Young adult fiction has virtually no boundaries. It is a popular genre of fiction and always will be because kids still love to read, even if there video games and social media distractions headed their way. Sometimes writing young adult fiction is seen as a step down from adult fiction, but there are also a number of great opportunities available. If you want to give it a try, then here are some tips on how to write young adult fiction for today’s kids.
#1. You’ve got to get the point of view correct. This is the biggest issue in young adult fiction. Young adults think differently than older adults. They’re going to have different levels of wisdom because they haven’t lived long lives. It’s really hard to get out of the practice of using hindsight as a character benefit when writing in this genre. You’ve got to get into the point of view where your characters don’t really care what their parents or grown ups are doing. It’s their world and they’re going to be in charge of it.
#2. Be conscious about the age of your characters. Young adults tend to identify first with characters that are around the same age they are. This means if your main character is 13 years old, then this will be your primary reader. Kids also like to read stories about characters that are a little older than they are, but they don’t like to read stories about younger kids. Following these observations, it is pretty safe to say that writing young adult fiction means you’re writing for 6th-9th graders.
#3. Your characters need to learn, grow, and change. Every young adult fiction story is a coming of age story in some way. This is because kids who read these stories are in a place where they’re doing the exact same thing. Each experience gives kids today a chance to evolve into someone new. If the characters in your stories aren’t doing the same thing, then there will be a certain lack of authenticity found within your words and that can drive readers away.
#4. Your narrative will need to be spot-on. The sentence structures, vocabulary, and language of your characters must also match up with what the current trends are today for a young adult story to feel relevant. Now you do have some leeway within this genre by using historical characters or creating a fantasy world to change these trends so you can make them your own, but the plot structure will still need to be at the level of the targeted age. It is very important that your dialogue doesn’t seem preachy or arrogant.
#5. You can talk about anything. Young adult fiction may not have two characters actively having sex, but that doesn’t mean those characters aren’t curious about their sexuality. You might not want a character shooting up some heroin, but being tempted by drugs can help you as the author give your young adult audience a chance to explore their own feelings on the subject. As long as you have the voice correct and your descriptions aren’t overly graphic, you can discuss just about anything.
#6. Think about entertainment first, messages second. Your goal as a writer of young adult fiction isn’t to provide answers. It’s to raise questions that need to be asked so the reader can discover their own answers. Think about it like this: would you pay $20 to go see a movie that told you how you were doing everything wrong in your life? Of course not. So why would someone pay $10 for a book you’ve written that does the same thing?
#7. There’s a happily ever after tucked in there somewhere. Even if the subject matter of your young adult fiction is dystopic in nature, it is important for kids today to see that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. People want to experience hope today. Even if all you do is throw in a glimmer of a hope at the end for your main characters, you’ll be able to avoid the sadness which other novels can cause readers. It’s okay to give warnings, but also offer new possibilities. The goal is to let young adults see that they have the power to make choices for their lives instead of having it be dictated to them.
Knowing how to write young adult fiction can be somewhat challenging. Getting the voice right can be particularly difficult, especially for writers that have been working in other genres for some time. With enough effort, however, and the ability to raise meaningful questions within the context of a story, you can create a fictional world that many young adults are going to want to visit.