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Website of author and professional editor Rachelle M. N. Shaw. Find information about her books, her editing services, and her blog, From Mind to Paper: On Writing and Editing.

From Mind to Paper: On Writing and Editing

From Mind to Paper is a blog for writers, editors, and those interested in the English language. It covers a multitude of writing topics, from punctuation and grammar to plot development, character development, and world building. In addition to in-depth articles about various writing topics, this blog also has a number of series posts, which are currently being transformed into a nonfiction series on writing.

A New Approach to Writing Young Adult Fiction

Rachelle M. N. Shaw

One of the most read and written types of fiction today is young adult fiction. Many of its authors find themselves at the top of the best-seller list and gain an ever-growing fandom. But many readers and new authors of young adult fiction find themselves shying away from it more and more. Perhaps it's because of all the best-selling "love" stories creeping out of the woodwork. Or maybe it's because the subject of vampires, zombies, and the like have been beaten to death recently (no pun intended). Whichever the case, I'm going to step out and be bold for a minute and proclaim that this genre should NOT be thrown out the window. Not only do I think it should be written more often, I think it should be celebrated and admired by new authors. No, I haven't gone bonkers. I think what is required to transform this niche is simply a new approach. If any type of fiction needs a new makeover, this one is certainly it. So how does one go about writing a YA fiction that is both unique and well-liked? Don't make it a love story. Love stories often are cliché, and they tend to lack a worthwhile plot. That's not to say that you can't include any romance in your story. Romance and love are very natural parts of human nature (and other creatures as well), so it's unlikely that it can be avoided altogether. In fact, it probably wouldn't be realistic if the subject didn't come up at all. However, there are ways of incorporating love connections in stories without writing them as though they were shoved in there "just because."

Develop a story arc that isn't a love triangle. Figure out what you want out of the story you're writing, the points you're trying to make (if any), and what the reason is for telling the story. Then let things play out how they will in the romance department; let your characters guide you. If you get to know them well enough, you will see that they can sometimes act unexpectedly and will respond differently to one another (and others) depending on the situation. For example, an otherwise argumentative, yet passionate, pair who normally dislike one another and don't typically see eye to eye may suddenly find themselves bonding (sexually or otherwise) when faced with certain doom. In just the same way, new lovers who are completely attached to one another may end up realizing that their differences are far more reaching when they are placed under extreme conditions in close proximity to one another. This can either strengthen their relationship in the long run, or it can break it. In real life, love can be unpredictable. If written correctly, romantic scenes and connections can portray this authenticity well.

Don't avoid topics just because they're supposedly overdone. I know that the mere mention of vampires, werewolves, or zombies can lead to automated eye rolls and groans. But the truth is, if an author makes a story with these subjects unique but authentic, readers will enjoy and appreciate the story anyway. The trick is research and a vivid imagination. One certainly shouldn't write a fantasy story full of supernatural creatures just because they're selling well right now. But with the same token, don't avoid the genre just because so many have been written recently. If you truly make it your own and create a story and worthwhile plot that captivates readers and keeps them yearning for more, the subject matter will matter very little. Keep in mind that there will always be those who like a certain niche more than others regardless, so you can't expect to please everyone. Write what you intend to write, and write it well. This is how you will reap your rewards as an author.

Make your characters well-rounded. Nobody likes someone who is perfect. Why? Nobody is perfect. Everyone of us has flaws, no matter how minor or major. So don't make your characters this way if you want them to be taken seriously. If you want to write a character that is muscular, handsome, and attractive, give him some flaws---and not just personality ones. Make one ear higher than the other. Make him so vain that he's addicted to plastic surgery. Make him a terrible kisser. Give the reader something unexpected. This will make your character truly unique and will likely make them more real and relatable to the reader. Complete stereotypes are also just as annoying as flawless characters. If you're going to make a story revolve around a quiet, smart girl that's a loner, don't make her a Plain Jane. Make her attractive. Make her have self-confidence, even to a fault! That will keep every guy from wanting her. After all, not everyone will fall for a cocky b****, no matter how pretty she is!

I hope that after reading this, a few of you authors out there will take a new approach when it comes to both writing and reading YA fiction. Maybe you've even developed a new liking for it and would like to take a stab at it yourself if you haven't already. The key is to keep a positive attitude about it and an open mind. It truly can be one of the most rewarding types of fiction; after all, in what other time of life does one change, learn, and grow so much?