I haven't heard anyone talk about this before, but maybe that's because most published authors are adults anyway. I've noticed that everyone has a writing age. What I mean by that is that when I read someone's work, I can often guess their age. The age groups go as followed.
older adults who started writing creatively as adults (Yes. That's a category.)
Let me explain. When I say that someone has a writing age, I don't mean to say that their writing is bad. If a 15 year old writes something that sounds like it's been written by a 13-15 year old, that makes sense. I would never, ever judge them on that. Even if a 15 year old were to write something in the category I'd call 10-12 year olds. My estimates are made off of what I've generally experienced as a teen from one of the more educated states in the US (according to the standardized tests at least)
Now, how can I do this? Is it because six year olds write about flowers and puppies and ten year olds suddenly reach a new level of deepness? No. There are multiple factors, but here are a few.
The first thing that stands out to me on a page is paragraphs. Very few adults will write without paragraphs where many children and teens do, but that isn't the end. Young children write each page as one big paragraph. They are taught that long paragraphs are better. I used to be so proud when I wrote a paragraph that was a page and a half long. They are also more structured, like the charts you're given in elementary school.
When you start reading middle grade novels, kids start to notice that not all the paragraphs are a page long. Their paragraphs start to get shorter, but they are still strictly structured. Often, a few different people will still speak within the same paragraph though.
At about 13, kids will start writing more like YA books. They'll realize they can split their paragraphs whenever they want, and they'll start experimenting with voice using these paragraphs for emphasis. At about 16, this experimentation has gained consistency, but it's not always effectively used. (Guilty as charged.... I know. I'm working on it!)
Adults start to have a strong grip on the way they like to split their paragraphs. It's much like the previous two, only the power is used more sparingly. There is a better variety of paragraph shapes. (This is also achieved through detail which will be addressed later.)
Elder adults who started writing quite recently will often use either the elementary format or 10-12 format, some eventually moving on to the next highest, but with bigger vocabulary and different themes. Sometimes, older authors will begin to revert back to younger paragraph styles too, but I'm not sure why this happens or if that's just my missing something as a teen.
Grammar is a pretty obvious one. It's similar to the last. Elementary students are strictly sticking to the rules, only making mistakes by accident. Their sentences are also very simple. 10-12 year olds (and sometimes 13-15) start experimenting with sentence fragments, intentional run-on sentences, and other ways of breaking the rules for effect. But they do so at incorrect times or too often. older teens start getting into the right pattern but are often still overusing the effect, and adults get into the run of things. I don't notice reverting with elder adult authors here, but I do notice the overuse when adults found writing later in life.
This one is huge! Listen very closely if you are interested in increasing your writing age. Okay?
Kids say everything. They tell you everything. Their stories are simple and to the point with no sidetracking.
Younger teens say more than kids. They give detail enough to give you a picture. It sounds almost like finished work.
Older teens inconsistently give more details. Sometimes, they give too many and sometimes too few. (this varies more in this age group. Each kid will lean more toward one side than the other.) Often, when they give too many, they give WAY too many.
Adults are in that perfect little window much of the time. Some still don't have the balance right, but if you're going to get it, this is when.
I think you're getting the pattern that older adults who found writing later seem younger. They put a ton of detail, trying to make up for it, but they end up sounding strange with their adult wording and teen like detail.
This is another big one, but it is less so once you get to about 13. That's when this area begins to make more sense.
To put it simply, kids have very little (if any) plot in their stories. 10-12 year olds have a basic plot but often get sidetracked and have no subplots. Young teens have a good plot and start to understand subplots but often get sidetracked still (not as significantly). Older teens start to get the hang of this but often add too many sub plots, trying to seem more complicated. Adults, again are most likely to get the right balance. The final group tends to be like either the young teens or older teens in this situation.
As a 17 year old, I know I'm guilty of all these things. I'm trying to work up to the Adult stage, and I think I'll be able to do that by the time I reach adulthood, which is sort of on par. As long as you're actively writing, you'll keep advancing. I'm posting this to make you aware, not to judge you for being a certain age or finding writing later. It's only an observation. Do with the information what you wish.
You may think you know the difference between first and third person, and you likely do, if you are only hoping to learn how to identify it.
"Well, er... 1st person is when the narrator uses I, me, or my. 3rd person is when they use he, she, or the main characters name."
Yes, middle school aged child! You're correct! But what effect does this have on readers?
"Uh... I don't know... The 1st person is like you're the character, and the 3rd person is like you're the God."
But that's not correct, child. Now then, listen.
First person is when you become a character. Readers feel that they are the character who is telling the story. This can cause great distress when something bad happens and great joy when something good happens because the person they have become may feel this emotion. It gives you slightly more control over the emotional impact of your story. Keep in mind this power is not absolute, though. Readers, of course, still have free will.
It also makes your story more vulnerable to people who don't connect. You don't want to write about a murderer in first person, in most cases, because no one wants to experience murdering someone! (Or I don't aim for that particular fan base...) But you also shouldn't write in the point of view of someone only interested in, say, colored pencil drawings. Readers who do like colored pencils will love it, yes! But readers who don't will be alienated.
Third person is not just listening to a story told by a God(dess) or other type of onlooker. Instead of becoming the character, you yourself get to watch everything go down. Instead of having to become someone else, you stay yourself. This means that you are more like a fly on the wall than a participant. It slightly disconnects the reader. At the same time, they feel almost as if they as an individual has taken part in this instead of feeling as though they have lived it through someone else.
It also means every reader has a more equal opportunity of enjoying the story. Why? Because despite few wanting to be a murderer, how many take in media where murder occurs? They obviously find it an interesting, if still immoral and unjust, action. You don't want to miss out on opportunities because you've limited yourself to a point of view.
Going back to the colored pencils, if I were to say, "I burnished the red skirt of the drawing only after the values were established. Despite, the idea that the wax buildup would keep me from layering further made me nervous." I'd say many of you were confused right now.
If I were to instead write, "She pressed harder on the red pencil, making the soft, crayon-like lines previously applied blend together and appear painterly. The shading remained the same, though the entire area had become much more saturated. Her hand was tense on the pencil though, as if she still wasn't happy with it somehow."
I think I just realized why we must be so careful with our point of views... Remember, and choose wisely.
Sorry everyone! I haven't posted in months! Agh, I know it's bad... To be honest, I put so much pressure on myself to make this blog professional that I scared myself.
So this means I'm going to post again, but I won't put as much pressure on myself to make the blog 'profound' or whatever else I thought I would achieve.
Also, I would like to introduce myself. In building my art career (Yes, I also do art), I have decided to start using my full name. I figure it's only fair to use it here as well. My name on here isn't just The Novelist anymore, though I do enjoy calling myself that. My actual name is Amanda McCoy.
I haven't been on hiatus from all of the internet. I have been posting a lot of writing on my fanfiction (though I need to update there as well). I also have an art presence on facebook as facebook.com/amandamccoyart and on deviantart as deviantart.com/musicbookart42. I also just reopened my twitter which is twitter.com/almpianowriter. If you want to see more writing things from me, that would be the place to look.
One more thing before I end this post, to get back into the groove of writing, I'm going to try and write some short stories. I'm going to post them here (or link to them if they're fanfiction...). I very much would like to start writing my own fiction again, as I've been quite lost in the world of fanfiction lately. I think this is a good way to start that is a bit less daunting than jumping straight back into noveling.
Hopefully, I'll be editing my novels soon. I've written two first drafts, and neither are ready to be sent out.
I also hope to finish a rough draft for another story throughout the summer, and I want to start writing a memoir about being visually impaired. That, though, takes a lot of planning, so I don't know when the actual writing will start.
Despite my wish to be published, I also am trying for an art career which is taking a lot of time from my writing. I'm 17. I really don't know which one will be my forever career; I'm hoping for both, but that's quite unlikely. Right now, I'm doing my best with it and hopefully making progress with both.
The Character Doesn't Have Enough Say in What Happens
As an opposing point to what I wrote about in the first First Book Blunders post, many authors take too much control over the plot and narrative.
I have nothing against planners (people who plan their stories in advance). In fact, I've started to adopt this method more and more often. I think, in many cases, it can be very useful. They point I'm trying to make is that sometimes your characters want to veer from your plan, and you have to let them.
There was a book I read last year. It wasn't the author's first book, but it was their first series of books, and therefor, their first ending of a story arc. The way a certain character's arc was working, the character was going to have to die, and the author didn't want to kill this character. Many authors go through this, and it becomes a crucial decision. This was a decision she stumbled over.
You have to give your characters room to breathe. If their arc ends in such a tragic way, you're going to have to let it happen, or your book will suffer.
The author I was talking about kept trying to avoid the ending. You could feel her desperately clinging to reasons that character could live, but in the end, she realized it had to happen. Because of her trying to avoid it for so long, the book had a forced quality to it, and when it did get back on track, it felt sudden. The change was quick and jarring. It lost a lot of it's believability. Character-wise, it made perfect sense, but the book was not set up in a way where that ending fit anymore. She'd written herself into a corner.
I mean no offense to this author in any way. This was something I struggled with myself when I was younger. I still do sometimes. I don't want to make certain things happen, but they have to. It feels right.
An example in the work I'm currently writing, is when one of my characters runs away from home. In the outline, I said that they would be out one day, then they would find a shelter, because they hadn't brought food. As I wrote the story though, my character came out as this very intelligent person who would never forget something that important.
I didn't make the outline work. I let my character take the reigns, but I held her hands, pushing her gently back on track and letting her wander as she got there. It took longer than expected. I had to introduce characters that weren't originally there. There are now more subplots to weave into the rest of the book, but I don't regret it in any way. I can tell, already, that it was a beneficial move.
As for the response of readers to that author previously mentioned? She got a lot of hate for that ending, and some people seem confused. They don't understand why authors like John Green get praised for killing characters, and this author gets hated. I don't think some of the readers even know why they hate it so much. They say the obvious ("I loved her! How could you?"). Then some just don't know. They didn't like the book. It seemed, in some ways, worse than the others. I think it was because of that FBB that she included,
There's nothing wrong with straying from your outline. Your outline, in the end, may be completely incorrect, and that might be the best writing decision you ever make. The important thing is not that you stick to the original plan, or what you want; it's that your story and your characters make sense.
What is FBB?
First Book Blunders are mistakes that I notice in many first books. I call them mistakes because they may jar the reader, confuse them, or give the writing an amateurish feel. Many times, if you see these mistakes, they are in the debut novel written by the author, so I've grouped them together under this name. I have yet to see anyone else do this, and since I am myself trying to find these so I may avoid them in my own fiction, I thought they may help some of you.