As a young writer myself, I thought I would share some advice that I’ve learned over the years.
- You are not an “aspiring writer”, when anyone asks. You are a writer. You’re an aspiring author. If you write fiction, nonfiction, books, short stories–if you have a story or multiple stories inside you that you have to put out there–you are a writer.
- Learn to take compliments. Sure, it can be awkward at first, but in the writing and critiquing world, if someone compliments you, they typically mean it. People can be brutally honest when giving feedback, which is what you want. So if you get a compliment, take it. Even if they didn’t mean it, never undermine yourself. If you’re not confident in yourself, it will be hard for other people to be confident in you. So say thank you.
- Take your time. You’ve heard this a lot, probably, but you’re young. Take your time. Sometimes in the publishing and writing business it feels as if there’s a huge urgency, a huge rush to get your work done and send it out there. Don’t worry about getting your works published by a certain age, because it’s guaranteed that things won’t work out the way you plan. When I was in middle school, I wanted to be published while in high school. I’ve now graduated high school and I’m still working on that book because I realized it wasn’t ready yet. Take your time on perfecting your craft, tweaking your stories. Never send something out that’s unfinished just because of a deadline. If it’s not something you can be proud of, then it needs work. And that’s ok.
- Write. The most common and seemingly obvious advice can sometimes be the hardest to take. Honestly, write as much as you can. Write about everything. Take a notebook or an iPad or whatever you use with you wherever you go. Write down every single idea you have, even if you think it’s silly at first, because you never know which one will suddenly inspire you the most.
- Careful of who you ask for advice. If you’re looking for an answer to a specific question, such as publishing vs self publishing, don’t take it from just one person. Go to a lot of sources, ask multiple people what their opinion is. You will find most of the time that all of them differ in some way, and you will have to make your own decision based on all of their responses.
- Find a critique group. For me, it’s hard to find someone to edit my works because I have no friends or colleagues that are in the writing or editing world. Most of them don’t even read books. So mostly I’m stuck editing my own work, which can be hard because you need a fresh pair of eyes on each of your works. If you have the opportunity to, join a group or make friends with people who are part of that world. Find other writers to talk to. If you’re not comfortable sharing your entire short story/manuscript (understandably), just have them look at snippets. That will let them know at least the gist of your writing style and they’ll be able to give you feedback.
- Everyone is at different stages. Don’t worry if you’re not querying agents because someone else is. Don’t worry if you’re still writing your first draft while someone else has their self-published book coming out in a month. It’s not a race. Your chances of publishing will not go down just because you take your time. The opposite is also true. If you find that your write very quickly, don’t worry that someone else’s may be better because they’re taking more time with it. As long as you are confident in your work and the feedback you’ve gotten is positive, that’s all you need to know.
- The first draft is never perfect. It doesn’t matter if you’re a new writer just starting out or someone who has published fifteen books. The first draft is never, ever perfect. Someone posted online something along the lines of “I don’t write first drafts. It’s all or nothing.” This made no sense to me, and is one of the reasons I wanted to write this list. You may think first drafts are for beginners, but that’s honestly delusional. A first draft is just writing down everything you want in your book/story in order so that you yourself know. You will always have to edit it or rewrite it. That’s not a bad thing.
- Fake it ’til you make it. This is great advice in any part of your life, but especially in writing. If you don’t feel confident about your writing, act confident. Think, “Yeah, I could write something as good as that book”. Then write.
- Don’t let your ego get to you. Branching off of Number 9, while it’s good to try and build your confidence, don’t let it get to your head. No one, not even professionals, are above criticism. Even if everyone has been telling you how great a writer you are, you will no doubt come across someone who says otherwise. Heed their advice, listen to what they have to say. Chances are, they’re only trying to help. Even if they’re not, listen and know that you and your writing will never be perfect.