Monday, July 11, 2011

3 Tips Monday - For Teen Writers

I'm excited to have my friend Stephanie Morrill guest blogging today. We met ages ago at a writer's conference and have been friends ever since. Be sure to check out her cool blog GoTeenWriters (link below) and pass the word to any young writers you know. They'll find a very lively community of terrific teens, as well as a wealth of writing advice and support.

Thanks, Steph, for stopping by!

3 Tips for Teen Writers

Sookie St. James - Gilmore Girls
I’m so touched that Erica invited me on her blog. Though, as I consider what to write in this post, it feels like a form of torture to limit myself to three things. The whole reason I started was because I had such a hard time limiting my answers when teens emailed me and asked what tips I had for young writers. I feel about like Sookie from Gilmore Girls when she’s asking to do cooking classes. And she says something like, “We’ll talk about muffins and scones. Oh, but breads … and jams. And sauces!” I looked for the snippet on YouTube but found nothing. So you’ll have to accept my point without the help of a video clip – I had a tough time narrowing my response to three things.

1. Consider keeping your novel to yourself. At least for a while. Every writer’s different, of course, and some writers swear by letting people read chapters as they write them, but I think doing this can really mess with your voice. (And your confidence if one of those friends gets snarky with you, but we’ll focus on voice.) Let the first draft be yours. Free yourself of concerns of how people reading it might think it’s worthless drivel. No one will see it. If you want to wax on for 2 pages about Kelly’s green dress—go for it. When you free yourself from other’s opinions, you liberate your writing voice. Wait until the second draft to edit yourself.

2. Write complete manuscripts. This is a very tough thing to do. I tend to get a little antsy somewhere around the halfway point. Often times another book idea sparks, and I have to force myself to stay focused on the story I’m writing. If you’re a new writer, it’s okay to project hop a little. But it wasn’t until I pushed myself to write a complete manuscript that I saw great improvement in my writing. When you write the story from beginning to end, you grow in understanding of what ideas are big enough to sustain an entire manuscript and what ideas are not.

3. Find a writing community. In high school, I didn’t know any other writers. It wasn’t until I was 22 that I found my first writing friend in Erica. It was indescribably wonderful to be able to send Erica a quick email that said, “What do you think of this idea?” or, “This sentence reads funny to me. Do you know how to fix it?” Thanks to the internet, it’s much easier to get plugged into a writing community. The writers hanging around are pretty awesome, but Caleb Jennings Breakey ( and Jill Williamson ( have great ones too.

The Sookie in me is thinking, “And read a lot! And write a lot! And make your first line incredible! And write a sympathetic main character!” but alas, I agreed to limit myself to three tips, and I’m a lady of my word.

Stephanie Morrill is a twenty-something living in Overland Park, Kansas with her husband and two kids. Her only talents are reading, writing, and drinking coffee, so career options were somewhat limited. Fortunately, she discovered a passion for young adult novels and has been writing them ever since. Stephanie is the author of The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series and is currently working on other young adult projects. She enjoys encouraging and teaching teen writers and does so on her blog To connect with Stephanie and read samples of her books, check out

Thank you again, Stephanie! It's always great to have you here.

Question for readers: Were you a teen writer, or did the writing bug bite you later?


  1. Great tips for all of us! I think something that impressed me the most, at the writers conference I attended, was how many teens were there to pitch completed mss and get feedback from agents and editors.

    I was stunned and inspired! I formed relationships with a few of them, and I'm going to be sure and pass the site along to them, if they don't know it already. :)

  2. Great advice, Stephanie! So fun to see you here on Erica's blog. :)

  3. Erica, thanks so much for havign me!

    Jessica, I'm so glad you made connections with them! I went to my first conference when I was 17, and it was so intimidating to be the youngest person there. I always appreciated adults reaching out to me.

    Hi katie! I love that picture of you!

  4. What great tips! These tips are not just great for teens, but also for new writers and anyone who feels nervous about sharing their work.

  5. Any writer starting out has a fragile ego--so I'm glad you put #1 in there. Honesty can be very discouraging at first!

    I'd never heard of the GoTeen website. What a great resource!

  6. I started writing at 13 or 14. Then had to lay it aside for a season, but definitely got the bug first as a teen.

  7. Great advice, even for adults! But don't tell the preteen girls I'm teaching the craft to today! They've done AMAZING with plotting and learning all the techniques I learned as a writing adult!! And they're having fun strengthening their voice!