Monday, November 21, 2011

My YA Manifesto

I've been thinking about writing a post like this for months, ever since my From the Write Angle blog-mate J. Lea Lopez wrote her Erotica Writer's Manifesto. Finally, it's time.

Every once in a while, I run across someone who thinks writing Young Adult novels is easier than writing for grown-ups. That YA work isn't as complex, doesn't go as deep or dark, or is otherwise somehow "lesser" than its adult counterparts.

I've even heard it once or twice from other YA writers. They write YA because it's not as demanding—they don't think they could cut it as a writer for adults. Or they write YA because it's a stronger area in a struggling market.

I am an unabashed writer of young adult literature. I chose it before I knew anything about publishing markets, before I knew anything about novel-writing in general (other than my opinions as a reader). So, here's my own personal manifesto as a YA writer, the standards I'll hold myself to.

  • I will write YA only as long as I love it—reading it, writing it, talking about it.
  • I will respect my readers. Young does not mean stupid.
  • I will avoid Stupid MC Syndrome at all costs.
  • I won't be afraid of vocabulary, but will also keep it authentic.
  • I will write female characters with interesting quirks, strengths, and weaknesses.
  • I will write male characters who are more than utter hotness. (This does not preclude potential hotness ... but yeah.)
  • Combining the above, when characters fall for each other, it will be for reasons other than instinctive attraction or destiny.
  • I will generally keep adult characters out of the way, but will not operate under the presumption that all grown-ups are stupid. Teens know that only some of us are stupid.
  • I won't be afraid of complexity—complex situations for my characters, complex issues to tackle. Teens' lives are complex. They deal with it.
  • I will hope my readers learn something from my novels.
  • I will not dictate what that "something" they learn should be. I hope it varies from person to person.
  • I will keep in mind that even teens who think they have no personality and aren't special show the truth in their actions. Even the quietest teen is interesting if you really watch.

There should probably be a few more items in this list, so perhaps I'll add to it over time.

What do you think, YA writers? What do you strive for (or strive to avoid) when writing in our chosen category?


Mindy McGinnis said...

Great post! I strive to avoid stereotypes - regardless of genre.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this gentle reminder on writing for teens. YA is not a category to be trifled with, regardless of which genre one finds herself writing.

Kids deserve great literature for a variety of reasons and stereotyping, dumbing down and following cliched storylines are not the right ways to go about creating books kids will love.


Sakura Eries said...

I also write YA because that's what i love.

as for what i strive for, i'll ditto u on the romance for reasons other than instinctive attraction or destiny :)

R.C. Lewis said...

Mindy, I'm pretty sure you've never written a stereotype in your life. Doubt you'd even know how. ;)

Thanks, Cat and Sak, for the comments. I'd rather err on the side of expecting too much than too little of my readers.

Richard said...

There are some endearing, long-lasting YA novels out there. They probably all meet the same type of criteria you're striving for. Good for you.

A.M.Supinger said...

Amen! Great post :)