How Do You Write YA?

ya blog

I found some young ones. So cute. 🙂

Without a doubt, YA (young adult) is a very hot genre to write. It’s been around for a while, although there was a turning point in 2008 when it truly exploded. A number of writers tried their hand at it. Some found YA was for them, and others discovered writing this genre is tougher than it looks. Although, YA isn’t about to slow down anytime soon. Readers of YA are committed. They’re always after more, and for writers of this genre, we’re here to deliver.

Now, what makes YA so popular?

Those teen years we go through, are an incredible time. They’re exciting, fun, awful, painful, scary, amazing, and everything in between. It’s when we discover the world and where we fit in. In our teen years, our emotions are pure, and all that we go through is intense and totally confusing.

That’s why YA captures such a wide-ranging readership base. It crosses the generations, and is read by young adults and adults alike. There is no age barrier to YA. Even my 88-year-old grandmother has recently read my YA fantasy romance. It was her first foray into this genre, and she was fascinated by how enthralled she became. (Phew.) The story reminded her of the time she lived by the seat-of-her-pants. (Yep, seat-of-her-pants. She was such a rebel in her younger years.) She wants more YA–and just like that, she’s hooked.

So, let’s cover what YA writers should be aware of. There are certainly some points to note.

  • YA books focus on the essence of what teens go through, and I’m not talking about learning to drive a car, going to prom, or that very first date.
  • YA readers are smart. They want deep storylines, and fast-paced action, so don’t even attempt to write simple. Teens will spot simple a mile away, and just get annoyed.

In fact, it’s often said writers must pay attention to the three core questions which should be at the heart of every YA novel.

  • Who am I?
  • Where do I belong?
  • How do I get there?

A ton of new questions can arise from these three core ones, but fundamentally they make great building blocks when writing YA.

Your characters are about to take the journey in discovering the answers they seek. There’ll be struggles and mistakes, bends and twists in the road, triumphs and tears, but that’s how teens uncover all life has to offer. The journey they undertake must be deep. They must challenge themselves to sort out any inner fears and frustrations, and while doing so, remain completely relatable.

All in all, YA books are about teens coming to terms with who they are, and experiencing all life’s ups and downs along the way.

Okay, so if you’re after some YA novel guidelines, here are some helpful pointers.

  • So far, there are no forbidden subjects, but whatever you delve into must be done with sensitivity and care, taking into account the age of the teen reader. Often we can allude to something, and then fade out the scene. The YA reader is smart, and they’ll be aware of what’s happened.
  • Overall, teens will identify more strongly with the character’s feelings, and this is why intense situations don’t always need to be written in.
  • Characters are teens, and aged within those years.
  • YA novels generally run between 40,000-75,000, but you will find books either side of that. If there is a particular publisher you’re after then make sure you check out their website’s submission guidelines to see if they have a preferred word count.
  • There are also no vocabulary restrictions for YA, but make certain any coarse language is age or topic appropriate.
  • YA is predominantly written in 1st or 3rd Person (I said, or she said.) Although there are some in 2nd Person (you say.)
  • And lastly, any subgenre is enjoyed, like fantasy, romance, paranormal, contemporary, sci-fi, historical, mystery, adventure, humor. There are no limitations on this.

I hope this post has been helpful for those writers wanting to delve into YA, or for those who just want to know a little more about this intriguing genre. Even in writing this post, I was surprised by how much I had to share. YA is certainly not easy to write, although it’s incredibly enjoyable.

If you have any questions, just leave me a comment. I love hearing from you. And if you’d like to read a YA novel, one getting some fab 4&5 Star reviews, then PROTECTOR’s buy links are just below. Enjoy, and take care this week.


PROTECTOR > BUY THE BOOK: Amazon / Barnes & Noble Lyrical Press / iTunes / Kobo



7 thoughts on “How Do You Write YA?

  1. Quel surprise!

    I just finished I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore a YA science fiction novel. It was a fun and easy read, Your grandmother si right, I was jet set back to my teen years with a fun light read.

    Thanks Joanne, you demystified this genre!

  2. Wow, Joanne, I couldn’t have asked for a more timely blog – thank you so much for posting your insights on YA today! I just finished my first draft of a YA trilogy that “called to me” just before Christmas, and, like you noted, it is filled with my mc tried to see where she fits into the grand scheme of things. But you hit on some great points that I think I should go back and dig a little deeper into now. 🙂 And trust me, I definitely have Protector on my TBR list!!

  3. If your grandmother read a YA than there truy are no age limits. Although I dislike hearing about ‘relatability’ in protagonists, in this genre it makes sense.

Comments are closed.