In my last post, I talked about writing texts for the youngest readers: picture books. Today, I want to look at the other end of the scale of fiction for young people: writing YA, or Young Adult, fiction.
YA fiction is flourishing right now, with many of the top-selling books in that field–for adults as well as teenagers love to read YA–and publishers are actively looking for great manuscripts. What kinds of books are they looking for? From my observation, these genres seem to be ‘hot’ right now in YA fiction:
Contemporary realism: Confronting hard-hitting issues with emotion but also a light touch
Fantasy: But not vampires or shape-shifters or angels or dystopias unless these are ‘High concept’—ie a dramatic scenario that has not been tackled before or is substantially different in treatment from what’s been done before. Fantasy also should be centered more on strong development of character than too much world-building.
Historical with an adventure/mystery/spy twist.
Thrillers: Mixed genres are popular, such as thrillers crossed with science fiction, or history
Humor: Always a winner: but perhaps the hardest thing of all to write!
Don’t despair if none of those are your bag. Publishers are looking, more than anything, for what they have always looked for: surprising, well-written, gripping stories with great characters and a fresh and interesting voice. Stories that feel like there’s passion behind them: the writer’s passion.
Okay, so that’s the market. But what exactly, from a writer’s craft point of view, are the actual building blocks of great YA fiction, without which every ‘high concept’ would not work? Over the years, I’ve had many YA novels published, from historical to contemporary, realism to fantasy and romance to thriller. And over those years, I’ve come to clarify just what it is, to me, that makes a story resonate with readers of YA fiction, so I’d like to share that with you.