When I started writing for teens, I thought I knew how to write. LOL… I knew how to write, of course, and had been published many time over. Yet, I wasn’t really familiar with how teen writing should be approached.
I had written for an academic publisher before, but for young adults — a whole different game. Young adults require simpler sentences, and lots of sidebars. (In case you don’t know what a sidebar is, it’s a block of related information that shows up next to the main text. You see them in magazines a lot.) But now, I had to figure out how to make my writing more sophisticated.
I remember sending the first chapter off, and was a little nervous. I was working with a new editor at the time, and you never know how that’s going to go. I’ve had editors that loved what I wrote right out of I the gate, an editor or two that wanted me to change things, and one editor from hell. I was hoping that this editor wasn’t the last type.
She wasn’t — actually, not at all. She was amazing. And she helped me to figure out how to pull the level of my writing up to suit their academic style. She did so well in training me that I eventually wrote four books for that publisher.
Yet, if you’re reading this blog, you know that my tone is familiar. I’m used to writing what I think, using contractions and just typing what comes off the top of my head. That’s great for columns and blogging and it works pretty well for middle-grade readers and young adults, but with teens… not so much.
I had to use a broader vocabulary, which is OK because I’ve developed what I’d say is a pretty good one over the years. Actually, it was fun for me to be able to use the bigger words because you don’t often get the chance in your day-to-day life or in writing for the Web, right? So, that wasn’t difficult.
But being more formal was a bit of a stretch. Everything you write is in third person, of course. And as I mentioned in an earlier post, your sentences should be a mixture of simple, compound, and complex. You’re still striving for readability, but now, you want a college professor to read it and recommend it to his class. So, though my readers were my audience, I had to consider the marketing, too. Professors and librarians buy the books. 🙂
So, while I started off a tad perplexed, I picked up the style after the first revision. Writing for any group isn’t hard as long as you recognize your market, and so… Four books and several entries in the International Encyclopedia of Social Studies later, I totally have it down. You can, too.
The main thing to realize if you want to write for “teens,” which are kids from 16 up, you’re probably going to be writing nonfiction. These kids are reading adult fiction and are probably not too interested in reading fiction geared solely toward them.
Books of fiction for this group will be classified “adult.” That’s not to say that you can’t write fiction for them . Just remember it’s your market. If you wrote a novel for this age group, I’d still encourage you to submit it for adults. Make sense?