Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Teen Writers: Advice for the Young Writers

A while back I spoke to high school students about writing. I got some quotes from several authors to give to the kids.Maybe some of these will help spark your writing. Also, if you know some teen writers, there are some great web sites below you can send them to get more encouragement.
Bob Elmer
Bob Elmer: 
1. What sorts of things from your childhood/teens have you used in your writing? Anything specific?
 "In my first series, The Young Underground, I had the kids raising homing pigeons -- which I also did as a kid. It was unusual enough to add a different twist to the stories. Also, I often added an animal to the mix, and I had lots of animals when I was young. My love of sci-fi stories as a kid helped me write sci-fi stories as an adult.

Beyond that, I always try to sprinkle in attitudes and little memories, even though I'm always on the lookout for new material. Using memories as a springboard is great, but eventually we run out of material."

2. Are kids that different today?
"In some ways maybe, but in others, no. My feeling is that even though my childhood was a few years ago, we all share a common bond. I just have keep thinking like a kid, with eyes wide open and ready for new experiences."

Colleen Coble
Colleen Coble, Indiana author of romantic suspense
1. Do you draw any of your ideas from your teen years?
"Sure. All those feelings of rejection and inferiority come from the teen years. LOL. Lots of actual incidents from my childhood and teen years have made it into my work too.

2. What advice do you have for teen writers to encourage them to continue their journey?
"Realize that it's not going to happen now. You need some experience under your belt so you can have a book that resonates. In the meantime, journal your experiences and remember the ways you learn to deal with the hard knocks that hit us all. And read, read, read. That's the best education for writing you can have."

3. What's your best method for coming up with ideas for your books?

"Read magazines and newspapers and tear out anything that inspires an idea, even if it's not fully fleshed out. Watch documentaries and the history channel, even if you're not writing a historical. History is a great teacher of the human condition and people don't change, just technology around us. Be an observer of people too and jot down any interesting circumstances you notice."

Max Elliot Anderson
Max Elliot Anderson, author for boys, who hated reading when he was young:
1. What is your best advice to kids who are writing right now?
 "Start early. I wish I had. This is a very competitive business. It’s difficult to get established. Publishers are looking for that extra element that will cause one author to stand out over another. It’s called platform. I’ve been working for over two years on my blog, Books for Boys. As a result of  constantly working on this, Books for Boys   recently reached the # 1 spot on Google. Something like this is very important to publishers, given that over 30 million sites pop up under this search subject.
 Then, notice the types of books that are already being published, and see if you can find a way to write for an area of the market where there isn’t so much competition. Write in your own voice. This means, don’t try to sound like some other writer. Write like you think and speak.

Expect it to take a very long time to establish yourself as a writer / author. Writing is the easy part. It’s all the other aspects of an author’s life that are the real work. Publishers expect you to do much of the promotion and marketing work. Start working on your public speak skills too. But if you were born to write, you’ll know it. Even if no one understands this, don’t let anyone get in the way of your dream. At the same time, until you become established as an author, make sure you have a backup plan. By that I mean plan for your education and a job that will carry you in the earlier years. It can also give you a career in case becoming an author doesn’t happen for you."

2. What do you like best in a story—since you didn’t like reading as a boy?
"I like a story with an element of danger. I don't like large blocks of type and I hate seemingly endless details that don't advance the story. I like humor and a fast pace. Shorter sentences are good for a reader like me, and short chapters. I like a little larger type and a page layout where I won't easily lose my place if I look away. I'm attracted more by story and plot, and not as much by the characters. I think one of the reason that the 35 manuscripts I've written so far all have different main characters, is probably because I wouldn't necessarily care if I saw the same characters in the next book or not. It also frees me up to read any book, and not have to go in the book order of a series."

Sarah Sumpolec, author of teen books:

"Young writers, I think, should focus on lots of reading. And not just reading things they naturally like. But trying out a wide variety of books. And along with that reading, learning to analyze a story. When you finish a book, ask yourself things like:
Why did I like (or not like) this book?
What did I know about the main character?
How did the main characters change over the course of the story?
What kept my interest the most? (The people? The story?) Why?

Young writers should also do lots of writing. Practice! Practice! Practice! You'll never get too much practice! If any of them are like me, they may start lots of different projects, but never actually finish them. So completing a project - writing the entire story from start to finish, is a valuable habit to get into. You don't have to finish every story, but you should finish some of them:-)"

What have you used from your growing up years in your writing?
"Interestingly, I have found that I pull from much of my growing up years and use that in my writing. I was in drama throughout school so sometimes my characters are involved with a play production, or I simply use my background in acting to help me develop my characters. I also valued education, so you won't find my characters not caring about school."

She and a large list of writers for teens blog at their site Girls, God and the Good Life.
"Writing is an extension of who we are, so the more well-rounded we are (and willing to try out lots of different things), then the more well-rounded our writing will be. ~Sarah Sumpolec
More sites for Teen Writers

Stephanie Morrill's Go Teen Writers Blog

A Novel Writing Site with Lynn Dean, Michelle Van Loon, Naomi Musch and Teri Dawn Smith.

Entertainment site for Teens by Ken Raney  and

Professional Writing Program at Taylor University, Upland, IN : Contact admissions to schedule a time to come and learn more about the program.  If you are a high school sophomore or junior, consider coming this summer to our three week CRAM session.  You will live on campus, eat at our dining commons, and attend classes that are not only fun, but will also earn you college credit.

"You must keep sending work out; you must never let a manuscript do nothing but eat its head off in a drawer. You send that work out again and again, while you're working on another one. If you have talent, you will receive some measure of success - but only if you persist."- Isaac Asimov
 Lots of links, so have fun exploring!

Crystal Laine Miller
Crystal, hard at work, brainstorming

P.S. Check out this week's focus on Jeff Gerke from Marcher Lord Press at The Barn Door!

The Barn Door Book Loft. Free Books! Book Giveaways.

1 comment:

Lynn Dean said...

Great article! Thanks for the link to NOVELWritingSite. :)