Writing Tips for Young Writers

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I started writing when I was in grade school. It all sprang from a role-playing game that my sister and I made up. We used to pretend we were various characters from television or movies, then we made up and acted out our own stories. Because school kept getting in the way of play, we started writing our stories out–yes, during school. I’m not recommending that to students. Please pay attention to your teachers.

My sister and I took turns writing chapters in an ongoing story, each of us writing the characters into a cliffhanger that the other had to write them out of.  It was incredibly fun and really sparked our imaginations! We ended up creating many of our own characters and the most exciting, albeit bizarre, story lines. Some of the characters are in my stories today. I’m sure my sister recognizes them.

I recently created six newsletters packed with writing tips for young writers. I sent them weekly to students in our homeschooling group as they prepared for a Young Writers Day, where they presented books they wrote.

I am getting ready to send these Writing Tips newsletters out again, opening this up to anyone who is interested. Here’s what they cover:

Week 1: Genre, Theme, Story Problem
Week 2: Characters, Point of View, Opening Lines
Week 3: Conflict, Plot and Structure, Checklist
Week 4: Setting, Details, Strong Closing
Week 5: Dialog, Emotion, Tense
Week 6: Editing your work

If you are interested in receiving these for the young writer in your life, just let me know! You can comment here or send me an email: theresalinden@oh.rr.com

The first one goes out Wednesday, May 3rd. The others will come out weekly, on Wednesdays.

At the end of the six weeks, if anyone would like to share their story or part of their story, I would love to see it!

Happy writing!

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A to Z Blogging Challenge: X is for Xavier

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“X” is for Xavier

Oh yeah! You thought I couldn’t come up with something other than x-ray, xanthan gum, or xylophone! Or that I’d have to use some strange word no one has heard of before like xeroses or xyliod! (No, I have no idea what those mean.)

But here I am rocking it with a totally cool “X” is for Xavier!

This is my youngest son’s middle name. I asked him how he felt about his middle name, and he said he likes having “X” for his middle initial because it’s cool.

Names are so important. When parents discover they are expecting a child, the first thing they do is hit the baby name books and websites. We want to find a name that has meaning. It has to be perfect.

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As a writer, I put similar effort into finding the perfect names for my characters. And I also hit the baby name books and websites. If I need a name in a crunch, I use name generators. The writing software that I use, Scrivener, has a built in name generator that gives you options including gender and origin. But there are plenty of name generators online too.

A few Name Generators:

Behind the Name

Fake Name Generator

The Character Name Generator

Seventh Sanctum – this site is one of 101 best websites for writers, according to Writer’s Digest

A few Baby Name Websites:

Nameberry

Baby Name Genie

Oh Baby! Names

All of the names in my dystopian trilogy have meaning, including the city names, which are named after people in the Deep Green or similar disturbing movements.

Roland in Roland West, Loner is named after Charlemagne’s nephew Roland (the subject of The Song of Roland). His mother chose this name because of her love of medieval and classical literature, and other reasons that come out in a story I have only written bits and pieces of.

Eugenie von der Leyen.jpgSome of my characters’ names are based on real people. For example, Jeannie Lyons, from my work in progress Unwanted Visitor, is named after Eugenie von der Leyen (1867-1929). Eugenie was a well-educated woman of high German nobility who kept a diary of the disturbing visits she received from souls of people who had died. I based my character on her, but I changed the year to modern times, and the location to New York. This will be the focus of my upcoming posts, after the Blogging from A to Z Challenge has ended.

How much effort do you put into creating names for your characters? And what resources do you use?

 

A to Z blogging Challenge: R is for Research

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“R” is for Research

Love it or hate it, every writer needs to do it. Whether writing fiction or non-fiction, your book can benefit from research. Since the research aspect is obvious for non-fiction, and I don’t write non-fiction anyway, this blog will focus on researching for fiction.

Ideas for Research

Characters – we want our characters to have unique talents, interests, and abilities, but we also want them to be realistic.

Got a child in your story but no child at home to base him on? Visit family or friends or even the library. Pay attention to the unique speech, mannerisms, interests, and interactions of children of different ages.

Got a teen in your story? Head out to the mall for some people watching! Pay attention to clothing styles and jewelry, along with the unique way each teen’s personality shows through body language and verbal communication.

For adult characters, consider people in your family or workplace and note different characteristics, personality quirks, and manners of speech that might work for a character in your book. Warning: don’t create a character that resembles a real person too closely if the person might take offense.

IMAG0097I modeled Toby Brandt in Roland West, Loner on my oldest son, who has autism. This character captures the personality and interests of my son at age 8 or 9, including his manner of speech and interesting behaviors and obsessions. And even some of the story conflict. While every child with autism is unique, I hope that people will find Toby a realistic character.


Setting – long, detailed passages of weather or setting descriptions will bore our readers, but we need enough details to allow them to picture the setting in their minds.

When possible, go on location to gather details. Go into the woods, warehouses, wilderness, or wherever your scene takes place. Take a notebook and focus on all five senses. When you can’t go on location or you want even more ideas, use the research of other writers, for example try the Setting Thesaurus on the Writers Helping Writers website.

I will share another favorite resource for setting details on the “V” blog next week.


Story ideas – these can come from anywhere and go in any direction but getting a few facts can go a long way in making a story feel believable. We don’t want readers to be thrown out of our story world because something doesn’t ring true.

Rightfully Ours Front (002)In Carolyn Astfalk’s new release, Rightfully Ours, sixteen-year-old Paul Porter relocates to Pennsylvania during his dad’s deployment. He makes a temporary home with the Muellers and develops a friendship with Rachel, the Muellers’ teenage daughter. Their abiding friendship deepens as they work side by side to uncover what could be lost treasure.

Author Carolyn Astfalk wanted to get her facts straight with this story so she researched sink holes (where and how they happen and how you rescue someone from one). She also researched how custody of a minor is handled when a single parent is deployed. And, she had to research how gold bars are authenticated.

Her hard work researching for this story makes it all the more believable and allows readers to truly immerse themselves in the romantic and adventure-filled story line. The e-book is available on Amazon and the paperback is coming soon. You can check out the book trailer here.


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The ideas for my dystopian trilogy came directly from the news. Governments too often step on the rights of the individual. Scientific and technological developments often cross ethical boundaries. And special interest groups attempt to indoctrinate us in order to push hidden agendas.

Because this trilogy is set in the near future, I did an incredible amount of online research into actual ideologies that influence world governments, the latest scientific developments, and cutting-edge technology. Unlike some dystopian stories, nothing that happens in this trilogy is that farfetched. If we don’t reclaim our culture and cling to faith, family, and freedom, this is a real possibility for our future.

The more I learned from research, the more I realized I needed to write this dystopian story. I only meant to write one book and get back to my other stories. I wanted to end Chasing Liberty showing a seed of change being planted. But I couldn’t stop thinking about it. What exactly is this freedom we should be fighting for? And how can one person make a difference?

This trilogy is available through most online booksellers and you can find the book trailers on my website.


What type of research have you done for your stories and what are your favorite resources?

A to Z blogging Challenge: O is for Outlining

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“O” is for Outlining

Are you a plotter or pantser? Or a little of both?

I am proud to be a plotter. And here’s why: story ideas come to me all the time, and I don’t want to lose them. So I write down my ideas and I develop them into the outline of a story later, as the mood strikes.

When I am ready to focus on a particular story, I read the outline I started for that story. It’s usually something basic that doesn’t have all the plot points or development I’ll need.

So that’s my next step. I create character arcs, plot arc, and theme arcs. But I don’t get too detailed, plan every twist, or spend too much time on it. And I leave it all open to change, which inevitably happens as the characters come to life during the writing process.

Moving from a developed outline to writing a story has become even easier now that I use Scrivener. I’ll write more about Scrivener on the letter “S” day, but I love Scrivener’s outlining features.

I am also a bit of a pantser, writing by the seat of my pants. When a scene comes to mind–which often happens on long drives or when I should be sleeping–I will devote my time to writing out that scene so that I don’t lose it. Sometimes a specific mood or scene will come first in my story development, and the outline is built around it.

I developed my story Roland West, Loner around a dream. I stood alone in a deep cave behind a waterfall. Rushing water thundered in my ears, and glassy and white sheets of water tumbled down a few inches from me. Sunlight glistened here and there on the water as it splashed to the pool below. I had a secret that I both wanted to keep to myself and wanted to share, something that had the power to reach deep inside and transform a person.

I wrote that scene and the characters, plot, and theme sprang from it!


Benefits of outlining:

  • It gives the writer a way to organize and develop thoughts about character development, plot, themes, and twists.
  • It helps a writer to focus right from the beginning on the characters, theme, and the story that you are telling.
  • I also believe it helps a person to write faster because you know what needs to happen in the scene!
  • It gives you a clear path from beginning to end, which is very encouraging on the days you struggle to write.

So, writer friends, what are you? Plotter, pantser, or both? What benefits do you see in either method?

 

A to Z blogging Challenge: N is for New Adult Fiction

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“N” is for New Adult Fiction

I can’t believe I am halfway through the Blogging from #AtoZChallenge! To all of you who read my posts, follow me, click “like,” or leave a comment, thank you!!! You help me to persevere with this challenge. And I’ve now developed a good habit of writing with purpose every morning–a habit I hope to maintain even after the letter “z.” (Oh no! What begins with “z”?)

So what is New Adult fiction? And, no, I am not referring to recently released adult fiction. Okay, but isn’t New Adult the same as Young Adult?

No, it’s not the same. There is a new category now!

It sprang up around 2009 when St. Martins Press called for “…fiction similar to YA that can be published and marketed as adult—a sort of an ‘older YA’ or ‘new adult’.”

Characters: Both Young Adult and New Adult have young protagonists. YA tends to feature characters aged 14 to 17 while NA characters range from 18 to mid-twenties. Many adults enjoy YA fiction, but it is geared toward teens with issues teens can relate to. And the teen voice needs to be strong.

New Adult fiction is written for brand new adults!

The characters in NA fiction are now officially adults, but they don’t really feel like it. (Us older folks, we remember that feeling, right? Moving out and living in your first apartment on your own or with your new spouse, it didn’t feel real for a long time. Am I right?) NA characters are trying to understand what it means to be an adult and discovering how they fit into the adult world. They are faced with new responsibilities and adult issues.

Themes:  first jobs and financial independence, starting college, living away from home for the first time, making the decision to live by faith, wedding engagements and marriage, starting new families– and all the fears, challenges, and failures that accompany these things. Protagonists in NA fiction gain insight and perspective from life experience in a way that characters in traditional YA don’t.

Style and voice: New Adult fiction has emotionally tense story lines and fast-paced, dramatic plotting. It is often written in first-person, but it must have an engaging narrator.

New Adult titles appeal to both the young-adult and adult audience. Many (currently most) are contemporary romance, but NA combines all genres and sub-genres: fantasy, mystery, romance, science fiction, paranormal, dystopia, etc.
I would love to see more New Adult fiction in different genres.

My current favorite NA dystopian is by Erin McCole Cupp, The Memoirs of Jane E, Friendless Orphan. The first book begins with the protagonist as a child, but the character soon grows up and is thrown into the world. The insights she gains as a young woman as she finds her place in the world are what I believe make this NA fiction. If you’ve enjoyed Jane Eyre and you love dystopian or steampunk, check out this trilogy. ALL of the Jane E ebooks will be FREE April 17-21, in honor of Charlotte Brontë’s 201st Birthday on April 21. FREE on Kobo too.
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“Classic Gothic heroine rebooted”


I will soon be seeking representation for my New Adult mystery romance, Anyone But Him. This is a love story that is light on the romance and heavy on the mystery.

anyoneTagline: A young woman wakes with no memory of the past three years and finds herself far from home and married to a boy she hated in high school.

Her perfect husband would love Jesus above all
and would love her because of her love for Jesus.
He would be faithful and gentle and have a heart for others.

So how did Caitlyn Summer end up marrying the guy who got her high school best friend pregnant then pressured her to abort?

Unable to remember the past three years or understand why she would’ve moved so far from home, Caitlyn can’t believe she willingly married such an overprotective, bossy, and jealous man. In this emotionally charged mystery romance, Caitlyn struggles to solve the mysteries of what caused her amnesia and of why she married this guy. Suspicious circumstances surrounding him tempt her to leave and start life over, but they also force her to evaluate the strength of her Christian faith.

The arrival of her first love, her husband’s younger brother, intent on helping her regain her memory, offers a glimmer of hope. Together they uncover secrets involving her coworkers and the local abortion clinic, but nothing to explain her marriage. Had he changed, or had she?

 


Happy writing! If you are a fan of New Adult fiction, please share your favorites in the comments!

A to Z blogging Challenge: L is for Loner

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“L” is for Loner

lonely-814631_1920Perhaps everyone feels lonely at one point in their life. With all the changes in society and advancements in technology, it is no wonder that loneliness in American teens is a growing problem.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta said, “Material poverty you can always satisfy with the material. The unwanted, the unloved, those not cared for, the forgotten, the lonely: this is a much greater poverty.”

In my YA Christian fiction, Roland West, Loner, 14-year-old Roland feels lonely at home and at a new school. Worse, he’s the subject of cruel rumors. And he’s shy. He’d trade anything for one good friend.

As the story unfolds, Roland makes a couple of friends and he learns a powerful 3D-Book-Rolandlesson that is true for every one of us. None of us are ever truly alone. In addition to our ever-present God and our guardian angel, we are surrounded by a cloud of heavenly witnesses (Hebrews 12:1). Can these witnesses really help and encourage as it shows in Hebrews?  Can turning our attention to spiritual realities be a remedy for loneliness? Can it help a person to find their purpose while also inspiring him or her to reach out to others?

Loneliness is an important element for storytelling. After facing conflict throughout the story, and failing many times, our protagonist needs to go deep and go alone. In the “Hero’s Journey” this is called the “Innermost Cave.” Here, alone, our protagonist is brought to his knees. He comes face to face with his greatest fears and weaknesses. Here he must conquer the inner demons.

On Holy Thursday we remember the when the greatest hero prayed alone in the Garden of Gethsemane. He longed for the support of his three closest disciples, but they were not there for him. Jesus had to do this alone.

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And on Good Friday, abandoned by his followers, the greatest hero embraced the cross that would save us all.

And on three days, He rose again.

Have a holy Good Friday and a Blessed Easter!

 

 

 

 

A to Z blogging Challenge: K is for Klutz

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“K” is for Klutz

Thoughts on Character Flaws

I was an awkward girl and a klutzy teen. The majority of my friends seemed to have it all together. They moved through life with relative grace and ease.

One day in grade school, I was strolling across the playground with a friend, deep in conversation, and next thing I knew I was wrapped around a tetherball pole.

Other times, I got up to leave a classroom and my purse dragged me back to my desk, the strap hooked around the chair. Or only some of my books came with me, the others diving to the floor.

These humiliating experiences have inspired one of the characters in my Christian teen fiction: Caitlyn Summer. Caitlyn is super sweet, but she’s thin, shapeless, and klutzy. Caitlyn gets tangled in the streamers of a hanging plant, she trips climbing stairs, and worse: she blurts out things that should’ve remained secret. Her flaws humble and humiliate her but they also change the direction of the story.75HN5HHXIE.jpgWhile we want our characters to have admirable qualities and unique skills and abilities, every character needs flaws. This allows readers to either identify with or feel compassion for them. Character flaws can add tension or humor to a scene, stand in the way of a character attaining his or her goals, and give the character something to strive to overcome.

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They can be little things like a coffee addiction or fear of spiders or snakes. They can be deep psychological or moral weaknesses like pride, cowardice, and distrust.

How do you get a character’s flaws into the story?

Demonstrate it through their actions, thoughts, and dialog. They might not even see it as a flaw at first. Over the course of the story, reveal character flaws so that they are fully exposed to the character by the end of the story. In addition to beating the antagonist, give the protagonist something within themselves that they must overcome in order to bring about the victory.

Looking for resources to develop interesting character flaws? Check out this list on Writers Write. or have fun with this character flaw generator or this character trait generator.

If you are a fiction writer, I’d love to hear how you come up with character flaws. Please leave a comment.

Happy writing!