Advice For Teenage Writers & More

Thursday, May 27, 2010

  1. Don't listen to a negative word anyone says. (With the exception of constructive criticism, obviously, you'll figure out how to differentiate that from people being just plain nasty.) People will tell you that because you are young you can't write because a) you have no life experience (as far as I'm concerned, you can have the busiest, most exotic life in the world and it doesn't necessarily make you a good writer), b) because they couldn't write as teenagers and c) because you should be studying to get into a good university/job or, if you're a girl and have particularly old-fashioned acquaintaces, because you should be prettying yourself up to try and wrangle a husband. Because obviously that's on the mind of all 16-year-olds. These people who say negative things? They aren't going to stop when you get a book deal. If you get published as a teenager, it'll probably get worse. Which is why you need to decide right now that what they say doesn't matter - you know that anyone at any age can become a great writer, and they're just jealous of your motivation.
  2. Write, write, write, write, write. Sure, you can blog about writing and talk about writing and write about writing and read books about writing and industry blogs but here's the thing: in order to become a good writer you actually have to write. Set a specific time each day or week, a word goal (like, a 1500-word chapter a day, or just 500 words, or 10000 words every weekend. Figure out what works for you). I know that everyone says this but everyone says it because it's so important.
  3. Send your work out! Once you're ready of course. But seriously, you have nothing to lose. Just do it.
  4. Writing is hard for everybody. There is no magic formula, no secret, no trick that'll have you finish a book in the blink of an eye. There will be days when the words will come easily and there will be days when it'll be like pulling teeth. It doesn't change once you are agented or published. Enjoy writing. Finish stuff. Get feedback. You can be an amazing writer. You can get published. It takes a lot of hard work, there will be sacrifices, the struggle won't end with you signing a contract. But if it's what you want and you're motivated enough you can do it. Really. I wouldn't fib about this.
Now, answers from the post the other day:
Natalie Whipple asked: What inspires you to be creative?
Lots of little things. Snippets of conversations I hear, different songs, something I see, something on the news, a book I've read, a photograph. Usually if I try not to write for a few days, I can write a whole lot of words in one sitting. I like to imagine creativity as this thing that fills up over time and you can use a bit of it every day, but if you don't, it all comes spilling out of you and is a bit unstoppable. And that's when you write ten thousand words in three hours.

What does your writing process look like?
I don't really think I've been writing enough yet to have a specific process... what I tend to do is have an idea in my head for a few months, and when I have a clear idea of the beginning and end I start to write. I'll set a number of words I want to write, and sometimes I'll write in huge chunks or tiny 100-word spurts. Once I've finished that first draft I'll rewrite a couple of times, because that first draft tends to be a bit messy.

Gracie asked: What's the most unconventional thing about the way you write? (Do you have to wear a chicken hat while plotting? Do you write seven drafts in seven months, all the while wearing a shirt with the number 7?)

I think I'm pretty conventional! There's not a whole lot of organisation to my process, which is weird - I set a word count I want to achieve, I don't plan but i have a general idea of what I want to write, and then I type out a whole lot of words. Sometimes I can write 10,000 words in an evening, or a 1,000 words in a week. It varies a lot.

If you could choose to set a book anywhere in the world (and subsequently travel there "for research," of course), where would it be?
Hawaii, maybe. Somewhere warm and sunny. (It's winter here right now, this would probably change if it was a different time of year.)

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