Thursday, February 2, 2012

7 Common Mistakes Teen Writers Make Part 2


Gina here!

Yesterday, I talked about the first three mistakes teen writers make. Today I focus on the last four. But whether you’re a teen writer or just new to writing, these are mistakes all beginners usually make. With time and practice, you can master them and make them less common in your own writing.

Telling Emotions instead of Showing

Though teen writers have a good grasp of showing the actions of a scene instead of telling like younger writers, they still have difficulty showing emotions. They often use adverbs at the end of their dialogue. For example, she said, angrily. Or he said, shyly. A better way to write the dialogue would be to use an action beat to show the emotion. Instead of she said angrily, after the dialogue you can say, She hit the desk with her fist. No one likes to be told how to feel. The same is true with the reader. If you learn to allow the reader to feel your character’s emotions instead of telling them, it will make for a richer reading experience.

No Goals

Teen writers tend to write about what they know. Which is a good place to start, but if you just write about fun people, school, annoying parents, and boys without giving your main character a goal, then your story will be boring. Every character needs to have a goal (or dream) and a greatest fear that they must face. That goal should be hinted to in the beginning of the story. But remember not to tell simply tell the reader the goal, but to show it.

Let’s take a look at the Wizard of Oz. Dorothy is a typical teenager who doesn’t like her family or authority. She wants to escape. To run away somewhere over the rainbow. That is her goal in the beginning, but it’s not her story goal! That comes later when she is in Oz and wants to get back home to Auntie Em. But that’s another post for another day about story structure. The point is, don’t just have interesting characters on the page. Have them want something…something big and then send them on their journey. Which brings me to the next common mistake.

Not Enough Conflict

Once your character starts her journey toward her goal, there has to be conflict, preferably on every page. Yes, every page. But remember conflict comes in many forms. There’s internal conflict that is inside the character and stems from opposing goals, dreams, fears, insecurities, and past mistakes. There’s relational conflict where another character causes problems (external or internal) for the main character. And there is external conflict that comes from outside the character. Conflict is anything that slows the journey of your character and makes it more difficult (yet not impossible) for them to reach the end of their journey.

Now I know you love your characters and throwing problems at them is hard, but it’s necessary for a good story. Our job as authors, whether you’re a preteen, teen or adult, is to torture our characters so they can learn their lessons. Kind of sounds like a parent-child relationship, huh!

No Story Structure

I was twenty-three and newly married when I started my first novel. I had an idea I couldn’t get out of my head, so I just started writing. How hard could writing a novel be? Four kids later in my thirties, I wrote THE END. Then I tried to sell it, and soon realized there was more to writing then just putting words on a page. There was something called story structure, and I needed to learn it to be a good writer. Needless to say, that first story never sold.

Now some of you might be thinking, oh great, story structure. {insert eye roll} A bunch of writing rules I have to follow. Instead of thinking of story structure as a bunch of rules, think of it as destination stops on the way to where you want to go. If you were taking a cross country trip, there would be certain places you’d stop. This is the basis of story structure. But HOW you get to those different places has endless possibilities. For example, you can start in New York and drive to Philadelphia. Then you can take a plane to Dallas, take a bus to Oklahoma city and maybe rent a motorcycle for the rest of your journey.  Not so structured, now is it.

Whether you’re young or old, a new writer is a new writer, and we all need to learn the “rules” to great writing. The best thing about being a teen writer is you’re going to learn and master them way before most people. So go write! And help make these 7 common mistakes not so common!

I’m giving away ONE first chapter critique up to 10 pages (a $20 value!) to commenters on this post. 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, or if you’d like to take my online story writng course, please leave your email. If you tell me you found me on Go Teen Writer you will get a 10% discount!


Stephanie speaking: Thank you so much, Gina, for being with us and for giving away such a fabulous prize! Hey, writers, you can get entered twice if you leave a comment yesterday and today. To get entered today leave a comment saying with of the 7 traits on Gina's list trip you up the most: Too much backstory, not starting in the middle of the action, head hopping/POV, telling instead of showing, no goals, not enough conflict, or no story structure.


And learn more about Gina and her books at Writer ... Interrupted!

30 comments:

  1. I think that out of these four I probably struggle most with showing instead of telling. I love my adverbs, and my rough drafts are always clouded with them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. One trick I use to show instead of tell is ask yourself "what does angry look like? Or How does angry feel?" Then write what you see. Guess it helps if you're a visual writer.

      Delete
  2. I struggle with showing instead of telling, but I;m getting better.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. oops, a little semi colon there

      Delete
    2. Check out the reply I left above. And I would add, do a movie study of good actors. Actors have to show you how they feel through their actions and facial expressions. I've started a list of feelings and what actions express those feelings so when I write in my first draft that someone was confused, I then go back and check my list for how confused looks. Maybe that's something I should offer in my ebook!

      Delete
    3. I've been watching a DVD of Shakespearian acting masterclasses, and I've been finding that really useful in understanding character emotions, motivations and goals. I think that watching actors is a great way to get to grips with the workings of characters.

      Delete
  3. Showing not telling is definitely the hardest for me! Great post!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Check out my replies above, Elle. They just might help!

      Delete
  4. I love these posts! I think the ones I struggled with the most are no goals and no story structure. I see that a lot, especially at the beginnings of my manuscripts.
    Thank you for posting Gina and Stephanie!
    ~Sarah F.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Story structure can be learned and my ebook covers it and more!

      Delete
  5. I'm so excited about this! I have to admit I struggle in every area, but some area's are worse then others. As far as conflict goes, I think I'm good there (had to break a few of my character's limbs but that's a different much longer story). On the last list my biggest issue was with backstory and I think for this list, my biggest problem would be with NO GOALS! >.< I have goals, my characters have goals...they just don't seem BIG enough. Obvious enough. They're there... they just seem, blah, could be better. Why go for the kid's meal when you could order the double mac combo? My character's goal's are the kid's meal of story writing. Good but not quite satisfying. So that's what I need to work on! :D Have a wonderful day. These posts are fantastic!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The way you get to the BIG goals is to get to know your character. Which again is a process and a post for another day and it all starts with backstory! ;)

      Delete
  6. I still have trouble with story structure...

    I would love more info on the ebook!

    Jordan

    ReplyDelete
  7. I think I have the most trouble with having enough conflict and the goals. My story idea is pretty good, but I don`t know how to make it exciting.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Interestingly enough (or maybe not, to you. :D), I don't have any real problem with any of these except for showing/telling. The problem for me, there, is that for a substantial amount of my book, they're in the car, on the run. Has anyone ever written a "car" book? If so, I would love tips on how to "show" in the car. Most of it comes out through conversation, with little to no showing or telling. I have to be clever in their conversation, but I make sure you can tell what they're feeling through conversation. Don't worry, RUE is not that bad in those scenes. :D

    ReplyDelete
  9. Story structure is something I struggle with still... :P I don't mind following some of the rules, but I feel sometimes in my attempts to follow one I end up breaking another. Trying to find a happy medium between being good, and breaking the rules is turning out to be a little more on the challenging side.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Great post. It's true, looking back at my last manuscript, I can see all the holes. There's so many that I don't know how to fill them and will probably have to reorder and change many parts of the story. My current manuscript has been a bit of a struggle to find that happy medium. I've switched scenes, added scenes, removed scenes, and am now using the help of a wonderful storyboard that I made for myself. It's amazing what a difference being able to order ideas, stack suspense, and properly manipulate plot can make. All the work is definitely worth it.

    <3 Gina Blechman
    <3 Gina Blechman

    ReplyDelete
  11. Probably the thing that trips me up the most is telling instead of showing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Carrie, you're our winner! Please email me at Stpehanie(at)GoTeenWriters.com and I'll get you and Ms. Conroy hooked up.

      Delete
  12. I think no goals, not enough conflict, and no story structure kinda all go with each other. They did when I got started, at least. I still have trouble coming up with goals and conflicts in the idea stage - sometimes I have to (painfully) trash an idea, character, false start, etc. because I simply don't have any goals or conflicts in there and I can't find anything that is realistic or believable enough to work.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I think my biggest problem is structure. I know where I'm starting and usually where I want to end. But getting from point a to b can be a real challenge.

    ReplyDelete
  14. That's very helpful. :) I find my biggest problem to be giving too much away at the beginning... and structure.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Goals goals goals! My characters never have goals, due to the fact I don't know them really, and the fact that, until recently, I didn't know they should always have goals, little goals and big goals. Things that end up causing conflict. I'm working on it *sigh*

    ReplyDelete
  16. My biggest problem is probably not enough conflict. I have a weird attraction to making my favorite characters suffer, but a lot of that occurs in subplots with secondary characters. They (the subplots) usually complement the main plot, but the main plot itself can end up void of major conflicts. I'm working on fixing that, though. I'm finally starting to get into the zone of the every-event-must-move-the-plot-forward structure law. :D

    Thanks for the posts, Gina!! :D

    ReplyDelete
  17. This is really helpful. Thank you!

    I choose the one about no goals. Actually, I've gotten over that now (to an extent), but when I was younger none of my characters or stories had goals. Period. Needless to say, they turned out as worthless trash. Goals are vital -- end of story.

    Thank you again!

    ReplyDelete
  18. Wow, that blew my mind. I have problems with most of those. The one that resonates the most though is probably not enough conflict. I totally get that whole loving your characters and not wanting to hurt them too bad bit. :)
    Thanks! These tips will be a huge help.

    ReplyDelete
  19. No goals was definitely a massive problem in my first manuscripts! (Such a cool word. My favourite writing word, actually, I just decided.) Hey, I have a question -- what's a better word for 'favourite'? I've been searching without actually searching for one for quite awhile now.

    ReplyDelete
  20. No goals for me, too. Probably why my first manuscript has had to be edited so many times... :) Everything was happening *to* my MC and she was really kind of blandly taking it all in.

    Emii, what about 'preferred?' Though it really depends on context, that one.

    A great series of posts! Thanks for outlining these, Dina! :) And for the cool prize...

    Stephanie, that "Stephanie speaking" made me laugh.

    ReplyDelete
  21. "Carrie" was the winner of the 10-page critique. Congratulations!

    And thank you, Gina, for being with us and offering such a great prize!

    ReplyDelete

Home