Jake asks: Are there any common problems teenage authors experience that I could be watching out for? I really don’t want to ruin a great story with terrible writing, because I love my story. I just want to be equipped to tell it.
It’s great that you respect the craft of writing enough to ask such a question. The most common problems I see with new writers (be they sixteen or sixty) are: being in a hurry to be published, and thinking they’ve written the most amazing book on the planet.
In a Hurry
Here’s the thing. Thousands of books are published every year. Some are horrible. Lots of them fall somewhere between just okay and good. Few become bestsellers. Don’t be in a hurry. Many new writers rush things. They just want to hold a novel with their name on it. But by rushing things you skip over the learning process and make more mistakes that way. And you often end up with a book that you later wish never existed. So take the time to learn the craft of writing. Respect your chosen career and train for it.
How to train? First, finish your novel without worrying whether it’s good or bad. Just pump out that first draft. Once it’s done you have a whole book to go back and make better. Find a critique group to join. There are lots of them online. A critique group will help you learn to apply feedback to strengthen your writing. It will also teach you as you critique the work of others. Also, read books on craft of writing and technique (click here for a list of my favorites). These books and a critique group will help you learn how to rewrite that first draft.
Another thing to do around this time is attend a writer’s conference. There are tons of these all around the country. Look online for one in your area. The cool thing about writer’s conferences is that you get the chance to meet industry professionals, to show editors, agents, and published authors a sample of your work, and to get feedback.
The writer’s conference brings me to the second danger zone for new writers. I attended my first conference in 2004 and thought my book was going to be the next bestseller. Until an agent rejected me without even looking at my writing. (gasp! lol) But when I stepped back to reality and took an honest look at the situation, I knew that I had spent more time daydreaming than working on my book. Writing is a job. It’s hard work. But it’s fun.
I realized that I hadn’t been respecting the writing industry. Doctors go to school for years before anyone lets them operate. Why did I think I could write a book without any specialized education and be a success? I’ll tell you why. Because of success stories of authors like Christopher Paolini and Stephanie Meyer. But I came to realize that those situations are the one-in-a-million. For most authors, hard work brings success. So I became determined to work hard.
And if you want to succeed as an author, you need to become determined too. Work hard. Learn. And have fun. If you do this, you’ll greatly increase your chances of publication.
Hope this helps, Jake! Keep on writing!