How to Avoid Major YA Errors

I’ve been reading people’s work on wattpad lately. It’s a mixed bag. Mostly I enjoy reading new work, and socializing with fellow writers and readers, but over the last week I’ve been reminded of the things that drive me nuts about a lot of Young Adult fiction from Twilight to Maze Runner and back again. I’ve been inspired to write a small guide – or maybe it’s just a rant. You decide.

Here goes:

How to avoid major YA errors:

  • Stop with the squealing already!

Believe it or not, I was a teenage girl once, and *gasp* I did not squeal. In fact, I have worked in a volunteer capacity with teens for many years and on only one occasion (6th graders in California) did I hear girls squeal. Now maybe that’s because I suck all the happy out of the room. That’s possible. More likely it’s because teenage girls are not as vapid as YA authors make them out to be.

  • Could we try for a little equality?

If I read one more teen romance where the girl is some little nobody whose only good points are an ability to resist the leading man’s charms or the ability to run her mouth like a politician, I’m  going to squeal. Could we try for a little equality? Did you know that love between equals is ok? Actually better, really. Plus, this way your feminist mom who went to all that work burning her bras back in the 60’s won’t have to lie about what you do to her online poker friends.

  • Geez People- Consent. Consent. Consent.

I’m actually not really kidding here. I just read yet another YA romance involving sexual contact without consent between the leading man and lady – actually it was sexual contact after the man said “no” twice. Just FYI people – that’s sexual assault. Please stop promoting it and making it “sexy” in your YA novels. Young people are still learning how to treat each other with respect. Unless you are actually trying to describe something that’s wrong or possibly traumatizing, I’d stay clear from depicting sex without consent. Especially from depicting it as a good thing. Please think with your heads, people. It’s what they’re there for.

  • No society is going to trust teens to do everything – sorry.

I’m 34. Currently I don’t let teens babysit my kids. Fly my starships? Unlikely. Fill every single position of authority? Ummm…did I tell you I don’t trust them to babysit? I mean we all say that government couldn’t get any worse but it could…can you say Government Class? My U.S. Government Class was half full of girls doing their nails and guys trying to hit on the substitute teacher. Not exactly world-running material. I totally get that YA novels are more interesting if some of the characters in high position are teens, but could you involve some adults, too, for at least a hint of realism? You do know that we don’t all die of old age at 25, right?

  • Just because it’s exciting doesn’t mean it’s integral to the plot.

Oh, yeah. This is worth noting. A lot of YA writers substitute action for plot. I’ve done it myself. It’s kind of a shabby stunt to pull. It means you were too lazy to do the rewrites involved to spice up your work so you just added more action.

  • Sterotypes suck – and I’m not talking about vampires (although they count).

There are so many stories about girls and their quirky friends, and the friends always seem to be the dame three people recycled to infinity – they are also often minorities. Have you ever noticed that it really sucks to be a minority in YA Fiction? The best you can hope for is to be a really awesome bad guy or to be the best friend of a cool white hero/heroine. Yikes!

  • Try an online editor to catch the worst of your errors.

Autocrit. Prowritingaid. Try them.

  • Feedback and rewrites are your friends – even if they don’t feel like it.

Listen, I know rewrites are hell. I know. You can produce three new rough drafts in the time it takes to do a thorough re-write and edit of your novel. Please realize this, though – your novel will always read like a rough draft if you don’t do this. I’ve recently read quite a few novels that read like rough drafts. I can see clearly where they should have been cut and polished, but for some reason the author self-published them without bothering to do the work. The comments on Amazon show that readers notice and are not amused. Take warning. Don’t let this be you.

And in that vein – you do realize that anyone who offers you a critique is your friend, right? It’s better to be momentarily embarrassed when someone points out your error than to be embarrassed for all time when it’s left on the page for all to read.

  • Multi-dimensional characters…who needs them?

Or at least, that’s what I envisioned some authors saying as they cranked out “bad” characters who do nothing but “bad” things and “good” characters who are always kind and supportive and “there for you.”

  • Try not to let your YA romance read like a season of The Bachelorette.

Enough said. By the way, have you noticed that love triangles are the bread and butter of the YA world? Who are these lucky girls that inspire soul-sacrificing devotion from not one, but two unbelievably gorgeous and talented men? Are they all basically Taylor Swift? And yet somehow, despite being so amazing that every man within a mile is head over heels for them, they can never seem to solve their own problems. Again, you’re feminist mom is crying into her eco-friendly organic cotton hankie right now because she can’t bear to tell her friends that you are immortalizing a view of women as helpless objects requiring rescue by men. (See, there’s some of that helpful critiquing. You’re welcome!)

And now back to writing my own next novel. I wonder if I can fit a love triangle in there somewhere?


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