I get a new idea for a book right in the middle of one I am already writing. I try to make myself stick with my first one, but I always seem so much more interested in the new one! What should I do?
New ideas are ALWAYS more tantalizing than ones you're working on. But if you abandon your book for the new idea, sooner or later, you'll hit the same point in the next book. Then it will get harder and harder to finish. Try and finish just this once. See how you feel then. I think you're going to feel more confident as a writer once you know you can finish a story. –Anne

I just read your book and the one thing I still don’t get is writers’ voice. How will you know when you find it? How can you find it?
Finding your voice is one of those things that is the easiest thing to do, or the trickiest. It's sort of like "being yourself." I think a big part of finding your voice is not worrying about whether people will like what you write.  Writing in your voice should feel comfortable to you (that doesn't mean the writing will always flow. It won't). If you look at letters you have written or journal entries, you will often be able to "hear" your voice in there. Don't try to impress your readers; just let your own vision and perspective and life experience spill out into your work. --Ellen

I have a really weird writing problem. I can totally picture a scene in my mind but when I try to put it on paper, it comes out sounding nothing like what I want it to be! What should I do??

That's not weird; that's normal! :-) When you translate the pictures in your brain to words on paper, it never comes out the same. But it can come out well! 1st, you have to realize that it won't be as beautiful as what's in your head. 2nd, you have to work with the words to create something satisfying. Yes, it will be different, but it can still be good. – Anne

Every story I write always has a girl main character. I feel like it would be cool to change it up and have one of my main characters be a boy, but since I'm not a boy it would be hard to get into my character’s head and know how they would react. HELP!
That's the joy of writing - you can pretend and try things on. Pay attention to boys you know. Then jump in and try out writing as a boy! If you don't like the results, you can always destroy them. (But you might surprise yourself.) –Anne

So I started editing my book, and it was going great right up until I hit a certain part, and suddenly everything was dragging slower than a slow- motion jinx in Harry Potter. I've been stuck on the same few chapters for several WEEKS! Any suggestions?
I feel your pain! I've been there myself many times. Here are a few things that may help:
1. Put the work aside for a few days (not too long. You don't want to lose momentum). Then go back to it with a fresh mind.
2. Sometimes when I start again from the beginning, I find ways to handle a later chapter. Try re-reading the work up until the point you got stuck and see if anything pops out at you.
3. Keep an open mind. It could be that chapter needs a BIG change, perhaps something you hadn't considered before. Be open to going down different paths to see if you can find your solution there.
Most of all, keep at it. This is normal.  --Ellen

I wrote a story and felt that it was too boring, but the info was really important. I rewrote it and skipped the boring stuff, but I feel like I'm rushing the story and leaving out important info. I can't find a good balance.
You're right: an "info dump" (as it's known) is boring to read. It's an undigested lump of story. And you've also figured out that you can't ignore those important facts, either. The trick is to use your creativity to layer information into the story bit by bit in a natural way, through dialogue, thoughts, brief flashbacks, etc.
--Anne

I have that writers urge to write when I come up with that really good idea. But I can't put it on paper. And then I try to do writing exercises and the same thing happens. This has been going on for a few weeks. Please help!
Maybe you're secretly putting too much pressure on yourself. Try letting yourself write anything, without worrying if it's any good or not. Or if you have an idea, just scrawl it out, helter-skelter. Congratulate yourself if you write even a paragraph. –Anne

How do you suggest creating a world for my fantasy novel?
One thing I sometimes like to do is sketch places and characters to help me focus on a story. I think this would work very well for a fantasy novel. You don't have to be a great artist either. It only has to make sense to you. Set aside a notebook for your novel and in it you can make maps or draw houses, forests, people, creatures. Make notes. Find photos of places that might fit into your world and paste them in the notebook. You can build your world from ground up this way.--Ellen


My book seems boring no matter what I do. I need help. Thanks!
Are you writing about something you really care about? Are you fascinated by your characters? Are you curious to see what happens next? And what you can invent next? If not, I'd put your "boring" book aside. Don't throw it out. You might have a different opinion later. But maybe your writing is on the wrong track. Think about the things you love most. Try to write a story about them. --Anne

Alright, here's an extremely difficult question for ya! When I look at my story by itself, I think, “Wow! This is great! But then when I read a good book I think about my story and how it doesn't measure up and I get all discouraged. What should I do?
It's actually an excellent sign that you can see that other writers are better than you! When I read a really great book, I get inspired to improve my own work. Don't worry if you think your writing "doesn't measure up." We ALL think that. If you love to write, just keep on going. Learn as much as you can. And keep on reading - it will help you grow as a writer. You're on the right track! The only terrible mistake you can make is to give up.—Anne

Are first drafts supposed to be awful and full of holes? How do you fill in the holes?
Yes, they are! My first drafts are always embarrassing. Don't worry about it. Just keep writing until you get to the end. You'll be able to go over it again (and again and again) and fill in those holes. You'll have a lot more perspective when you revise it. You'll see the whole picture rather than just a scene at a time. --Ellen


I tend to get bored with my stories during the middle. And I know why--because I don't have any action hardly, but I don't know how to fix it. What should I do?!
If I'm bored with my story, I know my reader will be bored, too. It's always a sign that I'm stuck on my story and need to get back on track. Keep playing with ideas until you hit on something that feels just right for the middle of your book. Sometimes "boredom" means that you have to dig deeper. Keep on writing!--Anne

i have trouble with criticism. I get very defensive if someone says something about my book. What should I do?
Everyone has trouble with criticism; you're not alone! First, take a deep breath. Then listen. You don't have to agree or disagree right away. Give yourself time to think about the criticism. After a day or two, try to see if there's anything helpful in it. Then use it to make your story better. Good luck! –Anne

It seems like I always get my best ideas at school when we're taking a test or something where if I get out my notebook it would be considered cheating. And I always forget my ideas really quickly. I'm lost.
So frustrating! If you have a great idea and have to wait to write it down, try and use a memory trick. See if a key part of your idea rhymes with something, so you can remember it. Or conjure up a strong visual of your idea so you'll be less likely to forget it. Then jot it down the first second that you can!
--Ellen


How can I motivate myself to write? I really enjoy it, but sometimes I feel like I can't make myself write.
Why not start with a short period of time every day, say five to fifteen minutes, and write whatever you want for that period of time. It doesn't have to be long. See what happens!--Anne

You mentioned how you shouldn't try to force your characters into a mold. How do you know you're letting them do the right thing and not forcing them to do something they don't want to do?
Good question! If I'm forcing my character, quite often I'll run into a block. Sometimes it seems as if the character goes on strike - or as if my imagination dries up. That's usually a sign that I'm pushing too hard in the wrong direction. But it may be different for you. It's important for writers to learn to observe their own writing process. What happens to you (for example) if you try to make a serious character crack jokes? Does it work? Do you get frustrated? Does it help develop the story? What happens when you let the character lead?--Anne


How do you write with a partner but still make the story flow? I mean maybe one writer writes comedy and the other gut-wrenching pain? Just wondering since you guys did such a great job.
Excellent question. In our case, we didn't have to deal with two totally different styles--like comedy and tragedy--but we did have to check in with each other daily to make sure both our sections flowed together. We edited each other's work all the time and kept our minds open to suggestions. You have to have great trust and respect for your writing partner, and not take critiques personally. It's about the book, not about the individual writers.


As far as having two very different sorts of styles like you describe, there are ways to handle that. You can each write a chapter in your own characters' voices. You can write letters to each other in those different voices. Or you can try to melt the two styles into each scene (there is always room for comedy and pain in any given situation). It's challenging but writing collaboratively can be the best writing experience you'll ever have.--Ellen

If you concentrate on only writing and getting published at a young age, will it help you get published in the future? Some of the questions I have read are about getting a publisher and all that. Should I be worrying about that now? I'm still a kid!
Great question. No, you don't need to worry about getting published at a young age. Just concentrate on exploring your interests. If you can just write for fun, that is great. If you want to become a better writer, keep reading and writing. It takes a long time to develop yourself as a writer. Also, publishing is a very tough business. You have to be psychologically ready to deal with all the pressures - which is hard even for many adults. The rush to publish early is not good for your writing or for you, in my opinion. Enjoy this time to explore and experiment.
 –Anne

When I start writing a story, I feel very excited. But when I finish it, I kind of want to throw it out. My excitement disappears. Help.
That happens to many writers. You can feel exhausted after finishing a story. You've been working on it for so long, that you might be sort of sick of it. After you finish writing your story, maybe you should put it away for a few weeks. When you go back to reread it, you might be amazed to find that it still excites you.

-Ellen

Do you ever feel insecure about your work, because I do all the time. If you do, can you please tell me how to get through my insecurities?
Yes, many, maybe most, writers feel insecure about their writing, including me. The way I handle it is to listen to the voices that tell me I'm not good enough, (don't try to push them away; they just get stronger), but then go on with my writing anyway. It's okay to be insecure - in some ways it might push you to work harder - but don't let it stop you from writing. Just keep going. Remember that if your insecurities stop you from doing what you want to do, they've won. I hope this helps! - Anne

How can I get better at writing?
Read as much as you can. If possible read out of your comfort zone. And, oh yeah, write!! --Anne