Tag Archives: mistakes

Newbie Mistakes #3: Getting the Message

17 Mar

If you grew up watching kids’/teen TV in the 80s-90s, you will be familiar with the concept of the ‘very special episode’. In these one-off episodes, the young cast would get themselves into problems with drugs, alcohol or sex, and what might normally be a light-hearted show would become serious, sombre and moral-laden. For example, in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, where the relationship between Will and Carlton was a constant riff, Will’s drug use in one episode led to Carlton going to hospital after accidentally taking some ‘pills’ from his cousin’s locker. The episode ended with a penitent Will having to own up to having the drugs in the first place, and apologising to his cousin for nearly killing him. The message is clear: DRUGS ARE BAD.

Having imbibed these messages from an early age, it’s therefore not surprising to find that lots of new writers feel like their work needs to present a moral message to the teen audience.

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Newbie Mistakes #2: Dialogue Tag, You’re It!

21 Jan

On one side of my classroom I’ve got a display, inherited from the lovely lady who used to own the room, of words to use instead of ‘said’ when you’re writing dialogue. You know the deal: hissed, guffawed, shouted, cried, croaked etc. etc. Maybe you can hear the voice of your teacher now:

“Make sure you use varied vocabulary! Don’t use said all the time! Look at the list of alternatives!” (she exclaimed).

Let’s just pause a minute.

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Newbie Mistakes #1: Let’s start at the very beginning…

13 Jan

On a couple of occasions recently, a student has asked me: ‘Miss, what qualifications do you need to be a writer?’

Unfortunately, I reply, it’s not as simple as getting a certificate and magically becoming ‘a writer’. There is really only one way to be a writer and that is to write.

That’s not to say there’s nothing to be learned about writing – on the contrary, there’s a lot to get your head round. Having spent a few years now on the YA scene, I’ve seen a lot of new writers make the same mistakes – and made them myself. So, in a small series of posts, I’m going to discuss some of these classic newbie errors – and how to avoid them.

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In the immortal words of Maria Von Trapp, let’s start at the very beginning…the beginning of your book…

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