Society & Culture

Writing Tips For Your First YA Novel

As a person dreaming of becoming a YA novelist, you’re so excited about the genre. You love the idea of connecting to younger people and finding a way to teach them lessons through the medium of fiction. You dream of being featured in magazines like Poets & Writers, the same way that Peter Lowy was featured in, and you can’t wait to be interviewed by the authors you admire. But before all this happens, the first thing you need to do is write your novel. Whether you imagine yourself writing something like The Hunger Games or Catcher in the Rye, the options are endless. But once you’ve decided, there are more challenges along the way, like facing daily word counts and not feeling down when you’ve lost inspiration.

Luckily, there are some great strategies you can use to stay motivated. It’s all about remembering, at the end of the day, why you started writing: because you love doing it. So if you’re ready to embark on this adventure, read on.

1 Read your favorite authors–and then find more

The fact is, all art comes from inspiration. And the people who taught us what we love about writing–whether that’s a certain turn of phrase or strategies for illustrating characters–are the writers we’ve read. So even before you start writing, read your favorite authors. They’ll remind you why you’ve become a writer in the first place, and you can learn from imitating the elements you admire most.

Once you’ve done that, you’ll want to learn from other writers, too. Think about what your greatest challenges are. Do you have trouble planning out the plot of your books, or does your dialogue seem unnatural? Whatever your weaknesses might be, improve your skills by learning from authors who do it right. If you aren’t sure where to start, check out The Ultimate YA Bookshelf. Considering that books sales were rising in the first half of 2017, reading the right authors is the very beginning to succeeding in the long run.

2 Create a writing plan

Next, you have to decide how you’re going to approach your novel. Because it’s your first time, you might not be entirely sure how to do it, but planning is going to help you stay motivated. One good idea is to give yourself an entire year to write the first draft, and take a week off every month as a kind of mental vacation. If you want to get out as much writing as possible, and you think you can handle it, you can always do something intensive like NaNoWriMo, where you and other writers in the country spend the month of November writing an entire first draft.

Remember to schedule in your writing days into a calendar. This will hold you accountable to your schedule. However, if you miss a day–whether it’s because you’re too busy at work or you aren’t feeling inspired–don’t be too hard on yourself. It happens to all writers. More than 500 million Harry Potter books have now been sold worldwide as of February 2018, but J.K. Rowling had plenty of times when she doubted herself.

3 Design a writing ritual

Once you’ve created a general schedule, you need a writing ritual that you use every day. For some writers, it’s going for a run or walk before sitting down at their desk. For others, it’s listening to a playlist they’ve designed on Spotify (which is no surprise, considering this app has 70 million paying subscribers) or sitting down at the same seat at the same café every morning before work.

Additionally, it can be a great idea to meet up with a writing partner each time. This can keep you motivated together. And if you want, you can also join a local writing group, where you critique each other’s’ work over time. If you’re especially serious, think about joining an MFA program in creative writing. Many of them are affordable. For example, West Virginia University is fully funded and offers an additional stipend of $15,650 a year.

According to writer Jennifer Ellis, an MFA can be a great idea for the right reasons. She explains that many of the things you’ll get include: learning craft, making connections with other writers, have time dedicated to focus on your writing, having the potential to become famous or up and coming (because you’re taken more seriously in the industry), you can make connections with agents and job opportunities, and more.

These are some of the best ways to get started on your first YA novel. And remember the most important rule of all: don’t give up! Tenacity is the most important skill a writer has to have to succeed in the literary world.

Why have you decided to write a YA novel? What writers inspire you?

If you have any questions, please ask below!