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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Should I Quit Writing?

Dear Mrs. Brooks,
I'm sixteen years old and I like to write. I keep a journal and I told my parents that I want to write novels. They told me no.

My friend told me I can't get published because I'm not an adult. And my mom says that no one can get a book published unless you know people.

But I like to write. What do I do?
To Young To Write

Dear Young,
1) If you don't write you can never become a published author. End of discussion. If you want to be a published novelist, you need to write. So keep writing!

2) You can get published without being a legal adult. There's some extra forms to sign I imagine, but it's not illegal or impossible.

3) I bet your mom means well, but the myth that there's a secret handshake and that you have to "know people" to get published is just that - a myth. You need an awesome novel, a fabulous query, a tight synopsis, and a lot of guts and patience to get published. But it's a matter of making the effort, not knowing a secret code.

All that being said, I can see where parents or friends might be worried for you. Writing is not an easy career to break into and it certainly isn't one that puts the bread on the table right away.

Most mid-list authors work second jobs or have a spouse who supports them. So writing isn't a career you can really jump into at 18 and be solvent and steady at 25.

My advice boils down to this: Keep writing and get a good education.

Keep writing, you have a dream and I think you should pursue it. But consider your education the full-time job most mid-list authors balance with writing. Get through high school, pursue a college degree in a field that interests you. You could study creative writing, small business, or a degree that compliments your genre (like physics or biology for sci-fi).

I wrote in high school and quit during college. I couldn't balance the two. My twin, Amy Laurens, managed to write and publish while pursing a masters degree. As long as you can find the balance, you're good to go.

Readers: Do you have any good advice for young authors?


  1. Liana has it right... Ask @DaynaHester she knew LOTS of people... it's not who you know... it's the heart you put into your work and seeing it through.

  2. There are writing conferences for young adults which are set up like summer camp. Being around people your own age who have the same aspirations while honing your craft helps a lot. The Suwanee Young Writers Conference was so much fun and I am still friends with people I met there (15 years later).

  3. My advice, or at least some of it, for younger writers is to learn as much as they can while practicing the craft.

    One great way to learn is to follow blogs. This is a tremendous resource (even for the not-quite-as-young writers!) and they can see what other, more established writers do that works, or doesn't.

  4. It can take time for a wip to develop into something possibly worthy of agent query. Sometimes it is sooner for people than others.

    The first wip I wrote when I wanted to be a writer is never seeing the light of day. It is possible that I deleted it off the hard drive. Every word I write I get to learn something from it.