November 28, 2011

On Editing Young Adult Fiction

In October, my class Focus on Editing Young Adult Fiction was my first experience teaching an online class. I was hopeful for the kind of discussions classrooms provide, and I wasn’t disappointed: our dialogue found its pace as the weeks progressed. As the class was wrapping up in its fourth week, we looked anew at how editing for middle grade and young adult ages is different from editing novels for adults.

Voice stands out—a quality that takes readers beyond the printed page to the emotional life of the characters in the story world. Creating characters that ring true requires more of authors and editors than just remembering what it was like during our growing up years. While emotions haven’t changed, situations have.

One participating editor noted there’s a tricky balance in aligning themes, story, audience age, and language. Themes should relate to what the audience is experiencing, developmentally and socially.

Another editor shared an article from a recent National Geographic on the benefits to natural selection of the teenage brain’s orientation to “excitement, novelty, risk, the company of peers.” That shed light on the books we were working with, and might be of use in your own work with manuscripts for this age.

—Pamela Greenwood

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