Key to the Drip: 5 Pro-Tips for Writing Y/A Fiction

Photo by Hannah Nelson

In my last article, I discussed four major myths about writing Young Adult Fiction.

For this week’s article, I wanted to take this a step further to discuss how to write fiction for young-adult audiences.

Aside from our typical writing tips:

Tell a good story

Develop an engaging plot

Craft genuine conflict

Create unique, well-developed, and realistic characters

Write believable dialogue

writing successful Y/A fiction requires additional, genre-specific elements.

1.) Don’t “dumb down” your writing

The term “young adult fiction” derives from the description of the intended audience (i.e. readers between the ages of 12 – 18, although adult readers are always welcome).

Writing for a younger audience does not equate to

– using simple sentences, gratuitous slang, or incorrect grammar

– halfheartedly creating characters

– relying on cliches.

Photo by Public Domain Pictures

The worst thing you can do as a Y/A writer is underestimate the intelligence of your readers.

I’m not suggesting that you pump every SAT vocabulary word into your writing, but don’t be afraid to use vocabulary that is natural to you or cover mature topics or incorporate higher philosophical themes in your piece.

2.) Make your protagonist an appropriate age

One of the most compelling things about Y/A fiction is the capacity to capture adolescence through the eyes of a budding adult.

Because of this, it is important that your protagonist falls between the age of 12 – 21 years.

Not only will this sow the seeds of authenticity with your audience, but it will better capture and maintain the interest of your readers.

3.) Maintain authenticity

Again, Y/A fiction should aim to authentically represent the age-group to which it caters.

As I mentioned above, making your protagonist around the age of your readers helps to this end, but it is by no means the only tactic.

You will want to be sure that the situations in which your characters are participating are relatable (in some way) to your audience.

You will also want to carefully consider your character’s reaction to these situations to ensure that your character is acting in a manner that correlates to the values of the time-period, culture, social group, etc. that you are portraying.

The P.O.V. (point of view) that you select for your piece can heavily affect the level of verisimilitude that you can accomplish.

Illustrative representation of the Roman god, Janus

The use of first person for example, limits the reader’s experience of the story, setting, and plot to one character.

In this instance, you would need to carefully consider which character would be the right vehicle to represent the culture, time-period, values, etc. that you are aiming to capture.

There are other, smaller ways to create realism in your Y/A story such as the use of slang or other colloquialisms that are specific to an area, era, or culture.

4.) Don’t shy away from heavy subjects

Again, if you are writing for a young-adult audience, you are crafting a story for readers who are on the cusp of adulthood.

Don’t feel the need to shelter your audience from topics that are considered “too dark” or “too mature.”

I’m not saying to include “50 Shades of Grey” levels of sexual content or “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” levels of grittiness, but you shouldn’t shy away from touching base on topics such as sexual assault, toxic relationships, the dissolving of friendships or death.

Don’t give your audience sunshine and roses, give them real.

But in the same token, you don’t want to lecture your audience either.

Don’t write a Y/A story just to preach about the affects of lying, for example.

Overly didactic story-telling is a boring, one-note, and predictable way to experience a story.

5.) Consider creating a hopeful ending

Photo by Engin Akyurt


Not necessarily happy.

If you would like to end your Y/A novel on a sweet note, that is your prerogative.

Writing an ending that is darker in nature is fine as well, but I would not suggest that you take the “don’t shy away from mature topics” tip too far.

Remember your audience.

You are writing your story for teenagers and young adults who are trying to find their footings in the adult world.

Don’t trample their hope for the future by annihilating all of your characters with painful, meaningless deaths.

Your novel doesn’t have to end tied up in a pretty, little bow, but maybe consider giving your audience some room to imagine a “post-book” scenario that might favor your characters.

With these 5 tips, you should feel amply prepared to put your knoweldge to the test.

Grab a spare notebook.

Write down some ideas.


Have fun!

You can share your ideas and experiments in The Word Count Readers and Writers Facebook group.

Get solid, meaningful, kind feedback from other writers.

Ask questions.



Because every word counts.

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