[Logo] Some suggestions for TeenWriters



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Remember the reader. You may be writing to express an idea or feeling, but most readers like to read something that is both entertaining and meaningful. (It can be serious or humorous; it can be pleasant and heartwarming, or it can show the darker side of life.)

Keep it straightforward. We find that most young writers do best in a realistic contemporary style. To keep readers interest, writing should be clear and concise with a natural style and language -- accessible and meaningful to average readers. Watch for overused topics, phrases, and words, but don't use elaborate vocabulary for its own sake, either.

Do you like being preached to? Relationships and various aspects of the meaning of life are natural concerns of teens and other thoughtful people, but if you tell the reader what life is all about it comes across as preaching. Use the vivid description of setting and actions to lead the reader to think about things without you having to tell them.



Fiction can take the form of a realistic contemporary story or be fantasy, science fiction, a western, or even a romance. What's important is that the focus is on the characters as people, not just a cute plot or a surprise ending. Readers get involved in a good story and really care about what happens to the characters.

Writing should show what happens, not just tell about it. Writers should try to show characters' feelings and motivation through action, dialogue, or actual thoughts, and avoid telling the reader what they think or what things mean. Instead of telling the reader how the writer sees something, make your point by showing how a character responds to a situation or incident.

Good description is always important. Adjectives should be specific -- and used sparingly! (Many writers suffer from "adjectivitis" -- the overuse of adjectives and adverbs.) It is also important to avoid abstractions like "nice", "good", or "big" -- they don't really tell the reader anything because they aren't specific.

A clear plot is vital to gaining and keeping the reader's interest. Early in the story, the reader should be able to identify the central conflict or source of tension, and this conflict should be brought to a peak and resolved at the end. Surprise endings tend to disappoint the reader because they often rely on a cute twist of plot instead of good development of situation and characters.

Young writers (and older ones too!) often introduce too many "loose ends" -- characters and twists of plot that seem important as someone reads them, but turn out to be insignificant to the central characters or conflict.

If you want to base a story a real life experience, you usually will have to make some changes to create a story that will be effective for readers. A writer often has to combine characters and omit events that do not contribute to the story being told.

By the way, don't use profanity, sex, or violence to make your writing livelier or "more realistic". It rarely contributes to the development of characters or ideas, and many readers find this type of material distracting or even offensive. (If you write only for readers who already think the way you do, you eliminate a vast potential audience!)


one key to being a good artist (or writer) is knowing what to leave out



Abstractions, "poetic" language, and great ideas do not make a good poem -- strive for well-chosen language, concrete imagery, and economy of words.

Poetry can be highly structured or free verse, rhymed or unrhymed. It's valuable to learn to write in different formats, but if you are writing to express ideas, concentrate on the meaning first, then worry about form.

Many powerful poems do not rhyme. Consider this excerpt from Lisa Parker's "Memorial Day 1993":

I saw the Wall in its entirety,
that immense black testament to the pain
of human lives reduced to marks on a rock.
Its smooth surface, warm with hands
reaching, touching, rubbing, connecting.
It offers open arms and solace to those who served...

(© Copyright 1995 Lisa Parker)

NOTE: The complete text of this poem appears in Echoes Magazine issue #8
1995 Memorial Day special issue )

If you want to write poetry that rhymes, make sure the poems read naturally! Don't worry about perfecting the rhyme or meter when first writing -- capture your ideas first and then rewrite for rhyme and meter. Forced rhymes or a "sing-song" ("Dr. Seuss") effect tend to trivialize a poem -- watch out for short lines that end with punctuation (or implied punctuation), as these almost always contribute to that "sing-song" effect. Use longer lines or run a thought or sentence run into the next line to help minimize this problem.



See our guidelines section for

  • tips from successful writers
  • submission guidelines for Echoes Magazine
  • a checklist to help you edit your work
  • standards for preparing and submitting manuscripts
  • how to submit via Email or computer disk

    Teen Writing Contest Recent Contest Winners

Other Questions?

If you have a question about Echoes or writing that is not covered in the guidelines or this page, please send an E-mail message to Peter@EchoesMagazine.com

February 6,1998

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