Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth asked Hannah Allen Abbott:

How is writing for young adults different from writing for grown ups?

Hannah Allen Abbott When I met Tammy Pierce in about 1983, she was revising "The Song of the Lioness" for the young adult market. She talked about the challenge of conforming to the word count, the fourth-grade vocabulary, and sentences of a certain length. Nearly fifteen years later, J.K. Rowling blew that all away with her Harry Potter series.

For me, writing for young adults vs old adults is a matter of content. I've only written one book so far that isn't suitable for young adults, and the difference pretty much boils down to the sexual content. For young readers, I write romantic relationships, physical attraction, even lovemaking, but not actual sex. In my three published books (the erotic one isn't published yet), all the lovemaking occurs in the context of marriage (which isn't true of a lot of YA). I have read all my finished books except for the erotic one to my children. I figure if I can read it to my ten-year-old daughter, it's suitable for young adult.

I don't believe in writing down to young readers. I don't avoid big words, just obscure ones that wouldn't be clear in context. I put in as much detail as the story seems to call for, and try not to get bogged down in descriptive material. But I don't tailor my stories for young or old readers either way. I just write fantasy. I'd like to think that if my story is engaging for a 14-y-o, it will also be engaging for a 40-y-o. In fact, most of my readers are at least 40, yet my few young readers love my books.

I don't write for readers much below the age of 13. I think that really does take a different approach just because so many of them are still developing their fluency, vocabulary, and stamina. For an example of good youth literature, in what I think would be called the chapter book category, I'd refer you to most of Andrew Clements's books. Somehow all my stories are too big for that medium. :-)

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