Talking About Writing with Non-Writers


by Julie Larsen

So recently my social interaction with other human beings has increased dramatically and there is something new that I’ve come to realize. (Something I probably should have realized earlier.) There are a lot of people who know absolutely nothing about writing! It may seem hard to believe when your by yourself writing or when your on social writing sites with other writers but a lot of people know nothing about writing. Many of them are just like I was before I began writing. I think back on all the things I didn’t know about writing like that MC stood for Main character. I didn’t know what scene’s were and I didn’t know exactly what plot points were. I didn’t know the differences between specific genres of writing. Sometimes its hard for writers to tone down their writing slang and jargon when talking to people who have never done anything with writing except what’s required in school. Non-writers talking to writers about writing is the same as an author talking to a dancer. Unless you’ve done some considerable dancing you most likely will have no idea what their talking about. So I’ve come up with 3 things you can do to talk to non-writers.

1. Try to tone down the jargon.

I know that this is the hardest thing to do but try putting yourself into their heads. Most people know only about writing what they learn in school. They know the terms Main Characters and Plot and Climax. They understand Rising Action, Falling Action, and Resolution. But unless they took a more advanced class on writing or are an avid reader they won’t understand that the Exposition and the Denouement are the same as the Setting and the Resolution. Sometimes placing yourself in their heads is the best thing you can do. This point is the hardest to do but the next is a little easier.

2. When explaining the plot of your novel explain by plot points for long version and explain by dust jacket for short versions.

I know one of the scariest things for writers is when people ask the dreaded question. “What’s your story about?”. Every writer hates when people ask this question. Let me make this problem easier. First, ask them in a polite way whether they would like the short version or the long version of the story.  If they ask for the long version then go by each plot point and tell them the story. Depending on the length of your story a plot point by plot point description can take a really long time. One time a discussion I had with another writer lasted a full 3 hours and that was only her book. It was a 6-7 hour discussion to get both our book descriptions and they were quite an enjoyable 7 hours. But most people who ask you will be non-writers who only want a short version. Anyone who’s ever read a book has read the back dust jacket of a book right? They’re usually a small synopsis only explaining who the main character is and what conflict arises. Try to think of how those are written and explain your book to them as a dust jacket description. This makes the question very easy to answer.

3. Remain polite and levelheaded.

As a fangirl I know that its hard to explain things about writing when you get excited. You begin to get super happy and sometimes that throws people off when they talk to you. You have to remember that a lot of the people who ask what you’re writing ask more out of politeness than curiosity, unless they’re a writer or reader themselves. Being polite to these kinds of people is hard because they don’t really care and sometimes their attitude about what you’re writing isn’t always the most polite, sometimes staring off into space when you talk. But you just have to put yourself into their head again. If you weren’t a writer and you liked something like, for example, politics, then when someone starts to talking to you about writing you might not really care at all. So being polite and calm is one of the most important things when talking to non-writers.

So now that you have these 3 tricks to talking with non-writers maybe your social interaction will raise greatly now that you kind of have an idea of how to deal with these types of people. Thanks for reading another post about the rambling of my thoughts.

Read, read, read.


One of my favorite quotes by Stephen King says:

 “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.”

Writers have to be readers—and not just readers of “how to write” books. I’m sure we all have a bunch of these—I do. But learning about the craft, and seeing it applied are two different things. And both are important for developing our own writing.


We learn about writing by stretching ourselves, by trying out different genres.

Here’s a picture of a shelf in my office. The books that I read in the last few months and haven’t put away yet. Obviously, most are historical romance, but there’s also a few horror novels, some non-fiction, a few about the uses of poison, some how-to books, a biography, a grammar guide, a few YA, etc…


So, why does it matter if we’re readers? Of course writers want to spend their time writing.

A few weeks ago, I borrowed a book from a friend, and as I was reading, I noticed that she’d marked it up. Underlined particularly great descriptions, taken notes in the margins about the author’s use of POV, some of the character traits she liked and didn’t like, times when she saw too much backstory, places where the narrative dragged…

She was reading as a writer.

Instead of saying, “I didn’t really connect with this character,” she marked passages where the character disappeared, or where she didn’t understand a motive.

Instead of Saying “the story moved too slowly,” she marked places where there was too much prose or backstory.

It was really fascinating to see how she’d used this novel as a textbook, and a way to improve her own craft.


So, the moral of this story—Read Read Read. Read lots and vary your genres. Read as a writer, notice what works and what bothers you—and then spend some time figuring out why.

I’ll finish up with one more Stephen King quote:

“The more you read, the less apt you are to make a fool of yourself with your pen or word processor.”

by Jennifer Moore, TWC Chair

How To Write the Perfect Villain

Post contributed by teen committee member Kate Fernandez.

I recently read a contemporary YA novel that had hit the NYT Bestsellers list. After I finish a book, I’ll usually log on to Goodreads and rate it or write a short review. But when I was scrolling through the book’s page, I kept seeing the same criticism over and over again: the author made the villain seem completely evil.

I hate it when the antagonist is pure evil because that’s not how the real world works. To quote the marvelous book A Monster Calls, “There is not always a good guy. Nor is there always a bad one. Most people are somewhere in between.”

So how do you write a villain that falls in that gray area? Here are a couple of things that help me to construct a well-rounded antagonist.

Write a Backstory

As soon as I knew the part my antagonist was going to play in my Work In Progress (WIP), I sat down and wrote her backstory. This was by no means a clean affair. It started with me throwing my every idea out there, seeing what sticked, and then unweaving her backstory from there.

After I wrote my antagonist’s backstory, I found that I a newfound respect for her. She no longer was the shadow that lurked in the corner; she was a real person with wishes, dreams, and scars. Once I knew my antagonist, I felt like the story I was telling belonged to her and my protagonist in equal measure, something that made me want to do my antagonist justice.

Discover the Antagonist’s Desire

What does your antagonist want? Sometimes the answer to this question is simple. Other times it is very hard and rather complicated. Having your antagonist’s desire be the opposite of the protagonist’s provides maximum conflict for your story.

When discovering your antagonist’s desire, try to find something that is outside of the box or twist a classic desire to make it your own. It’s easy to get stuck in the “wants to take over the world” rut, but if you put your mind to it, there’s no doubt that you can find a desire as unique as your story!

Once you’ve discovered your antagonist’s desire, it’s time for the last part…

Find a Motivation

Why does your antagonist want what he or she wants? This is the part where your antagonist’s backstory will be really helpful. Pull in past hurts and use them to drive your antagonist to reach their desire. Make it hard on them but not too hard. After all, they still have to be a formidable enemy to your protagonist.

Keep in mind that it is perfectly reasonable for part of your antagonist’s motivation to be unconscious. But it still has to make sense to the reader.

To get you started, here are a few possible motivators:



Fulfill a Debt









What motivators can you think of? Feel free to add to this list by posting in the comments!

2017 TWC–The Best Yet

We are sooooo excited to give you some details about THE Teen Writing Conference for 2016. The only hard part . . . waiting until June!

Save the date: June 10, 2017

BRAND NEW LOCATION! This year’s conference will be held in the beautiful Weber County Library, Southwest branch, located in Roy, Utah.

And our keynote speaker will be. . .

ever heard of BRANDON MULL?Brandon_Mull_Mug_Shot.jpg

(author of Fablehaven and lots of other great books)

we’re just a teeny tiny bit excited! This year is going to be GREAT.

(the best yet)

Our conference also has a fantastic committee of teen writers, and we’d like to invite YOU to apply to join. Here are the qualifications:

-Be 16 or older by conference day and must have attended the conference at least twice.

-Be willing to help advertise the conference by hanging up flyers and posting on social media sites.

-Write a blog post sometime during the year leading up to the conference.

-Be reachable—if we send you an email, text, or ask you a question on our FB group, you will be expected to respond within a reasonable amount of time. We’ll determine the best ways to communicate once we have the committee in place.

-And, of course, you must plan to attend to the conference on June 10, 2017 and be available to help attendees and help the committee members with tasks that day as the need arises.

Don’t worry; even though you’ll be helping at the conference, you will still be able to attend ALL classes and workshops.

Aside from the obvious street cred, what’s in it for me?

Members of the youth committee will receive the following:

-Free entry into the conference

-A free t-shirt to wear the day of the conference

-A volunteer experience that looks great on college and job applications.

To apply, copy and paste below the line, fill out, and email. DEADLINE NOV 30!!


TWC Teen Committee Application

**Due Nov. 30, 2016**

(Please fill out completely and email to



Where do you live/ attend school?

Years you’ve attended the Teen Writers Conference:

Parent e-mail:


So, tell us a bit about yourself:

What’s your favorite thing about the conference?

What could we improve on?

How do you think you could contribute to the committee?

What’s your favorite book? 

What do you like to write?

Who’s your dream conference keynote speaker?




Win a 7th Generation Kindle AND a Leather Case!

Kindle Contest Meme

We’re in the final countdown, folks! The conference is only a little over a week away! (Our countdown in the sidebar counts DAYS now. Woohoo!)

We want to be sure no one who wants to be there will miss out on the awesomeness that is The Teen Writers Conference.

Plus, we want to say thanks to those teens who continue to come back, year after year.


We’ll have 3 winners:

The GRAND PRIZE winner gets a 7th Generation Kindle with a leather cover. (I KNOW!!!)

Two more winners will receive $20 vouchers to be spent AT the TWC bookstore on the day of the conference. Spend it on a TWC shirt, maybe, but definitely on books by our presenters (be sure to get them signed!). 


If you are already registered for this year’s conference, you AUTOMATICALLY get entered without lifting another finger.

If you’re not yet registered, GET registered, and BOOM, you’re entered for a chance to win. (Registration is super easy HERE or at the link on the top menu.)



NOTE: ONLY registered attendees are allowed to win. Already registered? Here are ways to get BONUS entries for a greater chance of winning one of the prizes! 

(1) Follow TWC on Instagram.

(2) LIKE this contest post on Instagram. (See the image of the Kindle in the sidebar? The same one you see at the top of this post? Click it!)

(3) TAG your Instagram friends on the contest Instagram post. There’s NO LIMIT to this way of entering! Each time you leave with friends tagged gets you another entry!

(4) REFER a friend or BE referred! You’ll note a new field in the registration form asking if you were referred by a friend. If so, simply add your friend’s name, and you BOTH get an additional entry.

If you are already registered referred, and you referred someone or were referred before, send us a note to let us know who you referred or were referred by. Just email: annette (at)  annettelyon (dot) com.

We’ll we’ll be sure you’re credited with any additional entries!

It’s EASY and FUN. (You KNOW you want to win!)


  • Spread the word about registration! We don’t have much time left!

  • GET registered.

  • Get your friends to register!

  • Follow us on Instagram

  • Like THIS post.

  • In the comments of that post, TAG your friend! (And another and another and another . . . as many as you want!)



Will be drawn randomly from all entries and announced at the conference: the $20 voucher winners as well as the grand prize winner of the Kindle with its snazzy leather cover!

Remember, you must be an attendee to win. 

Questions? Leave them in the comments.

Happy entering, and good luck! 



VERY exciting news in TWC land! 

Because the first-pages contest deadline fell on Memorial Day (and there had been some confusion about the dates, and because several attendees planning to enter didn’t realize they’d missed the deadline!):

The TWC Board has pulled out whatever magic wands they have and managed to sneak it a little more time for contest entries to still come in!

(Cue much rejoicing!)



  • If you meant to enter the first-page contest and totally forgot to, now’s your chance. 
  • If you want to get professional judges’ feedback on something YOU wrote, now’s your chance. 
  • If you want to see your own writing printed in a packet for your peers to read, this is your chance to be published!
  • If you want to win CASH prizes (!!!), now is your chance. 



  • Only attendees to the 2016 conference are eligible to enter.
  • Only one entry per attendee.
  • Entries must be the FIRST page of an original novel or short story.
  • Entries must be double spaced, Times New Roman, 12-point font.
  • Your entry must be a Word document (.doc or .docx), Rich Text document (.rtf), or PDF.
  • Your name should appear in the upper left corner.
  • Entries should be titled.
  • Entries must be fiction. No nonfiction/essays or poetry.
  • If your entry is deemed to have content not suitable for attendees, it will not be printed for distribution. You will be made aware of this in advance of the contest. Your entry will still be judged.
  • The topic: Whatever you want! Send in something you’ve already written, a piece you’re currently working on, or an entry written specifically for this contest.
  • TWC contest entries from prior years are not eligible.
  • Entries must be received by Monday, May 30th, 2016 NEW DEADLINE: Friday, June 3, at midnight, MDT.



PAY CLOSE ATTENTION to the nitty-gritty requirements. Points are awarded for the formatting details, and these contests are usually very close in final scores. Forgetting to double-space your entry can mean the difference between winning an award and just missing it by a hair.

MAKE SURE THE WORK IS ENTIRELY YOUR OWN. Plagiarized pieces are automatically disqualified, and it’s just a very, very bad thing. Be proud of your own stuff! Nobody else writes the way you do, and we want to hear what you have to say.

OFFICIALLY REGISTER FOR THE CONFERENCE BEFORE ENTERING to make sure your entry is evaluated by the judges. Only registered attendees are allowed to enter the contest.
IF YOU’VE ALREADY SUBMITTED AN ENTRY and want to replace it with another piece or an updated version, you can do that (it’s only fair to give everyone the extension!). Just be sure it the replacement entry arrives by the deadline. And for the sake of record keeping and sanity saving, please indicate in the body of the email that it’s a replacement piece. (Remember that each attendee gets just ONE entry.)



Attach your complete and properly formatted page to an email and send it to this address: AS AN ATTACHMENT.

Do NOT paste your entry into the body of the email. That will mess up your formatting and cost you points.



The Importance of Questioning

by Riah

Question Marks

I recently discovered that my main character—my first official main character, who grew from a role play, was a Mary Sue.

This is an issue. Being a Mary Sue means that the character is too perfect. And more often than not, your readers have a hard time connecting with them. Characters need flaws. It’s what makes them relatable characters, because you’re not perfect, and they’re not perfect. It seems like it could be a match made in heaven.

This is about the time I started to question her and wonder about her life. Naturally, her life won’t be flawlessly easy. Imperfect lives create conflict, which is an absolute story necessity. But when she fights off monsters and bad guys with ease and isn’t even breaking a sweat, this is where me and my writing buddy realize that we needed to remove some of the qualities that make her wonderful, and replace them with qualities that make her flawed.

Being a writer, I feel as if this character is my child, best friend, sister, and guardian angel. I have spent endless days with her by my side, and I want her to be strong enough to protect me from my nightmares from the very start. I want her to be able to look over her shoulder, give the most perfect and terrifying glare and then walk coolly away as the opposition cowers.

But that isn’t relatable. Nobody is superb without a blemish. The reason any of us connect with people in stories is because they have similar struggles. The only difference is that a lot of the conflict for the people in stories comes from the villain or other anti-hero source. In real life, conflict comes to us from bad decisions we or other people make, and the consequences come naturally.

I would like to share a couple of questions I’ve been using to help me and my character find her flaws. These kind of ride away from the typical positive questions asking you to state what your character likes. We’re gonna throw ourselves in deep, because deep conflict is what our Mary Sues need (but don’t misunderstand—while the more positive questions are important, I feel as though they’re focused on a little too much. And they’re easier to answer, and therefore are often the first to be paid attention to).

 What is their past like?

Pasts are important aspects of their story. Their past specifically helped shape who they are now. How’s their family? Is it whole or broken? Or is it twisted? What about their home? Was it safe? Or was the world more threatening than their “safe place”? Did they have friends? Did they lose any friends? How? (You can expand on all of these—not only is it fun and easy to get lost doing, answering questions gives your character depth.)

What habits have they developed that don’t help them in any way?

I’m not talking about nose picking, spitting or other gross habits that would otherwise immediately come to mind. I’m talking about knee-jerk reactions or not thinking before speaking. What situations do they find themselves only digging themselves deeper into trouble? Do they fight it or not?

A yes or no response is good. Yes is good because it’s a moment where sweat breaks out and your character realizes that reacting instinctively might not be the smartest thing. No is good because it creates embarrassment and bad first impressions (or second or third impressions).

What do they hate about themselves?

Is their inability to put their thoughts into verbal conversation? Is it blushing to the max after a certain something happens or a certain someone else walks by? What thing about themselves drives them insane, that they would trade for absolutely anything?

And most importantly: What can’t they do, no matter what?

Yes, this is different from the question right before this one. For this particular question, big is excellent, and small is good.

Some examples:

Small: No matter what I do, I can’t seem to balance on anything higher than two feet in the air.

Big: no matter what, I find it really difficult just being around people.

Note: your character’s weaknesses, and difficulty thereof, can also depend on the story and its circumstances. For instance, if your character, for one reason or another, finds it difficult to crawl, maybe include a scene where they have to crawl. Medical handicaps can also be useful throughout the story, but remember: there has to be a balance, at least by the end of your story, between what they can do well, and what they struggle with. Also, the severity of your characters’ struggles can depend on pressure of their surroundings.

What’s even more important than the question of what can’t they do is this one:

How does your character fight through their greatest weakness and fears?

This is where the most important development happens.

So whatever you do, don’t just focus on the good stuff. Dive in and find a balance that works for you and your writing. And remember that your writing style will change a couple of times as you figure out how everything fits.

See you all at the conference!


RiahI’m Riah! I’m enthusiastic about reading and writing, but am also as enthusiastic towards music and art. I’ve recently been into makeup which includes the use of prosthetics, latex, silicone, and body paint–you know, your basic movie makeup. I’m constantly reading fan fiction, when I’m not eating or putting my time into my other interests. Like trying to figure out how I got so jumpy.

Our Newsletter Has a Title!

The Teen Writers Conference newsletter needed a title, so we put out the word, asking for suggestions.

We received many submissions, then whittled them down to a small set to vote on, and in the end, the TWC Board made their decision.

And THAT means we have both a newsletter title AND a $25 prize to give to the person to suggested it.

We’ll be sending out an edition of the newsletter soon, so watch your inbox Continue reading

Starting Your Book

By Heather B. Moore, 2016 TWC Chair

Success Starts Here Freeway Style Desert Landscape

When I meet writers who are looking to get published, they often ask me how I decide where to start my story, who the characters will be, and how I plot.

So as I’m preparing to write my next book, I thought I’d give you some insight into my process.


Maybe mulling is the more correct word. I have to have the main character pretty well defined in my mind before starting to write. The secondary characters come into the story to support the main character—and sometimes they surprise even me.

Creating a Schedule

Writing, of course, is not always controlled by that effervescent muse (Annette—I’m probably using effervescent wrong). Writing is part creativity, and part science. Editing definitely falls into the science category, as well as actually completing a book. Like any writer, I’m constantly pulled in different directions. But once I decide on a book, I need to create the schedule to get it completed, and limit any other stories in my head that are trying to derail priority number 1.

Character Sketching

This is an evolving process and changes and grows as I get further into the writing process. For instance, when I write my first draft, my character motivations aren’t usually ironed out. I’m writing mostly plot and dialog. About half-way through draft 1, I’ve had to make solid decisions about my characters, so I’m adding information to my character sketches as I go. So during the 2nd draft, I’m inserting more characterization to the beginning of the book.

Point of View & Tense

I take into consideration who my audience will be and who the most important characters are. Will the story happen in real time (present tense) or past tense? Will my characters speak in first person (ideal for YA), or third person? It’s a lot of work to change this part of the process, so doing your research beforehand will save you a lot of time later.


This goes hand in hand with character sketching. I have to ask myself what is the main conflict of the book, and of each character.


Now that I have some basics going and I actually sit down to write, I usually concentrate on where I want the story to begin. Not to say that the first chapter I write will be the actual first chapter of the book, but I start pretty near the beginning. Before I start a chapter/scene, I ask myself: “What is the point of the chapter? What will be accomplished? What will it show that may/may not be relevant to the story as a whole?”

Creating a Scene

I create scenes in several phases:

Phase 1: I write, not caring too much about fleshing out the characters or the description, but I am nailing down the direction of the scene.

Phase 2: I revise the scene and insert more description, making more concrete decisions about the character.

Phase 3: This happens when the whole book is drafted and maybe new developments have happened along the way. Now have to go back through each scene to make sure the story is properly directed.

As you can see, creativity has just been replaced by careful analysis (science).

Okay, looking over this list makes me wonder why I even start a new book. Every writer has what works for them. My style might be convoluted, but you never know, it might work for you as well.

Heather Moore B&W

Heather B. Moore, the TWC 2016 Chair, is a USA Today bestseller and award-winning author of more than a dozen historical novels which are set in Ancient Arabia and Mesoamerica. Heather writes historicals and thrillers under the pen name H.B. Moore. She also writes women’s fiction, romance, and inspirational non-fiction under Heather B. Moore, including The Newport Ladies Book Club, the Amazon bestselling anthology series A Timeless Romance Anthology, the Aliso Creek series, and the USA Today bestseller Heart of the Ocean.

Just Do It!

by Kylee, Teen Committee Member

As my mother loves to tell everyone, those were my first words—”Just do it!”

When I was a small child, the popular Nike slogan had been ingrained in my brain, so they were the first coherent words that escaped my lips. Although, as we are all very well aware, “just doing” whatever “it” is is much easier said than done. Almost more so when it comes to writing!

You write consistently everyday for months and feel great, but then miss a day, then two, and then the next thing you know, it’s been a week, and you haven’t written. And you can feel it. If you’ve been writing and stop, you are most definitely going to feel it.

Writing Is Fingerprint of the Soul


Writing is a form of expression.


Everyone knows that, but very few people actually realize it. You know it’s true, but you don’t always treat it as such. If you’ve stopped writing, I know how hard it is to start again. I can never start slowly. I have to sit down, stare at the blank page as I eat a massive bowl of ice cream as my brain churns, then write for four hours straight! But slowly works for lots of people too. Write a little bit every day, write all at once—it doesn’t matter. Just write.


IMPORTANT!! I would HIGHLY recommend spilling your guts on paper before attempting to write anything else.


As creative people, we feel deeply, and things get stuck inside us. So your brain is either going all the time, or it feels empty. But you can’t write anything either way. Write about you. Write a story in first person. Feel it. All of your struggles—your character now has them. Hopes, dreams, fears . . . write it all. Take yourself on a well-deserved adventure.

She bled unspoken words from her fingers, 

Watched as they fell from the ends of her hands, 

Until the paper beneath her was smothered,

In thoughts she could not understand,

The words danced with glee on the paper,

As they worked upon forming straight lines,

They’d escaped from the cage where she’d locked them,

And jumped free of her bodies confines,

She couldn’t stop them from telling her stories,

Couldn’t hide them by biting her tongue,

So she watched with wide eyes as she shifted,

And each sentence was strung,

They told stories she’d long since forgotten,

Swept into the dustiest parts of her mind,

And stories she’d worked to keep hidden,

Ones she prayed nobody would find,

As she watched the word’s dances get slower,

And then finally come to a rest,

She felt a smile creep over her features, 

And a great weight lift off of her chest,

She’d thought that her words were all worthless,

But the paper left nowhere to hide,

And she finally noticed the beauty,

That she’d always kept bottled inside.


More Interesting in My Head

You don’t have time. I know you don’t. Nobody has time for anything. But you know how bad you want everyone to know your name as well as J.K. Rowling. Don’t lie. 😉 Everyone knows that’s exactly what you dream of in the deep dark recesses of your brain. Just admit it, ’cause DREAMING IS A GOOD THING!!! It’s okay to dream, even though it’s absolutely terrifying. Everyone is going to make fun of you cause even if you do ever manage to actually be halfway satisfied with one of those MANY stories you’ve been working on for forever, it’ll never get published. That’s way too hard. And even if it ever does actually get published, no one will ever buy it except for your Gramma, who then accidentally threw it in the fireplace because she thought it was a newspaper from 1973.


It’s okay to dream.

The last thing I’ll briefly touch on is perfectionism. You want the story to be flawless. If you edit that sucker 12,000 times, if every single word in that manuscript has changed three times, and even if it started out about time-traveling monks and is now about Rebecca dumping her boyfriend for a bull rider, you’re still gonna hate it.

Doesn’t matter.

Quit stressing. Peace out, friends! Happy writing!

Kylee Ward is a 17-year-old, fun-loving teenager who completely ADORES The Teen Writers Conference! Some of her many titles include major lover of literature, cowgirl, ballroom dancer, writer, quote addict, oldest of eight children and cosmetologist! She loves music and usually isn’t afraid to embarrass her friends (yes, there are many incidents of random song and dance, usually in aisles of grocery stores). Also, she’s apparently the only committee member who writes bios in third person.