1. Lmc71775
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    Lmc71775 Active Member

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    Writing for Teens and YA

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Lmc71775, Nov 6, 2009.

    I've tried writing children's short stories and they don't seem to be going anywhere. I've tried the same for adult short stories-- same thing. So instead of giving up writing all together, I thought I'd try teen and young adult writing.

    I realize this might be harder then both put together. My first attempt was "The Invisibles" in the General Fiction Section, but I think it needs alot of work.

    Can anyone tell me some sites I could use to do my research for good teen writing? Or any books I can get at the library? Maybe even some stories here I can read?

    Too bad there isn't a specific section for it. Or is there and I am just overlooking it?
     
  2. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I haven't read much YA novels, but here is my suggestion. Google "best YA novels" or something similar. You will get lists of good YA books which you can then check out at the library. Of course, the lists will be biased, but it's still a good place to start.
     
  3. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    Or just wait til Rei sees this thread. She writes YA, and I'm sure she'll offer some helpful advice.
     
  4. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    Yeah, I think Rei is pretty much the reigning authority on YA here. . . She'll give you the best answer.

    I try to read as much material from my chosen genre/demographic as I possibly can. It's really the only way to get a handle on things. Start with the most popular and work your way down. It's worth noting that "popular" doesn't necessarily mean "good". . . and may or may not be a good example. Popular books are often a combination of good, bad and ugly. But the only way to separate the good from the bad is to read a lot of books and analyse them. . . with Rei's upcoming comments in mind, hehe. . . (no pressure, Rei;))
     
  5. Dcoin
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    Dcoin Contributing Member

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    Maybe the target audiance is not the problem, but the type of writing. Maybe the short story format is not for you?

    Regarding the YA reader, the best way to learn what's what is to visit a B and N or other retailer to browse. Personally i have seen a dramatic shift to fantasy related lit in the past few years. This is a marked shift from the largely historical types of stories that once dominated the market.

    These are my impressions. Good luck!
     
  6. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    Wow. I suddenly feel special.

    When writing for a teen audience, the MOST important thing is to remember that teens are individuals, just like adults, and remember that most teenagers read books in the adult section as well, so you don't need to write at a lower reading level. Respect them, and they will enjoy the book. They are often a slightly easier reading level, but that is usually because of the young voice of the character, or because the publisher's goal is to create books for reluctant readers or teens with reading problems.

    Yes, teens are in a particular developmental stage where they are defining who they are and developing certain kinds of relationships, as well as discovering their sexuality, but we cannot allow that to put all teens into a box, or decide that a certain topic will resonate for all teens. They are people, too. Many adults forget that far too often.

    Don't censor yourself, either. Keep in mind what your potential publishers are willing to do, but also remember that all the stuff people want to censor from these books are things that teens see and do every day. Judy Blume's book Forever gets downright pornographic, and that was published in the 1970's. As for violence, even if they don't see it first hand, it's in movies and TV everywhere. Why not have it in books?
     
  7. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    Based on the story you posted, I guess you like realistic/general fiction. Here, then, are excellent YA books in that category:


    Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
    Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
    Paper Towns by John Green
    The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen
    All-American Girl by Meg Cabot


    Also, good "teen writing" is "good writing", plain and simple. Don't dumb things down, don't preach, write a protagonist that others can identify with, and be sure to write imperfect characters--and if all else fails, blow something up and kill off the pre-calculus teacher...that's always good for a few laughs. :p
     
  8. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Kill the teacher, ha. I love it.

    If you are wanting to write short stories, you can pick up books specifically about what makes a good short story. If you want to write novels, there are loads of books to choose from.

    Between the lines
    The Anatomy of Story.

    In my sig is a video series packed with great information about writing engaging scenes.

    Ya novels are typically paced faster than adult novels. They don't have as much introspection or details.

    Some examples that I enjoyed.

    Demonata
    Cirque du Freak
    Vampire Academy
    Marked series
    Blood and Chocolate
    Alien Secrets
     
  9. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Books and videos won't teach you how to write, except reading and analyzing books that are written well.
     
  10. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    how old are you?
    how much interaction do you have with teens?
    what makes you think you can write what they'll want to read?

    those are just the 3 most important things that i feel are relevant in re your writing for the YA/teen market...

    writing for children takes an intimate knowledge of what kids the ages you're writing for want to read, can read, and will enjoy reading...

    and, while you don't have to be within a particular age range to write successfully for it, you do need to have the talent for it and then learn how to do it... it's not just as simple as sitting down one day and saying, i guess i'll write a teenage novel/picture book/'tween' chapter book, not having read a lot of them and studied how they're put together, as in style, sentence structure, vocabulary, etc....

    so, my best advice is for you to do your homework first, if you haven't already... a good resource to help you with that is amazon and its 'read inside this book' feature, that also include 'concordance' and 'text stats' down below the publishing info...

    and read lots of the best-written examples of the kind of books/stories you want to write...
     
  11. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    I totally disagree, cog. It was thanks to the information I learned that is taught in those videos and the story structure videos that I was able to write publishable stories.

    No amount of reading novels and studying them would have opened my eyes to the useful information I've learned from books and videos.

    It's like telling someone to study horror movies to learn the tricks of how to create suspense. Sure, they might figure out a few on their own, but I bet, unless they are brilliant, they will miss a few.

    The following blog entry by Alexandra Sokoloff is about creating suspense.
    http://thedarksalon.blogspot.com/2008/11/creating-suspense.html

    1. "To my mind, the most basic and important suspense technique is ASK A CENTRAL QUESTION with your story."
    2."A good story makes the stakes crystal clear – from the very beginning of the story. We know right up front in SILENCE OF THE LAMBS that there’s a serial killer out there who will not stop killing young women until he is caught or killed."
    3. "But here’s one technique that also goes to creating suspense: stack the odds against your protagonist. It’s just ingrained in us to love an underdog."
    4. "Another suspense technique that can be built in on the premise level is the TICKING CLOCK." One example she gives in from Silence of the Lambs. We know that Buffalo Bill waits three days before killing his victim. They have three days to find the girl.
    5. "KEEP THE READER OR AUDIENCE OFF-BALANCE. Ask a question that you leave hanging. “But why does that mild mannered librarian have duct tape in the back of his car?”
    6. "Use PLANTS – like showing that gun early on."
    7. USE THE PAVLOV EFFECT - You have to read the second article to get this one. Good stuff.
    8. LAYER JEOPARDY INTO A SCENE
    The example she gives is, instead of having your MC go to the library to get information they need, force them to have to break in somewhere to get it.
    9. LET THE READER/AUDIENCE IN ON SOMETHING THE MAIN CHARACTER DOESN’T KNOW.
    10. USE INNER MONOLOGUE –

    The easiest way to make a reader feel unease is to let her or him in on the character’s unease. Let her imagine a shadowy stalker behind her (whether it’s there or not).


    Anyway, there is much more in her two articles on creating suspense. I know after reading them and applying the information I learned to my old scenes, they are much better now.

    Perhaps books and videos will not help some people write better scenes, but they have helped me greatly. If they have helped me, I am sure they will help others too.
     
  12. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    I have read many YA books that have all those things you say they don't have.

    By remembering that teenagers are individuals just like adults and being in a certain age group says nothing about what a person will and will not like. Saying "What do teenagers what to read?" is just as broad as asking "What do adults want to read?" When someone talks about writing an adult novel, nobody asks, "Well, what do adults want to read?" We know that they all like different things. So do teenagers.
     
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  13. Twisted Inversely
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    Twisted Inversely Senior Member

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    What I’ve found is that most teens tend to skip right over the young adults section. They feel, and indeed I felt, that a lot of writers in the genre tend to talk down to their target audience, they self censor, they preach. In short they are too concerned with writing books that parents will approve of, rather than books that kids will actually want to read.

    Teenagers are the hardest demographic to offend. No matter how much sex, violence and swearing you include most likely they will not bat an eyelid. I’m not saying include these things for the sake of it but if you’re about to start throwing the big punches there is no need to soften the blows.

    Secondly the Young Adult, Adult categories are just marketing terms and the divisions are based mainly on the age/s of the protagonist/s not the content, subject matter or quality of the writing. Take the YA Discworld books. Personally I think Amazing Maurice is one of the darkest novels in the entire cannon but because it involves a younger character set than usual it’s branded a children’s book.
     
  14. Lmc71775
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    Lmc71775 Active Member

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    Thanks everyone. This thread is becoming a great source of info.

    Rei I agree...it's like asking "what do adults like to read?" which is the biggest spectum of all.

    I'll have to take notes and refer back to this thread. Thanks again everyone. Back to the library I go.
     
  15. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    There are also certain themes you're less likely to find in an adult novel than a YA novel, even if the main character is a teenager, Twisted, but yeah, it really is a marketing concept in general and not an accurate description. There was a time when any serious novel with teenage characters were shelves the adult section. In terms of what teens want to read, yes there are themes that are more relevant to teenagers than adults, and you have to have a young character to make it more relevant. In general, though, it's the same as adult novels. At least they should be.

    I'm with you on publishers being too concerned with producing books that parents will approve of. My own experience with a publisher proves that. In my book, the human characters think that my protagonist is suffering from a mental health problem. She also has seizures and migraines, so she is on lots of medications. Those medications are an important part of the story. They are legally prescribed by a licensed physician. The editor is afraid that it will cause us to lose a significant segment of the children's market.
     

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