Three Things Aspiring YA Writers Should Know


The contemporary young adult literature circle is full of talented, successful authors who know their audiences well. “The Fault In Our Stars,” “The Book Thief” and “If I Stay” wouldn’t have been able to captivate such a broad spectrum of readers if their creators didn’t understand how to effectively grasp their attention.

If you tend to focus your stories on “adolescent protagonists” who grow and develop as a result of the obstacles they encounter—genre qualifications courtesy of Imogen Russell Williams—there might be a spot waiting for you in the YA writers’ posse. To earn your badge, though, you need to first understand what your future readers want from you, and how you can use your unique voice and storytelling skills to cater to their desires. 

Before you dive headfirst into your dreams, here’s what you need to know if you’re looking to publish your work in any of the YA “subgenres” (which you can find here).

Your Potential Readers Are Smart

While we won’t point to any specifics, there are beautiful YA books out on the shelves that could have been much more eloquently written, too. Some authors tend to shy away from using more sophisticated language and more complex plots because they want their readers to be able to follow along.

You don’t have to “dumb down” your language or simplify your storyline to please your potential young adult audience. While the age of your readers will vary, high school-age audiences don’t want to feel like they’re being talked down to, not even in the books they choose to read on their own. If readers don’t like your style or aren’t interested in your topics, they won’t read your books. There are plenty of others who still might.

You Will Become a Role Model

What you say and do, your readers will believe and follow, especially the more you publish and attract a larger audience. This means you not only have to partake in quality research to keep writing stories they want to read, but you also have to understand both sides of important issues and the backgrounds of major current events.

Younger audiences care about these things too, and it’s important that YA writers do their part to show younger readers it’s important to have an informed say on what’s going on in the world.

If you’re only interested in writing your own stories and want nothing to do with who’s reading your work, you’re not going to make it very far. Our final point illustrates why.

You Will Need to Engage 

Readers will tweet you, they will message you, even if it’s just to say they loved your book. What they want in return is a response, to know you’re a real person, to acknowledge their appreciation.

Reading is a solo experience that can be enriched by joining communities. As the author of a popular short story or book, it’s up to you to be a part of that community, and show your audience you care about their opinions and appreciate their support. If you’re dedicated to them, they’re more likely to remain dedicated to you and your work.

Not all of the above points focus specifically on your writing. That’s because, as an author, writing is only half the career. The more you write, the more potential readers you will reach. The more you interact with those readers, the more inspiration you will gather to keep writing—and the cycle will continue for as long as you create new stories.

But never forget: none of this matters if you don’t start with strong ideas, solid content and the right motivation to turn fleeting thoughts into works of art.

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

7 thoughts on “Three Things Aspiring YA Writers Should Know

  1. I think that last point is especially important, and not just for aspiring YA authors. Perhaps more so than ever before, reading is a fundamentally dialogical experience, with divide between authors and readers being blurred into nonexistence. A contemporary author has to be ready to participate in the literary community.

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