Cover To Cover…‘Writing Great Books for Young Adults’

When the kids were little, they loved hearing your stories.


You lost count of the times they asked you about your brother, who pushed you down a hill on a broken wagon and skinned your nose. They laughed every time you imitated your mother tossing pie crust in the air. Even neighborhood kids begged to hear about when Grandpa fell off the pony.

All your life, you’ve been telling stories. Now that the kids are older, maybe it’s time to use that pent-up creativity by becoming a real author. Start by reading “Writing Great Books for Young Adults” by Regina Brooks.

Having been a teenager yourself once, and having lived with some, you might believe that writing for the YA market would be a breeze. But it’s really not that easy, says Brooks. Though YA readers live in the same world you do, their lives are worlds apart from yours. Young adults – readers age twelve to eighteen – demand authenticity in their stories, and they can spot adult phoniness from the next county.

But you’ve done your homework. You’ve immersed yourself in teendom and you’re itching to write. Before you start, remember that the success of your story depends on your ability to convince the reader that your main character is like her. Also, never be condescending to your readers and don’t preach. YA readers hate that.

So how do you know when you’ve hit the right tone? Brooks says that in order to write well, you need to read well. Devour other YA novels. Ask a middle-school teacher what works, and what kids are enjoying. Once you find out, don’t be afraid to “forge new paths” with your idea. Just like you, kids love innovation.

Write like people talk. Be willing to use storyboards, and learn to edit and revise. Don’t move too quickly, but don’t be a snail, either. Let your characters tell you where to go next and give them emotions to get there. Understand the difference between plot and story, know what a JITNOT is (and don’t use it), get feedback from peers, and get yourself an agent.

Lastly, work on this novel and ignore outside distractions and nay-sayers. Stop daydreaming about your next book, your movie deal, or your writer’s life. Focus and finish.

They say that everybody’s got a book in them. “Writing Great Books for Young Adults” helps you pull that book out for the world to read.

As both a literary agent and author, Regina Brooks knows what works for the publishing industry and what doesn’t, and she knows what editors are looking for in a YA novel.

I liked that this book includes real publishing jargon, exercises, ideas, and testimonies from editors and published writers. That, and the abundance of advice, serves to immerse a budding writer in what may become a new and exciting career.

If you’ve always thought about becoming published but didn’t know how to do it, “Writing Great Books for Young Adults” is a good beginning. For excited future authors, this book is all-write.


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