How To Write a Young Adult Book

Who doesn't remember reading all of those young adult novels full of teen angst and romance? While we all remember reading them, writing a novel to target that market can be tricky. Writing a book for young adults is much the same as writing a book for adults as far as plots, subplots, and creating believable characters. But the themes and characterizations in young adult novels are written a little differently. While in the past a young adult novel was considered to be any adult novel that young people were interested in, the modern young adult novel is written specifically for the adolescent market. To target that market, you have to understand what it is that they want to read.

  1. Be able to relate to those who read the young adult market. These are primarily teenagers and preteens. Find out what things are important to them, how they talk to each other, and what interests them. If you are unable to relate to the market, the reader will be able to feel that in the finished book. Teens are almost always interested in their friends, finding romantic relationships, and seeking some independence from their families.

  • Read a few young adult novels. If you haven't already, read as many of these novels as you can to get a feel for what the genre is like. You may be able to tell what the clichés are and what themes have already been done many times.
  • Write on a young adult level. The sentence structures should be a little simpler and the vocabulary a little less complex than in a regular adult novel. Don't write on a level that will make the book difficult for them to read. Most teens and preteens do not read on the same level as an adult, so simplify the language without making it too simple to keep the interest of the audience. 

  • Concentrate on the main character. The main character should be a young adult. Though there may be other characters in the book in different age ranges, the main character must be someone that the reader will identify with. This age range simply has different priorities than adults. To make the book feel authentic, it is vital to write about things that will be important to the young adult market. This will include romantic relationships, which are an important element in any young adult fiction. Other important elements are the peer group and its influence on the main character, as well as the search for independence. Reaching milestones that teens can relate to, such as first dates, first cars, getting a drivers license, etc., are all themes that interest the young adult market.
  • Keep it short. Young adult books are generally a little shorter than full-length books for adults. Under 50,000-60,000 words is a good length to keep a teen or preteen reader interested and still have enough space for a fully-formed story.
  • Allow the main character to grow. Young adult novels are primarily coming-of-age stories in which the protagonist gets some taste of adulthood, overcomes a crisis or reaches milestones in his or her life. By the end of the story, this character should have gained a little insight or maturity as a result of the main conflict.
  • Young adult novels are currently getting more and more edgy as writers seek new topics to shock and interest adolescents. Subjects such as teen pregnancy, drug use, and eating disorders are increasingly common in young adult novels, and you will have to decide whether these are subjects you wish to write about to a young audience.


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    I think the real difference between the two groups is that teenagers tend to believe that they know everything. I can't imagine insulting someone in a profession that I know little about and telling them that they are completely wrong, but a teenager has little trouble telling a professional writer that they have no idea what they are talking about. It might interest teenagers to know that young adult book lengths are not set by article writers- they are actually the requirements of the book publishers, as are the general subject matters.

    As for myself, I outgrew young adult books at about the age of 13 and started reading adult books. If you can find little on the young adult shelf, it's probably a good idea to do the same. Fifteen is really about the maximum age that young adult books are geared for. In other words, if you want to talk like an adult and read like an adult, then do so.

    By L. Shepherd

    I was really stuck on writing for this age group. This helped a lot! Thanks!

    By Jessica LeBlanc