Writing Tips for Teen Writers

Getting published anywhere is a difficult task. There are two keys:

  1. Familiarize yourself with a publication before you submit work.
  2. Submit your absolute best work that fits the nature of the publication.

We want to publish your work. Take these tips to heart, and you’ll be much further on your way to being published in Young Writers magazine.

Revise three times, then revise three more times. If you haven’t spent a month or more on a piece of writing, it’s definitely not ready to submit. Put the work aside for at least a few days, then return to it and revise. Only submit truly finished work.

Edit carefully.
Your writing stands a much better chance if the editors don’t have to overlook careless typos, spelling errors, and grammatical violations.

Use words as they are meant to be used.
Capitalize the word “I.” Use the words “you” and “are”—writing poetry is different from texting. Shortcuts like “u” and “r” are unacceptable.

Remember this isn’t your diary.
When you submit to Young Writers magazine, you are writing for a large audience of people you don’t know. They don’t understand obscure references to your personal life, and they don’t want to read something you wrote primarily as therapy. Writing poetry and creative prose in your diary or journal is a great idea, but writing for yourself is not directly compatible with writing for a mass audience. “I miss my girl | We were great together” is diary material. “Sometimes he barely could stand | to stare at her, she handcuffed | his attention whenever she got hold of it” is on its way to becoming fit for a wide audience.

Be specific.
We aren’t interested in publishing work that looks like words randomly dumped on a page. Words are most effective when to be used with skill and purpose. Tell a story. Weave a good narrative thread through your essay, poem, or fictional piece. Paint images that the reader can visualize. Be very intentional and careful if you choose to go the abstract route. “We ran past the factory where no one worked anymore” and “The windshield reflected the sun | as if it were transfigured before us” are far better examples than “Over there was a dim, vacant, gray factory” and “The car looked so cool.”

Be wild.
Avoid clichés like the plague, as it were. “Night fell” is a cliché, in that it doesn’t conjure up specific images. We’ve heard it too many times. “Night dimmed the village” is new and unexpected, and it works. Be original and fresh. Surprise the reader.

If you haven’t read at least twenty poems, essays, or short stories in the past year, think long and hard before submitting a poem, essay, or short story. To be a good writer, you must be a good reader.

Rhyme is secondary.
Rhyming doesn’t make a poem a poem. Lots of other elements—the careful selection of words, the use of metaphor, the structure of a narrative—do make a poem what it is. If you don’t know about meter, then you don’t know about rhyme, and you’re better off avoiding it. That said, we like good rhyming poetry. Robert Frost, William Wordsworth, and the Counting Crows are amazing poets.

Only swear if you mean it.
Swear words and mature content are all right with us—as long as they are necessary. People swearing for the hell of it is stupid. Likewise, a hardass gangster who says “heck” and “daggone it” doesn’t work either.

Adjectives do not equal good description.
Adjectives, as words go, aren’t nearly as powerful and clean as verbs and nouns. Go light on the modifiers but heavy on the specific, tangible nouns (“pilot” rather than “person”) and action verbs (“shoved” rather than “was pushed”).