My 14-Step Process to Writing a Great YA Novel (Or Writing While Parenting Part Four)

YALLFest, Charleston’s young adult book festival, is November 9, and it’s loaded with a long list of top YA authors (including Lev Grossman). And if that’s not enough incentive to get you down there, guess who else will be there? Me.

Even better, unlike those other famous people who are making you wait and show up, I’m going to go ahead and give you my proprietary multi-step process for writing a YA book right now and you don’t even have to leave your desk. I win.

  1. Have a kid. Kids give you an excuse to read young adult fiction aloud every night and to speak proudly about it in mixed company. “I’m reading ‘Harry Potter’ to my kids at bedtime” is SO much more socially acceptable than “I LOVE ‘Twilight!’ I read it over and over again because I love it so much. Don’t you?”
  2. On second thought, don’t have kids just for that. Kids are work. Much easier to just grow a thick skin and love what you love. You can call it “research” if it makes you happier.
  3. If you do have a kid, raise him free range*, and un-school, so you don’t squash any of his native genius.
  4. Or whatever. It’s up to you. But if you do free range and un-school I guarantee your kids will blow you away every day. They might anyway. I wouldn’t know.
  5. Wait till they’re older. If you start thinking about writing while your kids are still little, don’t worry–they’ll squash that right out of you.
  6. When your child reaches the rough age of the character(s) in your planned book, begin writing. Assuming your characters are at least 9 years of age, this corresponds neatly to the approximate time when you start to feel human again after having a baby.
  7. When you get to a tough spot, interview your kid. Spend lots of time on this and record the sessions. Take notes, too. Pay close attention. Ask lots of questions and answer all of theirs.
  8. Be wowed when the boring chapter about waiting for something to happen becomes the interesting chapter about building a viable home out of scraps of tanned skin, a water bucket, and an over-sized plastic bench.
  9. Interview other kids too when you get a chance. By this time, if you’ve done it right, most of the kids in your town will be hanging out at your house anyway, because you’re the free range house and maybe you have Minecraft and enough computers to go around too.
  10. Read some YA.
  11. Write every day.
  12. Listen to your characters.
  13. Listen to your kids.
  14. Repeat. Start with step 7 though, because raising a new kid for each set of revisions on your novel is probably a bit overboard.
Writing with Eli

Writing with Eli

P.S. I don’t love Twilight. I feel like I should actually say that because I said “love what you love” and Twilight is not one of those things. I do think it’s well-written for what it is, though, and I have in fact read the entire series. And she made a lot of money on it, so there’s that.

P.P.S. There are a few other entries about writing while parenting. I called them “part one” “part two” etc. even though they’re only loosely connected. You can read them if you want: Part One, Part Two, Part Three.