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Writing Tips for Teens #1: Guidelines and Getting Started

I miss seeing teen writers in classrooms and libraries. I wish I could volunteer with our local teen writing club in person instead of virtually. But we’re stuck with what we have in this COVID-19 era. I will provide writing tips for teens on the first blog of each month. Please feel free to share with other teens, classrooms, and libraries! (I’d appreciate your using my name in any acknowledgements, thanks.) If you want a hashtag, I’m using #writingtipsforteens. Enough of the small talk—let’s write!

Writing Tips for Teens #1: Guidelines and Getting Started

Guidelines:

I’ll be dispensing information and advice in these posts.

Information = facts, ie. What is a character?

Advice = suggestions, ie. What kind of writing schedule should I have? 

Information can be right or wrong. Advice is more subjective.

Each writer is unique. Use the advice that works for you, and ignore the rest. Never believe anyone who says “Never” or “Always.” (See what I did there? 😉) Keep an open mind—what works for you right now may not be what works in a few years or with the next project. 

There are only a few writing rules, but there are many guidelines. Not all will apply in every case. Rules like “You need a plot and characters for a story,” probably apply to you. Rules like “Never use adverbs,” probably don’t. Take them with a grain of salt. 

Getting started:

How do I work writing into my schedule?

This will vary with individual writers. Start with your daily and weekly routine and rhythm. Can you fit in writing before your school day starts, or at the end of the day? Or an hour or two on the weekend? Or a half hour while you wait for your younger sibling at soccer practice? My advice is to start small, with short periods of time, and see what works best for you.

Figure out how you’ll physically write and have it ready. Pen and legal pad, laptop, phone? Tell your friends and family, and make them honor that time by taking it seriously yourself. (Be prepared to get pushback. It may take some time before they believe you.) Find someone who can hold you accountable. Examples: Do weekly sprints of a half hour at a time with a writing friend. Tell your best friend to ask you if you’ve been writing this week.

How do I organize my thoughts?

Are you a plotter or pantser? Or a bit of both? Plotters like to plot or plan things out in advance. Pantsers like to write from the seat of their pants, without much planning. Try different things to see what feels right for you. I recommend doing at least a little planning before you write so you waste less time writing yourself into corners. (Been there, done that!) Keep your phone or paper handy for those quick thoughts that come to you as you stand in line or wake up in the morning. Create a system for writing more detailed thoughts.

Planning and organizing can take many forms. Use your learning/thinking style. Kinesthetic writers can make webs, collages, and boards and put sticky notes on their walls. Verbal writers can make lists and outlines, and write character studies. Auditory writers can speak into their phones or laptops and listen to them later. There are programs like Scrivener and Aeon Timeline for people who have money to spend on planning things out on their computers. (I just use Word and Excel, and sometimes add Aeon Timeline for timelines.)

Find a way to write and save writing. For writing and filing, I like using Word, Pages, or other programs so I can write and revise easily. Folders are handy for different docs and revisions. For saving, save to the cloud, thumb drive, computer backups, or more than one, to avoid the “I lost my whole book!” disaster. I save on a thumb drive each day and at least once a month on another system. 

Try different things and see what feels natural to you. And most important—have fun with writing! 

Want a prompt to get started? Here’s a couple I posted on Instagram this summer: 

He was the youngest warrior they’d ever had.

OR

I wouldn’t play their games anymore—I’d tear the game down instead.

Please comment if you have any questions. Take care. See you next month.

I love to share my passion for Alaska and its history in my writing for young adults and their grown ups.

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