Friday, January 8, 2010

getting that teen lexicon

Do you write novels for Young Adults? I haven't tried writing for that age group yet because getting that "teen voice" can be really difficult without sounding cliche. But if I did write for teens, I'd be posting my manuscript on Inkpop. Created by HarperCollins, Inkpop is an online community that connects up-and-coming authors with talent scouts and publishers in the teen market, and once a month, editors at HarperCollins read the most popular submissions (voted on by Inkpop users) to look for the next big thing in YA books. It's sort of like a petri-dish of teen interests and ideas, and a great resource if you ask me, for writers and publishers to utilize for trend-watching. I clicked around the site and I was pretty impressed with the ideas and the quality of work on there, especially coming from such young people. And as far as I could tell, there is no age limit for writers who want to post their own stories; you only have to be over 13 to use the site.

Some authors have a real knack for nailing the teen lexicon - Meg Cabot, Megan McCafferty, Wendelin van name a couple - and they make it seem so effortless! If the equivalent of the Academy Awards existed for writers - Best Teen Voice, Best Teen Antagonist, Funniest Teen Protagonist, etc. - these writers would win them. So just how do they do it? Maybe it just comes naturally for them? I wish I knew! But for those of you who it doesn't, I've heard some advice from other writers like go to a cafe where kids hang out after school and observe them. I agree that that could be useful, but do it too much and you could get a reputation for being that creepy guy or lady always eavesdropping in the corner. So why not do some of your eavesdropping unobtrusively by visiting online communities? Tangst (teen+angst) is another online community created by teens for teens, where kids can go and comment anonymously, vent their frustrations and share their angst - sort of like an online diary, if you will. Read through some of the posts, and you'll get a fresh reminder of all of the raw emotions kids go through which can make you both more compassionate for the teens in your life, and help to guide your writing voice.

On a side-note, I think it's pretty cool how technology has helped bring people with common interests, issues and concerns together. So if you write YA, what do you do or what resources do you use to get in touch with your inner teenager?

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