Thursday, December 8, 2011

Book Review: Writing Great Books for Young Adults

Last year, I impulsively entered the first 250 words of my Nanowrimo novel for a young adult novel discovery contest. Two hundred and fifty words is a hard sell, let me tell you. Last year's novel didn't even really reveal the basis of the plot in the first several hundred words. Personally, I don't think that's too much of a problem, because although the initial words need to be tight and draw the reader in, a published book has the benefit of an attractive cover and blurbs on the inside and back to pull in prospective readers. But, I understand the drive to really hone the beginning, since that is what will entice or repel an editor.

The primary judge in the novel discovery contest is Regina Brooks. I think the reason I knee-jerked last year was my desire to be one of the first 50 entrants, who then receive Regina's book, Writing Great Books for Young Adults. This year, I made it a point to read the book prior to and during my Nanowrimo attempt. I also honed my initial 250 words of this year's novel and sent them in (it can't hurt to try and every year I participate, I practice making my novels more enticing).

This book is an outstanding explanation of writing for young adults. Its structure makes it an easy read. Plus, it contains all kinds of extra comments by authors and editors in the business. Writing for young adults is not like writing for adults. You have to really hook them in quickly and they will not tolerate any extraneous fluff that detracts from the main story line. They want a good story and one that keeps them turning pages. Otherwise, they'll head for their I-pod or other electronic entertainment devices.

I especially appreciated the break-down of thirty-six dramatic situations, the descriptions of the advantages and disadvantages of the various points of view an author can write from, the listing of common themes, and the questions to ask as you review your manuscript or pitch it to an agent.

I would certainly recommend this book to any writer who is interested in writing young adult novels. Of course, now that I've read the book, I have to continue putting the lessons into practice and keep honing my manuscripts and my writing skills. Thankfully, that still feels fun for me.

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