Literary as hell.

How to Write a YA Novel by Elena Ender

YA: young adult, teen, tween, advanced child, less-advanced adult, emotional human


Novel: story, book, doorstop

I know a lot about books, I’ve even read a few. One genre of book that sells well is “Young Adult” (or YA) “literature.” I have read at least one YA novel and I have seen trailers for The Fault in Our Stars, so I’m going to let you in on the secret of how to write a YA novel and make more money than JK Running.

What you’ll need: 

  • Mac computer
  • leather notebook
  • fountain pen
  • loose papers
  • coffee shop
  • beanie


Getting started:

There are three types of YA novels you can choose to write about.

1) post-apocalyptic dystopian romance novel

2) magical/fantasy/vampire romance novel

3) 21st century American teen coming-of-age, cancer romance novel

You must choose a trope from these three options.


Creating your characters:


Much like the real world, the protagonist of your novel will have to be either male or female. Either way, they will be the Chosen One.


If your main character is female, she must either be a super-human feminist icon with incredible wit and sass or a helpless failure. She could be awkward with glasses until her love interest comes along; then it will be revealed that she was beautiful all along (spoiler!).


If your main character is male, he must be an unassuming, average white cis teenager. He should be sarcastic, but have a heart of gold under his calloused exterior. He will be clever and better than everyone else for a reason you can’t really explain; he’s just…unexpectedly different. Your readers will think dreamily of him.


Feel free to make your protagonist an orphan; this gives them the excuse to be irrational at times which helps cover up any inconsistencies you may have written.


Mishaps & Misfortunes:


Every story needs some level of drama, YA novels especially. Your readers may tweet that they “hate drama” but they sure do like reading about it.

Steamy sexual tension between two or three or four characters is mandatory.


Your protagonist must overcome some obstacle. For example, some conflicts could be:

  • sexism
  • racism
  • classism
  • plagiarism
  • the status quo
  • their own mortality
  • the mortality of their loved ones
  • trash-talk
  • back-talk
  • smack-talk
  • ISIS
  • unrealistic beauty standards
  • misunderstandings
  • the government
  • friendships
  • falling outs
  • falling out of windows
  • cancer
  • the repercussions of a wild night of underage drinking
  • smallpox
  • parents not understanding punk
  • society not understanding punk
  • punk going pop
  • being “different”
  • being just like everyone else
  • questioning sexuality
  • existential fifth-of-life crises
  • angst

Have you conformed yourself to these molds? If so, great! If not, go back and see where your creativity went astray then stunt it.


Once your story has all of these elements, start your writing! Write down all of the words you’ve ever known just to fill up space between pages, gradually moving the plot along.


When you have enough pages to fill up an Instagrammable and/or Pinnable book, you’re done!


Congratulations, you did it! You’ve contributed more to society than you will ever know.



Elena Ender is a writer and a SoCal native. She is a fiction editor of the West Wind literary journal and writes flash fiction, short stories, essays, screenplays, and haikus.

Twitter: @elena_ender


  1. Sharon

    Hilarious and well written!

  2. Marissa

    You said everything we were all thinking. Nicely done!

  3. Autumn

    Love it!

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