Tips on Writing Young Adult Books

The worst mistake that you can make when writing for young adults is to oversimplify the material. Although young adults are complex human beings with intelligent minds, blog writers and pop psychologists will often try to boil an entire demographic down to a singularity, causing writers to err into a realm of unauthentic and oversimplified themes. This effect is obvious to young adult readers and makes your book seem unrelateable and stale. The best way to write to young adults is to meet them where they are. Build complex characters that your audience can empathize with, tailor your perspective to fit the pace of your book, and dig into deep, complex themes that will engage your audience with your writing.

  1. Build Characters with Depth

As we age, we begin to think differently. We move from reactions, based upon our emotions or feelings in a moment, to a more practiced routine we have learned over time. When you as an adult are creating characters for young adults, you have to keep in mind that young adults are wired to think differently. An easy mistake to make is to create a young adult character who thinks more like an adult than like a child, teenager, or young adult—each of these stages of development has different challenges. As you write, challenge yourself to think about how your audience would react in the situations you are putting your characters in. Is your character’s response realistic? This will help your reader to empathize with your character instead of breaking the spell of the narrative.

  1. Practice with Perspective

Perspective changes the whole feel of the book, and, as we talked about earlier, the feelings and emotions you are bringing to the forefront are several times more important when writing for young adults. So, really hone in on your perspective. Try writing a part of your book from several different perspectives and see what changes. Does it increase or decrease the pace? Am I able to better understand the characters’ actions in first person versus third person? Find a perspective that helps your reader to flow along the journey at the pace and with the understanding you want them to have.

  1. Explore Complex and Challenging Themes

Young adults are a demographic that should not be trivialized and should not be talked down to. Considering the fact that young adults are in a period of their development where their neural plasticity is naturally high, you have the opportunity to speak into a mind that is more rapidly changing and learning than their older counterparts. Young adults are also still in the world of academia and might be more prepared for deeper themes. If you write “down” to them, you may be setting yourself up for failure. A good book, to any target audience, challenges the reader and creates tension that is built up and eased in time with the story. Writing oversimplified and trope-driven narratives will distance your readers from a strong emotional response. In order to not be lost in the noise of an oversaturated market, you need to be willing to dig deep and challenge your young adult reader.

Young adults have some different preferences in style, in how they read or listen, and in what they are reading, but so do all readers. Know your audience and write for your audience. It is the same logic that holds to writing for any other demographic, genre, or location.

With that principle in mind, take some time to really think—what young adults am I writing to? How can I know who they are and what they want to read, and then bring them that material as a trustworthy and authentic source?

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