Finding Your Voice in YA: Tapping a Painful Past




Okay, the books I love to read are Young Adult. I love the passionate intensity in which they live their lives. The stories I want to write are best told in a YA voice.


My Problem?

I am way past the age of 16! I need to tap into that passion, excitement and urgency of my teen years to write with an authentic teen voice.

My Question?

Must I relive my painful teen years in order to write authentically? Is there any other way to accomplish this? Truthfully, I am in my 40′s and I still have nightmares about being a teen. I definitely do not want to go back there! But I suppose I will have to relive the past in order to have an authentic YA voice.


The Critique…

I recently received a brutally honest critique that was awesome! I knew that there was something wrong/lacking in my YA manuscript, but I couldn’t put my finger on what it was. But she saw it immediately. I wasn’t Writing in a teen voice. I am an adult trying to mimic a teen voice.

Wow. She opened my eyes to the problem in my manuscript. I looked at my manuscript with a critical eye and realized that I had written it with an emotional distance. It lacked intimacy and accessibility between me and the reader. What a revelation!


My Task…

I now must redo my entire manuscript. I don’t mean scrap it, just a major rework. My action story-line is sound and is my framework. I now need to layer in the emotional story-line to add depth. I will re-outline the manuscript. This time, I will define the mood and emotion I want each scene to convey.


My Process…

Now, I have some ideas how to accomplish this…

Relive my painful past. That would definitely put me in the moment. Using the emotional story-line outline, I can access an appropriate memory that fits the mood of the scene.


Using Music…

Music is such a strong way to convey emotion. My teen daughter gave me a list of groups she likes. I now listen to them as well. I love the music, especially the dark angry music. But that’s another story.

So, I made a playlist of 15 songs that I feel define the emotion of the story. What I will do now, in the rewrites, is pick a song that defines the emotion I want in each scene. I will listen to the music and be in the moment as I revise the scene.

What I Need…

I would love to know how you, as a writer of YA fiction, writes with an authentic teen voice. I would love to hear your suggestions and comments. It fascinates me to hear about another writer’s process. Your comments/suggestions are greatly appreciated.


About Willow Renner

I am a writer of three series. YA Dystopian, Sci-Fi, YA Paranormal Fantasy, and YA/NA Apocalyptic fiction. I also blog articles for Struggling Writers. Check me out at:

Posted on March 7, 2014, in Struggling Writers and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. pretty interesting article, thank you for sharing your friends!

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