Inkpop Blog

Write, Read, Connect

5 most common teen writing mistakes

Posted by inkpop on January 7, 2010

inktips #13: Louder Than Words editor and Chill author Deborah Reber helps teens pull the trigger on writing their best work

“I definitely struck gold with these girls!”

That’s how Deborah Reber describes her experience of editing the first teen memoir series, Louder Than Words, in which three teen authors wrote their incredible life stories (read Marni, Chelsey, and Emily’s advice on “How to write a teen memoir here on the inkpop blog).  

When Reber put out a call for teens to submit their autobiographies for a shot at a book deal, she received loads of applications and dove into the process of reading entries. “I was looking for teens who a) were fantastic writers, and b) had a great story to tell. This is easier said than done,” Reber says. “I received submissions from a number of teens who had incredibly powerful personal stories, but weren’t strong writers. Likewise, I heard from some very talented writers who didn’t necessarily have the right story for the series.”

Reber hopes that Louder Than Words will become a long-lasting series to give not just girls—but boys as well—an outlet to share their stories. “The next three books coming out in August 2010 deal with some intense issues that many teens will no doubt relate to, including severe anxiety, drug abuse, and online exploitation.”

Here, Reber shares advice on how not to make the five most common teen writing mistakes.

1. DON’T KILL YOURSELF OVER EVERY DETAIL

So what’s Reber’s first and foremost advice for teen writers? Don’t be such a perfectionist on the first draft. Afterall, it’s just a draft.

“Agonizing over every word when writing a first draft can stall any writer, but it seems to be especially derailing for teens who put all kinds of pressure on themselves to get it right the first time,” Reber says. “I’m a big fan of writing what I call ‘crappy first drafts,’ which basically means I just get it out of my head and onto paper or my computer in whatever form.”

When in doubt, pull the trigger. “Once it’s out, it’s so much easier to shape and refine until you get it right,” she says.

2. TRUST YOUR VOICE

Some writers think good writing requires fancy-pants words, brilliant metaphors, and super-descriptive details. “And while, yes, incorporating these things can work, they only make writing better if they don’t feel forced,” Reber says. “I encourage teens, and all writers, to really connect with their own natural voice and write from that place.”

That’s not to say you can’t improve your writing, but good writingthe solid stuff that connects with the reader does so because it’s coming from an authentic place. “Embrace your own voice, because it’s unique to you,” she says. “And while you’re at it, try to avoid commonly used cliches and metaphorsthey won’t add anything personal to your writing.”

3. PREPARE FOR CRITICISM

You may have heard the saying, “Every good writer needs an editor and a critic.” It’s true.

“Giving others free reign to comment on something you’ve written is easier said than done, especially if it’s material you’ve spent a long time working on and you feel close to it,” Reber says. “But allowing others to critique your work is crucial when it comes to becoming a better writer.”

Reber says the key to making critiques work for you is to carefully consider who you would like to review your work, and be specific in the kind of feedback you’re looking for, such as content, sentence structure, or character development. “Ask the reviewer to give you constructive criticism,” she says. “When you receive the critiques, stay open and give yourself time to digest all the comments. You don’t have to take every suggestionwhat you do with the criticism is up to you.”

4. AVOID REPETITIONS

When you’re intimately connected to your story (as you should be), it becomes difficult to view it from a reader’s perspective, with a fresh set of eyes. And that’s when it becomes difficult to notice when you’re using the same words and phrases over and over.

“For example, you might start a sentence with the phrase, ‘As far as I can tell,’ and then in the next paragraph, you might reuse this phrase in another way,” Reber says. “When phrases and words are repeated in close proximity to one another, this can jump out to readers and take them away from being completely immersed in your story.”

Reber’s bottom line:  Keep your eyes open for repeat phrases and ask your proofer (see below) to watch for them, too.

5. PROOF. THEN REPEAT.

You’ve probably read this a few times before on the inkpop blog, but we can’t hold back from repeating this advice: Clean up your copy.

“Sometimes even the most brilliantly written piece can come across as mediocre due to grammatical or spelling errors, and this is something I see from a lot of teen writers,” Reber says. “To make sure your writing is as polished as it can be, solicit the help of a friend to review your final writing and tell him or her you only want feedback on typos or grammatical goofs.”

Once you input changes, print out the piece again and give it another review before considering it complete.

inkpop Forums Topic: Want to talk with Deborah Reber? Chat with her live in the “Author Is In” series live on inkpop Forums on Saturday, January 9, at 4 p.m. EST.

The inkpop blog is written by inkpopAmy

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8 Responses to “5 most common teen writing mistakes”

  1. Heather Marie Tumbleweed said

    I really enjoyed this! I will really try to take this to heart! :)

  2. Chelsea said

    *cough* I need to follow number one more closely. Awesome post! :)

  3. Miss Pleach said

    I think that’s excellent advice.

  4. […] while you’re there, check out my tips for avoiding the 5 most common writing mistakes teen make on the inkpop […]

  5. Danielle said

    This is great! Great advice!

  6. Mee!(: said

    That’s awsome advice, because I also don’t follow #1…heh.

  7. […] 5 most common teen writing mistakes […]

  8. Kat said

    Really great advice… wish I had this kind of outlet and advice when I was a teen going through my worst nightmares. I also wish you were publishing stories by adults who are writing from the teen memory and point of view. So grateful these youth have this amazing outlet for their stories. Thank you!

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