Do you remember? The agony of that boy or girl not "liking" you? Arguments with your parents about homework, or who you were going with, or curfew? Zits and feeling awkward? The joy of getting your driver's license? If you answered yes to any of these questions, perhaps you should consider writing short stories for teens.
Teenagers still have the same basic problems: wanting acceptance, striving for independence, peer pressure, etc. The trappings may have changed, but it doesn't take much to get up-to-date.
The first important thing to do is: hang around with some teens. If you have teenagers living in your home, this should be easy. But if you don't, there are many places you can observe and listen to teenagers:
- Organizations such as clubs, associations and church youth groups
- A local middle school or high school
- The mall or a local fast food restaurant
- Sporting events
Making friends with teenagers, will get you an even closer look at the problems in their lives. In addition, talk to adults who have teens in their lives: your neighbor, a school counselor, a youth pastor, etc.
Next step, check out the magazines written for teens. There are high paying ones such as "Seventeen" and "Boys' Life" and ones like "International Gymnast" and "Thrasher" aimed at a specific audience. Religious publications for teens vary from glossy magazines to skinny church take-home papers. Read the magazines, get their guidelines and, for some, request theme lists.
When you look at these magazines, notice the following:
- The audience.
Is this magazine for younger teens or older teens? For boys only? Or girls? Is it for sports enthusiasts?
- Does it do fiction? If so, how might you need to tailor a story for this market?
A teen magazine may want an inner city setting. Another wants no reference to dating. Let sample copies, the market book and guidelines be your guides.
Is this magazine avant-garde or conservative? In the religious market, be aware of how much "Godly living" or "religion" each magazine shows. In any case, don't preach.
- Rights each one buys.
Some magazines purchase "all rights," but many buy "first" or "reprint rights" and others buy "one-time rights" or "simultaneous rights." A story written for one place may be salable to another and another depending on rights purchased.
- Themes and deadlines.
Some theme lists are very specific; others are more general. Either way they can kick off story ideas for you. Just remember, stories to fit an entry on a theme list must make the magazine's deadline to be considered.
After you've finished your research, your mind will probably be brimming with story ideas. Choose one and get down to writing.
Keep focused on one problem per story. I have to ask myself, "what is the major issue I want to deal with in this story?" And then not let myself get side-tracked.
As you write, think teenagers! Is this a problem a teen would have? Is this a place a teenager would be? Is this how they would say this? If you get stuck, ask a teen for help. Ask them what they would say or do. If you want to use slang, either use what's current--and know what it means--or use something that sounds slangy but doesn't come from any specific generation.
Also, as you write, think which youth magazines might like this story. Make yourself a list of the potential markets for each individual story.
A lot of work writing short stories for teens? Yes. But there are opportunities for sales and satisfaction in doing the job well. The ultimate reward though is teenagers reading your stories.