Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Tips For Teen Writers

If you’re a teen who loves to write, there’s no point in waiting to begin crafting your talent. In fact, establishing early in your life what you are interested in pursuing is a huge benefit—as long as you know what to do and how to do it. Just be careful that you’re using this time of honing your writing skills the right way. So if you’re an aspiring author, here are a few tips I suggest to steer yourself in the right direction:
  • Read. Have you ever heard of a recording artist who doesn’t listen to any music except her own? The best way to learn to write is to read other’s work. Read more than just one author and read more than just one genre.
  • Write. Whether it’s short stories, poems, writing prompts, lyrics, journaling… even if you feel that your writing is horrible. Keep doing it.
  • Research. If writing is something you know you’re going to want to eventually make a career out of, you need to research how to write the right way. Buy writing how-to books. Learn the techniques of whatever it is you’re most interested in (fiction, nonfiction, short stories, etc.) Follow blogs that post writing tips. There are even some websites that are solely for the purpose of encouraging and teaching young writers, such as Go Teen Writers, Teenage Author, and Today’s Teen Writer.
  • Write a “practice” novel. Know that this most likely will not be the one you will end up getting published. No matter how good you think it is, after learning more about this craft, your writing and story-telling skills will improve. Eventually you’ll look back and laugh at your first book. You have to start somewhere. Establish the genre that you’re writing on and read books in that genre. Write your first book for fun, as a way to learn—not with the intention of getting it published.

Now ask yourself this question: Am I writing just as a hobby, so that when I do decide to pursue this career after school I’ll already be prepared? Or am I writing because I want to go ahead and get a head-start and pursue this early in life? Know that not everyone will go the same route in their writing career. Being published as a teen may sound appealing to you right now—but it may not to God. Pray. Move according to His timing, not yours. But most importantly, make sure that you’re not forcing a path in your life where God didn’t intend for there to be.

If you feel as if you’d at least like to try to get published early, don’t jump in without getting your feet wet first. This will take time, no matter how bad you want it now. Desperation in this industry, especially if you’re a “newbie”, isn’t good. If you really want to be a good writer, you must take time and know that this isn’t a “snap your fingers” kind of thing. You were not born with the know-how to write. You may have been born with the God-given talent of writing, but that doesn’t give you the freedom to skip the learning process of writing techniques, researching the industry, and studying the craft. Never be so desperate that you do this, confident that you’re writing is “good enough”.

When you are ready to begin taking your writing seriously—meaning you’ve already been through the long process of research, you’ve written a couple of practice books, and of course prayed about this—here’s what I recommend:
  1. Start a blog.
But before making one, research how to do this. You can’t just jump in, thinking that you’ll magically gain an audience. Know what your posts are going to be about, establish your posting schedule, and the overall purpose and target audience of your blog.
  • Attend a writer’s conference. This is the best way to get your feet wet, make connections in the industry, get your manuscript critiqued and present your story idea to agents and editors. However, just as everything else, you must research before going to one. Know which conference you should attend, everything that you should bring, and who will be teaching which classes. I wrote a post last year about things I learned from attending my first conference if you'd like to take a look.
  • Make a list of agents to query. You must first know how to write a query letter, a proposal, what the agency is looking for, etc, etc, etc… Remember: rejection is only redirection. Don't be disappointed when you receive one. Instead, be thankful you know that it’s not who God wanted you to go with. And most likely, you will receive a rejection. Don't mention your age. Make sure to come across as professional, not prideful or as an amateur.
  • Don’t listen to advice from adult writers/authors who suggest that you wait to pursue writing later in your life. I realize that they mean well, but everyone's situation is different. Most of the time, when people tell you this, it’s because it took them forever to finally get published and they don’t think teens have reached their full potential yet. I think teens have advantages—and disadvantages, of course—but if this is your passion, then you should never allow for the disadvantages to outweigh the advantages.
  • Lastly, spend your waiting time wisely.
  • Pray. Read. Write. Research. Make sure that God is directing you and not the other way around. The best thing to do during a waiting season is to grow—in God and in your passions, trusting that He has placed the desire in your heart for a purpose. And when you do receive an offer, don’t get so excited that you immediately accept it without carefully reading and understanding the details. I held onto my contract for months before making the final decision to sign it. I needed time to educate myself about contracts and the publishing industry before I made a commitment. Now I'm more prepared so that next time I won't need to wait.Also, don't think that you have to go with the first offer. I've always heard that good writer's will get discovered. Pray about it. Research the agency/company to make sure that they and their contract is legit. During your waiting season, continue honing your writing skills, improving your manuscript, and researching the craft. Remember, it’s not a race.


    Are you a teenager who is seeking publication,
    and if so, what stage are you in right now?
    What would you recommend to a teenager who loves to write and
    may be considering it as an early career?
    Do you think it’s best for a teen to spend their youth
    focusing on writing
    only as a hobby for now,
    or going ahead and getting an early start,
    if that’s where they feel that God is calling them?


    1. I was a teen writer once upon a time (a.k.a. a year ago lol), and this is some great advice! I never had the guts to attend a writer's conference while still in high school (or even college), but I wish I had!!! I agree that it's a great opportunity to "get your feet wet" :)

    2. I'm certainly not a teenager, but I most definitely have learned a lot from reading this. Thanks a lot!

    3. First of all, Tessa, thanks for following One Bright Corner! I'm so glad you did. I couldn't agree more with your suggestions for writing. I do have one thing to add, though--DO NOT delete your first "practice novel" in a fit of hard-drive-clearing frenzy. Right. You will regret those missed laughs-at-your-writing's-expense for the rest of your life. (Not that I speak from experience or anything.)

      And blogging is indeed such a wonderful way to hone your technique! I'm glad you mentioned that. If you force yourself to post regularly and faithfully, it proves to yourself that you can write even when you're tired, uninspired, or not in the mood.

      Congratulations on your book! Sounds very exciting!

    4. This was very encouraging! Thank you, Tessa!


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