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3 ACTUAL Reasons to Write YA

Yesterday I read a post that made me pretty angry. It listed the 7 reasons to write a YA novel, and reasons 1-7 pretty much boiled down to money and social media followers.

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The truth is, writing a book, and writing it well, is one of the hardest, fucking things you could ever do in your life. And while I understand this author was trying to take a light-hearted approach to the subject, it could be misleading for a new writer to read. Not to mention incredibly insulting to those of us who are working hard every day to make our writing the best it can be, and to get our books out into the hands of the young people who might need them. You know because we write for kids. Bustle, where the blog was posted is also geared towards women. The implication that we need facials, clothes and shoes as an incentive for anything also made me want to light my face on fire. So I decided to share my personal top 3 reasons for writing YA . I understand it’s different for everyone, and that’s cool. But if you’re doing it for the money and a new wardrobe, my advice is don’t hold your breath.

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For Young Adults: Yeah, YA isn’t short for “YAAAS Honey look at my shoes!” It’s short for young adult, because that’s who the novels are geared towards. Can adults read them, do they read them? Absolutely, YA is popular and there are some fantastic reads out there that can appeal to many ages. But the last thing on my mind when I write is that my peers will be reading what I write. I’m thinking about a 16 year old Latina who has never seen herself in a YA fantasy before (more on that later) or a young boy whose home life is so horrible that he needs to escape into a book, or just a kid who loves to read and is ready for their next great adventure. THAT is what gets my heart pumping, what makes me want to get out of bed and write all day every day. Not how much money I’m gonna get from their piggy banks.

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Because I can’t NOT write: I’ve always written – mostly poetry and lyrics when I was younger. As a journalism student and then local reporter I wrote articles and reviews, but you don’t have to be a life-long writer to write a YA novel. You just need to have something to write about that won’t let you rest. The story is always creeping in your head when you’re at a work meeting or not letting you sleep at 3AM. The story won’t let you stop thinking about it. You get excited every time you come up with a new sub-plot to introduce, and when you think of how much your readers will love/connect with and take away from the story. That’s when you keep writing. In other words when you have a story worth telling. Being an author is not a hobby for me, not something I’m doing because “…right now YA is white hot.” It’s my career. I have a full time job yes, but every day after work I go home and I write. I edit, and I cry and I complain and I work hard, and every time I think I’m done, I’m not, and I keep going. That is what it takes to be an author – not just a “computer and commitment” but an unrelenting will, skin thicker than Khaleesi’s dragons, a passion and a fire for words, for books and for the writing community. It also takes respect for all of those things I listed above.

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It takes an understanding that it’s not going to be easy. It’s supposed to be challenging and difficult. If you go into writing your first novel thinking of the movie deal and not any of the hard work, you’re gonna have a heaping serving of disappointment to look forward to instead of the red carpet.

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For Your Community: As a child of immigrants from the Dominican Republic, I can tell you first hand there aren’t many role models that younger people can relate to in our community. Just yesterday, a friend who is a teacher and whose students are predominately PoC, asked me to finish writing my book quickly. She asked if I would be able to donate books to her class because, “They don’t have anyone to really look up to.”

“They should look up to their teacher!” You say. Right, well tryย  telling that to any teen and get ready to be eye-rolled into space. Having positive role models for kids to look up to, that they can relate to, is so important. Having characters in books that they can see themselves in is so important. My main character is, like me, a second generation immigrant who sometimes speaks in Spanish and loves traditional Dominican cuisine (because fried cheese amirite?)

I know that if I had a book like that as a kid, I would be so happy, elated at seeing someone that was like me. That’s why I read The House on Mango Street seven million times. If I had an author who looked like me come to my school? From the same background or who grew up in the South Bronx like I did? I’d be fucking unstoppable. Influence like that early on is so special, it can be a life changing thing, and it’s something YA authors have the power to do.

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Young adult books are more than punchy chapters, and plot twists. They’re coming of age stories, stories of grief and loss, stories about being a kid and getting to know the world. There are enough disparaging opinions on the quality of writing in YA without more misinformation floating around about how easy it is to jump into the “trend”. As we’ve all been told time and time again, don’t write to trend. Don’t write for the money, don’t write for the social media followers or the movie deal and Carrie Bradshaw moment. Those things may never come. Write to tell your story. Write because you’re a writer. And if you need just one good reason to write YA, then write for the kids.

Tell me why you write why on Twitter using #WhyIWriteYA ! ๐Ÿ™‚

Follow me on Twitter here or click the picture below.

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Author:

Young adult fantasy author.

3 thoughts on “3 ACTUAL Reasons to Write YA

  1. I read the piece you mentioned and was rather dismayed by the cavalier manner in which the author presented the whole venture of writing a YA novel as a straightforward exercise that would lead to money, fame, and a movie deal. Perhaps for this woman it was pretty much thus, given that she already appears to have had connections in the writing/publishing industry — which means she doubtless didn’t face the onerous task of finding an agent (the essential first step to getting a traditional publishing contract and one of the most difficult to achieve).

    I’ve gone through the traditional journey of getting published, and I can tell you that for the majority of writers it is a long and difficult road. Sure there are people who have had instant success, who have been given huge publishing contracts worth six or seven figures based on their fan fiction or their blogs. But these are rare. About as rare as winning the jackpot of a major lottery.

    For most people, getting traditionally published will take a long time and entail a lot of disappointment. It will demand enormous patience, and at the end of it all, even if they do get published, for most writers it probably isn’t going to mean lots of fame and bags of money. In all likelihood, it will result in a modest advance, modest sales, and very little celebrity.

    Aspiring writers need to realize that publishing is a business, and that business has to make money. So however much you may love your book and your friends and family tell you it is fantastic, when it all comes down to it, it only matters what the agent and the publisher think. Most of the time you’re probably going to find that agents and publishers don’t agree with your assessment of your work. That doesn’t mean you should give up, but you need to be prepared for the long haul, and you need to be willing to reassess your work. If you can afford it, acquiring professional editorial input would doubtless help immensely.

    For anyone of a mind that self-publishing is the way to go, I should warn you that it is extraordinarily difficult to get anywhere going that route. You are in competition with millions of other writers clamoring for the attention of the same readers; it’s not easy getting noticed in such a vast ocean. There are a few success stories, of course, but they are notable for being the exception rather than the rule. For the most part, self-published authors can expect to sell a couple of hundred books at most (many sell far less than that). Moreover, self-publishing can be expensive if you want to do it right — which is to hire a professional editor (at least a couple of thousand dollars for that alone), cover designer, interior designer, proofreader, publicist, etc. Of course, you can forego all these and do it yourself, but don’t expect to sell much if you do. And expect to work long and hard doing things that have nothing to do with writing in order to achieve very little in return.

    I don’t want to discourage anyone from seeking a writing career. Far from it. But anyone thinking about it needs to know the honest truth: It is not easy. Writing the book is, in fact, perhaps the easiest part of it. Getting published, well, that’s a different story. There will doubtless be tears, depression, disappointments, and more than a few occasions when you’ll just think you’re never going to make it and want to give up. And the sad thing is, there is no guarantee you will ever succeed (at least as far as getting published traditionally goes). And even if you do get that first book published, there are no assurances there will be any more after that.

    So it’s best to go into this with your eyes wide open. Be positive, but be pragmatic. By all means set your goals high; I would never counsel doing otherwise. Only those who dare dream big ever achieve great things. But don’t be disappointed if things don’t work out the way they were laid out in “7 Reasons to Write a YA Novel.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for commenting Lindsay, all of your points are 150% true. Nothing is guaranteed when it comes to writing/publishing so doing it for the sake of money and fame is a terrible idea. The author of the original article is clearly connected, and writing her post without applying the benefits of those connections is misleading, especially the notion that self-publishing is a good path towards getting an agent. I’m pretty sure every single bit of agent advice I’ve ever read says not to self-publish a book you’re hoping to find agent rep for.

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      1. Right on, Claribel: If you’re a writer who is serious about getting a traditional publishing contract, avoid self-publishing. Consider it only as a last resort, and only after having thoroughly exhausted the traditional path. The reason is: If a writer self-publishes a book and that book flops, then it isn’t going to look good when approaching agents, who will almost certainly find out about it even if they aren’t told up front that it exists. Worse, still, never self-publish a book you intend to sell to traditional publishers, because the first thing the publisher is going to do is check the sales record of that book, and if it is anything but stellar, you can kiss any contract good-bye. (And just for the record, one or two hundred copies sold is not stellar.)

        I wish I could say that if your work is good, you’ll get an agent and shortly thereafter a publishing contract. Sadly, this isn’t true. There’s so much competition for agents out there that they’re simply overwhelmed by submissions. So in the end it does come down to a lot of luck. That said, if you give up too soon and self-published, you’re probably only cheating yourself.

        One thing I have learned, which I wish I’d known before I started, is that you should try to develop a positive Internet presence. Blogs. Social Media. Regular involvement in forums (particularly fan forums). Whatever means possible to create a following and a broad base of connections. That way, when you do get a traditional publishing deal, it will be much easier to promote your book. Although most publishers do marketing and PR for their authors, a writer is still expected to be involved in flogging the book. Obviously if you’ve established a footing with a wide circle of like-minded people, this is going to be much easier. They will likely not only buy your book, but also help you to promote it through word-of-mouth — which remains one of the most potent means by which to raise awareness of your work.

        As I said before: Writing the book is probably the easiest step in the journey; it’s all the stuff that comes after that can make or break you.

        Liked by 1 person

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