Two of our young adult fiction authors share their trade secrets for writing novels that readers love.
• Regardless of the decade, teenagers still suffer the same issues and anxieties we all did at that age. Try to tap you’re your own recollections of adolescence. My memory is patchy, so I refer to old diaries, school reports and photos. I occasionally flick through these to remind myself of the kinds of preoccupations I had.
• Spend time with teenagers. As a teacher, I'm lucky to be surrounded by a variety of teens every day. And the conversations I overhear on public transport are so entertaining!
• Write the kind of story you want to read. Don't be too caught up in writing 'down' for a younger audience as you run the risk of patronising your reader. Focus on a good story with quality writing. If it's well written, both teens and adults will enjoy reading it.
• Don’t let yourself think that it’s easier (or harder) to write fiction for the young adult market than it is for any other market: it’s not. Your writing needs, above all else, to be good writing; to ring true; and to treat the reader as intelligent.
• Pace is crucial in keeping your YA reader focused: tell the story through action and dialogue, as far as is possible.
• Give your manuscript to a couple of ‘test’ readers — your neighbour’s teenage son or daughter, or a friend of the family (making sure it is age-appropriate!). Young adults are smart and honest; seek their feedback and then rework the draft.