What I Like and Don’t Like About Writing YA Fiction

Girl Reading A Book

Image by This Is A Wake Up Call via Flickr

As I near the end of my first foray into writing for teens, I’ve collected quite the range of random thoughts from the experience and from the bits of feedback I’ve thus far gleaned.

First, am I qualified to comment, given I am many decades removed from being a teenager myself?  I do read the genre, not exclusively, but quite a bit.  I also have two prototypes of the teen beast running around in the wild that I may observe at my leisure (whether I want to or not.)  The latter reason alone should be sufficient justification.

Second, I’ve not yet queried, certainly haven’t published a single bon mot, so what follows are EARLY impressions only.

What I don’t like about YA fiction:

  • No sex
  • Minimal cussing and swearing
  • HEA is happily ever after for now (because I’m in the “thorough and  exhaustive search” camp vs. the soul mate camp)
  • Cultural references are big with teens but can easily date a YA book so I stay away, plus mine are hideously out of date
  • I don’t have any teen beta readers…yet.  My teens are boys but my writing is more likely to appeal to girls
  • Fear of having too mature of a voice, making the characters unrelatable
  • Present tense writing

What I do like:

  • Present tense writing
  • First person POV is my natural inclination and is widely accepted in YA
  • I get a second chance to do what I couldn’t do, was afraid to do, or didn’t want to do as a teen with no negative consequences
  • My characters can be immature, headstrong and rash and not damage their likability too much
  • I can imbue the parents with more intelligence than real life teens credit their own parents
  • I get to dress my characters in what I want them to wear without a single word of protest
  • My characters listen to me!!!  (this is HUGE!)

I have no idea if my YA novel will or won’t play in Peoria.  This was a writing journey I wanted, needed to take.  I’ve not hidden my genre confusion.  Thus far I or Claire or that other wench have written romance, urban fantasy, suspense, erotica, horror, science fiction, steampunk and now contemporary young adult.  Perhaps my next will be a western.  Oh, wait, I’m recalling the middle grade book I started writing for my youngest son.  It’s…wait for it…a western.  Ha!  So there you go.

I’m sure all the genres will have likes and dislikes about them.  The question will be: which one or ones have fewer or less odious dislikes than likes.  Or to go with the glass is half full analogy–which one will have likes overwhelming enough to swamp the dislikes?

So, dear readers, do you have “I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up” confusion? If so, how do you indulge it, if at all?  What drew you to a particular genre or target age group?

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9 thoughts on “What I Like and Don’t Like About Writing YA Fiction

  1. I love YA, but i’ve mostly read paranormal YA. However, I have severe doubts in my abilities to write it well and make it appealing for your first two reasons on what’s not to like about it. If I’m reading it, and it is entertaining and captivating then neither of those things bother me as a reader–but I know they will bother me big time if I have to chop them out of my own work. So … my reasoning for writing what I write? I write what appeals to me, what I love–it’s as simple a choice as that. I get to be dark and a little sinister, but with the option to pull it back at any time and smooth out all the creases in my MC’s life and giving me readers that warm fuzzy feeling right at the end when they realise everything is going to be all right after all. 🙂

    • I like the more serious YA…more so than the Sweet Valley High School stuff…especially dystopian YA. That and steampunk are my new loves. I can forego the sex and cussing because I started out as a sweet romance reader so having roots in that type of romance made the switch a little easier. It is hard to pull back, and even erase stuff I write when it gets too heavy, though. Writing what you love IS indeed the key.

      (fixed a typo 8-11-11, should have said I like serious YA MORE than sweet YA)

  2. I’ll admit, even though I’m writing a YA (or actually trying to polish), I don’t pick up the books. The closest I got to YA was the books I had to read for English class in high school…um, a long time ago. I liked them, it’s not that I didn’t, but I couldn’t relate to them. None of the ones I read dealt with what I dealt with in high school. No connection whatsoever.

    It’s not that I don’t like the genre. I’ll read and write anything. I just can’t get past the ones that read like a TV Disney series. Nobody wants to jump the shark and dabble in a little of the taboo.

    My dad has always been a big reader and when we went to a local flea market for books, I rarely saw anything that peaked my interest. Besides, my dad literally had a library’s worth of books in the basement for my to choose from, mainly fantasy.

    Yeah, I’m rambling. 🙂

    • I don’t like or read those sugary sweet high school musical type ones either. I love the dystopian ones a lot though — Hunger Games, Matched — the only difference between these and adult books are the ages of the protagonists (for the most part). They’re grittier and deal with very realistic themes at times, though through a teen’s eyes. No Mary Sue’s, for the most part. I think YA books are starting to enjoy more adult-aged audiences these days which now makes them targets for censorship, as clearly pointed out in a recent Wall Street Journal article

  3. i might be a tad immature in my writing, my wip doesnt have much cussing and no sex…i liked your reasoning! and i wish i had time to be a beta reader…
    its gotta be tough to write for them.

    • It’s nice in a certain sense to say, “no, keep it sweeter”, immature or not. I am a fan of sweet romances so YA appeals for somewhat similar reasons. thanks for the read!

  4. Pingback: Writing from a Perspective « bardicblogger

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