When I was asked to try my hand at writing young adult paranormal, I was scared to death at the thought of writing in another genre. However, I love a challenge. So, I gave it my best shot. Ten books later, I can say I’ve learned quite a lot. And while many of you are fans who just love to read, I get many emails telling me that lots of you also aspire to be writers. I think that’s great, and I’ve written several blogs filled with advice (and you can find them by typing in “writing” in the search box). But I thought I’d share another piece I wrote fro Briana Ryan’s blog that is more specific to YA paranormal for those of you interested in that genre. So here are three important tips.
- It doesn’t matter if you are writing vampires, shape-shifters, or hunchback dragons, if you are writing for teens you need to get in touch with your inner teen.
I didn’t set out to write young adult novels. I was dragged here kicking and screaming. LOL. I was writing humorous romantic suspense novels. When I was approached to write a YA series. You see, it had been quite a few years since I’d been a teen. Did I know what was important to today’s teens? Did I know what they wanted, what they feared, what made them laugh? I worried I’d fail at trying to write from a teen’s perspective. So the first thing I did was take a stroll down memory lane. It wasn’t a walk in the park either. You see, I didn’t have what I would call the ideal teenage life. It wasn’t until midway through that mental journey did I realize this was going to work in my favor. I decided right then and there to plagiarize. From my own life, of course. Along this path, I realized that everything that had been important to me as a teen was still relevant to teens today. As a young adult I’d dealt with: sex, alcohol, drugs, and self-esteem issues. These are still what our teens deal with today. And to write a novel that will resonate with teens, you need to be able to remember how you related to, feared, longed for, and dealt with those four things.
- Don’t attempt to write a message to the young people.
It’s important to remember that your job as a novelist is to entertain. Definitely not to preach. Not to teach, or even to inspire. Now, before you start getting your back up, let me explain. Preaching is out. Completely. Today’s teens do not want to be preached at. Nor do they read novels to be taught something. They read text books to be taught. They don’t pick up fictional books to be inspired to be a better person. They read to be entertained.
That said, books can be fabulous tools that teens can learn from and can offer tons of inspiration. But as an author, if you try to do this, you might fail. You see, it’s not you who should do this. It’s your characters. Whatever lessons your characters face will offer an opportunity for the reader to learn. Whatever inspires your character is a chance to inspire your reader. Most story characters have arcs. They will grow within a book’s lifespan. Find your character’s arc, show them struggling to overcome hurdles, show their growth. And while your readers turn those pages, enthralled with your story, your book will have offered them not only entertainment, but something that may help them as they journey through their own lives.
- Never Give up!
You have to love to write and love to learn in order to make it the writing business. The journey from unpublished author to published author can be difficult. More difficult for some than others. Each of us starts this journey with our strengths and weaknesses. Some writers were born knowing what a dangling participle is. Some are comma impaired and terrible spellers. Some are natural story tellers. Some have learned pacing and conflict just from reading. Others have read all their life and still need learn the tricks of the trade. The truth is, more important than what you know is your willingness to learn. And how long you will persevere.
Being dyslexic, I struggled with the written word. The day I decided to become a writer, I had to learn to spell it. If I had any natural talent it was storytelling, but I was even given that in rough draft. It was ten years from the time I started writing to the time I published my first book. That might sound tough, but it got tougher. It was thirteen more years before my second book was sold. Some people think of me as an overnight success, and I want to ask them, “Exactly what night was it in those twenty-three years that it happened?”
It was not one night. It was a journey. As rejections rolled in, and I have thousands of them, it would have been easy to give up. But being a writer was my dream. I was willing to take this journey even knowing there were no guarantees. Why? Because I loved writing. And that is my parting advice. Write because you love it. There is nothing wrong with working toward publication and financial gain. But if that was the reason I was writing, I don’t think I’d hung in there twenty-three years.
So, are you one of my fans that hopes to become a writer? If so, what is it you want to write?