Monday, 27 June 2011

YA Rules (You Can Take That Either Way)

As many of you know, I'm a fantasy writer.
As a few less of you know, I'm also writing a YA novel, strictly non-fantasy.
Guess which genre I know practically nothing about?

Each genre has it's own set of 'rules' (let's say, guidelines). For fantasy, you aim for a different word count. For thrillers, you aim for a different pacing. That kind of difference.

So what are the 'rules' for YA?

Here's my guess so far. You have the basic rules of any genre: solid writing, correct grammar, relatable characters, interesting dialogue, solid, relevant plot. Got it.
What else?

For fantasy, I know you have to focus on an engaging world, a well-thought out magic system (if there is one), a believable plot, and well-paced tension. The characters don't have to be particularly unique (the genre is notorious for being based entirely on the character set of Lord of the Rings) and the exposition doesn't have to be particularly clever. Even though, ideally, it would be.

So what is it for YA? I know you can't slack on anything in any story - everything should be at it's best - but where do you want the focus? Teen issues? Interesting characters? Descriptions? Sexual tension? Emotional tension?


P.S. Disclaimer: There have been a lot of posts out there bashing YA, and I want to be absolutely clear: I do not think that it takes any less skill, hard work, or talent to write a YA novel. Every individual novel is such a unique process, each genre is unique as well. :)


Anonymous said...

Each genre is definately unique! I couldn't agree with you more about YA being no less difficult than the others.
I'm not a huge YA fan, but I DO respect the initiative, drive, and dedication it takes for a writer to finish a project, regardless of its spot on the shelves.

Best to you-

L.G.Smith said...

It really chaps my hide to hear people talk about YA being a "less than" genre. All writing is difficult and requires the same dedication to craft. There is more competition in the YA field right now because it is so popular, so I would even venture to say they are some of the better writers out there currently.

One difference between YA and adult, to me anyway, is the voice. Nailing that teen voice is tough for me.

Lisa Gail Green said...

It's a tough market, but it's what I love. I do YA fantasy, so there you are. :D YA is very character driven. But plot and world are no less important. Doesn't help does it? What you should really do, is read everything you can get your hands on in the genre. I think you will do well because you are close to that age group and may be in better touch with those perceptions. The worst thing YA can do is talk down to teens or preach. Hope that helps.

Marsha Sigman said...

YA is tough, no doubt about it. I think you should make sure it's fast paced, keep it between 60 and 80 thousand words and just focus on the story. You decide if you want it to be plot driven or character driven.

Teens are smarter than anyone gives them credit for, write about what you think would interest them or be prepared to MAKE them interested.

I freakin' love YA.

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Jemi Fraser said...

The thrill of YA is that it's kind of all-encompassing. There are a bazillion genres that teens are interested in. For me a strong YA novel has great characters faced with tough decisions.

Cinette said...

I would have to agree with the comment that voice is the number one element of YA that sets it apart from other genres. I have four teen girls in my house, so I can hope I have a decent handle on it! It should come quite natually to you.

Phil Hall said...

It doesn't matter what genre a person writes as long as the story is compelling. Is it good? That's the only question worth asking, and if along the way you break a "rule," but still end up with a great tale...guess what? You just busted the mold! Isn't that what writers want to accomplish?

Just write a good, compelling story, with interesting characters--and let the genre work it out for itself. :)

Talli Roland said...

There are lots of good things about any genre. Crime, YA, romance... they all have their strengths!

Sangu said...

Anyone who thinks writing YA is somehow 'easier' than writing adult fiction needs a smack. They obviously haven't done it!

Apart from what you've pointed out about grammar, spelling, good writing, etc (which goes for all genres), I don't think there are many 'rules' for YA anymore - though the length of a manuscript does generally tend to be shorter than the average adult novel and publishers vary on how they feel about explicit swearing/sexuality. BUT ultimately I think the only rule is perspective. A reader needs to feel that sense of being teenage, and everything being new, and growing up, and dealing with all that, no matter what else is going on.

Missed Periods said...

I don't know anything about YA. I don't even think I read YA when I was a YA.