Annually, I’m one of the judges for a teen novel writing contest. These teens have had good instruction and have spent nine months to a year writing their novels. They do amazing work—better than some adults—but still there are patterns of errors I see that you can learn from.
Not Being Realistic
1. It couldn’t happen like that – e.g. Having one person drive from Kansas City to Boston in one day. It’s over 1400 miles without any side trips to stop for meals, etc. Google estimates 21 hours. Two people could do it, alternating sleeping in the car, but with stops for gas, food, restrooms, it will approach 24 hours very quickly.
2. It doesn’t make sense – e.g. Someone lighting a fire in a spaceship. Why would anyone do that?! Unless there is a special room that is designed to have campfires. Or someone is trying to kill everyone including themselves.
3. Where did that skill/ability/tool come from? – e.g. Suddenly, main character has a rope.
1. Write what you know and/or find out what you don’t know.
2. Ask yourself if what happens next is logical.
3. Give the character the tools he needs ahead of time so we aren’t surprised when he uses them. e.g. Indiana Jones carries a whip.
Main Character Not in Charge
· She is swayed by the winds of circumstances.
· He doesn’t make any decisions.
· Main character is not passionate about what she wants.
· The main character needs to solve her problem. Often, it’s helpful to write out a sentence for the main character’s main problem. Then write a sentence or two of how he/she solves his/her problem.
· Make what happens if he doesn’t get what he wants matter to the main character (important story goal).
· The character needs to change by the end of the story.
· Answer those “why didn’t she” questions a reader might have before they can ask it. For example, “Why didn’t she call the police?” It’s what a normal person would do in the situation. So you’d need her to try to call and fail. Cell battery dead. No land line.
· Give the good ideas, the good lines to the main character, not a parent or sidekick.
Telling not Showing
· Being told about the story.
· Not being on scene when/where it is happening.
· Put the reader there with the main character by using action, dialogue and thoughts.
· Don’t distance the reader. e.g. Not: He watched the knife slice his arm. This instead: The knife sliced his arm.
· Interweave action and description together.
· Keep it moment-by-moment when we are in the midst of a tense scene.
· Keep telling for transitions.
Instead of overwhelming you, I’ll let those concepts settle in. Watch for Part 2 next week.
SM Ford writes inspirational fiction for adults, although teens may find the stories of interest, too.
When she was thirteen, she got hooked on Mary Stewart's romantic suspense books, although she has been a reader as long as she can remember, and is an eclectic reader. Inspirational authors she enjoys include: Francine Rivers, Bodie Thoene, Dee Henderson, Jan Karon, and many more.
SM Ford is a Pacific Northwest gal, but has also lived in the midwest (Colorado and Kansas) and on the east coast (New Jersey). She and her husband have two daughters and two sons-in-law and three grandsons. She can't figure out how she got to be old enough for all that, however.
She also loves assisting other writers on their journeys.
ALONE is an inspirational romantic suspense novel. It released from Clean Reads in June 2016 as an ebook.
Ready for adventure in the snowy Colorado mountains, Cecelia Gage is thrilled to be employed as the live-in housekeeper for her favorite bestselling author. The twenty-five-year old doesn’t count on Mark Andrews being so prickly, nor becoming part of the small town gossip centering on the celebrity. Neither does she expect to become involved in Andrews family drama and a relationship with Simon Lindley, Mark’s oh so good-looking best friend. And certainly, Cecelia has no idea she’ll be mixed up in a murder investigation because of this job.
Will Cecelia’s faith in God get her through all the trouble that lies ahead?
This ebook is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, and iTunes.