Resources For Young Writers

I have been writing journals since I was 15

I have had a number of teenagers email me in the last year and have been so encouraged by their eagerness to write and become authors.

I am also helping my 9 year old niece write her first book at the moment. Even if it’s just for the grandparents, she is learning the process of writing, editing, illustration and book production. It’s amazing to be able to help people at such a young age.

I had that spark at 13 but I lost it over the years and only rediscovered it in my 30s. I don’t want the same thing to happen to these young people, so here are some tips and resources for young people wanting to write and be published.

  • Don’t listen to anyone who says that one type of writing is better than another. This is what killed my young dreams of being a writer! There is a snobbery in the book world that says literary fiction is the best kind, that winning prizes is more important than sales and that genre fiction is somehow less than other types of books. You need to decide a) what you like to read and b) what you like to write. If you like vampire romance, then go ahead, write some yourself. Stephanie Meyer did that with Twilight. If you like war books, or space ships, or explosions, or love stories – or of course, if you like literary fiction books – then write what you enjoy. If you want to earn money from your books, check out what the most highly paid authors have in common here.
  • Not everyone will like your book. Don’t worry about it. But learn about editing. There is a lot of criticism in being a writer, but don’t let it get you down. Not everyone will like your writing. Do you like every book you read? Probably not and that’s ok isn’t it? You don’t need to. So it goes for your book. You will want everyone to love your writing but they won’t. Family can be the most critical and that will hurt a lot. Sometimes it’s best to keep it a secret. There is also a difference between criticism that doesn’t help and constructive criticism which could also be called editing. This is very important for all writers. We all need editors to help us improve. It’s like having a coach at school and we learn that way. An editor will help you to improve what you have. Basically, someone saying your writing is terrible doesn’t help. Someone who says that you need to add some dialogue and improve this character in this specific way is helpful.
  • Try online networking. I personally love twitter for finding like-minded people who are into the same things as me, but I know young people are into different networks. Spend some time on your favourite network finding a group that might suit you. It may be that the best encouragement you can get is from another young person on the other side of the world. I had pen-pals when I was younger (in the days of hand writing letters!). Now you can email someone in another country. Look for someone who you can talk to about being a young writer. Encourage each other and you can always read each others work – but be kind and supportive.
  • Learn about editing, publishing and book marketing as well as more about writing. It’s not just about the initial writing. There is a process in becoming an author and you need to be aware of it all or you will find it much harder when you want to get into publishing. Click on the following links for more information: Writing and Editing, Publishing options and Book marketing. The exciting thing is that as the market changes, there are many more opportunities for all writers either with small independent presses or by publishing yourself onto ebooks or in print. It’s the best time to be a writer right now!

Here are some other resources:

If you are a young writer, do you have tips for other people? If you are a parent/teacher/author, please also leave your tips for young writers in the comments. I would love for this to be a good resource page.

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Comments

  1. says

    Brilliant piece, Joanna! And good luck to all the young writers out there. :-)

    I wrote through most of my teens, and as well as being a necessary apprenticeship in writing, it was also a refuge from a rather unhappy time at school.

    Something that helped me a lot — both with the writing and with feeling happier — was joining a writing evening class. I was 14 when I joined and the youngest member by far … but 12 years on, after being away for uni, work, etc, I’m back there now. :-)

    Also, here in the UK, a huge number of university courses offering creative writing (usually with English, for a BA) have sprung up. They do have a tendency to focus on the more literary side of things … but you can also do courses in children’s fiction, science fiction and so on. I did a MA at Goldsmiths in Creative & Life Writing and found it immensely useful.

    Do stick with the writing — it’s absolutely worth it!

  2. says

    Not everyone will like your book. Don’t worry about it. But learn about editing. – this is the best tip I think is the most important for young writers. New writers are always aggressive and would expect much from themselves. Sometimes, they get discouraged if people will not like what they wrote. Teaching them to be professional and simply be positive will help them get through writing obstacles successfully. I would love to share your post to young writers I know.

  3. Gary A Swaby says

    I remember saying “I want to be an author” at school, and my teachers pretty much told me I wouldn’t be able to do that as a profession. I graduated from university two years ago for Internet Computing, and since then I’ve only had the desire to write.
    I won’t stop until I can prove those teachers from my old school wrong.

    Writing gives me a sense of freedom that I cannot get anywhere else.
    I definitely encourage more young people to try it if they have an interest in it. Now a days the resources are so easily obtainable.

  4. says

    I was speechless. It’s been a while since I haven’t read an article written with such passion and devotion. It was obviously that this article was not written only for adding an extra article to your blog. Thank you much for your precious advice!

  5. says

    A wonderful post! Getting young writers to understand that not everyone will like your work, because they just don’t like that sort of thing, is one of the hardest lessons to learn. At the same time, I think it’s also the most important thing they need to build up confidence in themselves and their work.

    I started writing when I was twelve. I took all of Holly Lisle’s courses when I discovered them and have referred back to them faithfully ever since. But after all that, the thing that did me the most good was writing consistently over the last 10-odd years. Only the sheer repetition and forging onward could teach me as much as I’ve learned about how to write it better, build it stronger, revise it tighter (and ultimately learn when it’s just too much revision). :)

  6. says

    After ten years of teaching high school English, I started an online company dedicated to helping young people develop their writing skills.
    Your advice here is excellent, and I much appreciate the links you provide to other resources.

  7. says

    Awesome post Joanna! I especially agree with the never stop writing point. I’ve always known I’ve wanted to be a writer, but the transition into adulthood caused me to unintentionally lose focus. Before I knew it, it was five years later, and I’m just getting my grip back now. If you’re young and you know this is what you want, never let it go, no matter what. While it is possible to get back on track, it’s better to stay there. :)

  8. says

    I know what you mean. I have encouraged all of my children to read and write and draw from before the time that they could talk. They all now still do, from the youngest at 14 to the oldest at 31. One of my fourteen-year-old twins, Hope Edwards, even created a cute comic strip at 8 years old that was so good that I collaborated with her and we recently published it at Apple’s iBookstore as “The Adventures of Dough Girl.” I’m very proud of her creation; she is a little more blasé about it, having moved on to fashion design and now even creating her own web magazine, “Willow Tree.” Early encouragement truly yields lasting results.

  9. says

    When I was young, I was embarrassed for anyone to read what I wrote. I think back and wish I could give myself some advice. That advice would be to proudly and loudly proclaim myself to be a writer, knowing that fiction writing grants you a license to say on paper what you might not be in a position to say out loud. If someone stumbles across your journals, your ideas can be excused, no matter how absurd or shocking, when you tell that person that 1. you are a writer, and 2. they shouldn’t be snooping in your things anyway (this especially applies to little brothers and sisters). Seriously, though, I would tell young writers to just keep writing. A novel is an excellent repository for angst, contrary opinions, deeply private emotions, and even less than generous observations about our fellow human beings. You can legitimately incorporate into a story extreme sentiments that have no other appropriate outlet. My other piece of advice would be to pay close attention in English classes. You will be glad you did.

  10. says

    Great advice – and I think just as relevant for ‘old’ writers as well. I was asked at a reading last night about my advice for new writers and the phrase that always comes into my head is – “What do you call a writer who persists? Published.” Persisting with writing, persisting with improving your writing, persisting with pushing your work out into the world.

    My daughter did the script writing frenzy (NaNoWriMo) in April and it was such a rewarding experience. The pleasure of having a completed film script at the end of the month was fabulous. It was such a great lesson in persisting with writing something you want to and a first taste of what it’s like to hold a finished product in your hand.

  11. says

    Thank you for this. I’m a young writer (18), and what burdened me earlier in my teens was this notion that I had to write lofty, idea-based, literary fiction–that the short fiction I was writing with romance and female leads was somehow wrong. I think this is so important for young writers to understand–writing, after all, should make the writer feel alive, and certainly not everyone is cut out for literary fiction. I’m considering a blog post on this issue and would love to quote this.

    • says

      That’s exactly what stopped me Cameron and I am still burdened some days by the thought that I have to write literary stuff – but it’s not true! short romance fiction will make you more money than literary fiction anyway and it’s more fun – and it can be a career – so that’s fantastic!
      Please do blog about this and of course, use anything you like from this blog – it’s Creative Commons, so just link back to the source.
      Thanks so much.

  12. Nick says

    I am a young nine year old currently writing a book and thank you for this very helpful advice. I have started to think and rethink things you have said and the other links at the bottom of the page is pretty good. (If anything is wrong feel free to insult me).

  13. says

    I am a fifteen year old author from South Africa, and it seems as though this blog post is attracting some interesting people. My writing has enabled me to see life in a quite different way, but writing can come in two distinct forms. Right now, Amazon Kindle is flooded by the usually addressed ‘Plastic Popcorn’ novels, that have no meaning and serve for only our society’s corrupt sense of pleasure :(
    Then you have books following the attitudes of novels like Brave New World, Wuthering Heights and the works of Shakespeare, and that is what I encourage young authors to write. Meaningful literature. Firstly, it will make people pay attention to you, and secondly it will force you to critically analyse the world’s most important aspects, and drive the creative devices which instituted literature into the world.
    - It will grow you as a person, and hey, you will also be contributing to society in the process.

    If you found this useful, please take a look at my novel: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00FMHH8DI/

    or my website: http://www.justinmullerbooks.com
    It will be greatly appreciated.

    - Justin

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