Professional book editor in the UK lists the 3 most important dos and don'ts when writing romance in your young adult novel!
YA romance has the unique opportunity to tell a story that can reach your heart and make you believe in the true power of love. However, when you're attempting to write it, it's not as easy as it looks.
Your story needs to have a plotline that feels real to your audience and keeps them engaged, so you must avoid the cringe and common mistakes that can take a great idea and turn it into a flop.
Have I got your attention?
If so, here is a list of dos and don’ts for writing YA romance.
1. DON’T Make Your Teenage Characters Speak Like Adults
If you have children, you'll know this is true.
Many authors make the mistake of making their seventeen-year-old protagonist sound like an eighty-year-old grandmother, but it's not relatable.
If your target audience is teenagers, you need to go deeper and learn how they speak in their daily lives. This doesn't mean you should have to know everything about the latest slang. If you do that, your book may read like you're trying too hard, and it gets annoying when people read it.
But it does mean that you have to write your protagonist in a way that feels real to the people reading it. That much is crucial!
For example, if your main character is a teenager in the nineties, there’s a high chance that they won’t be using seventy or eighties slang. Another example would be a medieval setting. People in ancient times had an entirely different way of speaking and thinking. But you don’t have to make their language sound modern to have a story that grabs people’s attention.
Related Post: How to Get Historical Dialogue Accurate in Your Novel (coming soon!)
2. DO Avoid the Cringe
You’ve probably read a gripping YA book before that you absolutely loved, but then there was a scene that had so much cringe that it immediately ruined the novel for you.
Another problem you've probably run into is clichés that can take you completely out of the story. You don't like reading about cringey clichés, so you should avoid writing them as well.
A cliched character isn't original, and so they’re only doing things that have been done a thousand times before, which it's nothing new or exciting. The characters don't push the story. Instead, they can bring the idea to a screeching halt.
Cringe in romance essentially does the same thing.
Being in love is lovely, and teenagers can be over the top, but there’s a way to write their love story that’s engaging instead of making the audience roll their eyes and wonder if your starry-eyed love interest is from another planet. Consequently, the best way to make sure that this doesn't happen is to create a love story that flows naturally with each character growing with each other.
If you choose to have your characters fall in love instantly, trying to make your readers believe that the whole love at first sight is plausible, you should know that it’s never well-received, mostly because it’s never written well.
It’s a common complaint that many readers feel is unrealistic. Not necessarily because they don't believe in love at first sight, it's actually quite the opposite. They simply think that the couple was not written in a way that seems genuine.
3. DON’T go Overboard With Overdone Tropes
YA romance tends to fall into one big no-no category, which includes tropes that have been done to death.
Granted, you can turn the trope around and come out with a home run, it has been done, but if your main character 'isn't like ordinary girls', is 'misunderstood' or ‘adorkable’, you'll find that people can be turned off.
Related Post: 3 Reasons to Use Genre Plot Tropes in Your Novel
In particular, if the character isn't like other girls and magically eight guys are interested in her, that has shoved reality out the window. When people are in high school, it's hard enough to get your crush to look your way, much less eight different guys. While this can happen to a small niche of girls, that's what it is: a small niche, not an occurrence that happens every day.
Instead, focus on making your character a unique, genuine individual instead of using a tired trope that won't hold up or creating an insufferable character your readers will want to smack.
Branch out and make your heroine someone people want to admire. Challenge the standards of beauty and make them your own.
4. DO Embrace the Awkwardness Because it’s Truthful
Remember when you had your first crush or relationship as a teenager? Was it perfect? Of course not!
Your first kiss was probably an awkward banging of the head or wondering what you should do with your lips. You also probably wished you had a breath mint beforehand.
Embrace that awkwardness and realise that it's what people appreciate. We all know that nothing is perfect, but that’s what makes falling in love so wonderful. It's frightening, and there are plenty of embarrassing moments, but in the end, you have someone you can wholly be yourself with and laugh at each silly moment together.
Moments like this can be a cute addition to the story, and people like feeling connected to what they're reading. Chances are, if you write a scene where the characters are about to kiss and someone sneezes, a reader will relate to that, instantly making them feel more connected to the character.
5. DON’T Make Your Audience Feel Stupid
Making your audience feel stupid is one of the fastest ways to get people to turn away from your writing.
Teenagers don't appreciate being talked down to, and if you make your writing style different to do that, they'll pick up on it immediately.
While YA romance is written in a way that differs from an adult, it doesn't mean that you can create this story as if they don't have the understanding or capability to get the ideas behind your ideologies.
Instead, give your audience the benefit of the doubt. Teenagers are smarter than you think, and while YA romance novels are written with fewer terms and phrases, it doesn't mean they can't be just as straightforward as others in the same field.
Remember, you need to engage your audience, not turn them off.
Audiences can be picky these days with sites dedicated to characters they hate and novels they don't like. However, if you take this seriously and ensure that you're not simplifying your writing where you don't need to, you'll be fine.
6. DO Focus on Giving Your Characters an Emotional Range
A good writer understands the need to have their characters experience a variety of emotions so readers can understand their feelings and true personality.
A character range isn't just about one emotion, and while anger or sadness is the most accessible emotion for us to identify with, you shouldn’t just stop at those emotions.
It’ll only make your protagonist one-dimensional and doesn’t take your audience to the next level.
Aside from smiling and hugging people, what makes your character happy? What drives them to do better? Can you connect with your readers and help them experience what the protagonist is afraid of or what makes them cry?
Anything you write, from the tiniest hint of a smile or wink to the way they raise their eyebrows, can tell people how your character is feeling, so consider your character's emotions carefully because they can inform your readers and make them feel more connected to the character and your writing style.
Remember, humans are very emotional creatures, and we always have some sort of emotion residing under the surface. Therefore, writing out an innovative protagonist that has been fleshed out in a highly realistic way will give your readers more reason to keep reading.
Related Post: How to Create a Memorable Side Character in 4 Easy Steps
Final Words: Create a YA Romance You Can be Proud Of
Creating a YA romance can be complicated, but it doesn't need to be as challenging as people think.
You need to avoid rookie mistakes and create passionate characters that people want to get to know. No one likes the same old story over and over again; they want something new that feels true to them.
As a result, you need to make something that feels true to who you are. When you can go beyond the scope and do this, you'll have something that readers will know is worth finishing.
Writing is about getting your audience to feel something, and if you can connect with just one person and make a difference to them, you've done your job and created something genuinely special.
Hey! I'm Chelsea and I'm a professional book editor at Stand Corrected Editing, my independent editorial business in the UK. If you would like to have your manuscript thoroughly edited by myself, please get in touch!
With my book editing and proofreading services, I hope to spread my knowledge and expertise on how to make your novel a success, and be a mentor to others who desperately want to pursue a fruitful career as an author!