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7 Writing Mistakes that will Lose Your Teen Audience

Wouldn’t it be cool to sit down with your readers and ask them what they look for when they’re reading? Then you could avoid any writing mistakes that you might be making.

Most of the time, that’s not possible. However, this week, I got to sit down with a class of seventh grade students for a writing critique. It was fascinating to learn what they pick up in writing and the things they value.

Writing Mistakes that will Lose You readers | Writing Mistakes to Avoid for MG and YA

7 Writing Mistakes that will Lose Your Teen Audience:

Seventh grade readers are an in between audience. They’re between the age of 12-13, so they read both Middle Grade and Young Adult novels. Which is great insight for those of us children’s authors!

Here are seven major things they picked up on as they were reading a manuscript. Not only are these points important to the reader, but if they’re made as writing mistakes, they could cost you readers.

1. Having Major Spelling or Punctuation Errors.

It’s not just your editor, agent, or English teacher. Spelling and grammar matter. Especially to your reader.

Have your writing group critique your pages before submitting it to an agent or hire a professional editor to proof your manuscript before you self-publish. The difference between missing punctuation and capitalization can mean the difference in a successful book!

Get the free children's book template now

2. Not Having a Well-Developed Plot.

Have you ever picked up a book you couldn’t wait to read, only to be disappointed by how it ended? The same happens to our readers.

Be sure that you take time developing a compelling plot and have plenty of subplots throughout to keep things from dragging in the middle. And if you want to learn more about plotting your novel, read this article!

3. Poor Pacing between Problems.

Like an unsatisfying ending, a boring middle or rushed action can lose readers BEFORE they make it to the end. More than one student commented about pacing during the class.

So if you need help plotting your subplots along the way, check out this activity to make sure you’re using active storytelling in your novel.

4. Using a Weak or Unenjoyable Voice.

This is something that a lot of new writers struggle with, however, it may be because you overthink it. Voice is literally what the person doing the talking sounds like.

In our novels, this means separating our voice from our character’s and making sure we stay in character. If you aren’t sure who your main character is or what personality they have, then read this article on how to build strong characters.

5. Not Using Clear Visuals.

One of the students kept commenting about how “they loved that they could SEE what was happening”. This is super important in storytelling, especially when you don’t have any pictures helping you out.

To make sure that you aren’t telling where you should be showing, check for ‘-ly’ and ‘-ing’ words in your manuscript or not being descriptive enough when you enter a new space.

6. Not Explaining Enough of Your Narrative.

This was an interesting perspective. We sometimes wonder how much backstory we need to be including, but this class made it apparent that they want to know why something happened or exists, if it’s part of the main story.

For example, the manuscript we read had a city turned to an island from global warming, however, the author didn’t explain how they got to that point.

You don’t want to information dump everything all at once, or right away in the beginning, but you do need to have back story sprinkled in. Make sure that you’re explaining key elements in your story!

Get the free children's book template now

7. Forgetting to Incorporate Reality or Give it Enough Stretch.

Something the class kept praising the author for was twisting reality. They liked that the author had thought of tiny details in his futuristic world to something as small as pencils or as big as dishwashers. What the world looks like and day-to-day lives matter to the readers.

Thread in normal life for your main character throughout your manuscript to make sure that the reader feels a connection and can see themselves inside your book. And if you twist off the familiar, even better!


Our readers don’t ask much, but they do expect a good story. Story is vital to getting published and not focusing on it can be one of the most detrimental writing mistakes you make.

Read through your manuscript to make sure that you’ve created enough visuals, show the action in your writing, have built strong characters, and have a compelling plotline.

And if you need help with any of those areas, read one of these other articles to help you:

Avoid These Writing Mistakes in Your Book!

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