Think Young-Adult Nonfiction

writing a book, target audience, publishingDo you know what the most popular kind of book is?

It’s young adult.

Young adult fiction is one of the rare growth areas in publishing (apart from sales of e-books in relation to traditional paper and hardcover books).

Some people see this as a continuation of the dumbing-down of modern society, and the rise of the “adultescent,” someone who refuses to grow up or accept responsibility.

But I think young adult titles are popular because they present the world in a way that everyone can comprehend. Even if that world is dystopian or post-apocalyptic as in The Hunger Games trilogy. We live in an age of complex and sometimes difficult modernist novels (one person defines modernism as “the art of being difficult”), but even some of the most highly praised and inventive novelists, such as Michael Chabon (The Adventures of Kavalier and Klay, among others), have written young-adult novels. Sometimes you just want to tell a story.

Narrative and plot propel YA titles. So does a certain directness toward the reader. Of course you can have literary tricks and address grownup themes like cancer and war in young-adult books. But you need to present such themes in a way that doesn’t make the reader work for the meaning.

This is something that you might consider for your own work.

Young Adult and Your Book

Not that you’re working on a young-adult book. No, even if you’re putting together an adult book, any kid of book to express your idea of doing business or creating a process to help others or outlining a plan for social good, whatever it is, you should aim to be as direct, transparent and understandable as possible. As in a young-adult book.

Sometimes, — well, often — writers who are sure of their subject take for granted that everyone else will know the language, the ideas, the shorthand of that subject.

You can never assume that your reader will have an innate grasp of a subject you know well, of words that apply to your specialty but that are incomprehensible outside your world. You may be cursed with knowledge – but take pains to share that knowledge in a way that allows your ideas to be understood without resorting to jargon. If you can’t explain what you mean clearly, without resorting to acronyms and industry shorthand, then you need to rethink how you want to see what you mean.

Young-adult authors never assume that their readers will know everything about their characters and their situations; they aim to present everything clearly, even if in their own authorial and literary way, without speaking down to the reader.

If you’re building a platform for your ideas, and creating a growing audience with whom you communicate and interact through your website, your blog, your newsletter or your videos, then you know the value of being direct, open, transparent. Your readers and viewers would tell you if you weren’t.

You don’t have to speak down to your reader (the best young-adult writers don’t speak down to their readers, which is why so many YA novels, such as the Harry Potter series, appeal to adults as well as adolescents). But you should speak in a language that is clear, concise, jargon-free. After all, just because you’ve worked hard to get where you are it doesn’t mean your readers need to work harder to understand what you want to say.

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3 Responses to “Think Young-Adult Nonfiction”

  1. Anonymous June 28, 2012 at 1:17 pm #

    As always, great info. I love reading juvenile fiction (listening actually). It’s always a refreshing treat. And probably for the very reasons you listed – jargon-free, easy to read, and just enjoyable.

  2. Buster McDermott July 6, 2012 at 12:23 am #

    I really enjoy reading young adult books. They really got creative and imaginative mind to make each story relates to others.

  3. BookDesigner May 24, 2013 at 3:21 pm #

    You are right, simple and clear language is the tool to get your readers started and keep them glued to the end. A book that has jargon you need to stop and figure-out whatever they mean will definitely make a reader lose interest no matter how great the book is.

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