Tuesday 28 May 2019

Achieving pace in YA novels

Why pace is important

The young adult has the dopamine charged brain that leads to greater risk-taking. The adolescent is also under a good deal of pressure. They are dealing with study, new relationships and par-time work. Anything written for them must get to the point quickly.


Some of the risks we encounter 

         Facing uncomfortable truths
         Laying self open to criticism
         Doing something you’ve never done before
         Holocaust risks
         Talking to someone you’re shy about  

Risk-taking (of their own making)

      Gemma in Libby Bray’s A Great and Terrible Beauty – playing with magic.
      Lyra in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials – always brave
      The relatively na├»ve girls in Judy Waite’s Game Girls become prostitutes
      Chamus in Oisin McGann’s The Gods and Their Machines flies aeroplanes and becomes an important pivot between three warring factions.

Danger imposed upon them

      Mrs Coulter / The Church in Pullman
      Snake right at beginning in Bray
      External war in McGann
      Aggressive man  - potential for STD in Waite  

Relationships between plots

This allows for another problem to gain momentum while one is solved.
E.g. Harry Potter: -
      Harry’s longing for home
      Harry being different from others
      Harry and magic
      Harry and friends
      Harry and other enemies
      Harry and Snape

A more subtle version

In Deborah Savage’s Kotuku:
The protagonist Charlotte comes to terms with who she is. She also:
      Finds the love of her life
      Understands some of the mythology that builds who she is
      Comes to terms with her friend’s death.

High stakes

There is often something really huge at stake e.g. a relationship with the super natural, a strained relationship with a close family member, the need to save the world, an extremely risky life style.


Car chase moments

The “car chase” moment usually comes as part of the climax. There is often some sort of journey at this point in a YA novel.



Often a very immediate first person narrative is used. The present tense can also give more closeness. This is often the voice of a young adult a telling a best mate what is actually happening without overanalysing it. Thus the reader shares the growth.


And suddenly moments

         Twists and turns
         Cliff hangers


Other aids

      Short sentences
      Short chapters

Reading Exercise

Look at how a YA book of your choice achieves pace.

Writing exercise

Write two or three scenes of your work in progress showing a fast pace.



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