OLD POST ALERT! This is an older post and although you might find some useful tips, any technical or publishing information is likely to be out of date. Please click on Start Here on the menu bar above to find links to my most useful articles, videos and podcast. Thanks and happy writing! – Joanna Penn
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.
- Keep writing and the theory of 10,000 hours. Many young people have stories and ideas and they are writing them down in diaries or stories for school but the question is often, how can I become a proper author? or should I keep writing? The most important thing is to keep writing. Check out the theory that 10,000 hours of anything makes you an expert, a master. That's about 5 years of full-time work, or if you can manage 20 hours per week, it will take 10 years. If you start writing at 15 and try to do some everyday, think how much better your writing will be. Check out the success of 26 year old Amanda Hocking, who got a 6 figure book deal after writing stories for many years, self-publishing on the Kindle and then becoming hugely popular. Not everyone will be able to get a deal like this but it does show that the more you write, the more stories you put out there, the more likely it is that people will find you.
- 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:
- Ten tips for young writers from Aaron Shepard – includes turn on the TV which I agree with. I got rid of my TV 4 years ago and it really works!
- A young author's bookshelf – books you might like to read on being a young writer, also from Aaron Shepard
- YoungWritersOnline.net – a community for young writers
- Google Directory for young writers – lots of links to communities etc
- Resources for young writers – more links to other sites
- Inkpop – a community for young writers and readers run by HarperCollins but in the forums there are a lot of teen writers to connect with
- Magazines that young writers can submit to
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.