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Writing YA Romance: how NOT to suck


The Precious: Still a better love story than Twilight.

EDIT: Since publishing this, it has appeared on the NY Editor’s post about how to market your YA book!

Ha! Ok, maybe I’m the only one who got that slightly Fang-y dig at Ms. Stephanie Meyer whom I know has sold more books than I ever will. You thought I had all the answers to this didn’t you? Well, I have put a good deal of thought into it, but like any well-thought out argument, I researched my butt off.

Here are some links to posts I read to come to an intelligent conclusion on this topic:

  1. Hold the Romance (guest blogger Jessie Peacock)

  2. Please make Romance Realistic (MB Mulhall)

  3. Re: Tips for Non-Corny Romantic Scenes? (Deborah Halverson)

  4. Failings of Romance in YA Books: So cliched it hurts (Patricia)

The truth is that YA romance sits in that uncomfortable area we all lived through that is defined as first base – there’s lots of flirting, lots of day dreaming, but the culmination of these feelings (at least on the page) are the kiss, or as Harry describes his first kiss with Ginny: “After several long moments – or it might have been a half an hour – or possibly several sunlit days – they broke apart.”

How much you actually describe on the page differs from one end of the YA spectrum to the other, but at the point at which you’d feel uncomfortable reading it aloud to your 13-year-old son seems to be a good standard.

I treat writing about romance the way I treat how I dress, I leave something to the imagination. Maybe that makes me old-fashioned, but I think it makes my books readable for any age, including the 50-year-old mom who also has a Shades of Grey side.

Romance should develop over time, closer to real time than many media force us to move. Less Jack and Rose and more Darcy and Elizabeth. And what I read over and over again in my research (and which I swear I will remember as I write these scenes) is to put yourself in your own teenage body – remember the awkwardness, the weird feelings, the ridiculous jealousies, the over-analysis of tiny little details. That is a key element of teenage romance, and really, romance into your early twenties as my Portia is discovering.

Avoiding cliche is something we should all do in every scene we write, but avoiding the cliche in romantic scenes is also something I pulled from the research as high priority for me. Patricia actually described it perfectly so I’m quoting her directly: “It should not consist of the so-called love interest being cute/hot/mysterious and some weird reaction of the main character’s body.” Amen sister.

What I discovered in my own writing is that the attraction between my two main characters was TOO subtle. My editors actually suggested I raise the heat a bit, and I did, with more one-on-one scenes, and awkward moments.

I hope I managed to write some decent romance, but I guess you guys will tell me (be gentle!) when you read Jewel. Let me know your thoughts on writing romance (in all genres) in the comments below!

Also, I love this meme, so here are a few more… (SORRY Ms. Meyer!!):





#portiaadams #romance #writing #YA

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