Today Gina Conroy is here to talk about 7 Common Mistakes Teen Writers (and new writers) make. She's giving away a 10 page critique to one lucky commenter. To get entered to win, leave a comment saying what common mistake resonated most with you (or what mistake you used to make, but you now know better). If you comment today and tomorrow (Gina will be back for part two in her series) you'll be entered twice.
Gina Conroy used to think she knew where her life was headed; now she's leaning on the Lord to show her the way. She is the founder of Writer...Interrupted where she mentors busy writers and tries to keep things in perspective, knowing God's timing is perfect, even if she doesn't agree with it! ;)
Gina loves words and the power of story. As a teen writer she honed her writing through journaling and writing for her high school news paper. In college, she followed the journalism path and became news editor of her college paper. After college, she found her true love in novel writing, but still wrote for magazines and papers to pay the bills. Decades later she is represented by Chip MacGregor of MacGregor Literary, and her first novella, Buried Deception, in the Cherry Blossom Capers Collection, released from Barbour Publishing January 2012. Gina is a creative writing teacher and mentor to writers of all ages and loves to connect with readers. When she isn’t writing, teaching, or driving kids around, you can find her on Facebook and Twitter.
From Gina: Maybe you’re like me when I was a teen writer. I wrote my heart out, not giving any attention to the “rules” of writing. After all, I got straight A’s in my English classes and my teachers all loved my stories. And to be quite honest, I didn’t know there were any “rules” to writing a book. I figured you just started at the beginning and kept going until the end.
But it wasn’t until I finished my first novel as an adult and wanted to submit it to an editor that I realized there were a million things I didn’t know about writing a novel. So I joined a critique group and learned the “craft,” then decided it was time I helped others.
After mentoring adults, then teaching 3rd -5th graders how to craft a novel, I realized I could take what I’ve learned and teach it to teens in a way they could grasp. Using the same techniques I used as a novelist, I broke down the ideas into easy to understand language and watched my teen students soak in the information. Their ideas and imaginations were engaging, and many were already good writers, but they were making the same mistakes I made when I first started writing. It was my hope to make them great writers by teaching them what I had learned as a new writer.
One thing I learned about teaching teens and mentoring new adult writers is that a new writer is a new writer, no matter what their age. And many of the mistakes older new writers make are the same ones teen writers make. If you master the 7 common mistakes teen writers make, you’ll be well on your way to crafting the best novel you possibly can.
Too Much Backstory
If you have a bunch of backstory, that’s okay. In fact, writers sometimes have to get to know their characters really well before than can tell their story. If you don’t know your character’s story you can start by journaling about their life. Just let the words flow.
But once you know their story, ask yourself “What is the most important thing about my character the reader needs to know NOW to understand my character’s action?” Include that piece of information and then later look for ways to weave in your character’s history instead of explaining it all at once in narrative.
How do you do that?
You can show your character’s history through her present actions. Did something happen in her past to make her angry or cynical? Did something happen to cause her to have a bad relationship with a friend or family member? Resist the Urge to explain (RUE) why a character is acting the way she’s acting and just show it. Then as the story progresses you can drop little nuggets of information, one liners, or subtle comments through dialogue or internal thought to give the reader a HINT at her backstory. If you drop all the information about your character up front, the mystery and intrigue will be gone, and your reader will be bored and not want to turn the page.
Not Starting in the Middle of the Action
This mistake goes along with too much backstory. Teen writers often feel the need to explain or show all the actions that lead up to the important action that starts the book, but it’s much more interesting to drop the reader in during the action! If your story is about high school bullying, it’s not necessary to show the reader everything that happens before your main character gets to school. Just drop your reader into the scene where the action is starting…when the bully is getting in the face of the main character or maybe is doing the bullying herself!
Head Hopping and Wrong Use of POV
The exception to this rule is when you end a scene or chapter and start a new scene or chapter, then you can choose a different POV to tell the story. But I don’t recommend this unless you’re writing a romance or thriller which needs the POV change. Staying in one POV may seem more difficult, but the challenge will make you a better writer and it will help solidify that deep POV connection with the reader.
Come back tomorrow for the rest of the 7 Common Mistakes Teen Writers Make!
I’m giving away ONE first chapter critique up to 10 pages (a $20 value!) to commenters on this post. For a second chance to win, come back for part 2 of 7 Common Mistakes Teen Writers Make. I’m in the process of crafting an ebook for teen writers outlining the 7 mistakes and everything you need to know to structure a novel. If you would like to know when the ebook will be made available, please leave your email and if you tell me you found me on this blog, you will get a 10% discount!