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The Challenges of Writing Clean Fiction for a Young Adult Audience

As a writer of clean fiction for young adults, it's important to strike a balance between delivering a message and telling a compelling story. Clean fiction, defined as stories without profanity, graphic violence, or explicit sexual content, can be a challenge to write for several reasons.


In this post, I want to explore some of the challenges of writing clean fiction for a young adult audience, and some tips on how to overcome them.


Challenge #1: Writing Clean Fiction Without Being Preachy or Didactic


We've all experienced it... a book that seems great until bam! It hits you over the head with a rather blunt author soapbox lecture that completely breaks the flow of the story. Even when I agree with the author's message, these heavy-handed tactics can completely spoil the reading experience.


Because clean fiction often is addressing some kind of decision or life situation with moral or ethical stakes, one of the most significant challenges of writing clean fiction for young adults is communicating important themes and moral implications without being overly preachy or didactic.


Readers aren't coming to books for a lecture, they're coming for a compelling, impactful story. And young adult readers are smart... they know when they're being talked down to or preached at.


To avoid this, writers need to show rather than tell. Instead of delivering a sermon, let the story and the characters do the talking. Let your readers see how the character's actions and decisions lead to certain consequences, rather than telling them what to do.


Many authors have vital life lessons that they may have learned the hard way themselves, and that they desperately want to share with readers--I know I do! But the key is to let the story itself communicate those lessons, based on how you set up the characters and situations, how they play out, the choices the characters make as they go, and the consequences or results they obtain from those choices.


A lot can be communicated with good storytelling, and usually it will be much better received when it's shown this way, with the emphasis on telling a good story, rather than the reader feeling like the author's only goal is to communicate a moral message.


Challenge #2: Writing for Varied Maturity Levels


Young adult fiction is marketed to readers between the ages of 12 to 18 years old. Stop and think about that for a moment. There is a world of difference in maturity levels and cognitive development between a 12 year old and an 18 year old.


As such, when writing for a YA audience, there will always be certain topics and themes that are more appropriate for one end of that age spectrum than the other.


One benefit of writing clean fiction is that it intrinsically avoids some types of age-inappropriate content... however, navigating life situations, family dynamics, etc., may mean some stories are more appropriate for an older teen than a reader on the younger end of that YA spectrum.


In PirateCat, we handle this challenge by providing content ratings on all our stories, as well as content warnings for any stories that may include difficult subject matter. This ensures that readers (and parents) can find exactly the clean YA content that best fits the age and maturity levels of each individual teen reader.



Challenge #3: Overcoming the Stereotypes of "Clean" Fiction


Many people tend to think of clean fiction as innately cheesy, simplistic, or childish (if not outright preachy, as addressed above). Because of that, one of the challenges we've committed to tackling here at PirateCat is ensuring high quality storytelling in all our clean YA fiction. And we're super proud of the content in our portal!


Some writers believe that in order to tell a good story, they must include graphic violence, explicit sexual content, or profanity. This is not the case...and the stories in PirateCat are proof of that.


Clean fiction can be just as engaging and compelling as any other genre.


All of our fiction inside PirateCat was written with quality in mind, ensuring we're providing readers compelling clean fiction with well-developed, relatable, and realtistic characters, whose actions drive the plot forward in compelling, believable ways. With a strong plot and engaging characters, our readers will be drawn into the story--and they won't have to worry about explicit content along the way.


In conclusion...


Writing clean fiction for young adults can be challenging, but with a little creativity and skill, it is possible to create a compelling story that resonates with readers. By avoiding being preachy or didactic, being mindful of the limitations of the young adult audience, and balancing clean content with compelling storytelling, writers can create works that are engaging, uplifting, and appropriate for young adult readers... and here at PirateCat, that's exactly what we do.


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