Zack Umstead, Young Writer

July 2, 2012

Finding Time to Write During Summer Vacation

Filed under: Tips for Teens — Zack @ 1:10 PM
Tags: , , , ,

I can say this with complete certainty – if you are a high school student and reading this post right now, you are on summer vacation, and chances are you’re probably a little bored (I know I am). So what to do with the oodles of time you now have in your day? Well write, of course!

But I know it’s not quite that easy. There are summer camps, family vacations, and friends to hang out with. Sometimes, these can be quite hard to juggle. As much as you don’t like to admit it, though, you do have some small gaps between events, and these gaps can be when your best ideas come to you. If you have your phone with you, jot it down in that. Or if you prefer the more traditional method, keep a pen and paper handy. Then, when an idea comes to you, you won’t forget it.

Now we’ve got an idea for a story. See, that wasn’t that hard! Now comes quite possibly the hardest part – expanding upon it. An idea can sound great, and you might be able to write a thousand words about it, but without a full plot, it won’t go anywhere. You need to think of secondary characters, backstory, and the range of emotions you want your readers to feel. Is it humorous? Or serious? Or will you try to combine the two, knowing when to use one and not the other? All of these things and more need to be thought of. Most of all, make this a book you would want to read. If you would read it, then there is some random stranger who would read it, too.

I find the best time to expand on an idea is on a Thursday night with a cold glass of milk nearby (2% milk, of course). This will be different for everybody. Find a time when your creativity flows and use it to take your idea to the next level.

So now what we have is a full plot arc, planned out so that you know exactly what you want happening when. Now what? Now you write! Sit down at your computer and find some music fitting the mood of the scene you’re writing. I listen to Foo Fighters while writing an action scene and Incubus when writing the introduction of a new character. Again, find what works for you – just don’t listen to metal while writing a tender love scene, I guarantee that won’t work out too well. When you have your music, let the words flow out of you. If you find a sentence that could use some revision, but you’re three paragraphs ahead, go back and revise that sentence. It will often help to form better sentences going forward.

The most important part of the writing process is not to let your outline rule you. If you want to end a chapter differently, then do it. Go ahead, introduce a new minor character. Just don’t make any huge changes, like a new major character or plot twist, without first consulting your outline to make sure it fits. It is absolutely key to not lose sight of where your story is going; without that, it’s a runaway train waiting for a derailment.

Oh, did I mention have fun? Well have fun! You’re writing a story, and this is your story. You can do whatever you want with it, and your English teacher can’t do a thing to stop you (just please use proper grammar). This should be a fun project to do in your free time, not something to take over your summer. If you become stressed out, then stop. Take a break, then come back. Are you happier? Then the story will be better.

Now, it’s time for me to go put these into action. Yes, I’ll be writing this summer. Expect some new pieces from me soon…

Your favorite 14 years 319 day-old author,

Zack Umstead



  1. Good advice.

    But believe it or not, I disagree with the “use proper grammar” suggestion. I think the use of improper grammar is what helps make fiction unique and adds voice. None of us speak with proper grammar, and if we want our writing to stand out, we need to write as an individual and not as the masses would suggest.

    Comment by B.C. Young — July 2, 2012 @ 3:21 PM | Reply

    • Very good point – I didn’t think of that when I wrote this. It would sound awkward if we spoke using proper grammar all the time. Definitely OK to let grammar slide in dialogue.

      Comment by Zack — July 2, 2012 @ 3:47 PM | Reply

  2. This is awesome! 14 year old genius 🙂 Well done, im proud that younger people are doing amazing things with their lives, i love writing also but havent got down too writing anything seriously.. but this has definently inspired me too use my spare time for something productive. Woohoo! 🙂 Thanks a Bunch

    Comment by stef124 — July 3, 2012 @ 6:30 PM | Reply

    • Great! This is exactly why I wrote this post – to inspire teens to write. Best of luck to you, and let me know if it goes far!

      Comment by Zack — July 3, 2012 @ 6:41 PM | Reply

      • I’m 14 with one book done and I’m already planning on my next book so this will be helpful for me maybe, good advice on how to come up with ideas and I might have a try at the milk one. Keep on writing on fellow 14 year old! ^_^b and good luck with your next piece of writing!

        Comment by K.M Thomson — July 4, 2012 @ 3:48 PM

  3. Thanks for this zack I’ve got three months of literally nothing to do and I gave myself I project like this buy at the moment my main problem is concentration I have none any more pearls of wisdom?

    Comment by Jack — July 4, 2012 @ 4:29 PM | Reply

    • I have some problems focusing as well. My best advice would be to set a goal for yourself, something like ‘one chapter every other day’. Then, you either accomplish the goal, or you go over the deadline and get a real drive to finish the next day. I find this works 90% of the time for myself.

      Comment by Zack — July 5, 2012 @ 10:27 AM | Reply

      • That’s good advice. Give yourself a schedule and stick to it. I try to write at least 1000 words a day when I’m on a project. Doing that between August 2011 to May 2012 I wrote and published around 210,000 words. That doesn’t count any of my blog posts.

        Comment by B.C. Young — July 5, 2012 @ 10:31 AM

      • Well there’s that project out the window for 2 weeks as I’ve broken both my finger and my thumb oh the joys

        Comment by Jack — July 7, 2012 @ 3:55 PM

  4. Reblogged this on demiad and commented:
    I think I’m what you’d call a theoretical writer, i.e. I love to write but it tends to be more in theory as I never get anything down but this has been a huge help.

    Comment by demiadetoro — July 9, 2012 @ 2:04 PM | Reply

  5. Thanks for your advice. I’m a junior high school student, same as you, 14 y.o. (I don’t count the days). But I have difficulties in writing on small gaps between events. I’m too fast to feel bored. Maybe you could give some idea to make my boredom gone? By the way, you’re great writer.

    Comment by セリーナ // SELINA™ (@seiromexa) — July 25, 2012 @ 7:57 AM | Reply

  6. Not to be the old creeper here but I’m 32 and I can vouch that your advice is well put. I started writing almost a year ago today and I’m working out the kinks in my first fantasy novel as we speak.
    I just wanted to point out, though that not all great writers use or need outlines. I do. Many do. But, for example, Stephen King literally says, “What if…” and starts writing. And then somehow writes entire novels, usually based on one or several ideas.
    Good luck to you in your career and congrats on discovering something you love at such a young age. I wasted lots of years before giving writing a serious try.

    Comment by David — October 5, 2012 @ 10:29 AM | Reply

  7. Wonderful beat ! I wish to apprentice while you amend your web site,
    how can i subscribe for a blog web site? The account helped me a acceptable
    deal. I had been tiny bit acquainted of this your broadcast provided bright clear concept

    Comment by Douglas — December 8, 2012 @ 9:35 AM | Reply

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: