Personal Tips For Writing YA (Or other stuff if you want to)

On 2014-04-21 by Karen M. Dillon


Attitude & Emotions:

A character’s attitude is what will appeal most to a reader. For example if the character is a joker and just laughs at things do it in a way that will make the reader laugh along with the jokes it increases the chances that the readers will enjoy reading the book, simply because the character makes them smile. If the character is pure evil, make them as evil as possible, don‘t be afraid to have them get their hands dirty. If they’re not supposed to be liked, ensure that they won’t be. Characters have feelings just like regular people, so if something happens, they wouldn’t ignore it, it wouldn’t have no effect. The characters would go through an emotional reaction so don’t forget to write it in. Because if they don’t have a reaction, neither will the reader.



Stories generally have to have a happy ending to satisfy the reader (at least most of the time). But, in order to get away with a happy ending there must be a balance between the good and bad things that happen throughout the story. If there are more good things than bad, the reader will be unsatisfied by a happy ending. There can however be more bad things than good, because the more bad things that happen to the characters the more the reader will wish for it to end happily, and then when it does end happily the reader will be satisfied because they have gotten exactly what they wanted. However a happy ending is not necessary. Go with your instincts when it comes to the ending, if you feel everyone has to die or the story isn’t over, then do it that way, more often than not you will be right. Don’t be afraid to kill off the characters when you feel like you should.


Belief Factor:

If you as the writer don’t believe in what you are saying it’s going to be difficult for the readers to believe it. Making things believable is extremely important especially when writing fiction. If you don’t believe it yourself you’re not going to be able to write it in a believable way and no one will believe it while they’re reading it. If a book is something that is completely made up by the writer you have to give the readers at least one thing they can relate to reality or to themselves, it makes the story more real, this can be done through describing the inner feelings of a character, or the smells or colours in the scene. Make it seem real so the readers, even while knowing it’s all fiction, stop and think ‘hm… maybe that could have happened in real life.’


Chemistry & Character:

The characters must have good chemistry. Not only when writing romantic situations but all the time and not just the main characters, but all of them. The more chemistry there is between the characters, the more realistic the situations and the characters become. You achieve chemistry between characters the same way real people have chemistry between one and other, by creating characters that are so different to each other, they bounce off each other well and widen the appeal to the reader. Try to create characters that are memorable, this can be achieved by giving them one or more specific thing e.g. if the character is short, or walks with a limp, or has a specific piece of jewellery that they’re never seen without or if they smoke or twirl their hair or if they speak with an accent.



Mentioning colours is a helpful descriptive tool. (e.g. looked through her long black lashes/ the room was such a bright yellow it was like walking into the sun/ she wiped a strand of her strawberry blonde hair away from her face/ staring back at him was a pair of deep violet-blue eyes.) Mentioning the colour gives things life and makes them appear more realistic. These little uses of colour also give little reminders of a character’s appearance without going overboard.



Never underestimate the importance of a good description. It’s important to paint a scene as clearly as possible so that the reader can really imagine everything the way that it happens. For example, if you’re writing a scene where a character is walking into a room, describe the room and then everything else. The colours, what the room looks like, the temperature of the room, the lighting, the atmosphere (what feelings does the location provoke in the character?), the smell of the room, how things feel (both when touched e.g. soft/ rough, and when felt e.g. the emotions provoked.). The type of walk the character is using (the way a character walks gives insight to how he/she is feeling at that particular moment. e.g. if the character walks with his/her head held high it shows pride/confidence. Hands in pockets, the character is relaxed. Shoulders slumped, tired/sad/low self-esteem. Head down, shyness/low self-esteem.) The description of what is happening should reflect how the character is feeling at that very moment i.e. If the character has had a bad day they would be easily agitated and everything around them would irritate them, nothing would look good. Whereas if the character has had a good day everything else would look good too (birds singing etc.)



Must be believable, it’s what makes the characters seem real and human. Even the ones who aren’t human. There should always be dialogue breaking up sections of descriptive text and vice versa. Never have too much of each on its own or the reader will start to get bored skip through parts. As well as that you should write the dialogue as the characters naturally would, e.g. 17 year olds talk like 17 year olds and not like an adult who’s trying to speak like a 17 year old. Also make a conscious effort to not have every character sound exactly the same. Yes, at the end of the day all of the characters come from your head, so most of them will sound like you, meaning you have to make an effort to remedy that.


Know your audience:

Know exactly who it is you are writing for and write things that will appeal to these people. e.g. most 17 year olds don’t want to read about someone who’s 8 and most 8 year olds don’t want to read about someone who’s 17.



It is alright to use big words. Some people say that you should write something as if the dumbest person you know would be reading it. I do not agree with that. Always assume that your audience is smarter than you give them credit for and never dumb things down. Go with whatever words come naturally, even if they’re big words that you fear no one will understand. Never dumb things down, because if you do the readers will feel like they’re being called idiots and will get pissed off. And then they’ll say, yeah the idea was good and the story line was there but it wasn’t written very well. Assume that most people are smart enough to understand the words you’ve written and the ones who don’t understand are smart enough to use a dictionary.


Main Characters:

The main characters can be anything you want them to be. Try to create a clear picture of them, describe them better than you would any other character. The most important thing about the main character is empathy. Make the reader feel what the character is feeling. Your main characters don’t necessarily have to be likable, though likeability does help. So be careful about what personality your MC has, because you could end up with people not reading the book simply because the MC annoys or bores them. Always make sure that whether your MC is a bitch, or the nicest person alive that they have a reason for the way they are. Remember that you past helps to define you as a person, and it’s the same with characters. They are the way they are for a reason. You know you have a really good main character if other people start wishing they were real.



If there is something the character needs never make it easy for them to get. Make it as difficult as you possibly can. It makes things seem real, because everyone knows that nothing worth having comes easily and nothing ever comes without consequences either. So getting what they’ve strived for may not always be worth it in the end.



Plot out as much of your story as you can, before you actually start to write it. Sometimes it’s good to just write it all when it comes to you, but sometimes you can get almost to the end of a story and realise that it has no ending and you don’t know where to go from where you are. So have a vague idea, if not a complete one, of what will be happening in the story, so that you know how to end it and remember to add in all of the important bits.


Publishers & Agents:

If a book is the first in a series or trilogy never hand it over unless you’ve finished book 2. I say that because it gives you time to consider where the story is really going and gives you time to make sure everything you‘ve got in the first one is relevant and that you haven‘t forgotten to add in something that will be brought up later. As well as that you have time, when you‘re given the hand in date for the second book, that‘s the time you have to write the third one, meaning you have twice as long to work on your books, providing you always stay one book ahead. And never hand over a book unless you are one hundred percent confident in it. Make sure it’s as grammatically correct as you can get it and that there are no spelling mistakes.



Read. Read. Read. Always read other books. Even before you start writing your own. By reading books by different authors you will discover on your own what does and doesn’t work in a story. It will also help you figure out your own writing style. The style of writing that you prefer to read usually ends up being the type of writing you like use.


Re–reading & Re–writing:

Keep reading your story again and again, even if you’re sick and tired of it, keep doing it because the story isn’t finished until you can read it without wanting to change a single thing. Guaranteed, when you read through your own story there will be something you’ll think of adding or something you’ll think of taking out. The majority of the time, when you’re actually done editing your story it will be completely different to how it was the first time you thought you were finished.



Always know what you’re talking about. Just like if you’re writing about a historical event, you must have facts about your subject. For example if you are writing a book about Witches, spend some time studying witchcraft, with the use of the internet getting any information should be relatively simple. If you’re writing a book about Norse or Greek Gods, read some books on Norse or Greek mythology. Writing Vampires, research Vampires. etc. That being said, don’t ever feel obliged to stick to the facts completely. Take artistic licence and change it how you see fit, but always know what you’re writing about.


Spell Check:

Always check for spelling errors. Every time you write a page, read through it and check for mistakes. When your story is finished print off a copy and give it to someone else (a friend or relative) and tell them to read through it at least twice and check to make sure you’ve corrected all of your mistakes. Tell them to either underline any mistakes in red pen or to highlight them, and to write down the numbers of the pages the mistakes were found. Also ask them for an honest opinion on what they thought of the story and if there were things they would change, or things they felt were irrelevant while they were reading it.


Tense & Grammar:

You can mix the past tense and the present tense, even the future tense together. But, you must be extremely careful when doing so. If you write something that doesn’t look right to you, but you don’t know what else would work, get a second, third and fourth opinion. Also, beware of mixing up words, e.g. I saw — I seen; I saw — I have/had seen. Was is okay to use in relaxed conversation but were is right all of the time. (As if it was + as if it were; are both correct.)


Tension & Conflict:

In every story there must be some kind of conflict. It’s one of the things that keeps people interested. The conflicts can be as small as one character wants a pen and another character won’t give him/her a pen. Or they can be as big as a character wanting to take over the world and another character trying to stop him/her. Tension has to do with the relationship between character. Tension usually stems from the emotions the characters are feeling, like love, lust or hatred. All are good for producing tension. Tension is the thing that makes the reader hold their breath and frantically turn the pages without even realising they’re doing it, because from the moment the characters meet, the reader knows where they’ll end up, knowing those two characters are going to kill each other and those two are going to end up in bed together. It’s the moments before the resolve of what actually happens, that’s what keeps people reading and makes them care if it happens or not. If there’s no tension between characters you won’t get the desired response when it comes to the actual action.



A good twist is what will keep readers interested. If there is more than one book to a story end it on a twist or a cliff-hanger, it will leave the readers dying for more. A twist is when you either reveal something shocking that was 100% unknown before, to any of the characters or the readers, or when you take the readers perception of a situation and turn it upside down. Like you could reveal that all along the people they thought were the bad guys were really the good guys and the good guys were really the bad guys. If the story is very straight, with no twists or turns, no up or downs, no obstacles, people get bored and they don’t keep reading.



Are what make a good story good. Without a good villain the story would be very one sided and slightly boring. The villain doesn’t always have to be a person or a physical being. The villain of the story is just the thing that keeps the main character from getting whatever it is they need for the story to be resolved.


Wow Factor:

The wow factor is that thing that happens when somebody reads it they have to do a double take. Because they either have to take a second to think about it or are shocked by what has been written. It’s okay to write things that push the boundaries of what is considered to be ‘acceptable’ and it’s okay to cross lines with your writing. Swear words, extremely detailed scenes, including those of sex and violence, are okay. It’s okay to have characters mention things you feel strongly about and have never had the guts to say out loud for fear of getting into trouble. But just know where to stop, and even though you’re pushing boundaries and crossing lines, know where to stop. Don’t force things because you think it will get a reaction, and try not to be preachy about your own beliefs. Remember that you’re writing a story about a character, and that character isn’t you.


Writing Style:

This is the way you choose to narrate your story. Find a style you’re comfortable with and stick to it. For example if you write better in the first person (I did this, I did that.) well then write that way and stick to that style. If you write better in third person (he did this, she did that) well then use that one. The trick is to find what not only works best for you but what works best for the story you’re writing. Note: it is alright to switch between POV style under certain circumstances. e.g. In Immortal Souls, it’s written in 3rd person but the character’s thoughts are usually in 1st person because it’s the character’s personal thoughts.




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