Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Ten Rules to Keep in Mind When Writing for Teens

1. Spend time with teens.
  • Volunteer at a high school.
  • People-watch at the mall.
  • Ask questions.
  • Build relationships.
2. Read YA lit.
  • Some of my favorite authors: Ellen Hopkins, Sarah Dessen, Laurie Stolarz, Joan Bauer, Mike Lupica, Ann Brashares, Libba Bray, Randy Powell, John Green, Carl Hiaasen, Ann Rinaldi, Sonya Sones, Markus Zusak
3. Recruit a “teen advisory board” of readers.
  • Many teens will be happy to help you.
  • Ask them to be honest above all else!
4. Avoid being “preachy.”
  • Nothing turns off a teen reader more quickly than a condescending tone.
5. Be authentic.
  • Inhabit your characters. Learn their details and quirks.
  • What do your characters love? Hate? Fear? Yearn for? Dream about?


6. If you use slang, use it correctly. 
  • Same goes for technology references.
  • Be sure to consider: what is new and popular today is tomorrow’s “old news.” Do you want to date your material?

7. Grab ’em from the first sentence.
  • Have teens read the first page of your manuscript, and then ask them if they would keep reading.

8. Don’t be afraid to be dark!
  • You don’t have to hold back. Teens can take what you want to throw at them.
  • Many of our adult “classics” such as Catcher in the Rye and To Kill a Mockingbird would be considered YA if published today.
9. Create active, vibrant characters who have something at stake.
  • Teens want to read about characters who are doing things, rather than just having things done to them.
10. Read your old diaries – they’re treasure troves!
  • Reconnect with your teen self.
  • Some of my most well-received YA lit has been based off my own persona experiences!

4 comments:

Donna M. McDine said...

Terrific tips!

kathy stemke said...

I love these tips!!

Dallas said...

Thank you Donna and Kathy!!

Karen Cioffi said...

These are great tips. Thanks for sharing. I'll share the url to this article in my next newsletter.