Writing Advice to a 13 Year Old

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I got an email yesterday from a 13 year old girl called Ruth, asking for writing advice. So I thought I’d put up my reply here, so I can send other people here next time. Applicable for non-13 year olds too!  I’d also suggest looking at my Frequently Asked Questions 

Hi Ruth, 

I can recommend two great resources for you! Check out www.terribleminds.com, which is my friend Chuck Wendig’s blog, where he offers brilliant writing and publishing advice, and also has ebook collections of his advice. Be warned, he swears a lot, but the advice is terrific. 

I’d also highly recommend you look at Stephen King’s wonderful memoir and writing how-to, On Writing, which inspired me when I was your age. 

The best advice I can give you is read as much as you can, and all kinds of different books. 

Be curious about the world. Make notes, observe, colors and smells and feelings, textures, and sounds, the way car exhaust smokes more in winter, the fallen leaves like puddles, eavesdrop on people speaking, and listen to how they speak and how they express themselves. 

And then write as much as you can. 

And then finish the things you write. 

It’s easy to start a dozen different stories. Pick one, the one that speaks to you and moves you, that kicks in your gut and your heart, that makes you excited and makes you scared and makes you doubt whether you can do this. 

And then write it anyway. 

And finish it. 

It’ll be a mess, you’ll make mistakes. The most important thing is to get it all down. 

Then reward yourself with something awesome. You finished a story. Not a lot of people manage to do that. 

Then take a deep breath and put it in a drawer or a folder on your computer with a name like “Story I Finished” and don’t look at it for a few weeks or even a few months. 

Let it sit. Let it percolate. Then go back to it with fresh eyes. You’ll see it’s a hot mess, because hey, it’s the first book you wrote, and you’re learning. But you’ll also see how to fix it, what needs to change, where you went wrong, and yes, it seems daunting, but you’ve made a thing. Its yours and you did it. 

Now go make it better! 

And then, and only then, show it to people whose opinions you trust* – people who read the same kind of stories, or friends and family who love you enough to give you constructive crititicism that talks about the stuff that blew them away, and the places where they got lost, or didn’t understand, or where they thought you could make it clearer, and then congratulate you for doing it at all, for being creative, and for being brave. 

Good luck! I hope I’ll see your name on the shelves someday. 

Lauren

(*Please don’t ask me. I don’t mentor at this stage. I’m crazy busy with my own writing and there are potential legal issues with me reading unpublished work.)