How to Write A Best Selling Young Adult Novel 101

A while ago someone sent me this outline.

[In 5 easy steps!]

  1. Make your main character ugly

“She’s an ugly little thing. No child should look like that.”

Like realllllllly ugly.

“Pale and sour, like a glass of milk that’s turned.”

And she must be skinny, but in the malnourished-and-kinda-hot sort of way.

AND REMEMBER – she can never be so ugly that the Generic Love Interest(s) aren’t attracted to her!

“I’m sorry it took me so long to see you, Alina. But I see you now.”

Your Main Character must be ugly enough so that all the little children reading your novels can relate, but not so ugly that Hollywood casts a troll to play her in the movie adaption.

A pretty girl will never do.

  1. Make her humble

“Well, I don’t want to be high above all others.”

Your Main Character has to come from the sticks, she has to have survived poverty and hardship.

We really want that sympathy coming out of the readers’ pores. She’s ugly, alone in the world and she sucks at everything. Make her clumsy, naive and outright stupid. Naive.

Make her so humble that when she’s given clean clothes that her eyes well up in tears. At one point, your are legally obligated to give her an Oscar-worthy gown for some made up and utterly unimportant reason.

No matter how successful your Main Character is, you MUST make sure she is ABSOLUTELY MISERABLE with her success.

Tears are acceptable, outright bawling every two pages is preferred.

“A thousand girls would sell their own mothers to be in your shoes, and yet here you are, miserable and sulking like a child. So tell me, girl. What is your sad little heart pining for?”

It’s probably best to off one of her parents – scratch that – make her an orphan.

Yeah, an unlovable orphan.

Perfect setting for sympathy.

Now bring in the two hot guys. Let’s make a love triangle.

  1. The Love Triangle

“Thanks for being my best friend and making my life bearable. Oh, and sorry I fell in love with you for a while there.”

So. Now that she’s an ugly, unlovable orphan, what does she need in her life? A LOVE TRIANGLE!

A few notes here:

While it is completely okay and acceptable for your Main Character, the girl, to be ugly-skinny, both males MUST be strapping fine specimens of their species. Ripped and buff. No skinny-minnies allowed.

Option A (our homespun hero) has to be tall, broad shouldered, tanned and have an easy-going nature.

While Option A is allowed to pine for Main Character, the two of them must NEVER EVER mutually like each other at the same time. If they do, there will be consequences.

Option B (our tall-dark-and-handsome) has to fit the description. He may be pale, but in a luminous way (NEVER in a spends-too-much-time-behind-a-computer sort of way).

In addition, Option B MUST display at least four of the following traits: Sullen, Argumentative, Controlling, Dominating, Sexually Aggressive, Outright Abusive, and Murderous (but in a hot way).

(As you can see, we are setting sweet and stable Option A up for failure. The key is to always steer your vulnerable orphan towards the “spicier” Option B.)

NOTE: If the supernatural love interest isn’t older than your Main Character by at least 100 years, it is creepy.

“I’ve been waiting for you a long time, Alina,” he said. “You and I are going to change the world.”

  1. Good VS Evil

Now, remember, your audience is around 12-17 so it’s best to make the plot fresh, engaging and exciting.

I’d recommend with Generic Good Vs Generic Evil.

And, to add just a pinch of spice, let’s make everyone good: White and everyone evil: Black.

And, to make it even spicier (and less racist), let’s go with Light Vs Shadows. Fabulous. Much more PC.

Now, where in the world would your Main Character be without a super-cool secret weapon.

Since she can directly control light, let’s go with the obvious.

“With a flick of the wrist, I could slide a mirror between my fingers and… I practiced bouncing flashes of light off them and into my opponent’s eyes.”

Mirrored gloves – after all, you want the element of surprise, and there’s no way someone beaming you in the eyes with light stronger than the sun will surprise anyone. Hence the gloves.

You may have a few “twists” and “turns” scattered about, especially when it comes to love interests:

“Why would you care what I think?”
He looked genuinely baffled. “I don’t know,” he said…And then he kissed meThe key is to keep the audience on the tips of their toes.

Is Option B trying to kill her? Or does he just love her so much that it hurts? (Only the fifth book of your ten-part series will begin to unravel that little secret).

  1. Vaguely Inspirational Sentences

An oft overlooked and essential aspect to writing a YA novel is the inspirational factor.

Before you get too intimidated – don’t worry!

None of these actually have to mean something, they just have to sound like they could mean something, maybe.

Your young and impressionable target audience won’t get it either way!

“He had seen a woman, barefoot and unflinching in her doorway, face down a row of bayonets. He knew the look of a man defending his home with nothing but a rock in his hand.”

Female empowerment is SUPER in right now. Your humbly ugly and clumsily skinny Main Character NEEDS to be spunky, strong and a real “go-getter.”

Make sure she has derisive thoughts towards being girly and waiting for a man to save her.

“Put on your pretty clothes and wait for the next kiss, the next kind word. Wait for the stag. Wait for the collar. Wait to be made into a murderer and a slave.”

She ain’t no damsel in distress! (expect, of course, if either Option A OR Option B are inclined to save her from a cute-but-clumsy moment! Teehee! )

Don’t forget to throw in the self-doubt and self-loathing! You can never let your audience forget how naive and childlike your Main Character is!

She must NEVER be happy in ANY situation. She must HATE herself and EVERYTHING she stands for!!

But, most importantly, you MUST (and I repeat MUST) show that the Main Character is willing to kill herself over the vaguely worded Light Vs Shadow plot point.

Think of the target audience! Impressionable twelve to seventeen-year-olds love it when their heroes are willing to kill sacrifice themselves for the greater good – suicide with a purpose, that’s our motto.

“It was time to let go. That day on the Shadow Fold, Mal had saved my life, and I had saved his. Maybe that was meant to be the end of us.”

If she’s not willing to suicide over some slight, is your book even worth reading?

Concluding Remarks

Thank you so much for joining us on How to Write a Hit YA Novel 101 .

We hope your bumbling-fool-ugly-humble-orphan (but in a hot way) Main Character is ready to journey out into the wilderness – where she spends months at a time camping in the woods without ever peeing, farting or having her period in front of the hot guy.

She does not have bodily functions, she is too busy weeping unshed tears over her dead parents and/or the poverty-stricken horrors she has witnessed.

And remember – cuddle for warmth! The hot guy says all the right things.

About unholypursuit

A. White, an award winning former librarian, who is also a long time member of Romantic Time and Publisher's Weekly. A. White has been writing for over fifteen years. She took classes in creative writing in college, specializing in ancient myths and legends. and later at a local community center while living in Chicago. In college she won the national contest to verbally list every country in the world, it's capital and ingenious language. Her works are mainly horror, fantasy, extreme, and sci-fi as well as, as some may says, "the truly strange predicament and puzzling." Books that I've written are "Clash with the Immortals, and eleven others which are part of the "Unholy Pursuit saga,". She has been working on the Chronicles since 2007. She wished to complete them all before introducing them to public so the readers wouldn't have to for the continuation to be written. The ideas of the book come from classic literature such as whose work greatly influence the world world such as Homer, Sophocles, Herodotus, Euripides, Socrates, Hippocrates, Aristophanes, Plato, Aristotle and many more. The "Book of Enoch" influenced the usage of Azazael as a main character and love interest. I created the primary main character from the Chronicle of Saints. I wanted to show them as real flesh and blood with thoughts, desires and yearning as any human. Not as they are so often depicted. So I created one of my own to show her as a real human that everyone can relate to.
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8 Responses to How to Write A Best Selling Young Adult Novel 101

  1. I wanted to know what readers are looking for in a YA novel and one of my readers sent me these checkpoints.

    On Wed, Aug 26, 2020 at 11:19 PM The Novel: UnHoly Pursuit: Devil on my Tra


  2. Amanda says:

    I don’t understand why this genre is called a young adult when a young adult is someone between 18-21. Not the crazy definition so popular: Young Adult Age Ranges. Depending on who you ask, “young adult” could refer to people aged 12 to 18, or it could refer to those aged 18 to 30. In general, young adults are people between the ages of 12 and 30.

    12- 17 year olds are not adults. They are children and then preteens and then teenagers. They aren’t adults. 18-30 year olds are adults. By the time you reach 30 you are not so young anymore.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Bree says:

    Quite contrary to fantasy. Hot guys don’t fall for plain Janes. The self loathing trope gets boring after a while.
    I noticed you got around this bore in King Eochaidh and made it into an epic read. Erin did not want the crown of Ereland but she eventually rose up and led her people to victory.She didn’t moan and groan throughout the entire book about how horrible things are and things were truly beyond horrible for Erin. Her young husband, brother, and father had been killed in battle against Alfred the Great. Her mother died of a broken heart. She was then crowned Queen without a lot of allies in royal court except Tillich and the Ereland forces were barely holding off the English Warrior King when she had to look for help fast or she would be next Alfred killed.

    Then she had to make a deal with Eochaidh who was worst than the devil in order to save her life as well as her nation.


  4. Bree says:

    The way Sam reacted to Becky on Supernatural is how hot guys usually reacts to unattractive girls. Not very many hot guys date plain women. I know it is all superficial but that’s reality. If she isn’t pretty in the face then she must have a great body.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Sister Ally Eastman says:

    I have performed missionary work in several developing countries and I have seen young children cry because they are so grateful for a clean garment, a good pair of shoes, or a bowl of food. This is not entertainment. In some parts of the world, this is the real lives of real people. I do not know how anyone finds this kind of suffering entertaining?! I understand it’s fiction but I think it desensitize young people to real suffering.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sister Ally Eastman, thank you for visiting. I don’t think I ever had a nun to visit us. I’m happy to learn of your good work and those in need are blessed to have you. The world could use many more like you.


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