Young Adult is one of the more consistently popular categories of genre fiction right now. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that it does well in every genre, either. And with YA novels seeming to be filling up the shelves of the nearest Barnes and Noble at an alarming rate, you may want to try writing that style as well. And why not? After all, if I published a YA novel, anyone can, right?
Well, maybe anyone can, but take note that writing YA isn’t as easy as it may seem. So before you start your best-selling YA novel, be sure to consider these three things to avoid when writing YA fiction.
Don’t talk down to your readers
This should go without saying, but you should make a conscious effort to remind yourself of this fact. Young Adult fiction is generally a quicker, easier read than regular adult or literary fiction. I’ve had more than a handful of people tell me they read Holy Fudgesicles in a few days (or even less). I read most of John Green’s books in a single summer. (Of course I cheated and actually listened to them in the car, but you get the point.)
The thing is, though, just because a book is a quick read, that doesn’t mean that it’s only for kids, poorly written, or, written for people with below average reading skills. It’s not so much the language that differentiates YA fiction from other fiction, but the pacing. The sentences might be a little shorter. The descriptions might be a little less prevalent. And they may contain a bit more action or dialogue than other types of fiction. So just focus on those things and don’t intentionally try to write your YA novel for a second-grade reading level.
Don’t rely too much on popular culture
I know that if you’re writing for teens, there are several popular culture references that can’t be avoided. They should be texting instead of calling, for example. Watching Netflix instead of PBS, for another example. Those are modern staples of society now and should be reflected in your fiction.
But I would avoid getting too specific when it comes to things like popular entertainment or slang. That stuff comes and goes, and publishing is a slow business. By the time your novel is released, the fidget spinner will have gone the way of the Furby.
Don’t try to follow the trends
It’s nearly impossible to predict what the next “big thing” in YA fiction will be, but that is what agents are looking for. Like I said earlier, publishing is a slow business. What is popular now was most likely pitched and accepted two or three years ago. Publishers understand that by the time your bandwagon novel would be released, people will have moved on to the next thing. So put away your teenage vampires and GoT clones and work on something more original.
I know this was another post full of “don’t”s, but I think these are important things to not do. If you’d like to look at this in a more positive way, think of it like this:
- DO respect your reader.
- DO reflect popular culture, when it is something that is “here to stay”
- DO try to focus on your strengths and originality to write “the next big thing”
And that should wrap up this post. Thanks for reading and if you’ve got any other pointers for things to avoid doing in YA fiction, leave a comment and let us know!