We've now processed about 50 stories (of which we have accepted 1 - not a bad hit rate from either side of the fence), and thought we'd check in with some commentary on the most common problems that we've noticed among the submissions. This is aside from *really* common problems such as writing that doesn't flow well enough, drafts that are too drafty, and other basic elements of good prose.
1. The material is not suitable for a YA audience.
The YAness of a story may be more in the eye of the beholder than, say, whether a story is Romance or SF, but we've been sent some stories that no one in their right mind would want to be responsible for emailing to teenagers or school libraries. Sex and violence as themes or topics to discuss within the narrative are fine, but gratuitous sex scenes, rape, abuse and toddler incest are really not what we're looking for.
We will not publish stories which present teenagers (or any character!) in a sadistic, voyeuristic or exploitative way. We would also prefer not to read them.
2. Just because your story does *not* have excessive amounts of sex and violence in it does not automatically mean it counts as a YA story.
a) If you don't read and enjoy YA extensively as a genre, please do not submit to us. Your story is unlikely to be a match for Shiny. We are looking for stories that fit into an active, thriving genre.
b) Good YA almost always has a teenage protagonist. There are exceptions to this, but they are rare. Your story must certainly have a protagonist who is going to appeal to a teenage audience. Forty-something protagonists with marriage problems and mid life crises are really not going to cut it.
c) YA is for intelligent, well-read teenagers. Not children. Think fifteen year olds rather than eleven, eight or six year olds.
d) Telling the reader that the character is a teenager is not enough - if the voice of the character doesn't feel authentically like someone at that particular phase of life, the story will simply not work. This applies to "teenage" characters who sound too young as well as too old. (yes, this is an inexact science. yes, perception is everything. yes, it's difficult)
We have also noticed lots of:
3. Stories where nothing happens, despite a promising back story, setting, character and problem.
4. Stories that are let down by a blah "so what?" kind of ending.
5. Stories that patronise the reader.
6. Stories with boring, obvious plot "twists".
Okay, that all sounded kind of negative, didn't it? Next post will be cheerfuller. We're planning on reviewing some of our favourite YA books up here to start giving you an idea of material we *like* and will hopefully start putting a recommended reading list together for people who want to give themselves something of a YA crash course. In the mean time, check out this post on Colleen Mondor's Chasing Ray blog, where she attempts to put together a shortlist of some of the best coming of age YA stories of all time: http://www.chasingray.com/archives/2007/01/you_should_read_this_awards_20.html.
Tansy (& the Shiny team)
PS: When we say we want to read more of your work, we really mean it.