may or may not have anything to do with the inordinate amount of YA pitches. Its just an observation.

After so many questions from last week' post on YA, I thought we could all use a little more clarity.
First of all, YA is not a genre. Its a marketing category. YA includes all the books that are written for, and marketed to young adults. Genres for YA include romance, scifi, mystery, dystopian, fantasy, and everything else. There is no specific YA trope. The trope of a YA mystery should be a mystery trope.

The main thing for YA is that your protagonist should be a teenager who suffers from teenager issues.

Another clarification. YA is not easier to write than adult novels. Writing YA requires the same amount of skill and craft as writing adult fiction. I am not suggesting that people are writing YA because they mistakenly feel it is easier, but if they are, let me reiterate. Just because the readership is geared for young adults, does not mean the writing craft is easier to master. YA novels are complex, often written about touchy subjects, and tend to be written with a very close point of view, all of which can be very difficult skills to master.

When you write YA, you have to think about your audience. YA readers are moody teenagers, most likely. Or readers who identify with moody teenagers.

Consequently, point of view (POV) is of utmost importance in YA.

YA novels are immersed in the teenage protagonists point of view. The protagonist usually doesnt have much awareness of an adult perspective, but they have a very clear POV of their own. YA typically is written in first person, present-tense, and is heavy on dialogue. Narrative is intimate yet casual.

Plot and pacing should be strong, and language should be tightly written. Long paragraphs of exposition tend to be boring, and that is not a good thing.

Writing YA novels is about writing stories that speak to teenagers, so the topic, the voice, the feel of the novel is important. The protagonist should be intelligent and have wit, because teenagers are intelligent and witty. Your characters are still teenagers, however and should act like teenagers, but its important that they are not so snarky that they are not likable. Readers need to like the protagonist.

Young adults have raging hormones, and sex, drugs, and alcohol are part of their reality. This is true whether you like it or not. Teenagers dont want to be preached to. Did you at that age? Handle the touchy subjects with aplomb.

Endings are not always happy-ever-after. Endings are not even always happy for now. Sometimes they are not even hopeful, but the ending should be powerful.

All of these things are important when writing YA. But here is the most important thing of all. A good story is a good story regardless of marketing category or genre. Writers of good stories learn the craft elements of how to write good stories. They read in the genre they write in. They read other genres. They read everything. They write, and re-write, and they edit, and they revise, and they write some more.

Writers write the story they write because that is the story they have to tell, not because the the genre sells well. If you are going to write a story, write one that you love because you most likely, will be working on it for a while.

*#PitMad and #Pit2Pub are scheduled opportunities for authors to pitch their completed manuscripts to acquiring agents, editors, and publishers. See brenda-drake.com/pitmad and kristinvanrisseghem.co… for more details.