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Posts from the ‘Writing fiction about teens’ Category

Month In Review (September 2013)

Writing Teen Novels has reached the end of its ninth month of articles for 2013 from this year’s line-up of novelists from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

Writing Teen Novels contributor Elizabeth Wein is attached to two novel writing retreats in November, 2014 with Novel Writing Retreats Australia.

Thank you to all the contributors, to everyone who has been reading the articles and those who have connected with Writing Teen Novels on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or Tumblr, or via Novel Writing Quotes on Facebook or Google+.

Articles for September 2013

Using Movies And TV As Inspiration For Novels by Beth Revis

First Person Versus Third Person Narration by Bernard Beckett

Language In Teen Novels by Diane Lee Wilson

Writing Dialogue In Novels by Monika Schroder

Writing About Violence And Physical Harm In Novels by April Henry

Using A Notebook To Store Ideas For Novel Writing by Paul Volponi

My Favourite Author Of Teen Novels by Elizabeth Wein

Embracing E-Books by Amy Kathleen Ryan

Writing Believable Teen Characters by Lish McBride

Life As A Published Novelist by Andy Briggs

Plot Structure In Novels by Kate Forsyth

On Getting A Novel Published by Pauline Francis

Working With My Editor by Stephen Emond (graphic novelist)

On Research For Writing Teen Science Fiction by Sam Hawksmoor

On Prologues And Epilogues In Teen Historical Novels by Carolyn Meyer

On Revising A Novel Manuscript by Kashmira Sheth

A Page-Turning Plot = A Character-In-Action (Secrets Of Narrative Drive) by Sarah Mussi

Writing Dialogue In Teen Novels by Laurie Faria Stolarz


‘Month In Review’ Updates

For more articles on writing novels you can check out Writing Historical Novels and Writing Novels in Australia.


Writing Teen Novels

Month In Review (August 2013)

Writing Teen Novels has reached the end of its eighth month of articles for 2013 from this year’s line-up of novelists from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

Writing Teen Novels contributor Elizabeth Wein is attached to two novel writing retreats in November, 2014 with Novel Writing Retreats Australia.

Thank you to all the contributors, to everyone who has been reading the articles and those who have connected with Writing Teen Novels on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or Tumblr, or via Novel Writing Quotes on Facebook or Google+.

Articles for August 2013

Tips For Writing Page-Turning Novels by April Henry

Creating Teenage Characters For Novels by Diane Lee Wilson

My Journey Of Writing And Publishing My First Novel by Mandi Lynn (guest article)

Not Treating Teenage Years Merely As Preparation For Adulthood In Your Novels by Bernard Beckett

The Importance Of An Authentic And Unique Voice In Teen Novels by Monika Schroder

Bringing English 101 To Your Novel by Beth Revis

Should You Self-Publish Your Book? by Paul Volponi

Three Act Structure For Novel Writing by Amy Kathleen Ryan

Characters And Story Development For Novels by Laurie Faria Stolarz

My Writing Process For ‘The Wildkin’s Curse’ by Kate Forsyth

Writing ‘Evil’ Characters In Teen Novels by Elizabeth Wein

Overcoming Writer’s Block by Lish McBride

Writing Dialogue In Novels by Carolyn Meyer

Sustaining A Plot With Obstacles And Sub-Goals (Secrets Of Narrative Drive) by Sarah Mussi

Getting Story Ideas And Writing Them Into Novels by Pauline Francis

Writing Stories In Different Formats by Stephen Emond (graphic novelist)

Comparing Teen Fiction And Adult Fiction by Sam Hawksmoor

The Benefits Of Taking A Break When Writing by Kashmira Sheth

On Age Ranges For Novels by Andy Briggs


‘Month In Review’ Updates

For more articles on writing novels you can check out Writing Historical Novels and Writing Novels in Australia.


Writing Teen Novels

Comparing Teen Fiction And Adult Fiction, by Sam Hawksmoor

I don’t think there is any conscious process for differentiating between a teen novel and adult.  Clearly in one the young adult must be forefront and in the other, adults.  Obviously adults can figure in both, but as my editor and the writer Beverley Birch says, one must give prominence to the young adult – never lose sight that it is about them.

I know from my own teaching I had one particular student who insisted upon populating her children’s novels with many, many adults.  I used to say constantly who is the story focused on?  Whose story is this?  The kid or the adults?  Never allow that confusion to arise.

I learned this the hard way.  I have a novel out there called Mean Tide, written under a pseudonym, which concerns a child who has had chemo and is sent to live with his psychic grandma by the river in Greenwich.  He meets another kid there, who is silent because of various traumas. The book is populated with adults, all with incredibly rich lives and opinions. To be honest this book straddles adult/children’s fiction and falls between two stools.  I couldn’t see it when I was writing it, as logic would dictate that when a kid goes to live with adults you have to show the adults and bring them to life.  Perhaps I added too much colour.  If your main protagonist is only twelve – there is only so much you can do with a young kid before it becomes unbelievable. Nevertheless as a writer you learn. (One hopes)

Writing for teens you can concentrate on their lives and reduce the impact adults have on their day-to-day existence.  Adults usually act as a restraint on the excesses of teens so the less they are around, the more that can happen.  S F Hinton’s The Outsiders featured this.  This was about teens getting into mischief without constraint and led by a semi-adult teen who did not have anyone’s best interests at heart.  Stephen King’s Stand By Me totally had this focus.  Not just about the kids but also about their perspective on life, the world around them and the risks they take.  It’s important to remember that these novels are written for teens and not adults (even though adults will and can enjoy them).  Kids know by the time they’re 12 that there is no justice in this world. Bullies get away with murder,, people lie, you lie, you haven’t yet formed your own opinions about things and you have doubts about everything.  Somehow you get up and carry on.  The whole world is a critic. You most likely suck at sport or math, and no one but Alice likes you and you don’t like Alice.  This is the teen world.

My approach to adult fiction is to have the plot or situation down first.  If based on a true-life story then it’s about fleshing out the characters, thinking not just about who they are but about their weaknesses and strengths. I like it when a readers connects enough with the character that they start to consider what they wear, eat or say on their own (until that starts to happen organically for me as a reader, I’m not truly in the zone).

With teen fiction, it’s the same process but with the added spice of knowing that kids won’t always take the logical step that may seem more obvious to an adult.  A boy or girl won’t instinctively know that the one they love is bad for them – even if others are saying so.  They have no experience to go on.  This is fresh to them.  All their mistakes are first time mistakes.  As a teacher I used to see girls suffering heartbreak, yet it was clear to me their affections were misplaced.  Now I see break-ups dealt with by text or on Facebook and how cold and heartless all that seems.  You are left to cry on your own I guess without the confrontation.  It can go the other way – irrational hysterical behaviour in the classroom when one girl discovers another is seeing her bloke and all three are in the class before you seething…

Adults generally don’t seethe. They might want to get revenge but the older you are the more numb you usually feel about things.  Kids are NEVER numb.  They can be unfeeling however.

Take Natalie Portman’s character in the movie  Leon.  She is entranced by the slightly simple hitman who protects her from Gary Oldman’s evil cop.  She is excited by the idea of becoming a hitwoman.  She isn’t thinking about moral considerations here.  She’s thinking about revenge, and Leon is simply showing her his one and only skill.  It’s not a kid’s movie but has a kid very much at the forefront.  She is what I remember.  Her pain and heartache and her loyalty.  This would be teen fiction now I think. Capture that intensity and bottle it.


Sam Hawksmoor’s author website:

Sam Hawksmoor’s bio page


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Writing Teen Novels

Month In Review (May 2013)

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Plotting My Teen Historical Novels, by Carolyn Meyer

One of the things I like about writing fiction based on historical people and events is that real history provides so many fictional possibilities. Deciding where to start is the first challenge in plotting a novel for teen readers.

The age of the main character is an important decision. Common wisdom has it that young teens want to read about older teens – but not too much older; older teens don’t want to read about younger ones, and they also don’t want to read about characters who are a lot older. The sweet spot seems to be about sixteen. But history doesn’t always cooperate. Sometimes the actual story starts much earlier in the life of the historical person you want to write about.

Mary Stuart became Queen of Scots as an infant, upon the death of her father. I decided to begin The Wild Queen when Mary’s mother sends her off to France at age six to grow up in the King’s court. Would a thirteen-year-old reader decide in the early chapters that Mary is too young to be interesting? It was a risk, but I took it.

Marie-Antoinette is twelve when her story begins in The Bad Queen. Mary Tudor is ten in Mary, Bloody Mary. Her sister, Elizabeth, is thirteen in Beware, Princess Elizabeth, and Anne Boleyn is thirteen in Doomed Queen Anne. Less important than the age is the situation in which the main character finds herself in those opening pages. Sometimes it’s better not to state the age at first; just begin with a situation that grabs your teen reader’s interest.

Conflict drives the plot. The next big challenge is choosing which events provide the most compelling way to tell the story to a teen reader and which events to leave out if they don’t move the story forward.

Teenaged Princess Elizabeth is despised by her older half-sister, Mary. Marie-Antoinette must deal with the ladies of the French court who resent her and want her to fail. Victoria must contend with her demanding mother and her mother’s advisor, Sir John. Young Charles Darwin, in The True Adventures of Charley Darwin, has to confront a demanding father and his own lack of focus. Cleopatra’s jealous sisters, in Cleopatra Confesses, want her dead. Far from home, Mary, Queen of Scots, must adjust to a new environment and make decisions that change the course of her life. As the characters mature, the conflicts they face become even more complicated. The writer’s task is to keep teen readers turning pages.

I don’t try to figure out everything in advance. I simply start writing, trying different approaches until I find one that I think is most engaging. In my first draft of Victoria Rebels, the opening chapter recounted the circumstances leading to the marriage of Victoria’s parents. In a later revision, that material – historically interesting but not the way to launch a plot – was moved to Author’s Notes. The final draft of the story opens with preparations for the wedding of Victoria’s sister and her realization that with her sister gone Victoria will be alone.

Just as I experiment with different starting points, I try out various points at which to end. A satisfactory ending may depend on the age of my readers. The ending of Cleopatra Confesses tends to satisfy younger teens, while older readers want the story to go on.

Sequel, anyone?


Carolyn Meyer’s author website:

Carolyn Meyer’s bio page


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Beware, Princess ElizabethThe Wild Queen: The Days and Nights of Mary, Queen of Scots (Young Royals Books (Hardcover))Cleopatra ConfessesThe True Adventures of Charley Darwin     The Gypsy Crown (Chain of Charms)Code Name VerityTarzan: The Jungle Warrior: Bk. 2

Writing Teen Novels

YA Authors’ Responsibility To Readers, by Sarah Alderson

The worst thing a writer can do is not say anything.

I have that quotation on a post it note stuck above my desk. Yet I wonder whether it’s actually accurate. It seems to me that one of the worst things a writer can do is to say something that acts in disservice of their gender.

Recently I’ve become more and more aware of the number of books being published, particularly in the YA realm, and by women too, which to my mind are damaging to girls. Books which do more to push back gender equality than any offensive statements by Kanye West ever could.

I’m talking about books that portray controlling, obsessive, even psychotic boys as hot and desirable because they have a six-pack, cheekbones you could slice salami on, and they kiss really well. Books that portray a healthy relationship as one in which the boy beats the crap out of any guy who so much as looks sideways at ‘their’ girl. Books in which men stalk girls, act out violently, manipulate and otherwise emotionally abuse the girl because ‘they love her’. Yeah, I’m not sure in what world that qualifies as love. And always the girl forgives said boy because she needs him, he’s her soul mate, she can’t live without him…and don’t forget…he’s hot!

Please. Is this what we want to teach teenage girls? Is this what we want for the next generation of women? For them to grow up looking for this in their ideal partner?

The thing that gets me most though is that these books are written by women.

(Referring back to the Kanye West comment he made on Twitter, what riled me most was not the comment itself, but the fact that his girlfriend Kim Kardashian backed him up, telling her millions of Twitter followers that it was OK to call a woman a bitch. Again…in what world is that OK?).

Let’s stop betraying our gender. We can’t ever expect men to grant us respect and equal rights if we can’t even respect ourselves.

As an author and as a woman I believe that I have a responsibility and a duty to my readers to portray both healthy male and female role models and healthy relationships. Girls who are in control of their stories, who are smart, resilient and know when a guy is being a total jerk. Girls who’d never let a guy control them or tell them what to do. Girls who kick ass and can look after themselves (admittedly, having that hot, intelligent and loving boy as a sidekick). My girls are heroines in the true sense of the word.

I don’t want to paint completely idealised romances either. My characters have flaws – they’re people after all. But mainly I want girls to read my books and feel stronger, feel prouder to be a girl, to come away feeling that it’s OK to not have a boyfriend, it’s OK to feel desire and want sex, but it’s also OK to wait – in fact it’s often a good idea to wait. I want girls to know that the right guy (and there will be one) is not the guy who likes to beat the crap out of people or tell you what to wear, what to eat and how to dress. But the guy who supports you, is kind, is loving and puts you not on a pedestal, but an equal footing.

Teenage readers are influenced by our words, by our stories. Make them count.


Sarah Alderson bio page

FatedHunting LilaLosing LilaThe Wild Queen: The Days and Nights of Mary, Queen of Scots (Young Royals Books (Hardcover))A Golden WebThe Hunger Games (Hunger Games Trilogy)Delirium

Smells Like Teen Spirit: Writing Fiction For and About Teens, by Diane Lee Wilson

Why do adult writers, who are usually well past their teens, write novels for and about teens?

One of my motivations (which may be quite the opposite experience of others) is that I enjoyed the teen years. Yes, there was anxiety and tears and overblown emotions, but there was also an intoxicating sense of what life had to offer. The world was opening up to me, presenting ever-expanding freedoms along with an unimaginable variety of places and people and experiences.

The teen years were and are a precious time because they embody promise and possibility. With each year taken into adulthood those possibilities narrow. Adults necessarily limit their options as they become classified by education and career choice; as they are weighed down by a job, a mortgage, and family responsibilities; and as they become tethered to routine, to friends, and to hobbies. As we get older it becomes harder and harder to embrace change.

Not for the teen. The teen years are a whirlwind of constant change: body, relationships, music, dreams, friends. Beliefs and personalities are adopted temporarily then easily tossed off as other ones are sampled. The teen years are a time of exploration and of testing one’s abilities, and that’s what makes teen characters so much fun to write about. Anything can happen.

So how does the typical adult with a deadline and a mortgage and failing eyesight and friends with cancer and a stack of newspapers delivering more sadness than the day before recapture that teen spirit? Remember. All those poignant, horrifying, exhilarating times are still inside you. Call them forward. Re-experience the giddiness of that first love, the crush of malicious gossip, the terror of new schools and new teachers. How did you feel when that first classmate died? What song was on the radio the first time you took the car out alone? Re-live those experiences and make new connections.

A favorite perspective of mine comes from Mitch Albom’s Tuesdays With Morrie, a book that compiles conversations with the author’s former professor who is dying. When asked if he envies the young, Professor Morrie Schwartz responds, “Age is not a competitive issue…The truth is, part of me is every age. I’m a three-year-old, I’m a five-year-old. I’ve been through all of them, and I know what it’s like. I delight in being a child when it’s appropriate to be a child. I delight in being a wise old man when it is appropriate to be a wise old man…I am every age, up to now.”

Slipping into the skin of a teen character is an opportunity for an author to revisit his or her own youth. But there is an adjunct rule to remembering: Don’t judge. Let your character breathe, rush down the wrong road, make impetuous choices. It’s what teens do and it’s part of the fun of being a teen. Yes, as adult authors we’re older, and perhaps wiser, but avoid the temptation to preach to your teen characters. Let them experience the world in their own way and be molded by the consequences of their actions. That’s living. And sharing their adventures keeps writers young!


Diane Lee Wilson bio page

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