Tips for YA Writers: A Guest Post by Dee White

Friday, August 20, 2010

Exciting to be hosting Dee White, author of Letters to Leonardo, to share her writing tips:

Thanks for inviting me to visit your blog, Steph. I can’t wait to read your new book.

I love reading and writing YA novels. I think because they are full of great characters, action and emotion, and they’re real stories about real people. Here are some of the things I’ve discovered about writing YA fiction.

One of the most important things that writing my Young Adult novel Letters to Leonardo taught me, is that authors should stick with a story they love.

Over the ten years and 30 drafts it took me to write Letters to Leonardo (view book trailer at, I could have given up many times, but this was a story I had to tell.

15-year-old Matt arrived in my head almost fully formed, with a big dilemma. He had just found out that his mother was not dead – that his Dad had lied to him for the last ten years. Should he confront his dad or should he seek out his long lost mother and find out where she’d been for the last ten years? He ended up doing both, and when Matt brought his mother back into his life, he soon discovered that finding out the truth could be worse than not knowing.

Matt deals with the turmoil of his mother’s reappearance in his life by writing letters to his dead idol, Leonardo da Vinci; someone who was taken from his own mother at an early age.

Since talking to readers of my book, I’ve discovered two important things. Many Young Adult readers liked the realism of it – they like to know what’s going on in the ‘real’ world. They don’t like being talked down to, and they like to know about things that happen to ‘real’ people. So even if they hadn’t experienced the same things as Matt, his story seemed to resonate with them – perhaps because his mother is based on a real person.

Young Adult readers like characters they can connect with – characters with a problem – characters at emotional or physical risk.

So if you’re thinking of writing for YA, keep it real, and put your characters in jeopardy – give your readers a reason to read on and find out if the star of your book is going to survive all the challenges being thrown at them. Your main character needs a realistic problem that needs to be solved - that’s going to make the reader care about them.

I know how hard it is to get published, so I’m committed to helping other writers on their journey, and here are some of the tips you’ll find at my blogs ( I have new writing tips here every Tuesday) and
• Interview your characters to get to know them before you start.
• Know where your story is going – don’t let it wander out of control.
• Make sure your story hooks the reader in right from the start
• Read your work out loud to yourself – this will help you pick up any plot or character inconsistencies or typos.
• Only use what’s important to the story. If the main character being allergic to bananas doesn’t move the story along then the reader doesn’t need to know it.

Thanks for having me here, Steph – always great to catch up.
Proudly designed by Mlekoshi playground