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Writing Process & Programs > Inspiring Teens to write Teen Fiction

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message 1: by Christopher (new)

Christopher Francis | 7 comments I hope this is the right group to inquire.
I've been working with young adults for several years coaching them how to write young adult/teen fiction novels.
I've always encouraged to think 'small' and build on their understanding of story writing by writing 'short stories' first. That way we can go through the various steps and processes needed in order to confidently develop and piece together a novel.
My concern is, I'm working with 'pretty good' young authors. They have some strong writing skills but are still very 'inexperienced' in their development of what the key fundamentals are in creating a novel, but are also not interested in the 'tiresome', 'disengaging' strategies needed to put together a great story.
I don't want to bore them.
I don't want to push them away from their 'creative spirit'.
I'm looking for engaging ideas that can support these young, enthusiastic, creative minds. Any ideas and resources would be much appreciated.
Chris


message 2: by Dwayne, Head of Lettuce (new)

Dwayne Fry | 4270 comments Mod
A few gut reactions to this:

First, I'm having a hard time knowing how to read this. The quotes around every few words make it seem as if you're trying to be ironic, sarcastic, or you have reservations, yet aside from this, you seem sincere. So, I'm not quite sure how to respond.

Second, (if I'm understanding you) short story writing, in some ways, can be equally challenging as novel writing. In some ways it can actually be more challenging. The story must be tighter, the cast is generally smaller, and there's not a lot of room to expand on secondary plot lines or themes. The only way that I can think that short stories are less challenging is they take far less time to write.

To be a writer takes more than creativity. Everyone is creative. Not everyone wants an outlet for their creativity. And if one does want to express oneself, there are many ways to do it besides writing. There's sculpture, painting, dance, theater, stand-up comedy, singing, songwriting, magic, building furniture, designing clothing, designing houses, etc. Having skills is great, but that won't make them into great writers. Do your students have a passion for writing? This, I think, is the key to doing anything well. If you have no passion for something, you likely won't be good at it. And writing takes a great deal of passion, as it is a solitary (usually) occupation and if you can't motivate yourself, no one can. It can take months, even years, to write a novel. If you don't have the passion for it, it probably isn't going to happen. You indicate they find the novel writing process to be tiresome and disengaging and you're afraid you're going to bore them. Maybe writing simply isn't for them. It isn't for everyone.

Maybe someone else will respond with a more positive message and some ideas. I just can't imagine how to get a group of children to care about writing if they have no real passion for it to begin with.


message 3: by M.L. (last edited Sep 21, 2019 07:57AM) (new)

M.L. | 1101 comments I'd like to know what their reaction is to the coaching they have been given so far. For example:
- do they want to start with a novel and not do a short story?
- do they seem more enamored with the idea of being a writer as opposed to actually writing? (I've seen plenty of that!)
- do they write because they want to?

I'm curious to know where they are in terms of the writing journey. Desire is the first step and that means really doing it.

You could mention NaNoWriMo. It starts officially in November but they are actually getting geared up for it now.
The idea is to write--mute the internal editor and just go for it.

Give them an assignment: short story, no more than 3K words; one week to complete. It's amazing how that separates the wannabe from the actual writer.

One more thing. If they want to write something other than teen fiction, as mentioned above, have them write what they want to. Also you might define what is meant by teen fiction. A lot of kids read what you might think of as adult fiction as opposed to teen fiction.


message 4: by M.L. (new)

M.L. | 1101 comments Another thought. You might have them write a flash fiction story, 500-1K words. Anyone can do that (just do it!) and they won't have to hem and haw over 3K words. The idea is to loosen up the writing cells.
Or . . . just let them write the novel. :)


message 5: by Dwayne, Head of Lettuce (new)

Dwayne Fry | 4270 comments Mod
M.L. wrote: "One more thing. If they want to write something other than teen fiction, as mentioned above, have them write what they want to."

THIS!!!

Speaking from my own experiences as a teen taking a writing course, we had NO restrictions, other than word count. I don't think there was such a thing as "teen fiction" back then, and had there been, I doubt I would have wanted to write it.


message 6: by Christopher (new)

Christopher Francis | 7 comments Generally the teens I have been coaching have wanted to produce similar genres to what they read.
I’m four years into running these small classes and I’ve had the same three girls join the classes each year (including others who come and go.)
They love the quick writes and little writing activities. I do my best to show short animation video clips to strike up conversations about the elements of developing a story. However, when it comes to the technical and editing part, I worry that I’m robbing them of the inspiring and joy of writing.
I try to keep this part short in the hour and half I have them each week.
Are there any suggestions or resources out there to support the technical side to creative writing? E.g., show don’t tell, sentence structure, grammar, dialogue, flow, pacing, etc....


message 7: by Christopher (new)

Christopher Francis | 7 comments Dwayne,
The quotes were to suggest how the 'teens' feel about certain stages in writing.
Thanks for your comments.

Dwayne wrote: "A few gut reactions to this:

First, I'm having a hard time knowing how to read this. The quotes around every few words make it seem as if you're trying to be ironic, sarcastic, or you have reserva..."



message 8: by Dwayne, Head of Lettuce (new)

Dwayne Fry | 4270 comments Mod
Christopher wrote: "However, when it comes to the technical and editing part, I worry that I’m robbing them of the inspiring and joy of writing."

Have they suggested they don't care for this part? As a teen, I do recall I hated editing. Now it's my favorite part. It's where the magic happens. It's where you take a jumble of poorly written sentences and work and work it into something enjoyable. It takes a deep love of words and language to learn to enjoy editing.

Maybe show them the magic of using better words and phrasing to take a bland sentence like, "The girl had brown eyes, brown hair, and a brown dress" and turn it into something like, "A shock of auburn hair dropped over her glinting eye, the same color as her dress, which resembled rich, flowing chocolate." <-- And, no, I realize that second sentence is still nothing to be proud of.

Maybe make a game out of how stupid sentences sound if they have poorly constructed grammar.

Perform a short play with stiff and bland dialogue to demonstrate how important real dialogue is?


message 9: by M.L. (last edited Sep 21, 2019 07:01PM) (new)

M.L. | 1101 comments It sounds like you have a good group and some steady writers. You might check Margie Lawson's blog and search for specific topics like show vs tell. Her website is mostly for selling, but the blog is free.

If they are at the workshop stage, they can read each other's work. Sometimes seeing what someone else is doing that either works or doesn't is helpful especially if they can apply it to their own work.

Another possibility is having them make a drawing like a map showing how a character starts and the goal, point A to point B and some obstacles, other people they meet on the way. Show the conflict and how frequently it occurs till the character reaches the goal.
Good luck!


message 10: by B.A. (new)

B.A. A. Mealer | 811 comments A part of writing is editing. If you don't edit, you'll never be able to really write. A basic book by a scientist turned writer is Writing Fiction for Dummies by Randy Ingermanson. He breaks things up in to small bites. That might be a good start. In the book is all the basics to get started. For the finer points, ML suggested Margie Lawson. She has a lot of great stuff, but you do have to have some sort of writing ability to use what she had and editing is one of her big things.

As to writing, the need to be able to write what interests them is a must. If they want to write short stories, have then go for it and learn how to make every word count. If the want to write novels they they need to learn how to construct a good plot, the necessary point you must have to make a good book.

The thing I would definitely tell them that writing isn't easy. It's hard work and if you are passionate about it, you'll never make it as a writer. The other thing is how most writers who made it big were plugging away, unnoticed for 5 to 15 years before they were noticed and made it big. During that time, they took the time to learn their craft. That means how they spent that time learning how to write. They would read, write, read, write and read some more and learn how to put it into their stories. Even the author of Eragon, who was 19 at the time his first book was published, had been writing since he was 14, learning how to write and write well.


Jac, Huge Jam Editor (hugejam) | 1 comments @ Christopher: I have a few suggestions, and I think it's great that you are investing so much thought into helping them find their voices.
1. creativity works best with increased self-esteem (and self-efficacy - knowing your goals and having the confidence to get there). It might be that their reluctance to go bigger is rooted in the fear of failure. Don't put too much emphasis on the finished 'perfect' product, let it evolve.
2. If someone's written a great short story (or even better a few short stories) this is a genre in itself. Look at Saki, Poe, Mansfield, Lawrence, Conan-Doyle, Maugham etc. Why not put the effort and ambition into researching what makes a great short story (different from other genres - no need for complete resolution for instance) and then make a great short story their end goal?
3. Experiment with changing the stories and fragments into poetry, including 'prose poetry'. Share examples with them, discuss.
4. Make it clear that famous writers doubted themselves too and relied on direction from trusted friends and editors. T S Eliot would spend years on one poem! Get them to say how they would improve a published poem. Give them ownership of literature as a whole.
5. Move away from chronology and realism if their fragments are showing it doesn't suit them. Go for magical realism, a mix of genres, different times and voices, all within the same work. See how it can all be linked together. Chances are that if it's THEIR writing throughout, there will be background themes and tones that make it a(n) holistic success.
6. To challenge your opening comment, THINK BIG and work backwards! Much easier and more exciting for some. (see 5 above)


I'm a publisher, writer and English teacher. Hope some of that helps. But what you're doing is great as valuing their writing is as good as listening to them, and being listened to increases feelings of self-worth.


message 12: by M.L. (last edited Sep 22, 2019 08:33AM) (new)

M.L. | 1101 comments I don't know if the class is progressive (increased assignments) or more or less at the same level each time. But since they like the quick writes and assignments you could try building on those. 1st assignment is ____, 2d is to take the same exercise/story and send it in the next direction (with choices).

I agree with not becoming burdensome about editing. Since you are touching on that and fundamentals as part of the class, you might preface that part, Now for anyone who thinks they want to publish, here's some stuff that helps.

Writing is fun, learning is fun. If something is fun, then it isn't hard, not to me. :) If this is an elective and they are there because they want to be, that's fantastic.

The New Voices of Fantasy, edited by Peter S. Beagle is something they might enjoy, just picking a story to see how short story writing can be pretty exciting.


message 13: by Susana (new)

Susana Gino | 4 comments Jac, Huge Jam Editor wrote: "@ Christopher: I have a few suggestions, and I think it's great that you are investing so much thought into helping them find their voices.
1. creativity works best with increased self-esteem (and..."


I love the topic and all inputs so far!
Thank you Jac, Great suggestions!


message 14: by Susana (last edited Sep 23, 2019 02:20AM) (new)

Susana Gino | 4 comments Anyone can write but only some will choose to become writers !

Freedom to choose the subjects is important, there is no good or bad style, only a few good techniques to rely on and discipline to show up and do the work!

As a mentor I would show up (no matter the size of the group) and I would listen more. I believe at this age they will appreciate someone that listens to their ideas and filters the good stuff instead of trying to bring a lot of "how to to it" stuff!
It's their golden years, they have plenty of creative ideas, make them bring their "not yet corrupted imagination" to the paper 😉 & most important, HAVE FUN!


message 15: by Christopher (new)

Christopher Francis | 7 comments I love all of the suggestions. I totally believe the students should be given as many opportunities to be creative.
Thanks everyone! I'm looking forward to starting this fall session on Thursday.


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