Serendipity Literary. She is also the author of a book entitled Writing Great Books for Young Adults. As an agent who specializes in young adult fiction, Brooks has valuable advice which I believe is valid for both those who write for that market and those for write for ALL markets.
Q: How did you get your start as an agent? Is the young adult market a specialty of yours?
Yes the young adult area is one of my specialty areas along with memoir, health nonfiction pop
culture, science, and fiction .
I started agenting 15 years ago after having worked in senior positions at John Wiley& Sons, and
McGraw-Hill. I loved working on technical and engineering books given that my background
as an aerospace engineer but I really loved working on light fin things as well like children’s and
young adult books.
Q: What are the biggest mistakes you see in young adult manuscripts?
Here are the top five mistakes I see in manuscript after manuscript:
1. PASSIVE CHARACTERS. Passive characters let events happen to them instead of shaping their own
stories. They react more than they act. They waffle, mired in indecisiveness, and when they do act,
their actions feel sudden and bewildering. Instead, we love seeing characters with well-developed arcs,
characters whose actions seem consistent with who they are, those who earn their growth through a
series of well-defined goals, mistakes and achievements.
2. LAPSES IN LOGIC.
You don't want your readers jerked out of the story's world with such questions as, "why would this
character do that?" or "would a teacher really get away with saying that?" or "were individuals really
allowed to own factories in 1940s Soviet Union?" Knowledge of your characters and your setting is the
best antidote to these. When as readers we are in the hands of a storyteller whose knowledge goes
deep under the surface of their story's world, we can tell.
3. EXPOSITION DUMPS.
Exposition consists of facts or history or any sort of information or background the writer feels is
essential for the reader to grasp in order to understand what's going on. When such information, be
it about the characters or the setting, is dumped into the text in long paragraphs or clunky dialogue, it
interrupts the story's flow. The reader then feels lectured to. Instead, try to weave the exposition into
the narrative as much as you can, see if you can make it an essential part of your story.
Before you explain something in your manuscript, see if you can raise the question, create a hunger
in your readers to know what you are about to tell them. And don't overdo it, keep the exposition
sparse even then.
4. TELLING, INSTEAD OF SHOWING.
He felt sad. She was nervous. I hate Mondays.
Those are all examples of telling. Telling has its place, but so many writers overuse it. Showing goes
under the surface of an emotion or scene.
When you portray sadness or nervousness, show how such an emotion would color a character's world.
Go specific, what is it that your character really hates about Mondays?
We see it in just about every element of story, we see it in language, descriptions, expressions
of feelings and situations. Overused phrases, stereotypes, descriptions that add nothing new to our
understanding of the world, those all lead to predictability, that sense in the reader that we have seen
this sort of story before. Do your research and spend more time imagining your story in the deepest
and most authentic possible way, and reject the first on-the-surface ideas, and you'll go a long way
toward combating cliche.
Q: What is your best tip for writing for young adults?
Don't write to trend. Become a part of your writing community, get involved in contests, take
advantage of opportunities like Wattpad. But most importantly, once you finish one book, start the
next one. If you make a commitment to writing for young adults, keep writing! One day readers will
fall in love with your writing, your stories and your characters, and they will want more. Be prepared
to feed that hunger!
Q: What types of books can we expect to be trend-setters in the young adult market in the days to come?
Realistic contemporary novels seem to be especially *it* at the moment.
Magic realism is also enjoying great interest. But really, any stories that feel fresh and unexpected.
Those become the trendsetters. I understand, there is always an interest in knowing what's on trend at
the moment. But writers do themselves and the world the best service when they focus their energies
on their truest, most authentic and greatest stories.
The publishing industry is cyclical and if your story doesn't happen to be in demand right now, there
is a strong likelihood that two to three years from now your idea will hit the mark.
Q: Do you think the young adult book industry will continue with huge growth or is it a passing trend?
YA market has exponentially increased over the last several years, just as the number of young adults
in the US is increasing, so is the number of books sold! To top it off, more adults than ever are
reading YA, and that trend isn't showing any signs of retreat. There has been an increase in the
number of YA imprints in recent years and editors are continuing to enthusiastically seek great
stories for teens. In addition, there's been extra interest recently in book to film, especially in the YA
Not just movies, but other businesses touched by the book industry, like merchandising, have been
affected in a positive way.
Q: Do you have any recommendations for creating young adult characters
(whether in young adult or other types of fiction) readers will love?
Spend time to really get to know your characters, so when we read about them, we feel as though
they are real. Then throw plenty of challenges their way, and watch them shape their own destinies!
Write what you know, not in a sense of writing from your life directly, but definitely mine your true
emotions, then transfer them to your characters. Give your characters contradictions and interesting
histories (which doesn't mean you should put all their childhood memories into your actual
manuscript).Don't force your characters to act just to follow the plot you had laid out for them. Let
your characters be their own authentic selves. We are looking forward to reading stories crafted with
Summary/book jacket description of your book.
Break into the Bestselling Young Adult Market with this Indispensable Guide!
Whether you're just getting started or are on the hunt for an agent or publisher, Writing Great
Books for Young Adults is your complete insider source on how to succeed in the flourishing
world of YA fiction and nonfiction. In this updated and revised edition, veteran literary agent
Regina L. Brooks offers invaluable advice for YA writers on everything from shaping your novel
to crafting the perfect pitch for your book.
Learn How To:
•Develop an authentic, engaging voice and writing style
•Construct dynamic plots that will resonate with readers
•Avoid common pitfalls related to tone and point of view
•Navigate the emerging genres of YA nonfiction and New Adult
•Create an exceptional query letter and proposal that willgrab the attention of agents and
You'll also discover how successful film adaptations like Harry Potter and The Hunger Games
have broadened the market for your book. Filled with tips and advice from agents, editors, and
popular YA authors, Writing Great Books for Young Adults is your ticket to an incredible YA
"Brooks offers writers who are serious about attractingteen readers solid guidance through the
creation process of writing YA fiction."—LibraryJournal