All teenagers have this desire to somehow run away. –Joan Chen
Most of them are smart enough to know that being a chokora or a train hobo will not take away the acne, the nagging mums, the dads who hope for a doctor in the family and the troublesome physics project due on Monday. So instead they bury themselves in Lord of the Rings, Percy Jackson & the Olympians, Cirque Du Freak, Beth Cooper, the books or more likely their movies, as well as the TV series, from Gossip Girl, The OC, Veronica Mars and into Twilight and Vampire Diaries.
So if you want to write for the young adults, in other words teenagers, you’ll have to compete with what they know and love.
Rule number one: Don’t bore. You come in preaching, teaching, irritating, teens will lose interest so fast they won’t even bother to roll their eyes. If you want to preach, put on your robe and get up to the pulpit. If you want to teach, there’s more than one school around. Irritating is best left to mums, dads and big sisters.
So where do you start? Cynthia Liu, children’s and young adult author advices:
“The best way to get to know how to write for YA is to read a bunch of YA novels. You don’t even have to read the whole book; opening chapters say a lot about the great range within YA. Then ask yourself, Can I do this? The key is to look at a lot of teen novels though…Don’t think one particular bestselling YA book represents the entire market. It doesn’t. There’s room for lots of different teen voices. I think many people believe that teen books have to be edgy, gritty, sexy, or Like Ohmigod! That’s not true. There’s a huge range out there. Also, it really helps if you can remember what you were like as a teen. If you’ve blocked out that whole period in your life, you might find it hard to think like one. So draw from that.”
Rule number two: Don’t expect it to be easy. Even when you are writing fantasy, the work, the effort, and the time it will draw from you will be a lot. So don’t expect it will be a breeze. J.K Rowling, author of the massively successful Harry Potter Series say about writing her fourth book of the series: “I’ve had some of my blackest moments with this book … One chapter I rewrote 13 times, though no-one who has read it can spot which one or know the pain it caused me.”
So if your book is going to come with success, expect it to be born of tears and blood, otherwise it might just not make the cut. But it will be worth it. I think it is past the time that a Kenyan writer produced a book for teens that they will just love without having to worry about ‘real life.’
Speaking of which, it is time for me to re-edit my super-fantastical mystery story for young adults, with tears and blood.
But before I go off into my deep dark writer’s dungeon, allow me to introduce, firstly, an excerpt from a young adult novella by a writer who shall remain anonymous for now. The author would like you to critique the section of her novel. This piece is not part of the voting process. Presenting… The Excerpt.
And to this week’s showcase pieces, we begin with Clifford Chianga’s Set me Free: “No, he is not dead!” I affirmed. Pope stood up, his head just above my hip, and held on dotingly to my robe. Together we transferred the bird to his room. I drew the purple Harry Potter curtains and sunlight flooded the room.
Then we move on to a continuation of Alex Mutua’s Lo Debar series, Virgin Voices: Lorna Lesoi was not struggling with the blue dress she holding, but with guilt. She looked at her beautiful long finger and instead of smiling, a lonely tear oozed out of her round beautiful eyes and marathoned across her arid cheek.
We close this week’s readings with Samuel Kolowale’s Mr & Mrs Gardner: Your Bossman gives you his SUV. He says he wants a new ride for his wedding ceremony. Something suitable for his status so he tells you to go to the only cybercafé in town, the one owned by Ali, his buddy (they call friends buddy in America).
Do you have any ideas about how to make your weekly reading more fun? Please send your suggestions to email@example.com.
Have an excellent week!