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Where Teens Write is closing its doors as a teen writing community, but the “how to write” blog posts will be up for another few weeks.
I’m happy to announce that you can post your stories and get feedback over at Teen Author’s Journal. Like WTW, it’s a smaller community where you can build relationships with others and hone your writing skills.
It’s been a great few years with all of you, but it’s time to close the doors to this community. If you did post stories here that you didn’t save anywhere else, and you’d like them, you may contact me using the contact page, and I’ll get you your story. Thank you for participating.
All the best,

Writing Craft

Lose “Said” & Try Action Tags in Dialogue

Dialogue is one of the most fun parts of a story to write. We can really get in our characters heads while writing dialogue. It’s our opportunity to let our characters speak, to share who they are. We can also use dialogue to develop our characters not only through their words but also through their [...]

How to Add Details in Your Writing

Have you ever been reading a story and found it bogged down in tedious detail or flowery and irrelevant descriptions? You want to get back to the characters and the action, so you skim through pages of detailed descriptions, maybe even skip a page or two until something starts happening. Or, you’re reading along and [...]

Starting a new story or novel is one of the most exciting parts of writing…and also one of the most challenging. There’s so much to think about: How to “hook” your reader? Where or when does your story start? What characters should be on the first page? These are huge decisions that will dictate the [...]

I’ve been hard at work on my latest novel and am enjoying getting the characters developed and on the page. I always have a pretty good grasp on my characters by the time I start writing because I definitely fall into the category of “planner” when it comes to writing my novels. Never could I [...]

Congratulations – you typed the final word of a story that you’ve been slaving over for days, weeks, or maybe even months. You’ve overcome distractions…You’ve ignored Snapchat, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest (or whatever your favorite online distraction may be)…You’ve kept your focus…You’ve actually got a draft. Now what? First, take a moment to celebrate. Whether you’ve just [...]

Explode Moments with Details

One of the hardest parts of writing fiction is to figure out how much detail to put into a scene. Too much, and your reader gets bored and starts skimming until they get to the action-y parts. Too little, and your reader can’t adequately picture what’s going on. You gotta be Goldilocks and get it [...]

You’ve probably heard the advice to “write what you know,” and if this whole idea confused you, you’re not alone. If you can only write “what you know,” then how does John Green write so convincingly and beautifully about dying from cancer? He’s still alive and well, and I don’t think he’s had cancer. Or, [...]

Have you ever had this experience:  you had a great idea for a story, so you spent an afternoon or a week or two, getting it down on paper. Then, you read through it, but it didn’t seem to work so well, so you revised it. Maybe you asked your mom or good friend for [...]

Boost your Creativity: Writing by Hand

‘Tis the holiday season and many of us wish for the latest in technology: a new laptop, a new computer, a new iPad or smartphone. As writers, our lives often revolve around this technology. We can write stories, send them off to writing buddies or post them online, and research on the internet. I’m the [...]

Some Useful Plot Structure Definitions

When I first found my way back to writing after putting it aside for far too long (during my entire twenties and thirties), I discovered a whole world of “writing terms” that I’d never heard when I wrote as a young girl and teen. As a reader, I intuitively knew what these terms were, but [...]

The Beloved and Oft-Misused Semi-colon

I’m not sure why it is that teen writers love the semi-colon, but they do; however, despite their love for it, they often misuse the poor thing. I don’t think this is all their fault. For whatever reason, at least where I teach, students have a semi-colon “learning gap.” They seem to be either terrified of [...]

Three Story Plotting Strategies

Last week my writing group had an interesting discussion. One of the members just sold her most recent novel to a publisher who wants a sequel within six months. My writing buddy has been busily plotting and planning the story. She swears by her plotting method which involves lengthy spreadsheets filled with character and scene notes. [...]

During the summer, I always spend some time working on what I’m going to be teaching during the coming school year. A few weeks ago, I read an article discussing contractions in academic writing, and how in school, the author had been taught not to ever use contractions in writing. Then, in the comments, quite [...]

Great descriptive writing combines all of the senses: sight, touch, taste, smell, and sound. It transports your readers to a place where they can feel the place and see the characters. The key to doing this, and doing it well, is to combine a variety of sensory imagery in your writing. Generally, we’re pretty good [...]

School is all about rote memory, conformity, and following the rules. But when we’re immersed in a world of testing and non-creativity, how do we develop some of our creative skills? We work at it. In fact, creativity is more about working really hard and dedicating ourselves to some sort of creative pursuits than waiting [...]

We all tend to have our favorite “go to” words that we like to use, but often, we’re not even aware of them. During the revision process, searching out these words and replacing or deleting them can be a challenge when we’re not even sure what they are. Thankfully, online word cloud programs can help [...]

Ten Essential Creative Writing Tools

Writing a story, poem, or a novel is a major undertaking. It would be lovely to just sit down at my laptop or in a cozy chair with a pen, a notebook, and a cup of coffee as words easily flowed from my fingers to the page. Unfortunately, writing has rarely happened that way, except [...]

Like many elements of writing, understanding a concept can be a very different thing than actually applying and executing it in your writing. Voice is no different. You can understand the idea of voice, but how do you develop it? How do you make your writing sound like YOU and not ___________ (fill in the [...]

What is Writer’s Voice?

Understanding the concept of “voice” in writing can be tough because voice itself can be hard to define. Last summer I found the best explanation of it in the book True Stories by Rebecca Rule and Susan Wheeler. They wrote, “Voice…is like sex appeal in a person: You know it when you see it, but [...]

Poetry Tips from a Professional Poet

Every year at the end of January, my hometown hosts a huge, national poetry festival, the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. Our small community is inundated with poets, song writers, cowboys, ranchers, and journalists for an entire week, and there are venues all over town where you can sit in and watch people recite and perform their [...]

An Awesome List of WTW’s 2014 Blog Posts

Throughout 2014, we posted on the blog (almost) every Thursday. The posts included both creative writing instruction and inspiration for all you teen writers out there Reviewing all of the posts was actually kind of fun, and I was surprised at how much content is on the site from 2014. Check some of the posts [...]

One of the most common grammar errors I see in stories that teens write is switching tenses, or slipping back and forth between past tense and present tense. I’ve read hundreds (if not thousands of teen stories), and though I’ve never tracked it, I’d say that well over half of the fiction pieces teens write [...]

Starting a new project is often the most exciting stage. As creative writers, we get to put our imaginations to work dreaming up witty and fun characters, fantastic settings, conflicts that would destroy anyone but our stalwart protagonist, and plot twists that readers never see coming. We get it all planned and then sit down [...]

Who do you need to be a better writer?

We all have tools to help us write: a computer, writing books, and a journal. But these aren’t the most important piece in helping me become a better writer. What helps the most? My writing peeps! They’re the ones who keep me going and improving. But who are these people? And how do you find [...]

What’s with the “all caps” vs. no caps in this post’s title? Well, there are different approaches to practicing a skill like writing. There’s PRACTICE, where we focus on improving specific skills. And then there’s the practice of writing, where we merely get the “black on the white,” or the ink on the page. When [...]

Sentence Structure Matters

Next to your individual word choice, your sentence structure is the basic building block of your voice. Your sentences tell your story, either simply or poetically. They pull your reader in and carry them along. It is possible to write a best-selling novel using basic sentence structure: simple, compound, and with a few more complex [...]

Work on Your Writing Strengths

As a writing teacher, I spend a lot of time helping students improve. Because of this focus, teens tend to want to know what they’ve done “wrong,” or their weaknesses. I’m going to posit that this is the wrong approach. Instead, writers, especially teen writers, should focus on improving their strengths. “Everybody has talent, it’s [...]

Five Strategies for Writing Chapter Titles

When trying to decide on chapter titles, writers face two major questions: 1) Should you come up with witty, clever titles ala Rick Riordan such as “I become Supreme Lord of the Bathroom” (one of my student’s favorites)? 2) Or, should you use something…simpler to label a chapter? This is one of those questions that [...]

6 Reasons Why You Need Writing Buddies

Do you belong to a “writing group”? Or, if you don’t have an “official” group, do you have some writing buddies you can share your work with to get feedback? If you have writing buddies, congratulations! You’re on the “write” track – (sometimes I can’t help myself). If you don’t have writing buddies, I encourage [...]

Have you ever tried to start writing at the beginning of your story but ended up staring at your screen with no idea of how to start? Me too. I end up feeling like I need the perfect line to begin, but there’s no need to start at the beginning. If you don’t know how [...]

The Power of Imitation

Imitation is a great strategy to begin playing with different styles, syntax, sentence length and complexity because it forces you to immediately adapt and stretch your writing skills. For example, look at the following selection “Hairs” from House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros. She combines both short and longer sentences and uses repetition effectively to [...]

6 Comma Rules You Need to Know

It’s finals week here which means that I’ve been reading essay after essay, marking comma error after comma error. I would like to say that only the first year freshmen make these mistakes, but unfortunately, even my senior Creative Writing students struggle with commas. In some fantasy writing dreamworld, we could throw commas around haphazardly, [...]

Last weekend, I was listening to a podcast about querying agents. One of the questions the agent addressed was whether or not writers should include their age in their query. I thought it was an odd question as I don’t think age matters. She explained that only older (over seventy) or younger teen writers ever [...]

Spelling Matters

Why does spelling matter? If you spell correctly, readers take you seriously. If you don’t take the time to correct your spelling, they might not take the time to read what you write. Spelling might not matter in a text to a friend or when you’re scribbling down something you want to remember, but when [...]

POV part 1 – What is POV head hopping?

“Head hopping” happens when you inadvertently “lose” your point of view and hop from one character’s head to another. This is a problem when you’re trying to maintain either a 1st person POV or a 3rd limited POV. In any given scene, you should have ONE POV character to “anchor” the narration. A different character [...]

Last week, a new survey went up on the site asking how many new pieces do you start in a year? Can you even answer that question? Or is it too many to count? In my experience with teen writers, the number tends to be high. Why? Because teen writers ooze great ideas and stories, [...]

It’s all About the Details

One of my favorite poets is William Carlos Williams. Through focusing on specific details in the everyday world around him, he creates snapshot images of life. One of his most famous poems is called “The Red Wheelbarrow.” You can find more of his poems here. The Red Wheelbarrow by William Carlos Williams so much depends [...]

It's all About the Details

One of my favorite poets is William Carlos Williams. Through focusing on specific details in the everyday world around him, he creates snapshot images of life. One of his most famous poems is called “The Red Wheelbarrow.” You can find more of his poems here. The Red Wheelbarrow by William Carlos Williams so much depends [...]

Isabel Allende’s Advice

Isabel Allende is one of my favorite authors. I started reading her work when I was in high school, many years ago. Her writing is lyrical. In this brief video, she gives a great piece of advice if you want to be a writer.

Isabel Allende's Advice

Isabel Allende is one of my favorite authors. I started reading her work when I was in high school, many years ago. Her writing is lyrical. In this brief video, she gives a great piece of advice if you want to be a writer.

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