Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Y is for Young Adult Writing, Featuring Marilee Brothers

Although I don't have a keeper book starting with the letter "Y", I do have a special surprise: a guest blogger specializing in Y is for Young Adult! And her new book (which is definitely on my keeper shelf), Baby Gone Bye,  does have two Y's in the title. So all round I feel pretty lucky (more Y's) to have Marilee Brothers visiting today. Yay Marilee!

The author of eight books, Marilee Brothers is a former teacher, coach and counselor. She and her husband are the parents of three grown sons and live in central Washington State. After writing six young adult books, Marilee is currently hard at work, writing an adult romantic suspense.

Her most recent young adult title, Baby Gone Bye, is a keeper for many reasons: I love the story, I enjoy Marilee's writing style, and I think it's an excellent go-to book for staying up-to-date with modern YA writing. I gave the book 5 stars in my Amazon.com review, which you can read on the book's Amazon listing page.

For today's post I asked Marilee if she could share some of her top tips for writing for the YA market. Here's what she had to say:

1. Read, read, read. When I was young, there was no such thing as young adult fiction. The only books available to me featured prissy little girls in white pinafores. Therefore, I had to sneak-read my parents’ books and grew up with the fantastic Travis McGee series by John D. MacDonald and books like The Flame and the Flower by Kathleen Woodiwiss, very likely the first sexy romance novel ever published. 

2. Watch TV shows and movies that feature teenagers. Eavesdrop when you’re in the mall or other teen hangouts. But, be careful when using current slang. It will probably be obsolete by the time your book is published. 

3. Write in a genuine voice because kids can detect a phony faster than I can write this sentence. 

4. Don’t get preachy. If you have a message, make sure it’s an integral part of the story, woven intricately throughout the plot. You may not even know you have a theme until after the book is written. This happened to me. I wrote five books in the Unbidden Magic series and didn’t realize until Book 3, Moon Spun, that I had recurring themes, namely Allie’s search for her genetic roots and the desire to find something larger than herself to believe in. 

5. If you’re writing for young teens, bear in mind you are also writing for their mothers. Moonstone, the first book in my series, featured 15-year-old Allie Emerson. She lived in a rural part of Washington State with her young, single mom. She’d never had a boyfriend until she connected with reformed gangbanger, Junior Martinez. When the book came out, I didn’t hear from the young readers. I heard from their mothers who read the book before passing it on to their kids. The message was, “Thanks for writing a book without vampires and sex.” This surprised me. 

6. Make ‘em laugh. Your plot may be deadly serious. Your protagonist may be in fear for his/her young life. Your characters may be in mortal danger but that doesn’t mean you can’t throw in a dash of humor. Often, the funny stuff is what your reader will remember about your book. For example, I’ve read all of Sue Grafton’s alphabet mysteries featuring her private detective Kinsey Milhone. I’ve forgotten most of the plots, but I’ll never forget her description of Kinsey sneaking into a house via the doggy door and then meeting the actual dog. Laughed my butt off! 

7. Don’t write to a trend. Vampires. Dystopian. Shape shifters. Sorcery. They have all been done to death. Maybe you have a fresh new perspective. If so, go for it, but bear in mind, agents and editors may be sick of these overdone genres. As stated before, write from the heart. Make your story fascinating, original and unputadownable. Is that a word? 

8. Here's an exercise guaranteed to put you in a YA frame of mind: harken back to your teen years and pick an age when you were alternatively miserable and euphoric. For me, it was age 14 going on 15, which is why I made Allie Emerson that age at the beginning of my series. Think of an incident that made you miserable. Try to remember how truly awful you felt and write about it. Then, do the opposite. Pick something that sent you over the moon with happiness and write it down. Tap into your inner teen and you will find the age of your protagonist. I promise you it will work. 

Last bit of advice: Write. Write. Write. Exercise that writing muscle! It gets lazy if we let it. Not only does it get lazy, doubts begin to set in. I recently finished a contract with my publisher. After writing a book a year for six years, I took some time off. Big mistake. The longer I waited to start something new, the more I began to wonder if I still had the juice. I know. It makes no sense. So, after a serious talk to myself, I began writing again. And, guess what? The act of writing woke up my lazy brain. The ideas began to flow and all is right in my world. 

Thank you so much, Marilee! Great advice which I certainly will be taking to heart for my next YA project. Wishing you the very best for continued success.

P.S. Marilee loves hearing from people who have read her books. Feel free to contact her at www.marileebrothers.com. Thanks again--and see you all tomorrow with the letter Z (and the end of the challenge!).

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