View Full Version : Advice for a young writer?

02-26-2006, 07:59 AM
I was "introduced" to a teen writer online and we've been going back and forth about writing ever since. He's written a VERY COOL fantasy manuscript (well, I think it's cool; it has good characterization, an interesting plot and some good dialogue), but there are some areas that could use fixing.

Problem is, he's been fixing them and fixing them. Taking the manuscript through the 11th revision as I type. :Wha: He'll ask me to read something then when I'm halfway through it, informs me that he's rewriting it again.

I'm ready to tell him to give it a rest and just start querying publishers, but the problem here is that, even as he is rewriting everything, there are still problem spots I keep seeing, such as redundancy, typos, passive writing and more telling than showing. Or maybe that's just me! I'm waaay more particular with novels than what everybody else keeps snatching up. ;)

This book of his is the first in a series. Right now he's got it at 150,000+ words, down from it's original 194,000. He's been working at cutting it down to at LEAST 150K but, like I said, there are the trouble spots. I'm not the only person he's asked to read it but I'm not too clear on if he's asking more than his friends to give it a look.

He wants to see this thing through to publication but I keep getting the feeling he's stuck in a revision rut.

Does anyone know what advice I should give to him?

02-26-2006, 08:07 AM
I once saw a poster in a math class:

"Aim for the moon; even if you miss, you'll land among the stars!"

Yeah, I have no actual real advice. But perfectionism isn't exactly a bad thing, right? And it's not like he's in a race to be the next Christopher Paolini.
Books can take years; especially good ones.
But you probably know that.

02-26-2006, 09:34 AM
You might suggest he put it in a drawer for 6 weeks and work on novel #2 (that's not the sequel to #1). That gets him out of the rut and lets him start on another work to sell. There will always be more time to revise in the future.

02-26-2006, 10:16 AM
Tell him exactly the same thing you've told us. Tell him he needs to stop revising until he knows what needs revising and what doesn't. Five hundred revisions won't help a book if those revisions aren't aimed at the problems.

I'd give him a very thorough critique/edit on the last version of his manuscript you have, and ignore anything he's changed since them. Tell him the truth. Tell him that if he really wants to see this novel published, he needs to fix the problems, and not constantly rewrite just for teh sake or rewriting.

02-26-2006, 10:22 AM
The best advice I have received as of yet with my own writing is exactly what Ted_Curtis has already said. Advise him to put it away for several weeks, and to work on something else. Then, after that several week period is up, he can go back to it with a fresh perspective and will be better able to see where his work needs improvement.

Speaking from my experience with my present manuscript, I can say that my work did not get better through revisions until I took a simple break from the work to work on something else.

That's the advice I would recommend giving him, because it's obvious he wants to make the work right.

Linda Adams
02-26-2006, 05:40 PM
I got stuck in endlessly rewriting a project. I knew it wasn't working, but I didn't know why. So I rewrote and rewrote, figuring it'd fix it some way. Of course it didn't.

So what I do when I decide if I'm going to revise is I start with why I'm doing it. I have to have a lock solid reason why I am making the revision. Like I need to add foreshadowing for an upcoming scene, or now this scene doesn't fit what I did later in the story. If the revision is for vague reasons like it doesn't feel right or doesn't seem to be working, I don't touch it until I know why. Otherwise I'm just, as my co-writer says, "moving around deck chairs on the Titanic"--making useless, non-productive changes.

Suggest he set it aside and work on a different project. Some of his problem is the fact he knows there are problems in the story, but he doesn't yet have the experience that comes with age to figure out how to fix them.

03-05-2006, 08:39 AM
Thanks everyone for this advice. All really helpful.

I did say to him that he should put the manuscript aside and try writing something else. He laughed and said, "You keep saying that." Then when I made some other suggestions, from what was here, he got defensive and said, "You're treating me like I'm not a real writer." (Ah, teenage angst.) Maybe I just worded my suggestions to him wrong? Well, at least I gave it a shot. I can only hope that he'll start picking up on the "watch out for redundancies" and "show, don't tell" cues in the revisions I send back to him.

03-05-2006, 09:33 AM
Have you pointed him here to this forum? It's hard to take criticism (doubly hard when you're a teen, I imagine), but he needs reassurance that you are, indeed, treating him
EXACTLY like a real writer. There's no problem with having 20 revisions, but you have to know what it is you're revising and how the new version is better than the previous one. Constant rewriting is just flailing at problems without understanding them, as you said.

If he posts questions here, no one has to know how old he is and he can listen in to the conversations unseen. Perhaps other people saying the same things would be helpful? Just reading through all the threads here has helped me tremendously and made me view my own writing with a more critical eye (and more understanding of why things need to be tweaked.)

03-05-2006, 08:39 PM
GW. everyting you've suggestef to your teen writer friend is fine. However, you missed two vital areas he must consider if he wants to be read.

One: get a professional editor and work with him/her in a proactive way. Do this now not later when the originality of his work has been dumbed down to mush.
Two: Quering publishers with out agent is almost fruitless. Yes there are exceptions but they are so rare as to be anecdotal.


www.michaelhalfhill.com (http://www.michaelhalfhill.com)

03-06-2006, 06:50 AM
I agree with the last post: get a professional editor to work with him. It will crush him that so many red marks land on the pages, and he may even want to quit for a while, but that is how the thick skin is earned, and the learning process of polishing his craft will begin. Sometimes, as also indicated in one of the previous posts, it is best to just set a manuscript aside for a while, and then pull it out of the mothballs and look upon it as a new, fresh manuscript. He'll recognize more problems that way. He should also be reading books along the same line of genre. It will sharpen his ability to locate problems with the "sound" of his writing. Reading it out loud is another good practice. If it doesn't roll off the tongue properly, or seems not to sound right to the ears, then something is wrong, and must be corrected.

03-06-2006, 07:18 AM
I would tell him to visit us here at AW. I have received so much wonderful advice from the crew here, it can only help him. He needs to stop revising and let the people he's asked to read it, read it. Then go over their comments one at a time.

If this fails, get him to submit to a couple of agents and they'll soon point out its short-comings.

03-06-2006, 08:56 AM
I'm sure he would benefit from the multitude (multitudes?) of advice here, and not only could he connect with some experts of the craft, he would also be able to connect with at least one other young writer. ;)

03-06-2006, 01:33 PM
Tell him the truth. This is his sliding door moment.

And suggest he read Dwigth Swain "Techniques of the Selling Writer"