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Writing Advice & Discussion > Teenage writer: advice?

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message 1: by Rachel (new)

Rachel Thyssen (rachelthijssen) | 121 comments (WARNING: I tried not to get too personal or make this too long, but it may still be just that! Sorry!)

I am probably going to regret writing this but... I'm the kind of person with expectations that are way too high and I'm worried it might be taking its toll on me.
Here's the problem: I'm a writer trying to find an agent to represent me. Sounds normal, right? Except I'm Dutch, writing in English and I'm 17.
I know at least one person is going to say 'wait until you're older before getting serious about writing' and I appreciate it. Unfortunately, writing is kind of... my anchor to life...? Know what I mean? But the problem I'm facing is that every rejection is another shot to my chest. I am still unstable and realize this, but I just want to follow my dream or heart or whatever you want to call it (wow, that sounds cliché) and turn my life into one I find worth living.

So... my question is, what would you do? If you were a problematic (mentallly unstable?) teenage writer, so to speak, would you get serious and try to find agents/publishers? Or would you wait until a better time?

Thank you very much for reading this post and I hope I didn't come across as a selfish teen too much. And if this post bothers you, please ignore it!

-Rachel


message 2: by Alex (last edited Oct 24, 2016 07:40PM) (new)

Alex (asato) I'd recommend reading Publishing 101. I just bought it. I'm going to start reading it tonight. Jane Friedman was a publisher of Writer's Digest. She has a really good presentation chock full of references for further reading. I just watched it yesterday. http://selfpublishingadvice.org/the-b...
There is so much more vetted and useful info on that website. I've watched about 3 of them so far.
I'd also recommend Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself Into Print as an excellent starting point for practical writing techniques. You can read my blow-by-blow status reports on it--which are usually more informative than my concise review ;) It's 5 stars as is The Elements of Style, which is also recommended by the aforementioned book.

EDIT: If you want, we can do a buddy read with Publishing 101. I'm hoping to garner a few more people. Just PM me.


message 3: by Dakota (new)

Dakota Rayne | 199 comments Mod
Alex G wrote: "I'd recommend reading Publishing 101. I just bought it. I'm going to start reading it tonight. Jane Friedman was a publisher of Writer's Digest. She has a really good presentation c..."

Alex, these are all good pieces of advice! I own those books as well and would definitely recommend them. I would also recommend seeking out a mentor who will give you good, honest and constructive feedback. Someone or something that will challenge you and make you grow. A mentor of mine would always say "if you are comfortable, then you're not growing. Get into situations that make you feel awkward. That's when you really learn." I wish you lots of luck in your endeavors :)


message 4: by Paul (new)

Paul Crowe | 24 comments Have you had your Manuscript professionally edited? Or At the very least had it looked at by some reputable Beta readers. I suppose what im asking is, is your book any good? Continually sending out something sub par is going to continually end in rejection letters. If yourself and others believe the book has merit, but you still keep getting knocked back , try self publishing in E format. Cheap, fast and easy. You'll be a published author in no time. Then the hard work begins. Shamelessly and relentlessly pushing and promoting your book through any means possible. Good luck.


message 5: by Matthew (new)

Matthew Harrop | 2 comments Hey Rachel,

In response to your dilemma, I would recommend that you take some time to think about writing and what place you would like it to have in your life. You called it your 'anchor' right? If it's something that helps you maintain your sanity (believe me, I feel the same way) then getting an agent may not be the goal you should be stressing over. I've struggled with this dilemma myself and I can tell you that struggling against the might of the traditional publishing system can be a back-breaking endeavor. Like some of the other people above I would definitely recommend self-publishing, but only after you've come to terms with the role that you want writing to play in your life. The chances of making a good living off it from the start are low, so I wouldn't worry about that. Getting an agent is a huge step toward a career as a writer, but you're young, and I wouldn't let it get you down that you haven't found one yet. I would say that right now you should be worrying more about your craft, seeking out someone you can share your work with and whose work you can critique in turn. The more you write, and, perhaps more importantly, the more you critique, the more skilled writer you will become, and the more skilled you are the more easily you'll get an agent and be on your way.

Keep writing, keep reading, and keep your chin up. Don't quit looking for an agent or trying to get your life as a writer off the ground, but definitely don't stop writing just because you can't find someone to represent your work. Try writing some short stories and shop those around if you haven't already. Enter a contest. I haven't written anything on it yet, but maybe you could take a look at https://www.wattpad.com/ - it looks like a good place to get some of your writing out there in a pretty active community.

Don't rob yourself of the joy of writing because you're having trouble getting it recognized by someone else.


message 6: by Rosie (new)

Rosie (RoseandBurn) | 6 comments Keep writing. Unfortunately rejections come left right and center to even the best authors for all sorts of reasons. I'm not too much older than you, but in college I got exposed to a world of older far more success writers and a handful of writers who got published young. It can be rough when you're young because if you do well the expectations can be high.

What you should be focusing on most is learning the craft of writing and giving yourself time to write because you can only get better. Other than that come up with a ritual to reward yourself after every rejection. I usually go for a long walk, take a refreshing shower, and make a milkshake or sweet smoothie.


message 7: by Rachel (new)

Rachel Thyssen (rachelthijssen) | 121 comments Woah. Thanks for all the helpfull comments, really appreciate it!


message 8: by Roughseasinthemed (last edited Oct 25, 2016 02:06AM) (new)

Roughseasinthemed | 263 comments Rachel
Do you have a blog? That's another way to keep writing, and as on here, there is a very good supportive blogging community out there of authors with lots of good advice. Plus, you'll need a blog anyway to self-publicise any works you publish/get publish.
My blogs not specifically bookish, but I do include them from time to time. The last two posts have been bookish and have included Canadian, British and South African authors who I am good blog friends with.
Here's a link: https://roughseasinthemed.wordpress.c...


message 9: by Larissa (new)

Larissa Hinton (larissahinton) | 15 comments If it helps, I also submitted to publishers and agents when I was 16 and 17. I didn't get a yes until I was 18. This was after one of the publishers were kind enough to recommend that I try Critique Circle. I would highly recommend it. You basically get your book beta read and make friends at the same time. Also, you get to beta read some other people's work which helps you become a better writer. It's a win-win. Wattpad is good too, I just haven't had as good of a go with it as everybody else has.


message 10: by Faizan (last edited Oct 25, 2016 02:53AM) (new)

Faizan (mohdfaizanfahim) | 20 comments The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton is one of my favorite book.




message 11: by Nanette (new)

Nanette | 1 comments Rachel wrote: "(WARNING: I tried not to get too personal or make this too long, but it may still be just that! Sorry!)

I am probably going to regret writing this but... I'm the kind of person with expectations t..."


Don't worry about your age. You are doing what you should be doing, writing. Write about what makes you bleed and what makes you heal. The mechanics of writing you can get from a book. Rachel Aaron's book http://rachelaaron.net/series.php?SID=4 is my current favorite. There is great deal to be learned from writers' workshops, if you can afford them. They teach much about agents and publishing. Rejection is inevitable. But don't let it eat into your confidence. You are doing it right.


message 12: by Vance (new)

Vance Huxley | 29 comments Rachel wrote: "(WARNING: I tried not to get too personal or make this too long, but it may still be just that! Sorry!)

I am probably going to regret writing this but... I'm the kind of person with expectations t..."


I had my first book published at 66, so the age doesn't matter. I started writing to help myself over a bad patch, really bad. Eventually I wondered if the result was any good, but mainly found just writing, losing myself in the story, a great help all on its own.
After about 3 million words (not a typo) I tried a beta and she slaughtered the offering, in a helpful way. I spent a year learning to write a book instead of words.
Even then I didn't look for publishing, though it eventually snuck up on me.
All I'm asking is, do you find the writing is what helps you, or the urge to publish? If it the publishing, then there's a lot of advice here already. If its the writing, don't worry about publishing, take it steady, and get it right.
I've been slaughtered by both betas and reviews at time, but as long as YOU love your words, those are only opinions. Look for anything that helps to improve, but you can't expect every publisher, beta or reader to love your book. Then when one does Whooo! :-)
All the very best, whichever way you go.


message 13: by Carol (new)

Carol McKibben (carol4dabarn) | 6 comments Rachel, everyone above has offered you such great advice. I started writing when I was 14. I didn't publish until I was in my 50s. In those in-between years, I learned how to write. Partnering up with other writers in a critique group would be very useful for you. The more you can share, the more you will learn, and the better you will become. Don't be afraid of constructive criticism. You will grow from it. In the process, you'll get a sense of your abilities while growing them at the same time.

Take some classes. Work with Beta readers. Once critique partners and Beta readers have given you the green light, then approach an agent if that is your desire.

Remember, so many of our great writers got hundreds and hundreds of rejections from agents and publishers. Toughen up and understand that putting your writing out there means opening up your soul to which others can respond. You might not always like what you hear, but you will learn from it.


message 14: by Caspar (new)

Caspar Wallersteiner | 14 comments Hi Rachel,

As a fellow 17 year old writer, thanks for this. It really helps to know that I'm not alone.

Caspar


message 15: by Rosie (new)

Rosie (RoseandBurn) | 6 comments Also if you ever need someone to talk to after a rejection message me here or try me on my blog. Chances are if I'm not working I'll be on one or the other. Even if you just leave a rando comment asking if we can talk then I'll get back to you. Rejections can be hard and no amount of tough skin can stop that fact...just know you do have a friendly ear <3


message 16: by Ann (new)

Ann Swaim (chirpyann) | 83 comments Watch these! https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCZ_Y...
Every single one. Not only will you get great writing advice from a great writer, Brandon Sanderson, but you will be constantly inspired to keep going and learn how to keep going when you don't think you can. (At least that's what these vids did for me, but I'm also a HUGE Brandon Fangirl xD lol)

Anyway. TL;DR He makes a statement that I found liberating,
paraphrasing
It could take a lifetime to get published, but if writing is what gives you life then you have to decide if you're ok going your whole life without ever publishing a thing.

I don't know, I just found that really inspiring. To give myself permission to fail as long as I'm happy doing what I love without the "proof". If I never get published, so be it. I'll print my books and give them to my friends and family and get loads of praise for it... maybe... or not... I don't care anymore. I just need to write.

I wish you the best of luck and hope you find what you need to keep going :)


message 17: by Andrew (new)

Andrew | 33 comments Rachel,

There are a few things that i would recommend you do. First and foremost, are the two primary tools that Authors need when starting out. To whit: A writers group and a trusted beta reader. A writers group (hopefully there's one at your local Library), if its run properly, is a great place for support and constructive criticism. These are people who (usually) care enough about writing to want to make everyone a better writer. they'll give helpful criticism and support that fledgling authors need (I speak from experience on this). If you encounter a group that has a toxic environment or people you don't click with or just doesn't sit well with you, JUMP SHIP. There are other groups out there and you're sure to find one that fits who you are. The second, a trusted Beta Reader, is a rare find. This person should be someone who cares deeply about stories, is enthusiastic about reading and a little bit of a grammar freak. The Beta Reader will be your key to unlocking each stories potential. Ideally it will be a person you know, but are not best friends with. you want their honest opinion and not something sugar coated because they like you.

Next, the resources that helped me which are readily available are:
The Writing Excuses Podcast: www.writingexcuses.com
Jenna Moreci's YouTube channel (Strong Language alert)
Ellen Brock's YouTube channel

While previous poster's advice about getting your manuscript professionally edited are spot on, I think I may not be wrong in assuming that on hand cash may be tight for a 17 year old? While most people will agree that the professional edit is crucial, they are not cheap. finding the money to pay for one can be difficult. You may be able to find a new freelance editor who may offer a discount, or perhaps you know someone who knows someone who might be willing (in their spare time) to edit your book for (gasp!) free.

Lastly, the best piece of advice I can give is to not listen too much to people who may try to detract from what you are attempting to do. If they're not writers, editors or some other person with experience in this their opinion counts for as much as a cow's.

Good luck


Roughseasinthemed | 263 comments I would suggest caution with new editors/discounts/freebies.
I've re-edited a number of books that had been previously 'edited'.
A degree in English does not an editor make.,


message 19: by Andrew (new)

Andrew | 33 comments Agreed, but is there another option for the less financially well off? My assumption may not be valid but the question of editorial cost remains.


Roughseasinthemed | 263 comments Andrew wrote: "Agreed, but is there another option for the less financially well off? My assumption may not be valid but the question of editorial cost remains."

Like graphic design, editorial costs need to be taken into account. And, difficult. There is cheap and good. Expensive and poor. Luck of the draw.

There are few indie books I have read that have been free of errors, let alone looking at writing style. I think an element of realism is merited.

One author I read, said, surely it was ok for new authors to publish books full of errors.

That really, really does not help self-pub authors.


message 21: by Lara (new)

Lara (gurlwhowrites) | 13 comments Rachel, being a fellow young author, I thought I'd throw out some advice from my perspective.

I started writing when I was fourteen, finished a novel, and got it published by a small press when I was fifteen. Took a break from writing, finished another book over a couple of years, and just this past year I finished my third book (I am now eighteen).

I look back on that first book and cringe, to be entirely honest. Not because I was a bad writer, but because I was inexperienced. I had an editor, but not a good one, and I had not been part of any critique or beta groups (as everyone else has said, these are super helpful for improving your writing).

That being said, you should not just stop writing because you are young. I read somewhere that it takes 10,000 hours before you get good at something, and 10,000 hours of practice, practice, practice. I'm inclined to agree. Yes, natural talent and passion are a factor, but practice makes perfect. The earlier you start writing, the sooner you can grow to become a better writer.

I had an agent look over my most recent book, and say that it was a sophisticated work that could do really well in the market. And that was four years of writing after that first novel that I can hardly look at.

So keep at it. Above all, write, pen down thoughts. If your novel isn't going anywhere, maybe take a break, write a new one, and then come back to your old one and revise or revisit your plans for it.

Best of luck!


message 22: by Rachel (new)

Rachel Thyssen (rachelthijssen) | 121 comments Lara wrote: "Rachel, being a fellow young author, I thought I'd throw out some advice from my perspective.

I started writing when I was fourteen, finished a novel, and got it published by a small press when I..."


Oh yeah, I get what you mean. I wrote my first book when I was 13, got it published, and now wish I could burn it.

Thanks for the words of advice. Since you said an agent looked at your work, does that mean this agent is/was working with you now? Just curious :)


message 23: by Rachel (new)

Rachel Thyssen (rachelthijssen) | 121 comments Roughseasinthemed wrote: "Andrew wrote: "Agreed, but is there another option for the less financially well off? My assumption may not be valid but the question of editorial cost remains."

Like graphic design, editorial cos..."


Well, I've learned as much after publishing two books full of mistakes... Good thing it didn't sell!

It's funny, because I recently found an affordable editor (by accident, haha) who's currently taking a look at one of my manuscripts. But I will keep your advice in mind!


message 24: by Alex (new)

Alex (asato) Lara wrote: "That being said, you should not just stop writing because you are young. I read somewhere that it takes 10,000 hours before you get good at something, and 10,000 hours of practice, practice, practice. I'm inclined to agree. Yes, natural talent and passion are a factor, but practice makes perfect. The earlier you start writing, the sooner you can grow to become a better writer. "

10k hours is a rule of thumb "popularized" in Outliers: The Story of Success. ymmv


Roughseasinthemed | 263 comments Lara wrote: "
I look back on that first book and cringe, to be entirely honest. Not because I was a bad writer, but because I was inexperienced. I had an editor, but not a good one,."


I've spent 30+ years in publishing and it's like any job. There are skilled people and not-so-skilled people. And even I've been surprised by the variation in 'quality'. I've read books by people who have been on editing courses, call themselves editors, and still produce novels full of mistakes. Dire. On the up side, I've read a book by one author who was self-pub, no editor, and virtually error free. Most people need a proofreader at the very least.


message 26: by Alex (new)

Alex (asato) Roughseasinthemed wrote: "On the up side, I've read a book by one author who was self-pub, no editor, and virtually error free. Most people need a proofreader at the very least. "

one of the rare ethereal beings called an outlier, perhaps? ;)


Roughseasinthemed | 263 comments He was a surgeon actually ;) which surprised me. Most medics I wrote with were abysmal writers.


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