8/18/2019 4 Comments
Seven Truths for Young Writers
Have you ever wished that you could go back in time and give some advice to your younger self? Well, I do. I have a whole list of things that I would tell little authorly me if I could. I was writing by the time I could spell, and doing "chapter books" at a young age as well. It's great getting started at a young age, because that means your whole life is ahead of you-- but there are some difficulties too.
People will say stuff. It's up to you how you take it.
One of the biggest challenges for a lot of young writers is the fact that a lot of people refuse to take them seriously. They might applaud their efforts, think it's a cool hobby-- but once you mention that you're determined to get published, be professional, or have writing as part of your career in some way, there are a few basic reactions: The great people are encouraging, and want you to pursue your dreams. The majority might smile and just go along with you, while continuing to say things to (perhaps unconsciously) lessen the importance of your goals. And then there will probably be a few who scoff or try to discourage you from pursuing writing.
Here's the point I'm trying to make. Those people that discourage your dreams? Don't worry about them. Instead focus on your goals, appreciate the ones who encourage you, and realize that no matter what you do in life, you're going to have somebody say something, and it's up to you what your reaction is going to be. Be grateful for the ones who support you, let them know, and use their words to help you on your way. And those that aren't convinced that your dreams are important, or who are outright antagonistic-- you can use that as fuel too. Keep your perspective. Turn that negativity into a positive force to keep you going.
For instance, if they say "you won't be able to make a living off of that", you can use that to remind yourself that your passion combined with drive will help you get places-- and that it's better to do what you love and are meant to do then be obsessed with money. If they dismiss it as a hobby, think about how amazing it is that you can take something most would consider a fun side past time and turn it into your life. If they claim you aren't good enough, tell yourself that's the wonderful thing about writing-- you are constantly learning, growing, and adapting.
Basically, it comes down to the fact that people will have their opinions, and you need to let those shape you in a positive way instead of a negative one.
It might take a while for your writing to be publishing-ready. That's alright--it's something to work towards. You will probably look back years down the road and cringe at what you wrote now... But don't get discouraged, because right now is excellent time for lots of practice. You'll be glad for it later. The fact is, one-night wonders are rarely true, or beneficial. These years aren't wasted, even if you don't even publish anything till your 20's or even 30's. It's better to be grounded, mature, and practiced before putting trying to hit goals just for the sake of hitting goals. Patience is key.
I'm not saying you can't publish as a teen or young adult. I'm just saying, make sure your work is going to continue making you proud a decade later. Often, young writers find the need to reinvent themselves as they get older, simply because they didn't give themselves enough time to grow into themselves and their craft. Presence is huge, and if you throw something out before you're ready, it could continue to cause problems years down the road. Now. On the flip side, it is true that you will never be truly READY. There comes a moment when you just need to go for it, and allow yourself to grow through the process.
If you're a young writer though, here is the best advice I've found. Put your writing out there...but in a different way, for the purpose of developing as a writer. Get on Wattpad and post your chapter novels on there, so you can get feedback from other writers and readers. Start a blog and post flash fiction every week. Join a Camp NaNoWriMo cabin and share excerpts. Find a writing group and start a free online magazine together to practice. Invest in getting an ebook cover designed just for you and get your novel printed for you and your family, and be bold enough to ask for their critiques and thoughts. Find a writing mentor who can be perfectly honest with you. Be brutally honest with yourself, too, and evaluate your own things and your own life, so you can decide if you are ready to publish or not. And remember that you are learning an art.
You will sometimes feel inadequate.
However, that is no reason to quit--never, ever, ever give up. After what I just said about being able to be honest enough to know whether you are publishing-ready or not, it can be a swift course to feeling like you are way below the mark and that it will take years to get good enough.
Here's the thing. We as writers need to be realistic enough with ourselves to make good decisions, evaluate our craft, and continue to grow. But if you let that spiral into over-critical negativity and self loathing, you have toppled onto the other side of things and still are going to cripple yourself and your writing journey. The fact is, as writers, we have got to be balanced. Unfortunately, most people veer on the side of thinking they are ready, talented, and practiced enough when they aren't, or they let their own self-doubts and criticisms destroy their confidence and ultimately their goals.
The truth is, everyone is learning, and everyone can get better. But you also have to realize just that-- you are getting better and better all the time. You are better than you were yesterday, as long as you keep moving forward. Inadequacy is just a word. You have to stay in the mindset that you are evolving in your writing journey, that you are constantly learning and growing-- and how can you be inadequate if you are continuing to grow? You can't be not enough or a failure if you keep going, keep improving. You don't lose if you're learning.
It's good to have a plan and some clear goals.
Stop writing in twelve books at once. Stop trying to be everything to everyone. Stop the thinking that you have to do it all-- blogging, writing, graphic design, youtube, etc etc etc. You don't. You are you. You have unique goals. Take the time to define what those goals, dreams and aspirations are in your life and then break down baby steps to reach them.
You want to publish a historical superhero story set in tech-infused ancient Egypt? Then you better get working on a plan to make that happen. Maybe that means you do weekly comics and post them on your Instagram to keep inspired while you research tech and ancient Egypt. Maybe that means you read up on some superhero plotlines and figure out what direction you want to take things. Maybe that means you start a YouTube channel vlogging about science and archaeology and how that relates to writing. Maybe that means you DON'T start a book reviewing club, you don't try to write articles on writing, you don't randomly announce you're suddenly a graphic designer, you don't start an editing service.
Let's look at another view. Maybe you want to influence teenager screenwriters to pursue their dreams and give them the resources to learn. So set your sights on what it will take to do that. Maybe that's starting an online group for indie filmmakers and screenwriters. Maybe you blog about movie plot breakdowns, finding tips and tricks on what works and what doesn't. Maybe you Facebook Live your screenwriting process and tips once a week. Maybe that's not Instagramming pictures of coffee and books. Maybe that's not starting a podcast interviewing indie actors.
Basically what I'm saying is, you have to learn early on to prioritize and be able to focus on what it takes to get your dream into a reality. You don't have to do everything like everyone else. Who cares if everyone is blogging these days? Maybe you were meant to use a different media form. So what if everyone is trying to be the next big book aesthetic instagrammer? Maybe that's not what is really going to help you reach your personal goals. You have to be able to look at what's going around you enough to know what's working for some people, but conscious enough of your own plans and goals to know what you should invest time into.
This goes for writing books too. Should you really be writing willy-nilly over a flash-fiction blog, three novels, a screenplay, and a nonfiction book? In rare cases, maybe it works. But most of the time, if you want to see anything accomplished, you have GOT to focus on what's most important for you, right now. Inspiration is fickle. You need to couple that inspiration with dedication to see anything happen.
It's ok to say No sometimes.
Just because you love writing doesn't mean you have to do any and all writing related projects for other people. I'll just say it now. Once people find out you're a writer, there's a good chance you'll run into people who want to take advantage of that. While it's great to connect, build your tribe, and help others, sometimes it's easy for enthusiastic young writers to overextend themselves. Especially if you're not getting paid for taking the time away from your own learning and writing to constantly be helping others.
I'm not saying don't help others. I'm saying you can't beta-read for five people, co-write a novel with your best friend, blog, join vlogging challenges, edit a screenplay for a buddy, and try writing your own novel all at the same time. Inevitably, your things will get pushed to the side because you feel obligated to others to help them with their things, and then you stay stagnant with your own writing journey. Learn when to say no, and realize it is ok.
Take the time to really learn how to write stronger.
The biggest plague for young writers is their weak writing. Their greatest asset is that they are so impressionable and imaginative at a younger age that their creativity can be off the charts. On the one hand, young writers haven't been exposed to as many rules, writing styles and restrictions as an older person might, so their imagination is a able to come out in more unique ways if they let it. On the other hand, young writers have the habit of copying the writing style they enjoy reading. (It's ok, a lot of mature writers who haven't defined their author's voice still do this).
First, neither of those are bad things. In fact, you can use both for your advantage. Copying other people's styles can help them transform into what feels right for them. It's like taking the chance to be a chameleon for a while can help them unlock what works for their voice. It can also help them keep intact their wild, unbarred imagination. But let's take a closer look at their biggest plague-- weak writing.
The problem is, young writers tend to fall into all the traps of purple prose, unrealistic plotlines, flowery words, weak verbs, an excess of adverbs, dry sentences, confusing paragraphs, rambling, and they focus so much on style and having fun that they lose impact. It's all part of the process, and I'm not condemning that writing, because it's a step in the writing journey, and you have to allow yourself to write badly in order to write well. The problem comes when young writers learn to rely on those things and refuse to learn from mentors because they're convinced that their weak writing is ok.
Be determined enough to keep developing as a writer that you can be proud of your work but also want to be better. Read books on writing, follow blogs, and listen to those who are experienced. They know what they're talking about and are just trying to help. You have to be able to get out of your comfort zone of weak writing and put into practice everything that makes it stronger. That means learning language, plotlines, editing, character crafting, and writing styles. That means being open to finding the next thing to make you better.
Don't feel like something is wrong if you don't always write by the book, or like other good authors, or the way people expect.
And the point I just made brings me to the next thing. As you study writing, learn the rules, and put them into practice, recognize that you are you, and you have a unique voice. Yes, there are writing rules. Yes, you need to learn them. But yes, you also can learn how to break them. It's ok to go against the flow, as long as you are conscious of what you are doing and break the rules well. Don't allow yourself to make mistakes because you don't know the rules, the styles, and the guidelines of writing. But do allow yourself to try new things, experiment, and do you. Making mistakes is ok when it's part of the process to learn and make forward-moving steps. It's going to cost you when it's because of refusing to learn, though. Try different genres. Allow yourself to think outside the box. Let your unique self shine through your work. And don't worry about what others say.
To sum it all up: Yes, you're a little crazy. And that's ok. Yes, some people won't understand you. That's also ok. I believe in you. Be who you were meant to be. Keep chasing those dreams, and make them happen.
If you're a young writer, leave me a comment below on what point most resonated with you. Have you experienced any of these things? What have you had difficulty with that you wish someone would tell you more about?
If you're older, this still can apply to you. And maybe there's a young writer in your life that needs to hear these things. Be awesome and share this article with them!
Don't forget that there is an entire resource library right here on this website with free workbooks, worksheets and more. It's constantly expanding, so be sure you grab those now! Keep learning, and never stop being amazing.
10/22/2019 10:54:52 pm
This was such a fantastic post! Thank you for sharing! I am glad I read it and I found it really encouraging, even though I've been at this for what feels like a long time, it's always a great reminder to know that I am young and don't have it all figured out. And that's okay! I loved your point about not overextending ourselves. Something God has really had to teach me this year! Thank you again for the post!
12/28/2019 03:05:52 pm
I'm so glad this post was an encouragement to you! You're right, definitely-- even those of us "young writers" who have been at it for a while sometimes need to step back and remember that even though we may be years into it, we still have a lot to learn. :)
10/23/2019 07:48:48 am
Oh, I can so relate to this...so many things I would do differently. But it's so worth it when you know you are doing what God called you to do, and that others realize that! And when you have that person come up to you and tell you that you are their favorite author? *melts* Always follow God in your life's journey. He's got the best road map!
12/28/2019 03:06:46 pm
Thank you for commenting, Ryana! We certainly need more Christian creatives. :)
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