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Posts tagged ‘writing a novel as a teenager’

Making Time To Write Your Novel, by Lish McBride

I dislike the phrase “finding time to write”. It implies that this precious time can be just stumbled upon, like maybe one day you might move the couch and find a whole pile of it and think, “There you are, you clever rascals!” Now, I don’t know how busy you are, but I feel like playing hide-and-seek with writing time might not be the best way to go about things.

Most people I know are really busy. If you’re a teenaged writer, you probably have school, homework, sports, drama, choir, chores, a job, friends and so on to juggle. If you’re an adult writer, your list is just as long, though obviously with a few changes. Waiting to stumble upon time just isn’t going to happen and quite frankly I think it sets up a bad habit. If you wait for time to arrive and the muse to strike, you’re never going to finish your novel.

I know what you’re thinking. “But if I just get published, everything will get so much easier. I’ll have so much writing time that people will have to move it just to sit on my couch! I’m going to write a million novels!” (Apparently, I’m obsessed with couches today.) I get this thought process; I really do. I had the same ideas. I’d like to say I’ve never been more wrong but, really, I’m wrong about a lot of things.

When I was trying to write my first novel in graduate school, I kept thinking about how hard it was to juggle school, writing, work and family, and how much easier things would be if someone bought my novel. I had this amazing fantasy of what my writing day would be like. I’d wake up after a great night’s sleep. I’d have breakfast and drink my coffee and ease into the day. Then I’d head to my office where it was quiet and maybe there was a window for me to look out of while having my deep thoughts. (My deep thoughts mostly consist of things like, “What would a pygmy chupacabra look like? How much swearing is too much? Can I work an obscure 80’s reference into the plot?) I would drink tea and write in an oasis of books, notes and tiny post-its.

Man, wouldn’t that be nice? The thing is, I just seem to be getting busier. I have a full time job, as many writers do. Unless you’re independently wealthy or marry someone who is, you will probably have to have one as well. If you’re lucky, it’s not forever. Most of us aren’t lucky. I volunteer once a week at 826 Seattle. I have an eight-year-old, which means school lunches need to be packed, soccer games attended and a lot of driving time in between. That’s already a lot. Then I have writing time and editing time. Plus I do a lot of extra things like blog posts, interviews and manage my social media like Facebook and Twitter. I consider these sorts of things part of the job. I like reaching out through the internet and talking to readers, bloggers and librarians but it does take time. I answer emails – which takes longer than you might think – and talk on the phone a lot. Then there are bookstore, library and school events. Some of these things may not seem like much. It only takes 5-15 minutes to reply to an email, but what if I have thirty emails that I absolutely have to reply to today. It adds up and you end up nickel and diming yourself to death, so to speak.

I’m not even going to get in to my to-read pile.

I don’t have days off; not really. Now, I’m not trying to whine. I choose to volunteer and I can say no to some of these things, and I do. I can’t do everything. So I have to be very careful with my time and choices. I don’t have an office (I live in an apartment) and I certainly don’t get to ease into my day. I do, however, get coffee. So while the quiet office oasis is an ideal, a far-off wispy dream that I am working toward, it is not yet a reality.

What I’m saying, my writing friends, is that you have to take a hard look at your life and prioritize. What must stay? Work pays your bills and feeds your stomach but you have to feed your mind and soul too.  It’s hard to create and write when the tank is dry. You’re not going to stumble across a pile of free time. You have to make it happen.

When I was struggling over my novel/thesis, I was trying to figure out how other writers did it. I remember checking out Kelley Armstrong’s website because she is very prolific and I knew she had kids. She basically stated that you have to schedule time to write. Treat it like an appointment, something that has to happen, like going to the dentist. Give it importance. I still think that it was a wise thing to say.

Don’t fight yourself. Know what will help or hinder you. I often get distracted at home, so I go out. I have regular writing dates with friends. We hold each other accountable. If you can’t afford to do the coffee shop thing, find a free space like a library or a friend’s kitchen table. Sometimes my friend Brenda will organize a writing day where we’ll all bring food and hang out all day and work. It’s great.

I have wonderful family and friends who support and understand what I need to do. Whether that means my partner might take on extra house/kid duties or a friend might babysit so I can get an hour or two of editing done, every little bit helps. It’s hard to make time happen. I know it is. Even if you can only get thirty minutes a week, that time does add up. When you get it, attack it. Fill those few, precious minutes with as many words as you possibly can. In the end, it all comes down to you.

Homework: Think about the times you were successful in getting some writing done. What made those times a success? How can you replicate it? What gets in the way of your success? How can you weed out these things?


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Hold Me Closer, NecromancerNecromancing the Stone     A Million Suns (Across the Universe)The Night She DisappearedAngel DustGlowThe Repossession

Writing Teen Novels

Age Is No Barrier To Getting a Novel Published, by SM Johnston

I’ve got a lot of teenage friends who are aspiring authors that I’ve met through online writing communities and they are such great writers. For the past couple of years I’ve watched them grow as writers and so have their aspirations to be published.

In my circle of friends we talk a lot about querying and whether age is a barrier, and it’s not.

Firstly, let’s look at some facts. Agents and publishes are looking for amazing stories that sell. They find them written by people of multiple age groups. They also look for marketability. If they’ve found a teenage protégé, then it adds a new dimension to how they can promote the book.

Here’s a few Australians who have been published as teenagers:

  • Alexandra Adornetto published The Shadow Thief at age 15 and Halo at 18 and her sixth book is due for release this year and she’s only just turned 20.
  • Steph Bowe published Girl Saves Boy at age 16.
  • Jack Heath published The Lab at age 18 (which he started writing at age 13).

If you look at the journey of these three writers there’s one thing in common – dedication. Age isn’t the barrier to being published. Your writing may need to be stronger and your industry knowledge may need to improve, but they are things that can be worked on:

  • Research – there are lots of blogs dedicated to the craft of writing that cover things like “show, not tell”, characterisation, cutting superfluous words, world building, voice, word lengths and other aspects of crafting a novel. You can also find information on how to write a query letter and information on agents who represent YA and the genres they’re looking for, such as YAtopia and Literary Rambles.
  • Go to conferences – there are many great conferences around for writers. I highly recommend the CYA Conference in Brisbane, but if you contact the writers centre in your state they will have a comprehensive list of what’s about. If money or location is an issues then try WriteOnCon, a free online writer’s conference.
  • Take a course – writers centres hold lots of courses throughout the year, both in the capital city, regionally and online.
  • Get a mentor – this is a tough one to describe just how this can happen. Networking is the main key, but it still needs to flow naturally. My mentor was someone who I met at my state’s writers centre and we clicked. It went from discussing publishing in general and evolved in specific advice to me on writing and querying.
  • Join online writing groups like Figment, Wattpad and Teen Ink – The first online community I joined was Inkpop, which has now merged with Figment. I loved it as I made great friends, learnt a lot about writing and was able to post my work and get feedback. It helped me as an editor, as you read other people’s work as well as them reading yours, and I formed strong bonds with some members that then progressed into being critique partners (also known as beta editors) and blog partners. This is where I became friends with now published authors Jeyn Roberts, Leigh Fallon and Wendy Higgins. I also have a group of friends affectionately known as The Insomniacs that I met on Inkpop. We’ve remained close friends and help each other refine our query letters, naming characters and project titles, get over writer’s block and war words (which is where you undertake writing sprints with friends, sharing and critiquing the work when the times up).
  • Entering competitions – this is another great way to focus your writing, and it builds up a resume for querying. I’ve entered competitions with The Australian Literature Review and was runner up in the YA themed competition and was shortlisted in the Troubled Family themed competition. Agents see placing in competitions like this as writing credentials.

There has never been a better time than now to aspire to be published as a teenager. There are different schools of thought on whether you should include your age in a query. My advice is work hard on your writing and let it speak for itself. An agent and publisher will probably see it as a positive marketing tool, but don’t let it define you. Let your work define you.


The Shadow Thief: The Strangest Adventures (Strangest Adventures)HaloGirl Saves BoyThe LabHit ListWhen Courage Came to CallDark Inside


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