The Best of the Thinking Quill – Writing YA

Dear Reader Who Writes,

At risk of preaching to the converted, I must first take the time to be sure you are all acquainted with me. I am Moonbeam Farquhar Metheringham IV and acclaimed author of the millionth best seller science fiction and fantasy novel, ‘Fatswhistle and Buchtooth’. As such I have been delving deep into my treasure trove of writing wisdom to bring a few of the more luminous gems of my experience to light.

It is true that young people today are not as they were. When I was a fuzzy-faced youth in my early twenties, awaiting the chance to shave for the first time, I would not have dreamed of behaving in the manner of my old-school chum’s son when he came to stay overnight the other week on the way to some foreign destination for a ‘Gap year’. He has just turned eighteen. Called Henry.

He swanned into the house and dropped his rucksack on my feet, gesturing imperiously upwards with one finger, no doubt to indicate that he expected me to take it upstairs for him. Then he caught sight of Mumsie, spreadeagled over the sofa as is her wont. His eyes widened and I heard him say: “Em. Eye. Elle. Eff.” After which bizarre incantation he threw himself upon his knees beside Mumsie and whispered something in her ear which made her laugh. Well, giggle.

I retreated to my writing room and when I emerged in the early hours I found the rucksack was still untouched downstairs. By the time I rose to breakfast, Henry had left for Peru and Mumsie was humming happily and dancing around the front room holding a half-empty bottle of Champagne.

It occurred to me then and there, that I should address myself to that phenomenon of recent literary note: the Young Adult novel.

How To Write A Book: The Write Approach to YA

The first thing to remember is that your heroine – and it almost always is a heroine – must be living a normal, but extra-miserable life. She must be the school social reject or the really plain girl wearing glasses and unfashionable clothes. She is probably poor, but if rich, must have an isolated and unhappy time as a result. In a science-fiction or fantasy setting, she will be an orphan, abused, beaten and downtrodden – probably enslaved. At best she may be allowed an ‘ordinary’ background within whatever world she lives. She can have one good friend. 

But, remember, no matter how bad you make her issues, on no account can she be fat.

Having established this dual point of miserable powerlessness and rejected loner, the author must then bestow upon this heroine a magical power or super ability which is linked to a mysterious family heritage. Or may be brought about by the discovery of an artefact – or both. This will then transform our dowdy underdog cygnet into a burgeoning youthful swan.

At this point, the romantic elements should be established. If her ‘one good friend’ was male, he now becomes a suitor and is joined by one or more other suitors all of which now adore the heroine and all want her to adore them. The degree of self-abasement you can portray for these unfortunate males will boost the popularity of your final work. No matter how much the heroine rejects them, or how rudely, they will return and grovel at her feet each and every time. Or storm off and then turn up to save her in the end.

Do be sure to make her suitors as various as possible. If you are writing fantasy or supernatural fiction, they can be an elf,  fairy, angel, fallen angel, demon, vampire or a were-something. If science-fiction then aliens of whatever variety. Be sure to make the nice ones rich and the not so nice ones poor.

On no account allow any long-term romantic liaison to become established between your heroine and any of these males. To do so will end the game and end the series because, of course, this first book will be just the start of a series.

Take this advice to your collective bosoms my dear students and fame and fortune will stalk your steps.

Until next time.

Moonbeam Farquhar Metheringham IV

You can find more of IVy’s profound thoughts in How To Start Writing A Book courtesy of E.M. Swift-Hook and Jane Jago.

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