Monday 23 April 2018

Young Writers: Any Adivce?


As you all know, I've been writing since I was nineteen, at least as a profession. I won't bore you with the details since I've told this story a number of times, but I did send my first manuscript off to an agent before I was twenty. I knew barely nothing about the publishing industry, and there weren't viable options where I could do it myself like KDP and such. I remember a lot of things I did wrong back then, but I also remember a lot of things I did right. I also remember what it was like to want to be a published author and find people at every turn telling me it wasn't something I could do. Their advice didn't come from a bad place, they just didn't want to see me set myself up for failure, and in a way they were right. But in many many others, they weren't.

I was first published when I was twenty-two. Blackout was released in August 2005 and I felt like I'd reached the highest point in my life thus far. Things didn't go well from there, well they did in some ways, but in others they just made me aware of how very unprepared I was to be published and to do all the work that came with that. I'm not going to go into details about that, but I did want to do a piece on being a young writer. I feel like now there's less gate keeping (and that's a good and bad thing) when it comes to publishing, and the industry is more open to change and diversity that it was only a few years ago.

I'm not a big fish, but I do have a fanbase and I do have a lot of experience and background in what I do. I've written over twenty books, with the twelfth due for release on May 16th (you can pre-order here). I may not have won awards or made a best selling status, but I am good at what I do. I get a lot of people sending me emails and such asking what they should be doing to get published since they've been writing since they were young and/or are still young. They want to know how to find an editor and how to go through the beta process, how to find critique partners and how to work out the cost to them in regards to editing, covers and all of that. Because while being indie is my choice, it's not for everyone and on top of that, it does cost. I don't mean to publish the book itself. Any place wanting you to pay them to publish your book is usually a scam and you should back away and never go back. But there are other costs. Editing costs. Covers cost. Proof-reading and formatting costs. And on and on it goes. Even once you're released, marketing costs. I have a piece planned as to whether the indie route is right for you, but for now let's focus on the young writers out there.

Writing, like any creative pursuit, can be something you work hard at to improve. Just as you would practice your scales when leaning an instrument, you practice writing while being a writer. I look back on some of my earlier pieces and thank god they will never see the light of day. A lot of young people I come across on Tumblr or Facebook have immense talent, but there's also this pressure they put on themselves to be published by a certain time. I get it, I do, when I started writing, I wanted to be published before I left secondary school at sixteen. I wrote my first book at thirteen and happily sent it off to publishers without knowing the process. They were kind about it, but I think back and cringe at the very idea. My point is: what's the rush?

You don't have to achieve all of this at a young age for you to be a talented author. There's no reason why you can't wait, keep writing definitely, but also grow as you do it. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying don't do it, but I am saying that had KDP been around, I might've published that first book at thirteen and been crushed by the many many issues with it at a later date. As it turned out, I tore that book apart time and time again before I was actually happy with it. I rewrote, took out chapters that made no sense and had no bearing on the story and made it better. I later got it edited, by a professional, and then it was published. It was a good few years since I finally finished it, but I got there, I grew as a writer. I focused on the stuff I needed to in my life: exams, essays, college and all that fun stuff. I got life experience that helped me make that story the best it could be.

There is a lot of pressure on young people - there was a similar pressure on me at that age too - to exceed expectations. It might even be that your family and friends don't believe that you can actually get your work out there. That's not the best situation to be in. My parents were only really interested in my writing once I started getting published. They were supportive to a point in that they'd ask how things were going. I remember when I decided to increase my goal from ten books to twenty. My mum shook her head and said: Is that a little unrealistic? Yet in December, I finished my twentieth book. I get the want to prove people wrong, and I get the want to exceed, but you don't need to rush to get there, or beat yourself up over it. It will take as long as it takes, and that's okay. You wanna do it right, and if that means taking your time, you're not doing anything wrong and you will get there.

Have you got any advice for young writers? Leave them in the comments!

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