Q&A: Biggest Problems Teenage Authors Experience

Jake asks: Are there any common problems teenage authors experience that I could be watching out for? I really don’t want to ruin a great story with terrible writing, because I love my story. I just want to be equipped to tell it.


It’s great that you respect the craft of writing enough to ask such a question. The most common problems I see with new writers (be they sixteen or sixty) are: being in a hurry to be published, and thinking they’ve written the most amazing book on the planet.

In a Hurry

Here’s the thing. Thousands of books are published every year. Some are horrible. Lots of them fall somewhere between just okay and good. Few become bestsellers. Don’t be in a hurry. Many new writers rush things. They just want to hold a novel with their name on it. But by rushing things you skip over the learning process and make more mistakes that way. And you often end up with a book that you later wish never existed. So take the time to learn the craft of writing. Respect your chosen career and train for it.

How to train? First, finish your novel without worrying whether it’s good or bad. Just pump out that first draft. Once it’s done you have a whole book to go back and make better. Find a critique group to join. There are lots of them online. A critique group will help you learn to apply feedback to strengthen your writing. It will also teach you as you critique the work of others. Also, read books on craft of writing and technique (click here for a list of my favorites). These books and a critique group will help you learn how to rewrite that first draft.

Another thing to do around this time is attend a writer’s conference. There are tons of these all around the country. Look online for one in your area. The cool thing about writer’s conferences is that you get the chance to meet industry professionals, to show editors, agents, and published authors a sample of your work, and to get feedback.



The writer’s conference brings me to the second danger zone for new writers. I attended my first conference in 2004 and thought my book was going to be the next bestseller. Until an agent rejected me without even looking at my writing. (gasp! lol) But when I stepped back to reality and took an honest look at the situation, I knew that I had spent more time daydreaming than working on my book. Writing is a job. It’s hard work. But it’s fun.

I realized that I hadn’t been respecting the writing industry. Doctors go to school for years before anyone lets them operate. Why did I think I could write a book without any specialized education and be a success? I’ll tell you why. Because of success stories of authors like Christopher Paolini and Stephanie Meyer. But I came to realize that those situations are the one-in-a-million. For most authors, hard work brings success. So I became determined to work hard.

And if you want to succeed as an author, you need to become determined too. Work hard. Learn. And have fun. If you do this, you’ll greatly increase your chances of publication.

Hope this helps, Jake! Keep on writing!


3 Responses to “Q&A: Biggest Problems Teenage Authors Experience”

  1. Savannah says:

    Great post! This leads me to a few questions, like Jake, I want to do my best. I’m struggling with ideas, I have threads here and there but they all seem lame the more I think about them. I don’t know what to do and am bummed. I’ve been trying to decide what to do:
    Write a story & force myself to stick with it, even if it’s weak & I don’t lobe if. OR
    Spend my writing time reading, writing down every thread of an idea I have hoping to find one I like or at eventually add a few of my threads together $ maybe fine a story
    do you have any advice?

    • novelteen says:

      It is possible to have too many ideas. This happens to me too. I always have way more ideas that I can keep up with. As a published writer, I have deadlines and contracts that I have to adhere to. Because of that, I often can’t work on new ideas when they come to me.

      If I get really excited about an idea, I jot down my thoughts on it and put them in a file folder. That way, if something else comes to me for that idea, I can write it down and add it to the folder. So when I have time to work on new ideas, they are ready and waiting for me.

      Now, you may be struggling more with plot development. If that’s the case, check out this post: http://teenageauthor.wordpress.com/2010/10/07/teenage-authors-q-a-how-to-finish-a-story/

      And if that doesn’t help, it may be that you need to brainstorm. (You’ve inspired me to write about this, but it won’t post until next week…) When I get stuck on my plot, I need to brainstorm. Once I’ve got my five sentences done (which is what that previous link was about) I create an outline to brainstorm on. I put my five sentences in the outline, then add any other scenes I have where they fit into the outline. I leave lots of spaces in between the sentences, then print it out and sit down with a pencil and brainstorm where there are holes in the story. I think about each character’s motivation and what they might do that will get them to the scene in the next act.

      So it might look something like this. (I’ve used my first book for an example. I didn’t fill this in all the way so that you could see how yours might look.)

      *Story opening: Slave guy–Achan–is off to milk the goats, sees a kid getting picked on, steps in to help him and gets into a fight. A knight–Sir Gavin–approaches him and offers to train him as a squire–even though this is against the law for slaves to train to someday become knights.

      -Achan starts training with Sir Gavin in secret

      *Climax of act 1: Achan is declared a squire, but he’s hearing voices in his head and thinks he’s going nuts.

      -Achan gets to fight in a tournament–gets caught by Lord of manor.
      –Sir Gavin is banished
      -Achan is punished by being made the prince’s sparring partner.

      -The girl Achan loves has to marry another guy.

      -The prince leaves for the Council meeting and takes Achan along.

      *Climax of act 2: Poroo attack the prince’s procession and Achan is struck down in a battle.
      -Achan awakes in a dungeon–accused of leading prince into danger.
      -Achan meets Vrell (other main character)

      -Achan is rescued by Sir Gavin and his buddies.
      -Vrell is used as bait to get Achan back
      -Achan and the knights rescue Vrell

      *Climax of act 3: The giant surprise– Sir Gavin takes Achan before the Council of Seven and reveals a shocking secret.

      *Story ending: Achan, Sir Gavin, and Vrell flee into Darkness to get away from the evil prince.

      Hope this helps. Here is a link to my blank plot sheet: http://teenageauthor.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/blank-plot-sheet.pdf


  2. Savannah says:

    Thanks so much, I can’t wait to read next weeks post 🙂

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