Personal tidbit of the day: Gimme a second, I've got to steal a pair of my husband's socks.
I write (so far) for what people in the biz would call the 'young adult' or 'teen' audience and the funny part is knowing a lot of teens who themselves are writers. So, for those kids I give a few really general pointers that some wonderful people have given me over the last six months or so (credit will follow the main post).
In no particular order:
- It's a time-saver just to start out writing your manuscript in the formatting parameters you're going to end up with. That usually means 1-inch margins all around, double-spaced (a line-width between each line of text), a font like Times New Roman or Arial in the 12 point size. In black. Cutesy colors usually annoy readers.
- Passive Voice. If you have a sentence that uses I was/they were/we were/she is or any other similar conjugation of a being verb see if you can replace the 'passive' being verb ('I am') with a stronger, more specific verb. Ex. "I was laughing like a hyena," becomes "I laughed like a hyena," and makes 'I' the active noun in the sentence. I learned this the hard way.
- Always make sure your verb tenses agree. Past, present, future? Pick one and stick with it.
- Use adverbs (words that end in -ly. Happily, worriedly, arrogantly, etc.) as little as possible. You can usually figure out a way to reword the sentence using the adverb as another part of speech and the statement will sound stronger for it, you can change the dialogue to reflect the emotion. Adverbs often come off as a sort of prosaic cop-out. This comes from a recovering adverb addict.
- Think about your audience as you write.* This might have been my biggest problem. I'm a hardcore word geek so my vocab sometimes explodes in a burst of syllables. Treading the line between introducing new vocab and not going overboard is tough, but possible. Research helps (especially if you're writing something historical--your readers will appreciate the authentic feel of era-appropriate language).
And that's my Top Five Tip Starter Kit for Young Writers. I know it's common sense to most people who work with books, but for those just starting out these are things I think it helps a ton to know on the outset.
*I actually have a pretty funny story about that. When another writer friend and I become famous we're going to tell the world about it. . . and the world will totally laught at us. Erm, I mean WITH, totally laugh WITH us. o.0