My OH recently brought something ‘extra’ back from the supermarket.
“I’ve got you the new Sophie Kinsella book!” he cried, holding Finding Audrey aloft, with great pride.
I didn’t like to burst his bubble – or seem ungrateful – by pointing out that it was actually a Young Adult novel (her first) and therefore, probably, in truth, not top of my reading list.
So, I read it anyway. It made me laugh, it made me cry, I really enjoyed it! (And the great thing about YA novels is, they’re usually not as long as ‘adult’ novels, so you can zip through them! Bonus!)
It made me realise that I’ve read quite a few YA novels and enjoyed them (Harry Potter, of course – and John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, the Twilight series and The Hunger Games).
If you’ve written – or are writing – a YA novel, you might be interested in the Fish YA Novel competition here – closing date 30th October 2015.
When I taught some ‘writing for young adults’ last term, these were some of the tips I gave the class:
• You must be in the HEAD of a teenager to write YA fiction. Don’t write as an adult looking back.
• Make sure your character’s age suits your audience. Teenagers and children will read ‘up’ (about children older than themselves) but not down.
• Go steady with teenage ‘jargon/slang’. (Throw in too many ‘sicks’ and ‘feels’ and your novel will not only soon date – you might get it wrong!)
• There are no limits. You can and should deal with dark topics. YA novels have been written about sex, pregnancy, suicide, abuse, school shootings, cancer, death, drunk driving, incest, bullying, rape, murder (BUT offer a kernel of hope at the end).
• Nobody wants to be taught lessons when they are reading fiction – especially young adults – so avoid preaching. Teenagers have radar for lecturing/moralising and it will turn them off your book.
• In YA fiction you can lie about anything except emotions. The defining characteristic of YA literature is emotional truth.
• Write hopeful endings. In writing for young adults there still seems to be a sense of responsibility not to moralise or ‘warn’ but to allow for possibility. Let your readers believe that, in the end, the choice is theirs.
Y is also for YES. I have a tendency to say ‘yes’ to too many things (I’m just a girl who can’t say no and all that), which means I race around like a headless chicken and don’t leave myself enough time or space for writing.
I am trying to rectify that. For example, I’ve just told my class that I’m taking a break and won’t be taking the class again in September.
Z is for ZZZs.
I need my 8 hours sleep. My friend Chris will confirm this. She’s always quoting the time we were at Arvon – sharing a room – and we’d gone to bed on the first night, not too late, while others on the course were still up and chattering in a room below us.
“Isn’t it fabulous?” she said (I’m paraphrasing), “being here, with all these other writers, in this exciting location, the whole week ahead of us…?”
Then, from the bed across the room (ie: me), “Snnnnnrrrr…”
If I don’t get enough sleep, I can’t write. I sit at my desk and I just want to snooze. I wish I wasn’t like this. I wish I was one of those people who can survive on four hours sleep a night. Imagine how much more I’d get done!
Z is also for ZADIE SMITH, another British, female writer that I admire.
One of her tips is “Protect the time and space in which you write. Keep everybody away from it, even the people who are most important to you.” (Unless – I would add – they are bringing you tea).