In early October, Nikki Grimes wrote about the current state of YA literature on her blog, Nikki Sounds Off. In her post, she lamented the lack of originality in books being published for the young adult audience today. What she sees as a lack of originality, I see as the opportunity to ca$h in. So, for those of you that have it in mind to write the “it” novel, here is a DIY guide to getting it published. Think of it as a paint by numbers for writers. Good luck!
The plucky heroine (insert full name of protagonist, preferably a name that isn’t really a name but is more descriptive or just plain obscure) leaves the only home she’s ever known. Her parents were (killed in an accident or on an archaeological expedition), leaving her on her own, which has toughened her but left her vulnerable at the same time. (first name of protagonist) begins attending St. (name of a person who may or may not be an actual saint), a school with dark and Gothic architecture whose pedagogy and curriculum is (a synonym for mysterious that suggests that the true purpose of the school is perhaps sinister or fighting against things that are sinister or affiliated with people who are sometime impolite when they’ve had a hard day, or…).
While attending this school (first name of protagonist) learns that she can (insert a supernatural ability–nothing silly like the ability to bake cupcakes with her mind, but something more practical that preferably reveals the character to be super-fierce). This supernatural gift was unknown to (name of protagonist) until it was revealed during (A. a high-pressure situation where she is being bullied by a tough-as-nails teacher who has always had it out for her, or B. she intervenes when a meek student is being bullied, or C. she herself is bullied, or D. she is flossing her teeth).
(first name of protagonist) begins hanging around a group of students who seem aloof from the rest of the student body. That’s because they are hiding a dark secret. The secret which (first name of protagonist) learns through following them is that they are all (shape-shifters, faeries, vampires, werewolves–really, just take your pick of some kind of super-awesome supernatural type thing). The more she learns about the (name of the group of supernatural kids), the more intrigued she is.
She begins hanging around with them a lot and falls deeply in love with two in the group. One that she falls for flies into frequent rages and seems very (dangerous, unstable, mean to housepets). The other is sweet and caring, but has a secret that he is keeping about his (identity, sexuality, chemical dependencies, wardrobe choices).
The school is attacked by an evil (wizard, alchemist, accountant, etc.) who wants to harness the power of the (name of the group of supernatural kids). Only (first name of protagonist) can save them from their certain doom at the hands of the evil (wizard, alchemist accountant, etc.).
I didn’t mention what should be self-evident: that this story takes place in a dystopian future where (name something you love like chocolate, crossword puzzles, or thinking about the future) has been outlawed, and the world is ruled by (cyborgs, steampunk machines, adults, etc.).
P.S. I double-dog dare you to send your results to an actual publisher.
— Joel Bruns is currently reading Outer Dark by Cormac McCarthy and listening to Swamplandia by Karen Russell