Ten Tips for Teenage Authors

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic


Are you very young, and ambitious to be a better writer? Here are some thoughts to help you develop your gifts.

Submitted: May 18, 2018

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Submitted: May 18, 2018

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Ten Tips for Teenage Authors

Everyone writes for different reasons: every writer is following a unique and sometimes lonely path. And yet - after storytelling for money most of my life - I feel there are certain suggestions to make your work more insightful, more readable, and more emotionally accurate.

One or more of these ideas may appeal to you. If they all sound good, feel free to do them all.

1) Have as much consensual sex as humanly possible. As a storyteller, or a poet, you are very often concerned with the extremes of emotion - and sexual intimacy often takes you right out to the edge of personal interaction. There's also a kind of astringent candor in it. It's common for each of us to have a "social face" - someone we pretend to be. But in sexual situations it's so much more difficult to deceive. You see people for who they are - not the picture they want to show you.

2) Seriously consider poetry. To master poetry all you need to know is how you FEEL - and then express that creatively. The mandate many young writers give themselves is to sell trainloads of books - and poetry won't do that. But you can seriously advance in the world just on the basis of poems. There are grants - there are fellowships - there are readings - there can be fame. As with anything else, you just need to be intent on excellence. There's also the time component. A brilliant poem might take a week. A brilliant novel might take five years. How soon do you want to feel you've accomplished something?

3) Stay within your own experience. Fantasy sounds easy, but most writers stay away because - in practice - it's very difficult. Have you lived in a Dragon World? Been a vampire? Ridden with the knights at the Round Table? If you haven't, then come back to the reality of the stories within reach of you every day. Why go into a place that doesn't exist to find a narrative? Big emotions, and strange events, are all around you.

4) Be penniless (for awhile). At the beginning of a weekend, give someone you trust your ATM card - and empty your pockets - staying that way until Monday. For extra credit, spend some time begging on a street corner. As with (1) you are looking for emotional impact. How does it feel to have nothing? And then remind yourself that this is what most people on the planet experience every day.

5) Have tons of sex - but do not have children. They're fun to have around, but they're an incredible distraction. Sylvia Plath - who tried to combine poetry with motherhood - had to get up at 4AM to have the quiet house where she could create. Use protection during sex - because that's the responsible thing to do - and don't have children when you're a kid - because that's the practical thing to do.

6) Write every day. This is essential, so it bears repeating: WRITE EVERY DAY. This is you telling yourself that what you're doing is Important. People will find out that you do this: and that will send the same message about your priorities out to the world. It's something that's part of you. You do it every day.

7) Make sure your teachers know that you're working hard to express yourself in writing - and to get better at it. The amount of skepticism you'll get from them will be zero. The amount of encouragement you get will sometimes be awesome.

8) Look in the background. We are all drawn to glamorous Alpha characters. That's the essence of being Alpha: that people follow you around telling you how great you are. But the great and true stories are not at the top of the Social Pyramid. They're closer to the bottom. The deep lessons of life are not learned by the Winners. They're too busy winning. The most interesting stories are in the background - and, coincidentally, those folks are often eager to talk.

9) If you're working in prose, make an intensive effort to sharpen your dialogue skills. One exercise that can help: when sitting around with a group of people, start the Voice Recorder on your phone - then listen to the conversation later when you're alone. The texture of real conversation is usually a shock when you look at it objectively. People are always repeating things - few people ever actually finish a sentence - and interruptions back and forth are constant. This gives you a starting point for writing conversations that sounds "real".

10) Make a list of all the things you're terrified to do - and then do them (including recreational, but protected!, sexual intimacy). You climb the ladder of wisdom by doing - not just by thinking. And you don't want the sex scenes in your material to be confessions that you have no idea what you're talking about.

There's a leavening of humor in the above. But, for the most part, these are serious recommendations - to which I would add that literary success takes time, and effort, and endless networking - so be practical and patient.

Thanks for your time and attention.


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