Pub Rants

YA Is All About Asking The Right Qs

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STATUS: It’s time for sleep I think.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? LOVE SONG by Sara Bareilles

I didn’t start this blog week with the thought it was going to be an all Ally Carter litfest but it’s really turning out to be.

Maybe because I’ve got Ally on the brain. You see, I just finished reading the final copy-edited version of book 3 in the Gallagher Girl Series. Yes, it has a title but I don’t think that has been revealed as of yet so I’m not going to share.

This might sound odd but when an agent has a hugely successful author, one of our greatest fears is whether the author can live up to her previous books. For my part, there will always be a special place in my heart for LYKY because, of course, that book was the first. Kind of hard to top–especially when I think of the scene where Macey comes to the rescue in a golf cart. Truly, one of my favorite YA scenes of all time.

But then for book 2, there was the whole Josh versus Zach and it’s hard to top the dance scene.

And then there’s book 3 in the series. All I can say is that hands down, this is Ally’s best book. And I’m not just saying that because I’m the agent. It really is her best work. And just to be a tease, you might want to go out and rent Cary Grant’s North By Northwest. I’ll say no more.

But my blogs don’t tend to be pointless so why am I waxing poetic about Ally tonight? Because I was just over at her blog reading about the wrong questions aspiring young adult writers were asking at a recent conference Ally attended and I couldn’t help but think about my own YA workshop at Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers this past weekend. I, too, thought the attendees had good questions but ultimately they were asking the wrong questions. They were focused on the minutiae. How long should a YA novel be? What is and what is not allowed in novels for this audience? How do I write a novel that will be a bestseller? (And the truth is there is no way to answer that question—as I’ve discussed this week).

For me, aspiring writers often want the magic bullet point list—as in if they do XYZ, that will guarantee success.

I’m here to tell you that there is no magic list. Sorry to disappoint. But there are the right questions to ask. So go and find out what they are and what the difference really is between writing for adults versus young adults.


13 Responses

  1. AC said:

    Thanks a million for posting this! I’ve been struggling with these same questions and I can’t tell you what a help Carter’s (and your) advice was. Brilliant.

  2. Jeanie W said:

    Thanks for the post (and link). It seems like you could answer many of these questions yourself by reading widely in the genre (both the classics and the recently published), something you really ought to be doing if you intend to write in it. And why would you want to write in a genre if you don’t like it well enough to read in it extensively anyway?

  3. Anonymous said:

    Someday, I’m going to be ready to query an agent, and I pray that you’ll be representing whatever it is I write, because you have the best agent blog on the net. I have some of your entries favorited and have taken your advice so literally that I have now planned my NaNo novel to have the driving event happen before page 30.

    Thanks for posting this, it’s great information.


  4. Natalie Hatch said:

    Kirstin I need your help, yesterday I had a short conversation at a conference with a YA publisher, he asked what I wrote I told him YA fantasy and then I forgot to continue the pitch I got soo tongue tied because well I don’t know why. So how do I pick myself up from this? Can I send him a query and say ‘Oh by the way I’m the woman who forgot everything when she met you because I was totally in awe’?

  5. Anonymous said:

    Natalie Hatch —

    Kristin doesn’t usually answer questions from the comment section or anywhere else, actually. But if you want advice from an Anon who also writes YA, I’d say OF COURSE you should send him a query and say you were the girl that forgot everything. He’s only a person, too. What could it hurt?

  6. AstonWest said:

    This might sound odd but when an agent has a hugely successful author, one of our greatest fears is whether the author can live up to her previous books.

    Not so odd. As a writer, that was (and still is, I suppose) one of my greatest fears while writing my second and third books.

  7. Arovell said:

    Okay, I’ve decided to start keeping up with Ally Carter’s blog. She has so much to say, and she knows what she’s talking about! As a young adult reader myself, I applaud of her advice to YA authors. That’s saying something.

  8. BassmanC said:

    What is the thought of a YA that splits point of view between a thirteen year old boy and his father? The boy is the main character, but the father is a pretty close second. I spoke to an agent about it at a conference and she said because it had a boy as a main character, it was YA. Does that sound right?

  9. S.F.W. said:

    Terry Pratchett says (roughly) that the diference between writing for kids and for adults is that one group is able to handle big themes and indepth thought into the big questions, and then there’s writing for adults…

  10. Quill2006 said:

    A new Gallagher Girls novel? WHEEEE! I just bought LYKY after reading it from the library and loving it; it’s one of the few newer young adult novels (along with the sequel) that’s measured up to some of my favorites from my teen years. I’m a library science student and I’ve been recommending it to all my classmates.

    I can’t wait to see the next one.