To celebrate the launch month of Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake, I've asked some of my favorite authors to share their own Nine Rules here on the blog...and today I'm so happy to have the fabulous Tera Lynn Childs (RITA award winner for Oh. My. Gods.) to give her brilliant rules for one of my very favorite topics: Writing YA. Before you even think about writing a YA novel...you gotta read these.
Nine Rules for Writing YA
Writing for teens can feel like entering an alternate reality for authors of romance and other adult genres. There are a lot of preconceived ideas about the YA genre that will only get in the way of aspiring authors. But fear not, because I am here to dispel them with my 9 Rules for Writing YA!
1. Don't try to sound teen. Stay true to your genuine voice, the one that shines through whether you're writing historical or suspense or contemporary. Your teen character will face choices and situations that make her inherently teen. Trying harder than that will come across as fake.
2. Don't moralize. Teens get enough rules and lessons and lectures in everyday life. They don't need it in their entertainment, too. Do you want to read a romance in which the author is preaching the benefits of exercising four times a week? Didn't think so.
3. Don't let adults save the day. YA books are escapist fantasy for teens. Adults control the world they live in, so of course their fantasy in which teens rule the day. Besides, contemporary YA protagonists are strong, self-sufficient teens who don't need anyone else to solve their problems.
4. Don't forget the romance. Teens love a good romance story just as much as anyone. (Hello, Twilight?) The difference is that in YA, the romance can be the primary plot, a very minor secondary plot, or anything in between. Just be sure to keep it honest and believable.
5. Don't dumb it down. Many of the teens I meet are just as smart, if not smarter, than their adult counterparts. Using a smaller vocabulary or simpler plot is insulting. Anyone who's read Harry Potter or Hunger Games knows that YA can be as deep and complex as the author can create.
6. Don't ignore reality. As scary as taboo topics like sex, alcohol, drugs, cutting, suicide, and school shootings can be, they are part of real life. They are part of a teen's everyday reality. Don't force these topics into your stories, but don't shy away from them if they need to be there.
7. Don't obsess about trends. Sure, there are books that derive much of their popularity by reflecting trends. But turn-around time in YA publishing is long, especially for hardcover. It's unlikely that today's trends will still be popular when your book comes out in two years.
8. Don't think about the rules. Authors who haven't read much in the YA genre since they were teens themselves, more than a decade or two ago, are quick to outline all the things you can't do in teen fiction. They need to check out the teen section in their local library. In today's YA fiction, there are no rules. If it works for the characters, if it's integral to the story, then it will work. There isn't a topic you won't find on the teen shelves.
9. Don't think inside the box. Teens have wild imaginations and open minds. They are willing to suspend disbelief to staggering extents. Whatever crazy idea you have in your head, if you can convey it through words, then teens will give themselves fully into your world. Don't hold back.
Want more of Tera Lynn's brilliance? Comment below with your favorite mythological character for a chance to win a copy of Oh. My. Gods.!
And stay tuned for the rest of the month--and a dozen more Authors Rule(s) posts from an awesome range of authors! To read more of Authors Rule(s), please click here!