Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Writing the Young Adult Novel

Alrighty, so I made all my preparations, and headed on down to Ad Astra this past Saturday morning, to meet Ms Tamora Pierce, only to have a million issues getting there and signing in; and then turns out she was sick and couldn't make it!

Alas the running theory about me and my bad luck is that I must have been one awful S.O.B in a past life!

The Happy news is the panel she was supposed to be part of was still very interesting (despite her absence) and I came away with some enlightening information on the subject of writing the Young Adult Novel.

Alison Baird (The Dragons Egg, The Hidden World, The Wolves of Woden, the Willowmere Chronicles, White as the Waves, and The Dragon Throne trilogy), Adrienne Kress (Alex and the Ironic Gentleman and Timothy and the Dragon's Gate), Lesley Livingston (Wondrous Strange and Darklight) and Kelley Armstrong (Darkest Powers series, and Women of the Otherworld series) participated with Kelley Armstrong Moderating. Although I haven't read any of these four authors works two of them had been on my radar to pick up soon (Kelly Armstrong, and Lesley Livingston), and even though I hadn't heard of either Alison Baird or Adrienne Kress I am now eager to pick up their works as well.

Fun note: Adrienne Kress, Lesley Livingston, and Kelly Armstrong are all Canucks! Yay Canada!

Now keep in mind I did not bring a voice recorder so although I attempted to write all comments as accurately as possible (exact same wording) I am not writing them out as quotes in case of errors (all of which are my own and should not be attributed to any of the Authors).

The YA genre has finally become popular with publishers! Kelley Armstrong made the comment- her YA books currently out sell her adult books 2-1.

On Censorship to their story lines:
All four women agreed almost anything is a go in YA literature these days although...
Lesley Livingston- Fairies don't just run around dropping F-bombs
Kelley Armstrong- You'll be advised by your publishers that it may affect your sales in the Southern United States
The general consensus was you should be true to your characters when it came to the biggies (sex, drugs, booze and swearing), and Alison Baird mentioned she tries to steer clear of swearing for moral issues. All agreed you should keep it real, and since all of the biggies are prominent in teenage life it would be wrong to ignore them completely.

On how to write from a teenage perspective when you're not that age:
Kelley Armstrong- Once you tap into it you realize it's not that deeply buried.
Lesley Livingston- The age group has hyper sensitivity, everything is heightened, and everything is life or death.
Adrienne Kress- it is the practice of writing about firsts, first kiss, first rejection, first everything, as opposed to the seconds, so nothing has the same perspective to it you have after the first time around.
All the ladies agreed, generally speaking you write about your own experience (which largely isn't the popular girl experience) and it will ring true with your readers who are generally living the same experience despite the time change. Everyone agreed, that is, until it was pointed out Lesley Livingston was a cheerleader in High School.
Lesley Livingston- I was and oddball Cheerleader!

On what to write to write successfully:
Adrienne Kress- Age 18-21 is no mans land for protagonists, no one will publish it.
Kelley Armstrong- You have to like and respect your audience (i.e.: teenagers) otherwise don't bother.
All of the ladies agreed Fantasy has a lot in its favour for YA and middle school (9-12) readers.
Alison Bard- 12 year olds don't normally pick up Dickens or Jane Eyre but they're very likely to pick up Lord of the Rings, despite it being an adult book.
Kelley Armstrong- Teens like to read up, so if your protagonist is 15 it mean’s you’re pulling in 12 year olds so they're part of your market. The rule of thumb is round up two years, if you want 15 year olds, make your protagonist 17.
Everyone agreed it doesn't mean you won't get a whole variety of ages (think twilight moms); it was just a tool to understand you market.
Lesley Livingston pointed out - J.K Rowling was the first ever writer to start a series as a middle school series but to end up as a YA series. (Growing with the reader)
Adrienne Kress- The last year has seen publishers focus on teen girl paranormal. That doesn't mean you should write it to guarantee a sell. Publishers are always off on the prediction of the next big thing, after Harry Potter they wanted more Harry Potter, than Twilight came along! Now everyone wants the next Twilight, who knows what will beat it.

Speculation then went on between the ladies about if it would be Angels, Faeries, or Werewolves.
Kelley Armstrong- A Fairy, an Angel, and a Werewolf walk into a bar....

Finally it was commented on by all the ladies, currently there’s virtually no interest in publishing for YA boys, all marketing is targeted to teen girls and Kelley Armstrong commented that since her books are about Necromancy and have all sorts of violence and Zombies she thought for sure they would qualify for boys. Unfortunately everything is given girly covers only the very bravest boys would venture to buy, ruling out boy readers.

For more info on some of the Panels of the Con, including getting an agent, please visit Adrienne Kress's incredibly informative blog The Temp, The Actor and The Writer: The New YA.

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