Dana Reinhardt’s newest novel, We Are the Goldens, released on Tuesday. To celebrate this release she’s participating in a five day blog tour. As an English teacher and reading enthusiast, I asked her to share some writing advice for teens. Her advice is spot on! This post doesn’t necessarily advertise We Are the Goldens, but it adds to the already great impression Dana has made as an admirable YA author.
P.S. This is a powerful book that you’ll want to read and share with your readers! I’ll post my review soon
Summary (From Goodreads):
Nell knows a secret about her perfect, beautiful sister Layla. If she tells, it could blow their world apart.
When Nell and Layla were little, Nell used to call them Nellaya. Because to Nell, there was no difference between where she started and her adored big sister ended. They’re a unit; divorce made them rely on each other early on, so when one pulls away, what is the other to do? But now, Nell’s a freshman in high school and Layla is changing, secretive. And then Nell discovers why. Layla is involved with one of their teachers. And even though Nell tries to support Layla, to understand that she’s happy and in love, Nell struggles with her true feelings: it’s wrong, and she must do something about it.
**Dana Reinhardt’s Writing Advice for Teens**
I don’t consider myself to be in the advice business, though it was a career I contemplated at an early age. When I was a teenager I went through a phase of forgoing People in favor of Psychology Today at the newsstand. I remember Lucy in the Peanuts comic strip sitting in her little booth with the sign “ADVICE 5 cents” or alternately “Psychiatric Help 5 cents”. She always looked forlorn and lonely, chin in hand, waiting for customers who never showed. Maybe this is part of what ultimately discouraged me from a career in psychology, though I have to believe the rigors of medical school also played a role. So I went back to reading People.
But advice for teen writers? I guess that’s something I can handle. Something about which I might have something to say. It isn’t anything earth-shattering. I don’t have a magic solution, nothing like: Use the force, Luke. My advice is simple, and it’s the same advice most writers give to young people who want to write:
Read everything. Read to know what you love and read to know what you don’t. Find the writers who speak to you and ask yourself why this is the kind of book you hold close to your chest and part with only to lend to a kindred soul who will love this story the way you do. Find the writers whose stories ring false, the sorts of stories where you can almost hear the click-clacking of the writer’s keyboard because he never fully inhabited the world his characters do. Read to know the genre where you feel at home, and then read outside of that genre because great writing transcends genre.
Here’s my second piece of advice. Again, nothing particularly new:
Write all the time. Write in a journal. Write letters to your friends. Write stories or poems or blog entries or, why not try writing a novel? So what if it only amounts to ten pages? At least you tried. And when you write, remember not to follow any of the rules you’ve learned in English class. (Sorry, English teachers!) Don’t pay attention to punctuation or fragmented sentences. And speaking of sentences, don’t think about topic sentences or supporting sentences or concluding sentences. Break every rule you know. Do not play it safe. Write like nobody will ever read what you’ve written but you. Don’t think of an audience. Don’t wonder what would my English teacher say about this? (Sorry, again, English teachers.) And then, when you have something you’re proud of, show it to someone. Maybe that friend with whom you shared that treasured book.
You are lucky. You have loads of time to find your voice. You can fail spectacularly. In fact, you must fail spectacularly. And when you do, go outside and get some fresh air. Do something fun. And then, pull out a blank piece of paper (or open up a new document on your desktop screen) and try again.