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‘The most important things I’ve learned as a writer of Young Adult Fiction’ Vibha Batra

Posted On : April 02 2018

Writer : Vibha Batra

Bookaholicanonymous is extremely happy to get this tongue-in-cheek account of the perils of writing ‘Young Adult Fiction’ from Vibha Batra… 

‘The most important things I’ve learned as a writer of Young Adult Fiction’ -Vibha Batra

About Vibha Batra: Vibha is a copywriter by profession and fiction writer by passion. Her literary pursuits took off when she translated her grandfather Late Shri Vishnu Kant Shastri’s book on the ‘Ishaavaasya Upanishad’ (Rupa & Co., 2007). She has authored 11 books, is a poet, lyricist, translator, travel writer, playwright, translator and columnist. Her published books include ‘Ludhiana to London’, ‘Glitter and Gloss’, ‘The Activist and The Capitalist’, ‘Sweet Sixteen’ (Yeah, Right!), ‘Seventeen and Done’ (You Bet!), ‘Eighteen and Wiser’ (Not Quite!,), ‘Tongue-in-cheek’, ‘A Twist of Lime’ and ‘Family Crossword’. She has also contributed short stories and poems to several anthologies. Her last book to release is ‘Euro Trip’ 

Learning #1:  Writing for teens is not very different from writing for adults

Both entail staring blankly at a computer screen for inordinately long amounts of time. Both make for great excuses to skip gym sessions, wiggle out of social commitments, and, on occasion, get by the entire day without showing any signs of life.

You just have to make sure you write about things which matter to the Target Audience. So for teens, it could be anything from acne to school bullies to parental interference. While, for adults, it could range from adult acne to office bullies to parental interference.

Learning #2: Writing for teens is very different from writing for adults

For one, you have to adhere to language that the Indian Censor Board would heartily approve of. While I was writing the first part of my Young Adult trilogy, my editor pointed out my affinity to the ‘S’ word. Apparently, in one chapter alone it had been used over one hundred times. So I had to replace certain words with less offensive alternatives like ‘Shut the Front Door’, Flying Fudge’, ‘Dang  Rabbit’, ‘Bull Spit’, ‘What the Fish’ and so on.

I did so for one simple reason: I didn’t want the parents of my young adult readers to burn my effigies, pelt stones at my house, or, do whatever it is that we do to show dissent in a democracy.

Learning #3: You will have to relive some of the most traumatic moments of your life

People ask me about the research I put in for my young adult novels. My answer is this: Being a teenager at some point in your life is research enough. I was fortunate enough to go through a sufficiently traumatic teenhood.

Which only goes to show, that it’s okay to be the black sheep, it’s okay to be teased mercilessly, it’s okay to feel lost, lonely, misunderstood, and miserable? Who knows, one day you’ll grow up and write a book about it. At this point, I would like to insert a disclaimer that my trilogy is a work of fiction and no family members, friends, teachers, or acquaintances have been hurt in the making of the books.

Learning #4: Once your Young Adult novel is published, you will experience the 5 stages of grief

As I did, when I visited the friendly neighbourhood bookstore. For I had to browse for a good one hour before I could finally spot a copy of Sweet Sixteen (Yeah, Right!). Not surprisingly, I experienced all the 5 stages of grief in a span of 5 minutes.

No one’s ever going to read my book. Depression.

How dare they stack my book in the last row of the last shelf? Anger.

This can’t be happening to me. Denial.

God, if you make sure they display my book up front, I’ll give up desserts for a month. Bargaining.

Adult fiction gets more mileage and visibility at bookstores. Acceptance.

Learning #5:  Your book is probably not as good as your family says and most likely not as bad as the critics claim

There’s a lot of grief, misery, and suffering in the world and most book critics act as if authors are only adding to it. But what I’ve learned is that much like fulsome praise, negative book reviews don’t matter. What matters is that you keep at it, keep writing, keep learning.


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