When the Irish Arts Center in New York asked me to hold a masterclass on writing young adult fiction, I thought: sure, no problem. I regularly run story workshops in schools. They’re interactive, fun and hugely educational. For me, too. Because kids are kids. And teenagers are teenagers. They give so much of themselves. There is nothing like their energy and enthusiasm.
So I sat down to prepare this workshop. And hit a wall. Why? Because my teenage novels are entirely instinctual. I hear the dialogue in my head and everything starts from there. The voices arrive and bring their stories with them.
How was I going to transfer the workings of my subconscious to an audience?
I had to approach it backwards. I had to ask myself what I’ve learned from the teenagers who get in touch with me about my books? What do they love about them? What do they connect with? What’s important to them? What are they looking for?
Then I had to ask myself, what makes YA fiction YA? What is more important in this genre than in any other? The answers began to present themselves. Allow me to share:
* Voice. This is arguably the most important thing to get right in YA fiction. It has to be true. It has to be real. It can’t, for one second, sound like adult addressing a young adult. It must be a unique teenage voice with something unique to say. Readers must feel: yes, this is our world.
* Passion. Life is never as intense as it is when we are teenagers. Everything is so heightened, so crucial. Friendships. Identity. Truth. Knowledge. Love. The future. Your story must reflect this.
* Relatable Characters. If teenagers can’t relate to your characters, you’ve lost them. They need to feel connected. They want to care what happens.
* Momentum. If your plot isn’t moving forward, you’ll lose these readers. Don’t give them long, wordy passages to wade through to get to the story. They want your characters to face problems. Big problems. Real problems. Teenage problems. They want to be invested, engaged, engrossed.
* The Idea. You are competing with Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook… You are competing with study. You are competing with LIFE. Teenagers are often too busy to read. But when something becomes huge (eg The Hate You Give) their natural curiosity is piqued. They don’t want to miss out. So ‘hooks’ are more important than ever with this audience.
* Dialogue. Like everything else, dialogue must ring true. Once again, I direct you to The Hate You Give. Read that book to know the importance of dialogue.
So in the masterclass, in New York (yaay!), I will address the ‘how to’ of all these issues, through sharing what I have learned and through writing exercises.
I will also touch on editing, knowing the market, and getting published. Perhaps most importantly to me, given how I write, I will also focus on stimulating the subconscious.
It is so much easier to write teenage fiction when you are in the zone, when you live the story, when your inner teen is allowed to tell it, not the adult you. So if you feel like signing up for this adventure, I would love to have you along. Really looking forward to it myself!
Find out more about the Masterclass HERE
Denise Deegan is an award-winning, #1 bestselling Amazon author. She lives in Dublin with her family where she regularly dreams of sunshine, a life without cooking and her novels being made into movies.
Denise has been a nurse, a china restorer, a pharmaceutical sales rep, a public relations officer, an entrepreneur and a college lecturer. Her most difficult job was being a checkout girl, although ultimately this experience did inspire a short story…
Denise writes for adults, teenagers and children. Her novels have been published by Penguin, Random House, Hachette, Lake Union Publishing and Amazon Publishing. Writing under the pen name Aimee Alexander, Denise’s contemporary family dramas have become international best-sellers on Kindle.
Winner of the SCBWI SPARK Award 2017
Denise’s most recent novel, Through the Barricades, won the SCBWI Spark Award 2017 and was chosen as a Publishers Weekly Booklife ‘Books to Watch’. Her pre-published novel, The Accidental Pirate has been chosen as the middle-grade finalist in Publisher Weekly’s Booklife Prize.
Her writing for Young Adults includes the much-loved contemporary trilogy, The Butterfly Novels: And By The Way, And For Your Information and And Actually.
Denise writes women’s fiction as Aimee Alexander. She is currently working on a screenplay for her bestselling novel, The Accidental Life of Greg Millar.
Denise lives in Dublin with her family and golden retriever, Homer, star of the Butterfly Novels.
Find out more about her on her website http://denisedeegan.com/
Category: On Writing