“YA” or “Young Adult” fiction is novels, stories, poetry, and various non-fiction written for adolescents, the group somewhere between ‘children’ and ‘adults’. It includes popular novels like Hunger Games, Harry Potter, andSE Hinton’s The Outsiders.
Look at this infographic on the YA market, put together by Bowker Books, the world’s leading provider of bibliographic information and management solutions to the publishing industry:
The YA market is exploding, not only in published novels but readers.
Plus, as many adults read YA as the core audience, so if you’re writing in that genre, it becomes a difficult requirement to fulfill at times. Here are some tips to help you succeed:
- include themes appropriate for teens
- include language used by teens
- don’t ‘dumb it down’. Intellect and depth of meaning has nothing to do with YA reading.
- plot, setting, and character are more important than theme and motivation
- most YA protagonists are teens that have teen sort of problems–first love, dysfunctional families, school.
- ‘coming of age’ stories are popular in YA, showing how a young adult deals with problems typical to that age group and ends up stronger and better for that struggle
- Rachel Cohn estimates that 60 to 65 percent of YA fiction is written in the first person and present tense. Certainly not required
- the pace is quicker than other genres. Why? Hard to say (because I don’t write it). I’d love to hear from you on this
- include lots of dialogue. YA readers like hearing the characters talk.
- teens in the story often sound like adults but act like kids. The idea is that teens are intelligent and capable, just not as experienced. I like that.
- include what David Levithan calls an ’emotional truth’–the ah hah moment that makes the book resonate with its young readers.
- don’t be afraid to use Pop Culture to ground the story, but be aware it could date it. Pick carefully when you include those references.
- there’s almost always an underlying optimism in YA–that things will work out, the world with survive, life will be better. Not true in all genres.
- Robert Heinlein’s advice: Write the best story you can and then take out all the sex (I couldn’t verify this as a Heinlein quote. It’s catchy though, isn’t it?)
YA writers: Please add your comments. I update this list yearly and would love to include your thoughts.
More genre articles:
Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. In her free time, she is editor of technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. Currently, she’s editing a techno-thriller that should be out to publishers next summer.