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!)
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 (see a study guide for this book here) 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.
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…!
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.
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?