Thursday, December 11, 2008

Guest in Progress: Carollyne Hutter

Carollyne Hutter recently wrote this wonderful piece about how she decided to transition from writing for adults to writing for the young adult market, and now she’s offering us some excellent and practical advice for how to go about making that switch. Even if you’re not contemplating such a move yourself, read on…her suggestions are innovative and interesting, offering food for thought on how to approach any type of research for your writing.

Resources for YA Writing
by Carollyne Hutter

Teenagers often feel that they are caught between the adult and children’s world. They’re about to step into adulthood, but not they’re not quite there. Young adult novels (YAs) are like their audience (teenagers)—they share a lot in common with adult novels, yet differences exist.

To make the transition from writing adult novels to teenager novels, I turned to a number of sources. Here are some I found useful. I would love to hear what others have found helpful.


One of my favorite ways to learn about YA novels is to hear editors and writers speak about the field and their works. Small and large conferences organized by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators offer an array of YA editors and authors. I have really enjoyed these YA speakers: Aimee Friedman (author and editor at Scholastic), Ann Brashares (of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series), and Ben Schrank (publisher of Razorbill). All three were so delightful that I wanted to invite them in for tea to chat some more.


On her blog, Susan Gray has compiled a wonderful list of blogs that deal with YAs. While you’re at the site, check it out! It’s an excellent blog.

Books (writing books and YA novels)

To steer you through the process of writing a YA, I like Writing And Selling The Young Adult Novel by K L Going. Other books on the topic are The Complete Idiot's Guide to Writing for Young Adults by Deborah Perlberg and Wild Ink: How to Write Fiction for Young Adults by Victoria Hanley.

Of course, one of the best ways to learn how to write a YA is to read YAs. The blockbuster series—the Twilight saga and Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants—are must reads, just so one knows what’s popular. I do recommend going farther afield. Most libraries and bookstores have a YA section. Browse the shelves and see what catches your eye. I want to put in a plug for a YA I really enjoyed—Not Like You by Deborah Davis. It has a tough, independent, yet complicated heroine.

I also suggest finding out what teens are reading. If you live in Washington DC area, you can pick up "Teens for Teens" at the Montgomery county libraries, in which teens recommend to other teens what to read. It’s a full, rich list that includes many adult novels.

Teen World

Part of writing a YA is stepping into the teen world. Besides books, there are magazines, movies, TV shows, etc. .., aimed at teens. Aimee Friedman says she spends time on Facebook to get a glimpse into the teen world. I enjoy reading Teen Vogue—it’s fun to see what “in” in the fashion, art, and celebrity world.

I also visit friends who are high school teachers and sit in their classes. That way I get to soak in the high school milieu.

Teens and Technology

Today’s teen’s world is full of technology—text messaging, IMS, Facebook, etc . . . Some YA authors just avoid the technology issue, like it’s a cross between rocket science and a rash. They find teen technology beyond their expertise and annoying. I suggest taking a parenting class (even if you don’t have children) on teens and technology. It will explain all you need to know and put teen technology in perspective. In the Washington area, Parent Encouragement Program (PEP) offers excellent classes on this topic.

Those are my suggestions. I would love to hear what other YA sources writers and readers recommend. ~~ Carollyne Hutter

Editor's Note: Please feel free to email me any additional suggestions you might have, and I’ll post them.

About: For over a decade, Carollyne Hutter has been a freelance writer/editor in the Washington, DC area, specializing in international and environmental topics. Her website— —will be up soon. Please visit the site to read Carollyne’s stories (including the opening chapters of her YA novel, Homesick), quirky essays, and nonfiction pieces. You can contact her at


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.