A while ago, I played around with a short story idea in a genre I don't normally write (Young Adult fiction). The story took on a life of its own, growing quickly to a novella, and now is definitely a novel, trying to stretch itself to a series.

The story itself is going great, I'm just not sure where/how to break it up for a YA audience. Specifically, I expect the content to be most appealing to the pre/young-teen crowd (12-14). So far (it's still not completely mapped out) there are seven 'parts' -- that is, major plot arcs secondary only to the main series-long arc.

Were I writing for adults, I'd combine parts 1-3 into Book I, parts 4-5 into Book II, and parts 6-7 into Book III. However, this might be too long for a YA audience, putting each book at 500+ pages with the longest at about 700 (guesstimated, of course, all but the first part are mostly notes).

It probably seems a bit early to try breaking things up, but one of my New Year's resolutions will be to make real time for my writing. To set goals, I'd like some idea of at which point in the plot Book I is "done".

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    Is there any reason to abbreviate the tag to "ya" when "young-adult" fits so easily?
    – StrixVaria
    Commented Nov 22, 2010 at 19:53
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    @StrixVaria I was under the impression that most SE sites have the policy of "use abbreviations whenever possible". If we have no such policy here, I'm all for the change as it is more obvious/readable.
    – HedgeMage
    Commented Nov 22, 2010 at 20:00
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    At least on Gaming, we like to write things out unless they must be abbreviated to fit into the tag length limit. It just makes everything more readable.
    – StrixVaria
    Commented Nov 22, 2010 at 20:10
  • On the SE sites I spend time on, we try to keep the tags easily human-readable. This also fits with the general SE goal of developing sites that are easily used by non-stack-exchange-folks. Commented Nov 23, 2010 at 5:17
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    How much editing have you done? If there is anything that can be cut, (shorter sentences, more dense descriptions, unnecessary scenes, etc) it's possible you can get the word count down and also have better books.
    – MGOwen
    Commented Nov 23, 2010 at 6:16

4 Answers 4


This is kinda obvious but it does definitely affect breaking up the story, so I think it deserves emphasis. Being a recent graduate from the Young Adult market, I strongly recommend that you divide it in such a way that each standalone book ends on some kind of incredibly surprising cliffhanger, or an ending that has the reader ferociously needing to know what happens next (thanks Fox Cutter). Nothing got me and my friends wanting a sequel more than a blatantly overdone shocker ending.

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    Or anything that leaves the reader asking 'what happens next' it could be a cliff hanger, or it could be that the climax of the books has changed everything.
    – Fox Cutter
    Commented Nov 22, 2010 at 19:48
  • Yeah, that's a better way to phrase it. I'll edit my answer to make it more clear.
    – Maulrus
    Commented Nov 22, 2010 at 19:50

The first thing I would do is see what the normal length for a YA book is. It seems to me they are around 50k to 60k words. They can be much longer, but you have to be established. Even the first Harry Potter book was a fairly normal length of the genre.

Once you know the normal length you can shoot for the first book to hit around that mark, then go from there.


The Tomorrow When the War Began series is probably very similar to what you are describing. It's seven (brilliant) novels, following one major story arc. What the author, John Marsden, did was to give each story its own resolution, but still leave the reader wanting to know more. This was usually done by leaving something about a character unanswered, so that the next novel was still appealing. The major arc could then unfold throughout.

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    This is how television series tend to be structured as well. Commented Jan 15, 2017 at 3:10

Just like how people have mentioned "cliffhangers" (very important), it's also imporant to shorten it in ways that are necessary.

What I would suggest writing the whole thing out first (since you have the whole thing planned out already), and then find good places to shorten it. If you can't find good places, find the best you can and change it up a little, if you can, to give it a cliffhanger. If it changes the whole story, either go for it or do a different part.

That's all I really have to say. Good luck!

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