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  • Writer's pictureLeeyanne Moore

Empowering Young Writers: My Journey with Teenager Zoe Who Just Completed Her First Novel!

Updated: Mar 1

Zoe is smiling in happiness now that her novel is finished.
Zoe is my first tutoring student to finish a novel.


Zoe is a gifted teen. By the time I met her, Zoe’s dad had already sent out her light fantasy novel to developmental editor for feedback. They got back twelve pages of suggestions and were left thinking, “Thanks! Now what?”

It was at this point that Zoe’s dad hired me. While editors are fabulous for pointing out what is and what’s not working in your novel—they often don’t know how to fix it. Gauging whether your novel—or memoir—or dissertation--is ready to publish is hard. This is why most authors are neurotic. You know it’s good—well, parts of it are good—parts of it are really good in fact. But is the whole good enough for publication?


Sure, you can watch videos online, but a video can’t look at your work and assess if it’s ready. Videos can’t specifically point out what’s working and what’s not.

The beauty of hiring a writing coach is that you can instantly stop second guessing yourself. With a coach’s support you can set small achievable goals week by week, chapter by chapter. Believe me, as warm and joyous as I am, I’ll tell you straight up if it’s good enough. If it’s not, I’ll also tell you how to fix it.


Even identifying the issues can be a challenge. Zoe clearly had no problems with time management, organization, and conscientiousness. Her issues were purely craft issues, but sometimes a coach is helpful in identifying some of the macro issues that a person is facing as well. (I happen to love keeping up with research and helpful solutions for sort of self-help topics.)

Moreover, sometimes people need that accountability of someone there on the other end of the week, saying (in the nicest possible way) “Hello! Where is it?” And for some people what works best is for us to sit online and work on the project for the hour we’re together. So Zoe and I began meeting online for one session a week and sometimes two as we were getting to the finish.

And this week…Zoe sent out her novel to an agent. Next week, she’ll send out to two more agents. Then four agents the week after, and so on. By then, we’ll probably hear back from someone. It’s okay if they say ‘pass’. It’s part of the process, and we’ve discussed this.


So one part of Zoe’s dream has been realized! She’s created a fun, our own voices book. It’s a light fantasy with LGBTQ+ themes, bright characters, and an addictive plot—exactly the kind of book that she and other teens like her would want to read. A dream of mine has been realized as well. Not only did I truly enjoy working with Zoe each week, but it’s fun and exciting to support someone through the multiple steps of a hard task. I know that you truly helped them along the way. I also take a profound sense of meaning in witnessing their struggle. Most people just don’t understand what goes into writing a multi-hundred page project.

What project do you wish you could say you were going to finish this year?


Zoe’s worked hard to create the best novel she can, given what she knows now. She’s learned a lot in the process. Getting accepted by an agent is out of our control, but writing on her college applications that she wrote a full-length novel before she was old enough to drive is obviously impressive.

Celebrate with me by signing up for the newsletter below to get more blog posts and updates on my coaching journey. There are three more students that I work with – two of whom are adults – who are quickly reaching that time where we’ll be sending out their books as well. I get a happy shiver of anticipation week by week as we get closer to the finish line.


If you want to know more about fiction coaching, below are three major ways in which I helped Zoe improve as a writer. These are just a few elements we worked on among many. You and your book will probably have different issues at play—and that’s another reason why personal coaching is so valuable. It’s not one size fits all.

1) Pacing, pacing, pacing!

We kept the same yummy characters Zoe created and achieved almost all the major plot milestones in the original manuscript, but we improved the pacing for the entire book. This often meant in Zoe’s case omitting a lot of telling and diving into action first. Character is action they say, and like many beginning authors, Zoe had a tendency to have her characters pause and reflect on their situation. Now they react and respond quickly, occasionally reflecting afterwards when they need to figure out what’s next. The pacing is swift as a result; you simply want to gobble the book up.

2) Imaginative Coherence:

Writing a book means you have to rely on your imagination. Not only can that feel awkward and clunky as a new writer at first, but the fruits of your imagination are often lumpy, illogical ideas in the beginning. Left to hang by themselves in a manuscript, they are like lonely planets in a strange and misshapen universe. Not to worry. I helped Zoe take her ideas that at first seemed random and even perhaps a little bizarre—like Peli the giant, invisible, flying armadillo—and make them coherent.

At first Peli made an appearance in one or two scenes and then (no pun intended) completely disappeared. The developmental editor noted this and Zoe was stumped. How should she fix this? I suggested that Peli become a coherent and cohesive part of the book. I encouraged Zoe to approach Peli with a sense of logical coherence—as odd as that sounds. If Peli talks to the main character—what other animals does the main character encounter through the book that also talk to her? What do they have to say—and how does what they relate affect the plot of the book? Now this aspect of the

manuscript is resolved. The character who talks to animals has a joyous, absorbing time gathering vital information from them. While I am obsessed with photos of baby pink fairy armadillos.

3) Universal Fantasies:

On one hand, we want books to have pacing, stakes, and tension.

On the other hand, we love books with amazing settings and details we can vicariously enjoy. When we read a light fantasy book, we not only read for tension and suspense, we want a feast for the senses, along with various tropes that give us a rush. But if you add all this—will you bog down the pacing? This is challenging!

Zoe, under my watchful eye, began to establish, highlight, and revel in the yummy characters she created so they really got to shine. They not only experienced dramatic and dangerous moments, but they enjoyed connections with colorful people and the magical setting they were in as well. This helps readers to become more invested and engaged with the characters. As a result, we readers don’t just witness their triumphs and setbacks, we feel them.

If you have a large writing project of some kind and think coaching would help you, please use this contact link to let me know. We’ll schedule a free consultation and you can tell me all about it—including what makes you invested in the project and what difficulties you’re encountering.


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