After finishing my YA historical, I had the pleasure of digging around in my desk of goodies, (book ideas, partially filled notebooks w/ characters, short stories, etc.) and selecting my next wip.
It was like being five again and plopped down in the middle of a candy store! Forget getting my mind off of writing and doing something fun, give me something else to write! I went with an idea that had been brewing for about a month, instead of using anything already started in my files.
I thought it might be interesting to kick around a few topics, themes, and subjects hot in the YA / MG genres. Sometimes fellow writers need ideas to get the engine humming.
Here are a few to start:
-Paranormal (anything other than vampires...maybe ghosts, fun & scary)
-Edgy subjects i.e. shoplifting, drug / drinking issues, peer pressure
-Thriller sleuth mysteries, suspense
Anyone else have good ideas?
Caroline, I agree, an excellent, well-developed character can drive almost any kind of story. A great character, one that the reader loves and admires, and one that'll hold the reader's interest is crucial to the story. Good point!
Congrats with your future release!!!
I recently spoke with a newly published author who also works as a high school librarian (James Klise of the wonderful "Love Drugged," a quirky and witty story about a gay teen trying to turn himself straight). He mentioned how libraries buy a lot of books and they aren't always the ones featured at Borders; they look for a variety of subjects, in in particular, YA stories with male protagonists (since the market is currently flooded with girl heroines (not a bad problem to have, I think!)), a diverse cast of characters, books about another culture woven into a contemporary theme, and issue-related books. He also said he has students specifically request books written in 1st person because they can relate more easily. I guess there's a reason so much YA is written in 1st person; teens like it and it gives them a sense of urgency.
I would say anything that gets beyond the cliche: girl moves to a new town, discovers latent supernatural powers/ falls for boy with supernatural powers. I don't go so much for edgy, but funny. Something that can take a genre and turn it on its head, or do something clever with a standard premise. I have insane love for John Green ("Paper Towns", "Looking for Alaska") who writes contemporary books with no weird mystical powers. He writes the best supporting characters, and I mark every 3 pages or so because I'm laughing at a great or clever line. If I could emulate what he does I would!
Stephanie, I haven't heard of John Green, I'll look him up. I love clever and humorous too. I'm in the beginning of Libba Bray's Going Bovine, which I'm finding quirky. Way more foul language I'd ever have the nerve to include in a YA, but it's working for her!
My current wip was supposed to be MG, but is evolving into YA, with a 16 year old male protag. I recently started playing with a secondary female character's voice, too. My niece suggested it would "be beast" if I told the story from both points of view, in first person. One chap from him, the next from her...
I'm not sure how this will pan out, we'll see.
She and my youngest daughter, 13, also said that MG male readers, do not want to read about romance. Does anyone find this to be true???
MG readers love learning things about things. How the world works, animals, and interesting bits of history are some places to start. The steampunk genre would be awesome for an MG novel. Think epic, fun. Maybe a crankin' hot air balloon ship. And weird, exotic places (as a kid, I loved adventure stories, esp. Pippi Longstocking, Dr. Dolittle, that kind of stuff).
I'm trying to write an historical novel about racism in the school system in the 1840s in Ontario, but not getting too far with it (I don't have the time to research every detail that will bring the story to life)... I read that the black kids weren't allowed to be at the same schools as the white kids because of "dangers" to the white kids. Um, what danger does a 9 year old pose? And there was a white lady from Maine who went to Ontario and built a school for black girls. The feminist in me thinks "Wow," then I read her mission statement: to teach them cleaning, sewing, and how to run a household, because they couldn't have learned it while their parents were out working the fields all day. Doh!
YA...Seriously, lay off the romantic BS for a while and show us some of the other things kids have to deal with. Teenagers also love music, all kinds of music. I'm currently writing a story about a girl who writes for a zine, and I'm revisiting my heady days of the "indie" punk scene, which was SOOOO much fun. But that kind of stuff dates itself VERY quickly. For example, a couple of the stories in the reader for my Lit course has kids (the drama kids) listening to Celine Dion; I read that and I was like "Uh, what self-respecting teenager listens to Celine Dion?" Like, EVER. Maybe under torture. Or as torture.
Anyway, today's readers have a short attention span and one hell of a lot of contenders for it. Action action action, great characters, snappy dialogue!! Ghost stories sound cool. Good luck!
Hee hee! Thanks, Candy. I'm taking a course in Novel-writing for Children/Teens, and the novel I'm writing is in first-person (switches between present and past tense, which creates a sort of "unreliable narrator."). My instructor called me on grammatical errors, and the use of "then" as a sub-clause in a sentence...I struggle between correct grammar and trying to be as true as possible to the way people speak. If it were 3rd person, past tense, I'd be a LOT stickier about it, but because I approach it as the character talking to a close friend, I try to maintain the immediacy and intimacy of the character's thoughts. It comes out when I comment sometimes, too. :)
One example, the protag in my first-completed but second-written YA novel has a sprained wrist, but he writes a song about being assaulted. He says something like "There's no way I could of wrote it by hand." This is awful grammar, but the words shape the thoughts, which shape the way he speaks. It's deliberate. :)
I am in the process of writing a YA, it a thriller and in it is shoplifing and peer pressure (although they aren't that related in the story - two different subplots if that makes sense). The book is called Transferred Intent. It has two MCs and I think I mentioned this over in the Query 2 group the POV switches between chapters. It is a very exciting way to write, hopefully it will read the same.
I have also outlined a 2nd ya which is about the forster care system - It's called Aging Out.
Everything I write is a mystery with a legal twist.
I am so happy that I looked around to find a new group to join. You guys seem like a great bunch!
Welcome, Michelle! We try to be a great bunch, that's for sure. Most of us have busy, busy day jobs, but I know most of us try to get on as much as possible and check in.
I've read the premise of Transferred Intent, and I've said in the other group, I think it's a super idea! I wish you the best in finishing. :)
I think there is a market for both. Just write the one that you have in you.
Try not to focus on writing what the trends dictate. Trends can change like the wind. Write what you want. Edgy is great! Teens everywhere want to read novels that move them. Novels they can relate to. Paranormal is fun, I'll give it that. I love it myself. :)) With that being said, I also know YA readers need to identify with the characters, conflicts, issues.
Write your story. If it's authentic, they'll read it. :)
One of my daughter's favorite books is Almost Perfect. It's a book about trans-gender issues. She was glued to the pages, and cried when it ended.
Also remember that publishing is a long process. What's trendy right now won't be in several years, when your story sees print! :)
As for "Issue" stories...Teens are savvy and smarmy, and they cover up a great deal of vulnerability. I'm not a big fan of "Issues" either as a reader or a writer, because the characters stop being important. I think that whatever hard stuff the characters are going through should always take a back seat to who they are and how they deal with it. Issue stories automatically create a "side," and I don't think that's fair to the characters.
The best thing to do, honestly, is read the market. Read every YA book you find at the library. See how other writers deal with the heavy stuff--I've always found it was in the background, if that makes sense, and often very delicately handled.