Writing Resources for Teenagers

By Ali Hale

I know from the comments that lots of teens read Daily Writing Tips, and as a former teenage writer myself, I wanted to offer some of my tips and favourite resources.

I’ve been telling stories for as long as I can remember – even before I could write, I made up stories to tell to my mum and baby brother. As a teen, I wrote a science-fiction novella (about 40,000 words) aged 14/15. I still have it tucked away in a wardrobe in my parent’s house. Here’s some of the advice I could have done with back then…

(I’m going to be focusing on teen fiction writers here, but you’ll find some useful links if you’re a blogger or non-fiction writer too. A lot of the sites referenced are great for under-13s too, and plenty of the good writing advice applies to adults, not just teens!)

Ali’s tips

Before I get to the list of resources, I’ll give you three quick tips that helped me as a teen writer.

1. Join a writers’ circle or evening class – I started going to one when I was 14 and stayed until I left for university aged 18. I was the youngest member by a long way, but I was made very welcome and I learnt a huge amount.

2. Write every day – I used to scribble away in the school library in my lunch-hour, and my parents gave me a word processor (more like a glorified typewriter than a computer) when I was 15.

(Aged 16, I discovered an online writing game, and the rest of my writing all but stopped for two years…)

3. “Borrow” plots from classics – The first stories I wrote that I was happy with, aged 12, were based on Beowulf and the Ballad of Semmerwater (both of which we were studying in English class).

Young Writer Magazine

I used to read this when I was about 12, and then it stopped being published for years. It’s being published regularly again (hurrah!) though a bit late for me. It caters for writers under 18, and publishes children’s and teens’ fiction and poetry. You might have trouble finding it on the magazine racks if you’re outside the UK, but you can subscribe on the Young Writer website, wherever you live in the world.

(I also recommend reading general writing magazines aimed at adults – these will have plenty of articles aimed at beginners, and give you a real sense of the publishing industry.)

Competitions Open to Teens

One of my real frustrations as a teen writer was that Writing Magazine’s competitions were only open if you were 16+ (due to awarding cash prizes). Happily, there are lots of teen-specific writing competitions. Here’s just a couple of them:

TooWrite (run by Young Writer) which is open to writers aged 16 and under, of any nationality. The prizes on offer are great, too; your height in books if you’re under 10, the length of your foot in CDs if you’re 11-13, and your age in number of DVDs if you’re 14-16.

The Green Story – Teen Version (Link no longer active) – This is a competition where you can submit a chapter of a collaborative novel. The chapters get voted on and the best one becomes part of the novel.

If you google “writing competitions”, you’ll find plenty of links … and keep an eye out on noticeboards at school, in bookstores or at public libraries for local competitions.

Online Articles

Over the past few years, I’ve come across some excellent online articles aimed at teen writers. Here’s a few that I recommend reading:

From Vision: A Resource for Writers:

Being a Teenage Writer – by Lorianne Watts (aged 17 at the time she wrote the article).

Five Practical Tips for Young Writers – by Beth Adele Long, the associate editor of Young Writer’s Scene. (NB: something is wrong with the formatting of this one; if you copy-and-paste the whole thing into Word, it’s readable!)

Helping Younger Writers – by Lazette Gifford, the editor of Vision. Aimed at adults who want to help younger writers, but give it a read if you’re a teen too.

Starting Out: A Guide for Young Writers by Victoria Hastings (who had her first newspaper publication when she was in the fifth grade).

Articles from elsewhere:

Guidelines for Teen ProBloggers – from ProBlogger. Great advice if you want to get into professional (i.e. money-making!) blogging.

Tips for Young Writers – from Zoe Marriott (who writes for a young adult audience). She answers several reader questions here.

10 Things Teenage Writesr Should Know About Writing – very honest advice, humorously offered. I wish I’d read this when I was fourteen…!

Recommended books

Try borrowing, begging or buying copies of a few good books on writing. These tend to be aimed at adult (or college student) writers, but the advice is usually straightforward and perfectly suitable for beginners. Two of the books I’ve found very useful are:

Nigel Watts’ Teach Yourself: Writing A Novel And Getting Published – I’ve had my copy since I was 14 (I still remember buying it with my birthday money in 1999…) The cover’s almost fallen off now, which shows how useful it’s been over the years!

Palgrave’s How to Write Fiction (And Think About it). This is aimed at students, and goes into a lot of depth and theory about fiction writing – but I’d suggest giving it a go anyway. If you’re an intelligent teen, you can handle it.

Your school librarian may be able to recommend some good books, and if you know any adult writers, try asking them.

NaNoWriMo

I’ll end this article by pointing you towards NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), which starts on November 1st. Challenge yourself to write a 50,000 word novel in just one month – hundreds of thousands of people get involved every November, and there’s a dedicated Young Writers’ program for kids and teens (where you set your own target number of words). If you’re aged 13 – 17, you can sign up for the Young Writers’ program or the main site.

It would be fantastic to hear from some of Daily Writing Tips’s teen writers – we know you’re out there! What are you working on at the moment? Do you write fiction, a blog, or something else entirely? What do you find best and worst about being a teen writer?

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23 Responses to “Writing Resources for Teenagers”

  • Claire Askew

    Hey guys,

    I run an entire blog dedicated to new, young and emerging writers, called One Night Stanzas. It’s relatively new but growing all the time and it contains advice on everything from penning the perfect cover letter to workshopping your work to submitting for publication in magazines. I also run a free advice service – you can drop me a line any time with even the smallest of questions. If you’re a teenage writer it’s a safe, non-judgemental place to learn about the writing process, connect with other writers and ask for help. Check it out.

    Claire.

  • Alex

    Age 15

    Been writing since I was 13, so I have completed one ‘novel’ (’twas 51783 words)

    This year i am starting a new project on NaNoWriMo. I am on both the young writers and adult page, just so that i can use both forums.

    I am also on http://www.storywrite.com which is very useful as it allows you to share work with others and gather critisism.

    great tips. I got ‘How to Write Fiction (And Think About it)’ for my birthday, it was very helpful.

  • Ali

    Hey Alex,

    Good luck with NaNoWriMo this year — and well done on already completing a novel!

  • Miki

    I’m 15, and I’ve been writing for about eight years.

    The thing I struggle most as a teenage writer is the lack of critics. I’m a bit insecure about showing my friends my work (yes, I can be shallow and immature), but they’re not writers. My parents don’t write either, so I can’t quite trust them for the kind of critiquing (did I spell that right?) I need. And, as I’m homeschooled, I don’t have any English teachers to help.

    At the moment, my writing outlets are at Fictionpress (under penname “friendoftheabc”; this website does fulfill some of my criticism needs) and on my blog, Twenty-six Lead Soldiers. I’ve also joined NaNoWriMo this year for the first time; wish me luck :-)!

    Additionally, I’ve recently found out that some of the younger siblings of my friends enjoy writing. I’m planning to start a writing group so that they won’t get caught in the same frustrations I did.

    By the way, thanks for setting up this website. It’s helped a lot :-).

  • Romy

    Wish I could get copies of your two above recommended books.

    When I tried to order, Amazon.com’s advice was: they could not deliver them to my address in the Philippines.

    Just one their many restrictions?

  • Briana

    I’ve been writing since I was in the 5th grade and am currently in the 11th. I love to write and read. My main problem seems to be focusing on one story because I have so many different ideas. All of them are at least 30 pages on word though 🙁 it’s like a constant dance around the different stories. Like Miki, I also have a lack of friends who write or are interesting in writing like that so it makes true feedback somewhat hard to receive.

  • Britt

    I’m fifteen now, but I’ve been telling stories ever since I could write sentences.

    I’ll blame Dr. Seuss for that. ^.^

    Right now I’m writing several thousand different universes. My big thing is actually seeing a story through to the end, because a new idea always comes up eventually and tears me away. Short attention span, curse thee!

    I hope one day to write a young adult novel, just to say I actually finished something.

    Great article by the way, I could always do with encouragement.

  • minsta

    i can never finish a story..
    Never has any of my novel reached an end… I’ve got a cllection of supah-dupah beginnings..
    I just can’t switch off my internal editor

  • meryel

    Hi,

    I’m just starting to write my own novel..

    You guys, helped me a lot!

    more power

  • Elin

    Hi, i’m Elin
    I’ve been writing since i was about five or six and absolutely love it. I’ve always dreamt of becoming a successful writer and this website has helped boost my confidence. Unfortunately none of my friends really enjoy writing much and i’m always too shy to show my stories to any-one, except my dad, who sometimes reads them as he used to write when he was younger. He says they’re good but your parents can hardly say they don’t like your stories so it’d be great to have an outside opinion. I would love to be able to send my stories to some-one and receive some advice on how to improve, and enter as many competitions as possible. It would also be great to contact other people who enjoy writing and maybe exchange work. I’m writing a novel at the moment which is 135 pages so far and have written a lot of other novels, (but unfortunately have not managed to end all of them yet!)
    I attend a writing squad at the moment which has been a great help to my writing. But every-one there all ready has their friends there and none of my friends were picked to become a member and i feel kinnda shy reading out my work. I’d love to make proper friends with some-one who enjoys writing just like me, so we can both support each other.
    I know the writing industry is a hard one and not many people get their novels published. But i am absolutely determined to get my writing published because it means everything to me.

  • Jordan

    Thank you so much for this article, it really helped. I’m thirteen, and I’ve been writing for the last few years and I absolutaly love it. But a lot of the time I have trouble seeing a story through to the end, or doing anything with it. =P

  • Rashel Ryder

    First of all, thank you for all the tips on writing. They were all very helpful, especially Miss Watts’s piece. Knowing that people recognize teens as writers is awesome, because we know we might not be taken seriously.

    I am 15 years old and have completed a novel. I’ve been writing since I could hold a pencil. And much to my teachers’ dismay, I prefer the supernatural fiction genre. After reading all the comments, it seems as though we all have the same problems.
    1. Having a group of teens similair to ourselves. 2. Seeing a peice of work to the end.
    But we all have one thing in common, something that binds us all together… (Take a guess?)
    OUR PASSION FOR WRITING!!!

    So my advice to all of us: Don’t put the pen down, until you’ve written everything you want to say. And sure as hell don’t give up on your writing. Express yourself, and let your voice be heard through the words you write in black and white.

  • Alaura

    I’m 15 and I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember- I really got into it around 7th grade and my life has practically revolved around it since.

    I am currently writing a novel and am at 17398 words so far. It’s really fun to write a novel and see it come together- I’m just a little frustrated that I’ve been working on it for about 2 years (or more) and have barely reached 41 pages. It probably didn’t help that I was in a dry period where I didn’t work on it at all but still.

    I’ve found that writing articles and books help quite a lot- my favourite so far, since I haven’t read any others, is How I Write by Janet Evanovich. She is by far, my favourite adult author and getting advice from her has definitely helped.

    I think I’m going to request the two books you mentioned up top and see what I can get from those as well. I’m sure that I could use some more advice. I’m already following at least 8 blogs on writing as of yesterday and have been visiting sites such as this and noveldoctor.com as well as mamakatslosinit.com for writing advice and writing prompts.

    I feel that the more help I can get with my writing, the better my novel will be. The link that I have for my “website” is my story and the writing prompts I use to keep my writing skills sharpened (bad metaphor, I know).

    Anyway, I feel I’ve wasted enough of your time with my rabble so I’m going to go 🙂
    Thanks!

  • Brittany

    i’ve been writing stories since about 6th grade. I’m about to go in 10th. I love to write. I always try to blend mystery/murder and romance. I love books from authors such as Nicholas Sparks, Jodi Picoult and Nora Roberts(as JD Robb). I love these books. I have 2 or 3 friends who I have read my stories, but only one of them i trust in their opinion. She is an avid writer as well, and we both ask each other for ideas. Her stories are amazing, and she will honestly critique mine. But I have trouble adding details or connecting dialogue. But my stories are good. I just need emphasis and plot connection help. 😛

  • GSGS

    I’m fourteen and have been writing since I was a six year old 🙂 My mum’s got a box of my stories… somewhere, which she won’t let me read. She’ll probably bring them out on my 21st or something and embarrass me.
    I love writing, I’m writing a story which is 61,000 words now, and it’s still going strong ^_^
    Thanks for these tips, I love this site 🙂

  • chloe

    hi,
    i’m 11 and i’ve written for a couple of years. i never finnish my novels and if i do ( rarely) their endings are never as good as the beginnings. my friends love writing but they always finnish them.
    this site is great!
    🙂

  • Meia Pipa

    I know this article was posted a long time ago, but I figured since you want to hear from teen writers….

    I’m 15 and write ALL the time. Most of my writing isn’t stuff I share with others. Heck, I have 22 notebooks FULL of stuff I’m never ever going to share. At the same time, I have a story/novel in it’s first draft that I’ve finished. All of my friends love it, but I can’t seem to get up and work on it anymore. I finished the first draft, so I was proud of that… But now I just scoff when I read it.

    And then I looked into the young writer’s NaNoWriMo and all the ‘pep talk’ articles. My spirits were lifted, and the draft I haven’t even touched (the manuscript is still sitting under my bed) is starting to look a whole lot better. I think I’ll just sit out on the hammock (got to love summer holidays) and get started on revising!

    Also, your site that I’ve just discovered today is inspiring me to get back and write like I used to… Thank you!

  • Adrian Gonzalez

    I’ve been writing short stories since 4th grade and I want to learn how to be even better. I want to learn to make a novel and self-publish it. I need advice. 🙂

  • Adrian Gonzalez

    I made a realistic story and a true fictional story.
    The first one was a story about a teenager who had survived a virus that brings the dead to life (zombies) and his friend has the cure in his blood.
    You see I didn’t make the main protaganist with the cure for the world but, his best friend. It causes problems later in the story.

    The other story I made was about the world ending-2012. What happens is that the world is at war because of Heaven and Hell fighting for the Earth. I’m a Christian so that’s why I made it in this format. What happens is that the main character is a hybrid of human/demon/angel. He has trouble with people, demons and angels changing his destiny at every moment. Who should he trust? Which side should he be on?

  • Skye C.

    I wish I had found this article when I was younger. I’ve been writing stories since I was about 10 and it would have been great to read these while writing my pathetic attempts at rip-offs of Anne of Green Gables, etc.
    Currently, I tend to write stories about real relationships. I’m not any good at writing science fictions or fantasy books. Do you think that will hinder my ability to get published?

  • Jodie

    I am 10 years old and have been writing kind of since a week ago out of school. I am writing a novel,a fantasy and romance with a bit of mystery it is and I am writing for Camp Nanowrimo YWp(actually I am
    also on the other site,my cabin so motivating) and I am at 17,500 words. I have been reading your website for a while and it has helped me tremendously

  • Jodie

    Hi. Jodie bavk again. Just wanna let you know that on Wednesday I hit 50,000 wirds. My novel is not done yet,but it will be finishrd soon.

  • Andrea

    This helped me so much! Thank you for writing this. Even though I’m reading this a few years after it was published.. but still.
    Anyway. I’m 11, and I have been writing since 1st grade. I have a bunch of stories in this notebook. Over the years though, it’s getting harder for me to write a story.. or even a novel which is my goal. I hope by the time I’m 13 I have a novel that I wrote in front of me. On a notebook. Full of ink.
    I think the hardest part of being a youbg writer is not being able to stick to one single plot line at a time and be able to finish it. But I hope I get to do this soon. Meanwhile the best thing is not being pressured to write unlike proffesional authors. We aren’t technically expected to finish a best selling novel by the time we’re 18. I do not have a blog (underage, I guess)but now I’m trying really hard to write a novel!

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