How to Write Books for Teens Without Sounding like a Grown Up

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: millions of copies sold. The Twilight Saga: millions of copies sold. Divergent: millions of copies sold.

If the above teen-focused book franchises are of any indication, there is no shortage of demand when it comes to the writing for teens niche. That reality has led many authors to try and crack the teen code and pen the next best selling middle school/high school targeted novel.

The majority of those authors will fail.

While not meeting your goals when writing a novel can occur for a variety of reasons, one of the most apparent ones we see with teen novels is that writers sound too much like adults and don’t connect with their audience.

To help you not fall into that trap, below, our team has compiled some writing for teens tips that will help you get your ideas across without sounding like a grown-up.

1. Never Talk Down

Teenagers get enough lectures in their lives.

They get them from their parents. They get them from teachers. They get them from friends who think they’re more worldly than they are.

Believe us when we say that your teen readers are not going to want to buy a book that just feels like another lecture.

Never talk down to your readers. Never let your writing feel too preachy.

Be respectful of where your readers are at in their lives and don’t write with the intention of teaching them heavy-handed lessons.

2. Stay in Touch with Reality

Many books for teens feature teens. Makes sense.

However, some of those books fail because the teenagers that appear in the pages are nothing like teens today.

There’s a big difference between who you were as a teenager and who the average teenager is in modern times. Take the time to do your research so you can write characters modern readers can identify with and not come off a writer who just doesn’t get it.

3. Create Dialogue That Makes Sense

Teenagers don’t live adult lives. Therefore, the observations they make in reaction to things will not be the same as the observations you make.

For example, a teenager wouldn’t look at a rainy day and say, “Running errands is going to be difficult today.” They’d more likely make reference to their parents not letting them drive in this weather or not being able to play sports since fields are flooded, etc.

Really challenge the dialogue you create to honestly reflect the mindset of a teen and you’ll find that your writing for teens journey will be a lot more successful.

4. Don’t Forget About School

There are a few key elements that make up a teenager’s life. School is usually one of the biggest ones (if not the biggest).

Because of that, school is often a crucial part of the plot, or used as a backdrop when adventure takes place outside of it in countless stories.

While it’s not necessary to include, we must be considerate of the fact that many readers’ lives revolve around the middle school and high school experience.

5. Don’t Forget About Parents

Another one of the key elements that make up a teenager’s life is parents.

Love, conflict, disappointment, and even hate are all emotions teenagers feel towards their guardians on a regular basis. Channel that reality into your storytelling.

Also, don’t be afraid to really invest yourself in creating a character for your parent. A lot of young adult books just tack parents into the picture to make scenes seem more real.

Remember, adults are characters too. They have feelings sometimes every bit as strong as a teenager’s. Make those feelings apparent without making them overly preachy or having the story side with them too heavily.

You’ll find that doing so will make your teenage audience think and will make your story more authentic.

6. Don’t Forget that Teenagers are Smart

Some authors think that writing for teens means getting off the hook when it comes to having plot points that make sense. Not so.

Teens still fully appreciate characters that make logical decisions and run into logical consequences. They expect that events will happen as a result of one another instead of just reading sloppily tacked on plot points.

Don’t make your storytelling convenient and expect teens to appreciate your writing. Teens are a critical audience and you’ll need to bring your A-game to succeed with them.

7. Always Stay Sensitive

There’s a very real chance that the drama you bake into your story, from deaths to emotional issues to abnormalities, are things at least one of your readers have struggled with in real life. Because of that, you’ll want to approach conflicts in your writing earnestly and sensitively.

Never assume that you’re an expert on something because you’re an adult. Research the problems you unpack in your book. Make sure they’re handled in a way that’s authentic.

That way, you’ll never undermine someone’s genuine experience with the struggles your characters are going through.

Wrapping Up Writing for Teens Without Sounding like an Adult

Writing for teens almost always tends to be a greater struggle than most adult authors bargain for.

We recommend taking to heart our tips above if you want your novel to be a cut above the rest. Never talk down to your audience, always strive for authenticity, and really work to make your world relatable to the lives of your readers.

Do that and you’ll find your chances of success will go up astronomically.

There’s nothing quite like a good book to stoke one’s imagination and help somebody through a difficult time. That’s why it’s important to continue pushing young people, particularly young boys, to pick up books by reminding them of the value reading can bring to their lives.

Learn more about our mission to sustain people’s appetites for reading or submit your teen-focused manuscript to us today!

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