That's right. Believe it or not, talent really does know no bounds, making itself evident in the writing of the likes of Estelle Makseme (DIMILY trilogy), Kody Keplinger (The Duff) and more. Some of your favorite young adult books may have been written by someone actually of that generation, which in my mind, is bloody awesome. Who better than to tell the life of a young person, than a young person?
What is even better, is their success inspires and promotes other teens to hone their craft, and that writing really can be a tangible skill. Yes, parents love to give the ol' 'you need a real job, writing is just a hobby' speech (I am 36 and my husband still gives that blather from time to time), but that doesn't mean you should give up on your love of the written word. If it is something you truly enjoy, and are serious about, then yes find a bill paying job but work on your craft as well. Put in the work, and you may join this list of amazing teen writers!
Here are a few hints, tips, and suggestions for those in this age range (below 20) to consider:
1) Your writing may not be publishable....yet. Yes, that may seem harsh and probably echoes the speeches of your parents, but let me follow up with this: its totally okay if your writing isn't publishable...yet. Because no one sets off writing their first manuscript and have it become and NYT best seller. Or, at least, that is the needle in the proverbial haystack of successes. This is not to say your writing isn't good, and doesn't show promise. It is a work in progress, as with most talents, and needs to be practiced.
2) You need to write every day. Every day, you say? Yes. I mean it. Every, damn, day. I know, teens don't like to do things every day, and you will probably balk at this suggestion, but this goes along with #1. Writing is a skill, and needs to be practiced. Which means, you need to write. A lot. All the time. Poems, chapters, short stories. It doesn't really matter what, just write. Join writing clubs either in your home town or online for motivation and ideas. There are plenty of options, and no shortage of inspiration if you're willing to look for it.
3) Stay in school. Yes, that old additive. But Im serious. Being a great writer isn't the entire package of what an author is. Having credentials, education and experience to back it up makes you a brand, trustworthy, and knowledgeable. So, even if you're bored out of your mind while sitting in class, remember that you are learning skills that will help in both your 'real' job, and your 'writing job'. Both are of equal importance. And again, you will need a 'real' job to sustain you until you make it big. Don't forget that.
4) Read. A lot. Everything. No, seriously. Even things that bore you to tears, or things you don't think you'll be interested in. Reading is learning the craft just as much as writing is. Read the works of some of the best, like Stephen King, Harper Lee and more. Read newcomers, ever genre, anything you can get your hands on. Learn their prose, the way they world build, how they describe and how they use dialogue. Everyone has a different way of writing, and the more you read the more you learn how to improve your own skill set.
5) Learn about the industry. I cant stress this one enough, since like I said, having a good manuscript isn't the end. You need to learn what the industry wants RIGHT NOW. What is trending, what is popular. If you've written a vampire series, chances are right now isn't a good time for it. Know the trends and desires of agents and the industry as a whole. Great resources for this are sites like Writers Digest, Manuscript Wish List, and more. They can tell you about new agents coming up, and what agents want in their inbox. And you will need an agent. Not everyone has one, but they will be the one to fight for you, work on your behalf, and make sure your work is in its best possible form for publishers. Plus, most big name publishers do not accept unagented queries, so focus on the literary agent world before the editor world.
6) Be ready for rejection. Again, another big one. Because you will get rejections, and a lot of them. JK Rowling did. So did Stephenie Meyer. Every single top writer known to man kind has been rejected at one time or another, so you need to be prepared for this right of passage. It doesn't mean your work isn't good, or that you don't have promise. It is just the way of the world, with no many writers begging to be the next hit. Another part of this? Be gracious. I have heard horror stories of writers being less than gallant with their responses to rejections, and it is staggering. Remember the industry is a small place, and they all talk. If you bad mouth one agent or publisher, the rest will know of it. They share wins, loses and those they wont touch with a ten foot pole. Know which category you want to be in.
7) Branch out! Again, something I cant stress enough. Build a writing portfolio of sorts with a variety of work. Write online with forums, a blog, anything that someone from the industry can scout out when they hear of your name besides your work. They want to see that you are branding yourself and getting your name out early, because the publishing world is all about promotion and branding. My work with Fangirlish has allowed me excellent opportunities in a variety of avenues, such as book reviews, celebrity interviews, film reviews, articles and more. This blog is more personal, more free, and I can write what I want. My work itself is a creation of my mind, with no limits. Show that variety, make connections with the industry, and showcase your best!
Now, these are only a few tips for young writers to consider when wanting writing to be their 'thing'. My biggest note is don't be discouraged. As with most things, the things we want most are the hardest to come by, but the victories that much more sweet!