Mincemeat: on writing
  Ideas for Young Writers

Hello, friend! Are you a young writer? I was, too. My heartís secret desire since I was 10 years old was to be a real writer when I grew up. Here are some thoughts especially for you about how to make your dream come true.

Read! I just canít stress this enough. I always tell kids and teens, "Read what you love! Donít let anyone tell you that what you love is silly or too young for you or too long or too short." I believe this. But for writers, I must add: "Read a little bit of everything." If you love fantasy, for example, and you want to write fantasy, then do keep reading it! But if you donít read the classics and poetry and mysteries and historical fiction and science fiction and biographies, etc., then your writing wonít be able to catapult you forward. There are lots of different kinds of books. Savor them all.

Write! Hereís the honest truth—youíre not going to publish the first thing you write. If youíve heard that someone did, then either they lied or somehow forgot about all the other practice writing theyíve actually done or theyíre a freak. It just doesnít happen. So write a lot, short stories, long stories, poems. It doesnít have to be great, itís all for practice. Nothing you write is wasted, even if no one ever reads it but you.

Donít be afraid to imitate. Donít worry, eventually all your ideas will be original, but when starting out, itís OK to imitate your favorite authors or even write new stories using their characters. This is called fan fiction, and you wonít be able to publish it anywhere, but that doesnít matter. Itís all practice.

Donít worry about getting published right now. Quite often I get emails from teens who are in the process of writing their first book and they ask me about finding an agent or publisher. Please, banish those thoughts from your head! If you worry about that right now, your writing will suffer. Just focus on your characters, just think about telling your story. After youíre done with several drafts, then itís time to start doing research on publishing. It takes a lot of research and time and luck to get published, and Iím afraid I canít tell you how to do it because itís different for everyone. But if itís your dream to be published, then you wonít quit until you make it happen, even if you have to write five books first. But the trying-to-find-an-agent-or-publisher is not the fun part of being a writer. I recommend not burdening yourself with that gunk for as long as you can.

Know that youíre not alone. There are lots of resources, classes, newsletters, and workshops for kids who write. I have some info in my links section. Form your own writing group with friends, take a class in your community, ask the childrenís booksellers in your favorite local independent bookstore for ideas, talk to the childrenís librarian in your neighborhood library, join a yahoo or google group of teen writers.

Donít get discouraged! The more you focus on trying to be a Christopher Paolini or Amelia Atwater-Rhodes, the more disheartened you might feel. They are extraordinary exceptions to the norm. Donít be a them, be a You. You may publish a book before you leave high school, but most likely you wonít, and thatís OK. Just keep reading. Keep writing. Keep loving what youíre doing. Itíll all work out.

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