Today, I thought I'd share some thoughts about transitioning from being a teen writer to being an adult writing for teens! Because I'm only twenty, I've spent most of my life as a teen writer. Now that I'm twenty, I no longer count as one, and that is an interesting thing to think about. I almost want to have a crisis about it, except I'm too tired for that.
I started writing when I was quite young, as discussed in this post. By the time I was twelve, I had finished my first two novels and was sending out to publishers (I hadn't quite figured out the agent thing yet). I'm pretty obstinate, which is much of the reason why I'm still sending out. This is also part of why I was super passionate about kid writers getting taken seriously. I once got a rejection from a big publisher stating that they don't accept children because they'll be ashamed of their work later. That's probably the worst rejection I've ever gotten. I was furious.
Teen writers really have a rough go of it. So many people look down on them. There are even articles about why they shouldn't try for publication. I think that's wrong. Writing is a very unique career, one that takes a lot of personal time and education, and making a serious try for it in your teens is a very cool thing to do. You get to learn about writing and publishing in a period of your life when your brain is highly conducive to learning, and you've got so much emotion and heart to put into it. Teen writers should be encouraged and taken as seriously as any other writer while they learn the ropes of the field.
One of the things that teen writers hate to hear is that they're "good for their age." We just want to be "good." This descriptor, of course, is a mark of respect. But I think it can also be dangerous. Writing is one of the few careers out there where competition isn't as serious of an issue, meaning we don't have to compare ourselves to others as much. Comparison is, in fact, rather deadly. Clearly, we want to learn from others, but we also want to befriend them, make connections, and enjoy ourselves. Even more importantly, we need to be focusing not on if we're good in comparison to others, but on how we're improving over time.
When I first started writing novels, I was ten, and I was convinced I'd be published before middle school. When that didn't happen, my next goal was to get it done before high school, then before college. Now, I know enough about the very slow time frame of publishing and the importance of learning great craft that I just want to be making some kind of progress towards the goal at all times. I do get jealous when I see younger writers getting published, but I'm realizing now that I put too much pressure on myself to get published at a young age, as though that would somehow prove that I was important.
As an ex-teen writer, one thing I think all teen writers need to understand is that some of you will be ready to be published at a young age. Some of you won't. I was the latter, and I'm still not quite there yet. I'm still learning how to write better every day, I'm figuring out how the industry works, and I'm trying to get my books to the best state they can be. And there's nothing shameful about that. Sure, publishing young is awesome, and I'm not going to take that away from those of you who make it. But not making that goal does not make you any less worthy of a writer. You've got years ahead of you, as cliche as that is to say, and the cool part is that you've got the chance to spend all of that time making yourself better.
So make publishing a goal if you're ready to face it. It'll really push you forward as a writer and give you so much of the training needed for this unique field. But also remember that your main focus should be on improving your knowledge and your writing skills, not on societal success or being "good" compared to others. You will always be improving, all of your life, which is the fun part! Ultimately, talent is part of writing, but a bigger part is perseverance.
In the end, teen writers have changed my life. I kinda miss being one of them because of that, but the good news is that a bunch of them grew up right along with me. Go figure!
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