Teens: Write an Award Winning Book!

The deadline for this year’s Tweener Time Chapter Book Competition is coming up, and fast! Manuscripts are to be submitted between May 1st and July 1st, which means it’s time to get started with your stories.

Before you grab your notebooks, be sure to visit (or re-visit) http://www.tweenerministries.org to review the guidelines. The rules seem a bit overwhelming at first, I know, but let me translate a few and put in some of my own tips that you can remember while writing:

Note: though this is catering to teens writing for the competition, these tips might be helpful for anyone wanting to write for pre-teens.

  • Remember your audience! In this competition, you are writing for kids 8-13, boys and girls. They want action, not romance (sorry girls). This must be #1 in your mind when you write.
  • The guidelines say to support character-building values in your story, but that does NOT mean your characters must be perfect. In fact, it doesn’t even mean your book has to be religious. Have your character struggle with doing the right thing, like everyone else. Your readers will relate to that.
  • Conflict, conflict, conflict! That’s what makes a story. You can have amazing characters, a great setting, and an honest moral message, but these things are nothing in a story without conflict. Create believable conflict that makes your reader worry whether the main character can succeed.
  • Don’t give us too much description. Don’t take half a page to describe a room before the character even enters it. Integrate your descriptive words throughout the scene, so the reader doesn’t become overwhelmed or bored. This isn’t the best example, but I will try to illustrate my meaning:
    • Before: The room was small, with a bed in the corner. The bedspread looked torn and dirty. A tiny round window sat so high above the bed, the sun’s rays barely reached the floor. Adam came in and crawled into the bed.
    • After: Adam shivered and crawled beneath his tattered blankets, staring at the four walls that entombed him inside this lonely room. A round window above cast the only ray of hope in his exile.
  • Organize/outline your book. This isn’t for everyone, but it helps most people stay on track. I didn’t get around to an outline until I was halfway through Journey to the Homeland, but it really helped me wrap everything up. The competition requires 20,000-30,000 words in your story. Outlines can help you reach the minimum word count or bring your idea down to the maximum word count, for my fellow long-winded writers.
  • Have fun! Enjoy your story, and don’t write anything you wouldn’t like to read. If you think a scene is dumb, the judges probably will, too (and I’m a judge, so you better impress me!).

I should mention that the deadline for the song writing competition is also coming up on the 1st of July. Song writers: All I can offer you is a meager “good luck!” My musically challenged self has not written a song since 5th grade, much less won any awards for it.

Happy writing and songwriting!

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