MINNETONKA — Often with writing, the fun is in the creativity and the more daunting end, editing, is where the work is taken to the next level.
Rachel Anderson is co-founder of Sigma’s Bookshelf, a publishing company for teenage authors, and will be teaching a novel writing for teens class through Minnetonka Community Education this summer.
She has five tips for teens who want to write:
Tip 1: Proofread
Before turning work in, go over your work with a fine-tooth comb to check for spelling and grammar mistakes, Anderson said.
“That’s number one,” she said, “the importance of getting it right.”
Through her work reading manuscripts with Sigma’s Bookshelf, she’s seen authors misspell words and use incorrect grammar. It’s often one of the first points she makes when asking authors to edit and their work, she said.
“What we’re trying to do is help educate kids along the way,” she said. “It’s their story, but we also don’t want it to reflect poorly on them.”
Tip 2: Make sure the story has a beginning, middle and end
When finishing a book, it’s okay to leave a sense of mystery, but all the strings have to be tied up, too, Anderson said.
One book Anderson edited from a teen author dealt with a murder mystery storyline, including a kidnapping.
The book was great, Anderson said, but the author hadn’t clarified who was at fault for the murder or whatever happened to the kids in the story. Anderson suggested the author wrap the story up, and the teen wrote an epilogue.
“You always want to think of your reader,” she said. “You don’t want to leave them hanging.”
Tip 3: Develop your characters
The last thing you want to do to a main character is leave them one-dimensional, Anderson said. Characters should have hopes and dreams and the reader should be aware of what they look like. Some authors will focus heavily on dialogue, she said, when the key to getting readers to identify with a book is to make them understand, and picture, the characters.
“The manuscripts that really get our attention are the ones that are extremely descriptive,” she said.
Tip 4: Be open to feedback
Before saying you’re done and turning in the manuscript to a publisher, authors should try to get feedback from others around them, Anderson said.
“A lot of people, particularly kids, are shy because they take such ownership of what they write,” she said. “You get a wealth of knowledge and help if you ask for feedback.”
The feedback may involve changing the tone and course of the novel, but reader input can help create a better product.
Tip 5: Write every day
“It doesn’t matter if you’re writing in your diary or writing a page in your book,” Anderson said. “It’s like any sport. You have to exercise and practice. And writing every day is going to help you get better.”
The class, “Novel Writing for Teens,” will be happening through Minnetonka Community Education from 10 a.m.-noon June 19 through July 24 at the Minnetonka Community Education Center. Enrollment is $150 and can be done at https://minnetonka.ce.eleyo.com/course/3866/summer-2018/novel-writing-for-teens#78-250-nw.