Advice for Young Writers from the Spooky Middle Grade Authors

The Spooky Middle Grade authors love visiting schools and sharing a love of writing and reading. We visited over fifty classrooms in October alone, sharing writing tips and answering student questions. Our virtual Q&As take place year-round and give us the opportunity to share a love of stories with students all over the country. So to wrap up 2021, I reached out to some fellow #SpookyMG authors and asked them to share their #1 tips for young writers.

Find them all below, and if you would like to schedule a live #SpookyMG visit for your students in grades 3-8, head over to our scheduling form for more info!

Read, read, read! Writers should devour words! So read classics and poetry and essays and articles and novels and short stories and everything else you can get your hands on. Don’t be a snobby reader. Read all of it!

–Josh Allen, author of ONLY IF YOU DARE

When you’re writing dialogue, it’s okay to mostly use “said” (or if it’s obvious who’s talking, no tags at all)! Sometimes a good strong verb (like bellowed, retorted, screeched, etc) is perfect, but make sure to use them for important moments.

I like to think of the dialogue itself as a cupcake, and the dialogue tags as the wrappers. You don’t want the tags to distract from what your characters are saying!

–Ash Van Otterloo, author of A TOUCH OF RUCKUS

Don’t judge your first draft (or your second, or third) by the books in libraries. Those books went through LOADS of revisions before they made it into print. (My first book went through around 20 revisions before I signed with my agent, then more before it was sold, then even more with my editor to get it to the published version my readers are enjoying.)

Early drafts aren’t perfect, and they often need big chunks or even the entire story re-written. And that’s ok! Writing is re-writing. Revision is all part of the process. So trust that your story is out there. Through all the revision, you will find it.

–Samantha M. Clark, author of THE BOY, THE BOAT, AND THE BEAST

Make sure that each scene you write, especially ones with lots of dialogue or action, contribute to the development of your characters. In real life, every moment a person lives builds that person in some way—sometimes in a good, healthy way, sometimes in a bad way—so make sure your scenes push the characters further and further toward some kind of change.

Are they learning something new about themselves or others or the world in general? Or maybe being stubborn and trying not to learn at all? In other words, while you’re exploring “what they’re doing,” also be sure to explore “who they are.”

–Brad McLelland, author of the LEGENDS OF THE LOST CAUSES series

Write some short stories, and have fun!

–Fleur Bradley, author of MIDNIGHT AT THE BARCLAY HOTEL

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