I wrote for the Sweet Valley series, created by pioneering YA author Francine Pascal. She is a real person. Every year at Christmas, she flies her ghostwriters to a private Sweet-Valley themed party where we are given gold lavaliere necklaces like the ones worn by her twin characters, Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield. Okay, that last sentence is fiction.
young, zesty, fun
Young Adult pulp fiction means a light tone with lots of snappy dialogue and action. Even within the genre there are subgenres with differing flavor profiles. My assignments included:
• regular teen series books with a soap opera-like flavor
• romance with bittersweet notes
• moody thrillers (starring a teen chess grandmaster-cum-martial artist)
• special edition summer stories of road trips gone wrong.
All require a touch of irony (but not too much), and a generous sprinkling of pop culture.
I have cranked out more than a dozen books for Francine Pascal and other writers, some of whom must remain top-secret! My favorite Sweet Valley assignment involved Elizabeth Wakefield impersonating a scullery maid in an English castle. I also got a kick out of the Fearless series, about Gaia, “the girl born without the fear gene.”
I got a lot out of this work. Formula writing looks easy but has its challenges:
• big word counts (mine were typically 59,000 words)
• tight deadlines
• taut plotlines
• seamlessly reproducing a pre-determined voice and tone
Being productive and speedy are useful take-aways from any job. Tonal versatility and adaptive writing techniques are subtler skills I gained through ghostwriting. They have served me well in other projects.