We’re talking to you, kids!
by Nathan Bransford
I often receive e-mails from young writers in high school and even younger, and I’m always so impressed with them and even a little bit jealous. I had no idea I wanted to be a writer when I was in high school and I rue all those years I could have spent honing my craft. And even if Ihad known I wanted to be a writer, I didn’t have the Internet to reach out to other authors and learn more about what it takes to write a novel.
These young people are getting such a head start on their careers, and I can’t wait to see the incredible books they produce.
There’s a long tradition of writers offering advice to young writers, perhaps none greater than Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet.I can’t top that, but here’s my own modest contribution to the genre.
Here’s my advice for young writers:
Don’t write for the writer you are now. Write for the writer you’re going to become.
Writers aren’t born, they are made. It takes most writers years and years to hone their craft, and it’s helpful to have had years and years of reading experience now. By the time you’ve reached high school you have lived enough to have tasted the world and it may feel like you’re ready to channel it all into a novel, but don’t expect that your writerly success will come immediately.
Yes, there are occasional wunderkinds that defy this rule. But even S.E. Hinton, who published The Outsiders when she was sixteen, had already written several novels before that one.
Within the publishing industry, you won’t be judged based on your age, you’ll be judged against other writers who have spent years and even decades writing. Being good for your age isn’t enough. You have to be good period, and it’s difficult to achieve that level with limited experience.
Don’t judge your writing success by whether you’re able to find publication immediately. Instead, write to get better, write for catharsis and practice and fun. Your future self will be thankful for the time well spent.