September 5, 2012

Writing Club Wednesdays: Writing for Teens

Hi, guys! Welcome to our first official post. Details on what we're posting each day of the week can be found on our intro post, here. On Writing Club Wednesdays, one of us will post about reading, writing, publishing, etc. For my WCW post, I'm going to talk guessed it, writing for teens.

Licensed for use under CC by fellow YA Misfit,
Jenny (cellardoorfilms - thank you!)
One thing that I see a lot of times in the YA blogosphere is the search for what real world teens are like. As a teen, I find it rather odd and fascinating that so many people are curious about what teens do. I can't help but wonder, Weren't adults teenagers once? Have things really changed that much?

Often, I see people stressing over things like: Do teens only text now? What do teens do when they hang out with friends? On dates? Or: Okay, I know what LOL is. But what about LMAO? ROFL? GPOY? While it's nice to see how hard writers work to relate with teenagers, sometimes, I can't help but feel like people are stressing out over the little things too much on things that on the long run, don't really matter.

 Here are a couple things to keep in mind:
  • Each teenager is different. Like not all adults are the same, just because one thing appeals to another teenager (ie: a certain love interest), doesn't mean that it will appeal to every teen. (For example, not every teen may like the "tall, dark, and handsome type.") Not all teens text more than they call. Believe it or not, not every single teenager knows terminology like LOL or what happens in football games. Although "young adults" is a broad, generic term, it's important to remember that it's made up of individuals that know and like different things.
  • Just because one thing is cool when you're writing the manuscript, doesn't mean that it will be cool when the book gets published. Especially with highly time sensitive things like technology, things change in a year--if not, a couple of months. Most teens understand that books can be outdated on things like technology so they're most likely not going to put down your book just because the characters don't text to each other or use Blackberries and not iPhones.
  • The publishing industry is not run by teens. Just because teens may like your novel when you show it to them, doesn't mean that it's guaranteed to land an agent or a publisher. Teens can give you a better idea of what teens might think while reading your book, but the YA industry is run by agents and publishers that are adults and have to keep things like the market and the business of publishing in mind and not just whether or not they like the book. That being said, it's really great to have a teen familiar with the industry to read and critique your work, since they have a fairly good idea of what agents and teenagers might like.
Finally, it's very important to remember that teenagers don't read your books just to see how accurately you can portray their lives. Ultimately, teenagers--like any readers--want to read your novel(s) for the story and how well you tell it. Like Molly O'Neill said in her blog post for Write On Con, the most important thing that a writer should focus on is developing his or her craft. No matter how accurately you get the details down, no teen will want to read your book if the story itself is bad or haphazardly told. At the end of the day, teens will remember what happened in your book rather than all the technical things.

What do you guys think? Do you agree? Disagree? Feel free to leave a comment below.


Bess Weatherby said...

Great post!

So true -- story and character really are everything. And teens can smell FAKE and TRY better than just about anyone :)

I'm excited for this blog. It seems like y'all are starting a really good thing here. Best of luck!

Philip Siegel said...

Love this post! It's not about trying to portray teens accurately. It's about creating an engrossing story with characters that teens (and adults!) can relate to and want to read about. My teenage experience was nothing like the teens in Clueless, 10 Things, and Cruel Intentions, but that doesn't mean I couldn't enjoy those movies.

Anonymous said...

Great insight into writing for teens! I think one of the most important things about writing for teens is not so much sounding like a teen/keeping up with current teen 'lingo' so much as giving your MC an authentic, unique voice. And I also think it's important to focus on universal issues that all teens wrestle with, because that's where you'll find your audience.

Ru said...

I agree with Phil - I think if we focus less on getting "teenagers" right, and more about getting people-with-teenage-ish-problems right, we'd all be better off.

Carrie-Anne said...

I write historical, so my big concern is whether a modern teen will relate at all to a teen from 40-60 years ago, or if that's even still considered real YA in today's market. The 1940s or 1960s version of a teenager was a lot different from today's, with more adult roles and responsibilities. Even the idea of someone in his or her late teens being engaged, married, and having kids was considered normal, not as bizarre or dysfunctional as today.

Emily Mead said...

Definitely it's about getting the character right. After all, people still read Catcher in the Rye, don't they? Teenagers aren't defined by the technology we use, or the boys we prefer. Most of us are almost-adults, but still figuring out who we are. To me that's the most important aspect of writing YA.

Gina said...

FANTASTIC first post, Lyla!! There are so many variations of normal and such a broad spectrum of realistic. Well said!

erica m. chapman said...

Excellent post!!! I totally agree, if you work at your craft that is really what is important. No teen is made the same ;o)

Great job!! AND you were our first official post. HOORAY!

Dahlia Adler said...

Definitely agree on all counts, but still applaud myself for knowing every single acronym in your post. Especially love your final thoughts - teens are still gonna love your book even if you didn't necessarily get the cafeteria process right... as long as your book is, ya know, lovable.

Hooray for our first official post!! Way to brave it!

Tamara said...

Hi guys,
Just wanted to say that I totally agree with the points you made. Excellent post.

So, we have something in common. :) We happened to start our blogs on the same day. You have a whole lot more followers than me though. haha. (I, sadly, have one so far--although, in my defense, I told nobody I was starting a blog) Anyway, I was hoping maybe you guys could follow me back? Is it okay to ask that or am I breaking some kind of blogger etiquette rule? Sorry if I am! I haven't done this for awhile. Again, great site--it looks like it's gonna be a lot of fun here!

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