Every writer has been a young writer at some point, although I suppose there are some who didn’t find writing until later in life (the exception). It would be very hypocritical of me to say that the following tips are life-altering, book-deal providing sanctions from the heavens, cause they are not. I do not have a book deal. I’ve only been published once and it doesn’t even really count because it’s a short story published by an organization I work for.
That being said, I have still been a young writer. And I’ve experienced first-hand the challenges of being a young writer (especially for soft souls, which I am certain all writers are. To be a good writer, you have to be very invested in the human experience.)
I will be straightforward with you, people are going to judge. Not everyone, but some. They are going to have comments and questions, some of them insulting.
“So, like, what are you going to do with that [English degree]?”*
*To be read in high-pitched valley girl voice.
“You know writers make no money, right? How are you going to pay your bills?”
“Anyone could be a writer. You’ll change your mind later.”
I think the most insulting thing people (family, friends, even complete strangers) can say to a young writer is, “Oh, you’ll grow out of it / you’ll change your mind.”
Because writing isn’t something you change your mind about if you truly love it. That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. I will be the first to admit that the dreams of young people can be fickle, people are entitled to change their minds a lot growing up. But at the same time (and I know how preachy this sounds, bare with me for a sec) dreams should still be respected.
No one would respond to a kid who says, “I want to be a doctor,” with, “oh, you’ll grow out of that one!”
Why people insist on reducing a young writers dreams and goals to something they will “change their minds about later in life” is essentially reducing those people’s ability to think as an individual to something that is non-existent.
Can you tell this frustrates me a bit???
I say all of this to tell you that if you are a young writer, IGNORE THEM ALL. The negative people, the negative comments, IGNORE THEM. I have no idea why people like to respond to young writers in this way. Maybe they are jealous because they can’t write; honestly, I have no idea.
Ignore them and keep writing. Always keep writing.
The more you write, the better your craft becomes, and the closer you get to proving all those disbelievers wrong.
But if you’re still struggling, confused, or in need of writerly advice, here are some other things to think about:
#1) Don’t worry about being published just yet. You are young and there is so much self-exploration (especially in terms of your writing) that you have left to do. We can only improve through experience, and so many beloved authors weren’t even published until later in their adult life. It’s awesome to have goals for publishing early in life, but don’t feel disappointed if it doesn’t happen. Like I said, writing takes loads of practice.
#2) Challenge yourself with different genres and themes. Is your favorite thing to write fantasy? Maybe try writing a short story in the genre of horror. You might find that your preference is still fantasy, but a new genre can change your approach to characterization, plot, suspense building, etc. Trying new genres means introducing new skills and strengths to your repertoire.
#3) Read as many different genres as possible – and this includes non-fiction! The more you read, the more you broaden your understanding of what good writing looks like. (And I’m sorry to say, but fanfiction does not count here 😛 Also: note that just because it is published on the internet does not automatically make it good writing.)
#4) Don’t be afraid to do research, but don’t let your research overshadow your writing. If you are working on historical fiction, for example, think about what historical details might add to your reader’s understanding of the plot, characters, etc. and what details might be more distracting than helpful. (Do we really need to know that Jane’s peach dress is made from taffeta, hand sewn by an Italian seamstress? If she is a princess, yes, this might add to her credibility. If she is an orphan who lives on this street, this would be a very strange thing indeed!)
#5) Try to find writers groups around you that you can join. This can include community writing groups, online writing groups, or writing groups at school. Try to find people who are close to you in age and experience. (And be careful! Don’t go meeting up with people at some stranger’s house, okay? Stranger danger still applies!) There are many verified organizations and chat rooms specifically for young writers. Explore your community and see what is out there. It can seem intimidating at first, but finding people who also love to write and can give you useful feedback is extremely helpful.
Maybe I’m just tired, but this is all the important points I can think of for the moment. Maybe I’ll write a part II for this later.
You tell me: is there anything I am missing? If you are a writer, what advice would you give to those just starting out/finding their voice?
As always, I love to hear from all of you. Talk to you soon!