How to Write a Young Adult Novel: Really Useful Links by Lucy O’Callaghan | Resources | Essential Guides | Links for Writers
Lucy O'Callaghan

Lucy O’Callaghan

The standard of young adult (YA) novels is high and the competition is tough. Young adults will not hold back in telling you if your story doesn’t work. However, they are open-minded and excited to explore new places and worlds so if you can hook them in, they will tell everyone to read your story. I have put together some articles and podcasts to guide you in writing YA fiction.


Getting the point of view right is harder than it seems when it comes to writing YA novels. Not only do you need to consider first or third person, but also from what point in time is your narrator speaking? The perspective needs to be immediate. A teenage character can look back on his younger years, but he cannot have an adult’s wisdom gained from hindsight.

Sentence structure, vocabulary, and even plot structure can be more complex than a middle-grade novel but concentrate on finding the right voice in your first draft. You don’t need to shy away from sensitive subjects but don’t find an issue and create a story around it. It is about finding the right voice, the right character, and telling their story. This article also emphasises the importance of not trying to teach a lesson to your readers. Writers don’t need to answer questions, only raise them.


A story told by a teen narrator as they’re experiencing it or in the recent past, is a YA novel. The protagonist of your YA novel should ideally be between 14 and 18 years old. Focus on authenticity. The reader should be experiencing your teen protagonist’s world as she sees it in the moment, not with the wisdom and practised rhetoric of an adult looking back on teenage years. This is important in story development too. It must contain that clear ring of truth.

When it comes to characters, be careful not to stereotype. They must be well-rounded and relatable. In finding the right voice for your protagonist you must bear in mind what influences it. This article shares some great examples. Another important point from Reedy is not to choose your subject matter based on trends. Trends in YA are fickle and change quickly. Write the story you want to write, and then your passion and originality will come through.


10 tips from author R.L. Stine whom Masterclass refer to as the ‘Stephen King of children’s literature.’ The article discusses the characteristics of YA fiction and common genres and R.L. Stine shares essential tips to keep in mind, including, don’t worry about moral issues; books can have entertainment as their goal: everything for children does not have to be a moral lesson. The writer is competing with movies and technology in an unprecedented way, you need to hook your reader in. Hang out with kids as much as possible: your own, friends, and family. Children are smart and they can immediately sense if something they’re reading is out of touch. When it comes to YA, you want it to feel as real as possible. The reader has to believe that everything happening is real.


This article discusses 8 essential elements of YA with great examples from throughout the genre. Avoid common YA mistakes such as not understanding teenagers, pay attention to your audience, and don’t go over the reader’s heads or dumb things down too much. Publishers, editors, and agents are looking for stories that will translate well onto the big and small screen as well as stories that cover diversity in all its forms.


In this detailed guide to writing YA, the writer is advised to put young adults into challenging situations. Remember that teens are adaptable and open-minded. Stay inclusive; many young adults are strongly invested in social justice and the industry champions diverse voices. Avoid or reinvent overused YA cliches such as the protagonist being the chosen one, an orphan, or being caught in a love triangle. There are exceptions to every rule and if you can reinvent a cliche more power to you. YA readers tend to want a breezy, casual yet intimate manner of narration. Using first person POV, present tense, chatty, and heavy on dialogue helps with this. Learning what YA readers want is important to your writing. Read often and widely within the category and subgenres.


A quick start guide to writing YA fiction is shared here from Writers Write. The writer must study the genre, identify the tropes, and find new imaginative ways to use it and to move away from cliche. It’s a fine line: readers like the familiarity of the genre, but love unexpected characters and storylines, and absolutely adore a good surprise. It discusses some familiar devices in YA that will get you started.



From great new books to favourite classic reads, from news to the latest in on-screen adaptations, the Hey YA podcast is here to elevate the exciting world of young adult lit.


Follow this podcast, act ya age, to dive into young adult books and series in order to unpack the universal appeal of the genre that transcends age and gender barriers.


This is an Irish YA book review podcast called Forever Young Adult Podcast. Aífe and Ciara are two young-ish adults who read and discuss Young Adult fiction, Emerging Adult fiction, Coming of Age fiction, and all that jazz! They focus on Irish writers and LGBTQ writers.

Research and knowing what interests young adults and what makes them tick is definitely the key when it comes to writing young adult fiction, and reading widely in the sub-genres is a great start. I hope you have found this week’s column useful. As always, please get in touch if there is anything you would like me to cover.

(c) Lucy O’Callaghan

Instagram: lucy.ocallaghan.31.

Facebook: @LucyCOCallaghan

Twitter: @LucyCOCallaghan

About the author

Writing since she was a child, Lucy penned her first story with her father called Arthur’s Arm, at the ripe old age of eight. She has been writing ever since. Inspired by her father’s love of the written word and her mother’s encouragement through a constant supply of wonderful stationary, she wrote short stories for her young children, which they subsequently illustrated.
A self-confessed people watcher, stories that happen to real people have always fascinated her and this motivated her move to writing contemporary women’s fiction. Her writing has been described as pacy, human, moving and very real.
Lucy has been part of a local writing group for over ten years and has taken creative writing classes with Paul McVeigh, Jamie O’Connell and Curtis Brown Creative. She truly found her tribe when she joined Writer’s Ink in May 2020. Experienced in beta reading and critiquing, she is currently editing and polishing her debut novel.
Follow her on Instagram: lucy.ocallaghan.31. Facebook and Twitter: @LucyCOCallaghan

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