dog days of summer are upon
us. But soon students will return to school. In honor of our younger
readers, I’m answering questions from teenage writers this month.
Dear Mrs. Boeshaar: I
am a very young writer and often I’m very self-conscious about this
because I haven’t seen any young readers getting published. Why? Is it
because we are not as mature as some and still need more experience? Or
is it because we are simply too young and most likely wouldn’t be able
to handle it. (To clarify, we are referring to young writers, meaning
preteens and teenagers.)
Dear EC: I asked Jason McDonald
to answer your question. Jason is a teen and in his senior year of high
school. He is an author, editor, and the online publisher of
Getting published actually has
little to do with age and more with experience. The publishers look for
writing that follows their accepted rules of style. Teenagers find it
difficult to get published because most have not yet mastered the
skills needed to produce the books the publishers look for—skills such
as deep POV and active writing. By the time they have these skills down
pat, most teen writers are adults.
Teenagers also tend to deeply
focus on massive amounts of inner thoughts and detailed descriptions
instead of moving the story along with action. A good way to avoid
these sorts of mistakes is to remember this rule: Will this progress
the plot? If whatever you are writing seems to slow down the pace,
consider removing it.
However, don’t lose heart. With
time, dedication, and practice, young authors can learn how to write
Additionally, age can play to
your advantage. Many publishers take great interest in talented young
authors, actually giving you an even better chance at getting
published, as long as your book meets standards.
If you really want to learn how
to write well, take time to learn from other authors. Read the kind of
books you want to write. Join a writer’s group, find experienced
critique partners, and look for writing books in your genres of choice.
And most important, make time to write every day! If you stick to it,
you’ll have a fighting chance at catching a publisher’s eye.
Thanks for your input, Jason!
Now on to our second question:
Dear Andrea: I’m a
teenager who is hoping to be published soon. I was told to get my name
“out there” so I’ll attract agents and editors. The way that I’ve been
trying to do this is to blog and review other authors’ books. Will this
help me, or am I wasting my time?
Dear PJ: I asked Rebeca Seitz of
Glass Road Public Relations to weigh in on the reply. I’ve had the
pleasure of working with Rebeca on marketing my historical romance
series Seasons of Redemption (Realms).
PJ. First, congratulations
on being wise enough to ask good questions and doing your research. The
advice you received is good; it simply needs a bit more explanation.
In today’s market, a publishing
house can spend anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000 to do a low-level
launch of a debut author (this is spent on editing, cover design,
distribution, staff salaries, author advance, etc.). And that’s if they
don’t bring out any bells and whistles. Every book launch is a
gamble—an educated guess the publishing house makes about what
consumers will purchase. Sometimes consumers respond and purchase the
book. Other times the publishing house ends up eating all that outlay
of capital because the book doesn’t sell. This has left publishing
houses in a position of looking to the author to take part in the
gamble as well, mainly by doing his/her part in establishing a pool of
consumers to purchase the book upon its release. Think of it as the
publishing house hedging its bet. Thus, an unpublished author is wise
to pursue the creation of a network.
best way to establish your
network is to first spend some time with God in determining who He
created you to be. At this stage of your life, that’s going to be tough
to figure out, since He’s still got tons of lessons and living and
changing in store for you. No worries, though, because you can
talk with Him about who He wants you to be right now.
If that’s a graphic novelist who creates characters full of pragmatism,
vulnerability, and wit, or a devotional writer who addresses the raw
issues teens face, or anything else, be sure you take the time to talk
with Him and explore the interests and talents He’s given you. Then,
I’d advise you to start a blog.
Point your Facebook and Twitter
accounts to your blog. On the blog itself, explore via the written word
the areas of interest you have. Those interests, hopefully, are what
drive you to write. They populate your characters’ personalities. Be as
specific about your interests as you can (knowing you can change and
grow your interests along the way, of course!). The point here is to
introduce your readers to the authentic you. Humans gravitate toward
humans of similar interest—and that’s as true in the online world as it
People will get to know you
through your blog and then, when the time comes for your book to
release or for an acquisitions editor to learn more about you before
offering a contract, there will be a place online to truly learn about
you and make a decision about partnering with/supporting you. Consumers
will be able to decide if they want to spend money on something you
created, and the acquisitions editor will be able to see that you can
write. By that point, you’ll probably have a nice pool of followers,
which means—in the words of expert promoter Seth Godin—you have your
Finally, I’d love to take the
liberty of giving you some invaluable advice I was given at exactly
your age. A teacher had told me she thought I should be a writer. I
asked her how someone prepares to write novels—what college major do
they choose? What life path do they take? Her advice was brilliant and
helped shape the person I’ve become. She said, “Go out and take as many
jobs as you can until you’re twenty-five. Learn everything you can
about everything and everyone around you.
Explore the world. Explore your
place in it. Take it all in. Learn, observe, think, and learn some
more. Then, when you’re twenty-five, you’ll have something to write
about.” She was right. I sold my first novel at twenty-six, my next
four at twenty-seven. I also opened Glass Road at twenty-six. Until
then, I worked about one hundred jobs, several at the same time, and
kept my eyes and ears open to the world around me. I’d encourage you to
take her advice as well. Work, watch, listen, and learn as much as you
can cram into your brain. Then you’ll have excellent writing material
for years to come.
Great reply, Rebeca. Thank you
for sharing your personal experiences and for taking the time to give
all of us such expert advice!
And if you have a question that
you’d like answered, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. In the
meantime, read on!