Here are five things you should know when writing a teen novel:
1. Yourself. First and foremost, ask yourself why it is you want to write for young adults. Is it because you have dreams of becoming the next Stephenie Meyer? Because you see a hole in the market – perhaps it’s a topic that’s near and dear to you – that you’re itching to fill? Maybe you and/or someone you know experienced something traumatic or triumphant during teenhood – something that serves as the inspiration for your story idea. Or maybe it’s purely because you love those years of young adulthood and all the drama that ensues. Whatever the reason or reasons, like any strong, three-dimensional character, it’s helpful to be conscious of your motivation as you’re drafting that book.
2. Your audience. Read what they read, watch what they watch, eavesdrop on their conversations, and know what’s important to them. Some have the misconception that writing for young people is easier than writing for adults, but quite the contrary can be true. Teens are smarter and savvier than ever. If the work isn’t authentic of those young adult years; if the teens in your book don’t sound like teens or don’t make choices that are authentic of their characters, then your young adult audience will be the first to call you on it.
3. Who’s buying. Read Publisher’s Lunch, The New York Times, The Writer’s Digest, the Society of Children’s Books Writers & Ilustrators’ The Bulletin, and other trade publications to find out which editors are buying which types of books, and from what authors. Take note of the genre, the word-count, and the types of characters that are selling to these editors. Also, take note of first-time authors (and which editors are buying from them). See if you can pinpoint any patterns, i.e. an editor who buys a lot of science fiction-type books, or an agent who works with a lot of mystery writers. Keep a log of these findings, particularly with respect to your own work. Start to generate a list of potential people who might be interested in seeing your book.
4. What’s selling. Get to know the market. Spend some serious time at bookstores, particularly in the new release section. What books are coming out? Which ones are getting a lot of attention? Can you see the market changing at all? Is it trending toward a particular genre? Or getting saturated in any one area? Do you see or can you predict a hole in the market?
5. What’s out there. Read books in the young adult market. Get to know your librarian; particularly one who’s really knowledgeable about the young adult market. Librarians can provide a huge resource for aspiring writers. They can discuss what’s popular in your local area, your region, and nationwide. They can also talk about the holes in the market; after all, they get asked by patrons on a regular basis for recommendations for certain types of books. Librarians can also recommend really great books for you to read – those that are like the one you’re writing or that are demonstrative of what’s out there in the market. It you want to write for teens, it’s important to be reading what they’re reading and at the same time, learning from other authors, and continuing to keep abreast of the market.
Laurie Faria Stolarz’s author website: www.lauriestolarz.com
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Writing Teen Novels