An impressionable teen sent me a story she wrote because she knows I write. It was about 500 words and is better than I expected, but it isn't my cup of tea. I don't have enough of an appreciation on mainstream fiction to offer her much help (aside from basic story construction).
Aside from Duotrope and Ralan's, does anyone here know of good online resources (like a mainstream Hatrack would be sweet)?
Also, any advice on how to say "No, I don't like this, but you should keep at it but it is good," without sounding like a giant butt (lost cause, I'm sure, but I thought I'd try). I want to encourage writing, not discourage it.
Just say that the genre or story type isn't to your taste, but you feel the technical and construction aspects definitely show promise, or words to that effect.
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I wouldn't even mention that you don't like that kind of story because it won't help her become a better writer. Are you trying to stop her from giving you more things to read? If so I would come up with a different excuse such as, "I don't read these kind of stories so I don't think I'm the right person to help you."
In commenting on the story, I would say something like this. "Wow! This is really awesome. If you keep working on writing I bet you could become an author someday." Then point out what she does well and tell her why and how she did it well. "I love how you made Mrs. Clara come alive here with these details." Then if there is something you want to help her with point it out gently and positively. "Be careful about using too many -ly words. See how if we take out that word the sentence becomes even better than it was?"
I second recommending absolute write. It is a large community with every genre and then some. It also has a lot of teens on the boards, so I think this girl would fit right in. There is a password protected share your work board, so she can post a part of it there and get some really good feedback.
As far as what to tell her, my advice is to give her praise and gentle criticism on her prose and tell her you can't really advise her on the story since you haven't read enough in that genre to know what works and what doesn't.