Writing for Young Adults

In my opinion, the young adult market is one of the toughest to write for. This spring, when Christ to the World Ministries asked me to write a contemporary youth program, I spent a great deal of time studying youth. (Of course, this included stalking my teenage daughter, which didn’t go over too well.)

My questions: What do they like? How do they spend their time? What are their core issues and concerns? Their greatest pet peeves (besides parents)? Here’s what I found: This generation has access to more information than any before them–which means they don’t want to be told anything. (They’d rather be guided into discovery.) They crave authenticity, want to blaze a trail, and have extremely sensitive balogna meters. They’ve grown accustomed to tweet-sized information and sensory saturation, and won’t waste time on the mundane. If a book doesn’t grab them right away, they’ll toss it aside to jump on Facebook. And yet, if they find a book, song, or movie they love, they’ll devour it, tweet about it, and FB share it. 

Today, K. Dawn Byrd, young adult author of Mistaken Identity, joins us to share her experience with writing for the YA market.

K. Dawn, what motivated you to write for young adults?

It’s such a fun age, but so full of challenges. My goal with Mistaken Identity was to reach out to the young woman who is trying her best to live for God and wondering if it’s worth it. Eden, my heroine, is ridiculed at school because of her Christian beliefs, but she keeps on keeping on. I so admire young Christians who are taking a stand for Jesus in schools across America. This book is dedicated to you!
What ages are considered young adult?
I’ve read mixed responses to this question. Most recently, I read that the young adult market is for ages 12-19. Mistaken Identity has more romantic tension than some romance books on the market and may be a little more suitable for ages 15 and up.
What do you find most challenging as a writer in regard to this age group?
The most challenging thing about writing for this age group was finding my voice. I normally write in third person and it just didn’t fit for this book. My wonderful publisher bent the rules a little and allowed me to write it in first person. Also, I usually write suspense and found it a challenge to back up a little and write something lighter and still full of tension, only a different kind of tension.
Previously you wrote contemporary romance, right? Was it difficult to make this transition?
My first release was a WWII romantic suspense, my second a contemporary romantic suspense, and of course, Mistaken Identity was my first young adult romance. Making the transition wasn’t really all that hard. I read a few young adult books, hoping they’d help me find my young adult voice. I ran the first chapter by a writer friend who said it sounded young adult and then picked up from there. I did have to ask my step-daughter a few questions about high school since I’ve been out for so many years.
When marketing your novels, do you market a ya differently than an adult novel?
I really don’t market the young adult novels any differently. I’ve appeared on a lot of blogs and can only think of one that was young adult driven. I’ve had a lot of adults read the book and email me stating how much they enjoyed it. I’d say that it’s a sweet little read for young adults and the young at heart.
Tell us a little bit about your novel.
Eden Morgan makes a list of six goals to accomplish in order to have the best summer ever. Getting a boyfriend, which is perhaps the most important goal, becomes complicated when she and her best friend, Lexi, fall for the same guy. Since Lexi is popular, gorgeous, and always gets her guy, Eden thinks she doesn’t have a chance.Channing Johnson is everything Eden’s ever dreamed of and she can’t believe he just moved in next door. When he starts showing interest in her, she’s overjoyed…until she sees him out on a date with Lexi. He says Lexi talked him into it to repay her for tutoring him. Lexi says they’re in love.Eden doesn’t know who to believe and is forced to choose between her best friend and the guy of her dreams. Nothing is as it seems and no matter who she chooses, someone will get hurt.

What aspect of your novel do you believe will most resonate with your readers?
I hope that the takeaway is that there are consequences for every action, be it bad or good and that no matter what’s going on around you, living for Jesus is worth it.
K. Dawn Byrd is an author of inspirational romance and romantic suspense. Mistaken Identity, her first young adult romance released on June 15 from Desert Breeze Publishing. Queen of Hearts, a WWII romantic suspense released in April 2010 and was the bestselling book for her publisher during its debut month. Killing Time, a contemporary romantic suspense, released August 1, also with Desert Breeze Publishing.

K. Dawn Byrd is an avid blogger and gives away several books per week on her blog at www.kdawnbyrd.blogspot.com, most of which are signed by the authors. She’s also the moderator of the popular facebook Christian Fiction Gathering group at http://www.facebook.com/#!/group.php?gid=128209963444.

When not reading or writing, K. Dawn Byrd enjoys spending time with her husband of 16 years while walking their dogs beside a gorgeous lake near her home and plotting the next story waiting to be told.

Free critique to one lucky reader!

With two big conferences coming up, the ACFW conference in St. Louis and the CAG conference in Norcross Georgia, I want to help authors polish their first pages–the ones agents and editors are most likely to read during appointments. So, I’m giving away a free three-page critique to one reader per post. There are multiple ways to enter the drawing: leave a comment on any post now through the end of August, FB share or tweet this link, or repost this on your blog. Shoot me an email letting me know which of these you did. You can enter four times per post (with one entry for each method).

My questions for you: Every thought of writing for YA? What is it that intrigues you about this age? What is it that intimidates you? If you are a young adult author, how much time do you spend reading teen magazines?

Ever thought about writing dramas or movie scripts? Then join us next Tuesday as we chat with producer LaVonne McIver, founder of Favor Entertainment and host of Faith Films Forum.


About Jennifer Slattery

Novelist and speaker Jennifer Slattery, also writing as Jen Pheobus, uses humor, grace, and truth to inspire God's children to live abundant, Christ-centered lives. She does content editing for Firefly, a southern fiction imprint with Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, and is a regular contributor to Crosswalk.com; Internet Cafe Devotions; Faith, Friends and Chocolate; and manages the social media for Takin’ it to the Streets, a ministry that serves Omaha’s working poor and homeless. She’s placed in numerous writing contests and her work has appeared in numerous compilations, magazines, and e-zines.

Posted on August 9, 2011, in Marketing, writing, Young Adult and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Thanks so much for hosting me!

  2. I was at Barnes and Noble last year searching for a book with my teen son that he could do a christian school book report on. I was horrified at the amount of occultish, trashy stuff available. We need a generation of writers who are equipped to reach our youth….Praying that God raise them up. There are some excellent Christian writers out there already, I believe God is going to bring some to the forefront of this ministry (ya fiction) to reach the youth of today with life changing, God inspired literature!

  3. Letters, Lectures, Laughs with Love from Mama, you are so right! Young adults are at critical stages in their life–when they begin to take ownership of their faith, when they start to understand who they are and their place in the world, and when they begin to formulate their plans for their future. We do need more sound material to help them navigate their way through this crazy world, only they don’t respond well to lectures or sermons. This means, we need to find creative approaches that dive into their world authentically, without talking down to them or wagging our fingers at them.

    Just as importantly, when we find quality resources, we need to support the authors and artists so they have the funds to continue their ministry. And…money talks. Consumers determine the market. If we want to see YA inspirational novels thrive, we need to encourage book store owners to stock their shelves with them by making it profitable to do so.

  4. A writer friend of mine enjoyed Mistaken Identity so much that she encouraged me to write the sequel and tell bad girl Lexi’s story. It’s making the rounds in my brain right now, but I have several other projects to finish first.

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