Young Writers

by Lydia F.

Question: What is our advice to young teen writer's trying to make in the world as an author?

Answer: Much of the traditional advice still holds true. Read a lot and widely. Write a lot of what interests you. Schedule time for writing each day and develop the discipline to stick to it. Get feedback from people you respect, and when you feel your work is ready, approach publishers and agents.

However, the writing world (which was never easy) has become even tougher in recent years. In many ways, publishing now resembles a lottery. There are so many people of all ages trying to break in and only a handful of new authors each year that publishers can afford to publish.

You may not care about this now, but one day, it will matter.

So I would also suggest a couple of other things. One is to learn as much as you can about writing. Read books on it. Take workshops. Traditionally, writers learn by writing, but these can fill in the missing secrets and save you a lot of time.

Learn especially about writing genre fiction (romance, crime, historical, paranormal, fantasy, science ficion, etc.), if that interests you at all, because these account for most of the fiction sold. In genre, things like plot matter much more than in literary fiction.

If you're interested in nonfiction, you might want to study journalism.

You may want to investigate writing things like film, television, comic books, ghostwriting, copywriting, even plays. Think of it as cross training.

Second, the field is
changing. Comic books have become very lucrative for some writers. Online opportunities are far greater. Some people (a very tiny percentage) are actually making money self-publishing. You may be lucky enough to get in on the next big area where money can be made. So watch out for new avenues where you can apply your skills and that personally excite you.

At the same time, beware of scams. The other old piece of advice is that you should never pay anyone - not agents, nor publishers - to get your work published. The exception is if you are going to form your own publishing company and need to hire pros to help you - but in that case you retain all your rights. Only give people the rights to your work in exchange for cash, never for free.

Finally, do plan to have a day job. Preferably one that still leaves you some time for writing. (Passive income is best.) If you succeed big as a writer, you can always quit your job. But at least you won't starve in the meantime.

If it sounds like I'm talking a lot about money, it's because that's something no one talked enough about when I was a teen. What every writer wants is to reach the stage where they make enough money from writing that they can take the time to write the next story that excites them and pay the bills. Too many promising writers end up devoting so much time to jobs and family that their writing doesn't get done.

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