5 Reasons to Write YA

When I first started writing fiction, I never expected to end up writing YA. But once I discovered what a vibrant, challenging category it was, I was hooked. I love young adult fiction, and I love the authors working in the category. Explaining to my friends and family, though, what YA is and why I was taking my career in a new direction was a bit of a challenge. Here are some great reasons to write or read YA, and why I do it myself: 1) A wide audience. By writing YA, we’re not crossing out adult readers. YA isn’t a reading level, it’s a category of story about a particular stage in life. Many of my adult friends thought if I started writing “teen fiction” it wouldn’t be a story they’d enjoy. But about half of YA readers are over 18, and a huge portion of the adult readers of YA are over 30. I didn’t find YA and start reading it myself until I was in college—and I’m so glad I did find it, because it reminded me how honest and surprising and deeply human fiction can be. GIVEAWAY: Kate is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before.
Author:
Publish date:

When I first started writing fiction, I never expected to end up writing YA. But once I discovered what a vibrant, challenging category it was, I was hooked. I love young adult fiction, and I love the authors working in the category. Explaining to my friends and family, though, what YA is and why I was taking my career in a new direction was a bit of a challenge. Here are some great reasons to write or read YA, and why I do it myself:

GIVEAWAY: Kate is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (UPDATE: JanelleFila won.)

Column by Kate Brauning, author of HOW WE FALL, a YA first cousins
romance releasing November 11, 2014. She grew up in rural Missouri and
fell in love with young adult books in college. She’s now an editor with
Entangled Publishing and pursues her lifelong dream of telling stories
she'd want to read. Kate loves unusual people, good whiskey, dark
chocolate, and everything about autumn. Visit her on Twitter: @KateBrauning.

Screen Shot 2014-10-27 at 3.32.16 PM

1) A wide audience. By writing YA, we’re not crossing out adult readers. YA isn’t a reading level, it’s a category of story about a particular stage in life. Many of my adult friends thought if I started writing “teen fiction” it wouldn’t be a story they’d enjoy. But about half of YA readers are over 18, and a huge portion of the adult readers of YA are over 30. I didn’t find YA and start reading it myself until I was in college—and I’m so glad I did find it, because it reminded me how honest and surprising and deeply human fiction can be.

When you write YA, you’re writing to a wide, diverse audience. Adults buy and read YA all the time. Of course, it’s important to write with teen readers in mind, too, since they’re a significant portion of the audience, and no one can sense preachy messages or condescending stories like a teen.

(Headed to a conference? Learn how to approach an agent.)

2) A point of change. YA explores the teenage years of a person’s life, and those years are a significant point of change for most of us. Teens are tackling adult issues for the first time—serious relationships, jobs, shifting authority structures, new limits and opportunities—but they’re doing it without the experience and often without the resources that adults may have. It’s a vulnerable, heady, thrilling stage in someone’s life. Teens are also adjusting to greater independence and more authority in their own lives, but might still be dealing with limitations at odds with those things, like curfews, not having a car, house rules, and the structures of school. I didn’t start reading YA until I reached my twenties, and I wish I’d found it earlier—seeing so closely into the lives of other teens who are wrestling with the same changes and struggles I was would have been so helpful as a teen. I still find myself identifying with the characters in these stories, because people never stop struggling with change. You don’t grow out of YA.

The experiences we have in our teenage years are formative ones, and the mistakes and choices we make can follow us into adulthood. There’s great opportunity, uncertainty, and passion in those years, and they leave a mark on us. So when you write YA, explore that point of change.

3) Trying new things. Experimenting with craft is another reason I love YA. It’s a brave category. Novels in second person and novels in verse. Unreliable narrators. Thick, several-hundred-page stories. Companion short stories or novellas. Genre-blending, and epistolary-style novels with texts, blog posts, letters, and graphics. So much can be done in YA, and no story is off-limits. I love being challenged as a writer, seeing a tough story and figuring out how I can tell it, and YA is a great place to be doing that. Don’t let yourself be limited by what has or hasn’t been done before—explore new devices, new ideas, and new ways of telling these stories. Like teens themselves, YA is known for being brave and taking risks.

Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 10.47.36 AM

Writing books/novels for kids & teens? There are hundreds
of publishers, agents and other markets listed in the
latest Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market.
Buy it online at a discount.

4) Exploring tough issues. One of the main reasons I love reading and writing YA is that the category tackles such tough issues. Along with all the new independence, vulnerability, and vibrancy of teen life come problems—things we’d like to think teens don’t have to deal with, but are so often a part of their lives. Our ideas about adolescence are often at odds with the struggles of it. The weighty, bitter truths of growing up sometimes get painted over when we think about childhood. Like adults, teens have to deal with bullying, neglect, abuse, physical and mental illness, assault, discrimination, addiction, broken relationships, loss, regret, and personal failures. YA fiction is a great place to explore what those teen years really look like, and how we can adjust, heal, and reinvent ourselves. And sometimes those harsh truths take over, and YA can give us those stories, too. Sometimes the biggest struggles are crushes and cliques at school, but that’s not usually the case. The best YA is genuine and honest about what it means to be a teen.

(What writing credentials will impress an agent or editor?)

5) Why not? A final reason I love YA is that there’s no reason not to. Teens are every bit as complex as adults, and they can think as deeply, too. Of course they can. Teens aren’t a more simplistic or less demanding audience, and their stories aren’t any simpler or less worthy. When I came to YA as an adult, what drew me in was the depth of these stories, and that’s what I’ve stayed for, too.

Teens are people, and people have fascinating stories. There’s no reason we shouldn’t write or read their stories, and there’s every reason to do exactly that. We read and write YA to remember that stage in life, to explore, to see someone else’s life, to empathize. To keep the teenage part of ourselves alive. For catharsis. For fun. To be challenged. To think. To create, and to participate.

The stories in YA are first and foremost human stories. When you write YA, keep that in mind, because regardless of which category we put it in, that’s the core of a good story.

---------------------

Check Out These Great Upcoming Writers' Conferences:

Want to build your visibility and sell more books?
Create Your Writer Platform shows you how to
promote yourself and your books through social
media, public speaking, article writing, branding,
and more.
Order the book from WD at a discount.

Image placeholder title

Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:

Lacie Waldon: On Writing What You Know ... But Keeping it Interesting

Lacie Waldon: On Writing What You Know ... But Keeping it Interesting

Debut novelist Lacie Waldon discusses how her agent encouraged her to write what she knew, but then her editor made her realize that what she thought was boring might not be the case.

Pedal vs. Peddle (Grammar Rules)

Pedal vs. Peddle (Grammar Rules)

Learn when to use pedal and peddle with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.

Marissa Levien: On Pinning Down Your Novel's Middle

Marissa Levien: On Pinning Down Your Novel's Middle

Debut author Marissa Levien discusses how she always knew what the beginning and the end of her science fiction novel The World Gives Way would be, but that the middle remained elusive.

Drawing the Line for Withholding Secrets in Young Adult and Middle-Grade Novels

Drawing the Line for Withholding Secrets in Young Adult and Middle Grade Novels

Middle-grade and young adult author Ren Koppel Torres shares the top tips for how you can keep secrets from your characters and readers.

Payal Doshi: On Letting Rejection Bring You Clarity

Payal Doshi: On Letting Rejection Bring You Clarity

Middle-grade author Payal Doshi discusses the sometimes-disheartening process of querying a novel and how she used rejection to fuel her passion for writing.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: Writer’s Digest Conference Announcements and More!

This week, we’re excited to announce that our 2021 Annual Conference will be virtual, registration is open for our 2021 in-person Novel Conference, and more!

Rajani LaRocca: On Letting Your Synopsis Guide Your Writing

Rajani LaRocca: On Letting Your Synopsis Guide Your Writing

In this article, middle-grade author Rajani LaRocca discusses how the synopsis for her newest release, Much Ado About Baseball, guided her writing process.

From Script

Adding Your Personal Connection to Your Stories and Building Your Brand As a Writer (From Script)

In this week’s round up brought to us by ScriptMag.com, Script’s Editor Sadie Dean interviews Dickinson creator/showrunner/EP Alena Smith, learn how to divide and conquer as screenwriter in the business and creating fruitful relationships. Plus, a brand new Script Talk video interview with writer/director/actress Djaka Souaré about her journey as a mentor and mentee in the WOCUnite and #StartWith8Hollywood mentorship programs.