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I think there are many advantages of not seeking publication until after high school. However, you should still treat your writing as if it’s a job. Your teenage years are prime time for developing and honing your craft.
So if you’d like to do your future self a favor by getting a head start in your publication journey, here are some ways to prepare for your writing career:
- Pretend as if you will be published one day. If you have that attitude, then it is likely that your perseverance, determination, and dedication will pay off one day. Also—rather than wishing that you were already an author, learn to appreciate the time you have now. Because once you do become an author, you will have deadlines to meet. Don’t take the freedom you have now for granted. You might look back at the time you have now and wish that you could have that freedom again.
- Spend less of your free time watching television and more time reading and writing. Experience is a great teacher—that applies with our craft of writing as well. If you want to be a writer, you have to write.
- Build a platform. If you decide not to pursue publication until you’re in your twenties, but you already have a platform and following established by blogging and tweeting, agents and editors will be very impressed.
- Know how the publication process works. Going back to the illustration of a journey of a thousand miles—if the person doesn’t know the destination of his journey beforehand and how to reach it, then it is very likely that he will become lost and very confused. Make sure that you know the business before diving in order to avoid coming across as an amateur.
- Learn more about the craft by reading writing craft books, industry blogs, attending a writers conference, etc. Many writers tend to skip this step. They might assume that they already know how to write, or believe that writing is a craft that can only be learned through experience. While it is true that experience is a great teacher, you also come across as an amateur if an agent or editor can tell that you have yet to study the craft of writing. There are rules you may not be aware of and helpful writing tips you can learn from professionals. Just because writing is an art doesn’t necessarily mean that you shouldn’t take the time it takes to study the craft.
- Keep a story idea file on hand. You never know—one of the ideas you come up with now may just end up on the best-seller list in the future. Keep a collection of story-starters as well—such as pictures that could strike up a story idea, songs, news articles, experiences in your own life, etc.
- Write your book as if it will get published one day. This is important, because many aspiring authors think they’re just wasting their time working on their book, especially when they have no idea if it’ll be published. However, that’s not the point. Even if your story never gets published, then at least you’ll be able to say that you finished a book. You’ll learn a lot about writing a book simply by writing one. Continue working on your story, and refuse to quit until you’ve reached the end.
- Write to make money. Just because you’re not an author doesn’t mean you can’t receive an income by freelance writing. There are several opportunities you can find through Craigslist or Google. Even if it’s just a small income, it’s a discipline, it’s practice, and you get paid without having to leave your house.
- Create a schedule and stick with it. It may be difficult to find time to write as a teenager. However, treat yourself as if you are already an author by squeezing in time and forcing yourself to get the work done without any distractions.
- Be professional. This is true with any job, and writing is no different. Even if it’s not technically your career yet, treat it like it is. Make sure that your blog and website are clean and professional. Don’t slack. Stay organized.
I can assure you that—if you spend your time preparing for your publication journey, you will be far ahead of many writers who don’t decide to do so until they’re out of college. Many people tend to skip this preparation period. They may write a book without building platform or even informing themselves about the industry before sending out their proposal. It might take a while for them to find success, if they ever do. However, if you spend the time you have now wisely by using it to prepare for your career, then it is likely that your publication journey won’t take extremely long once you take that first step.
Do you think it’s best for teenagers to pursue publication as a teen or wait until they’re in their twenties? Are there any other steps that I left out? How has (or would have) preparing for publication been an advantage for you?
PS: Be sure to stay tuned for the launch of my video blog on June 28th! Also, I was interviewed recently by Brittney Breakey at Author Turf. Click here to learn about what inspired me to write Purple Moon, the books that have influenced my life the most, the thing I find most challenging in writing, etc.