This past Monday, I had a chance to go to our local high school and talk to a creative writing class. First off, how cool is it that my high school has a creative writing class? I don’t remember anything being offered like that when I was in high school, and I think it would be a blast to have been in one back then. (Then again, I’m not sure if I would have actually enrolled in one if I could have. I was way too focused on taking all the hardest classes to maintain my chances of being valedictorian. Maybe there were a bunch of cool classes, and I just missed out on all of them . . .)
It was basically just a sit down chat, with them asking me any questions they wanted to, and me giving honest responses. So we talked about everything from my favorite TV show (hard to pick, but you can already guess the leading candidates) to how I go about actually revising a book. It lasted for an hour or so, and they were a really great group of students. Thoroughly enjoyed myself.
But after thinking things over some since I presented, I really think the best (and only) piece of advice a person (of any age) needs if they’re just starting out as a writer is pretty basic:
Write. A lot. Don’t worry about it being good or great or the best. Just write.
Do you need to read a lot too? It could certainly help, but for me, the emphasis needs to be on the writing. You can be a great writer without having read a bazillion books. On the other hand, I don’t think you’ll be a great writer without having written a lot of books. (Luckily, most people who love writing also love reading, and I imagine most people have the “reading” part down before they want to write. Most. Not all.)
Of course, one of the students had to bring up Harper Lee, and I had to say she’s the exception that proves the rule. But really, focusing on anything other than writing at first doesn’t make sense to me.
I’m currently working on my 14th book. Just the simple act of having finished 13 other entire books makes writing the 14th that much easier. You learn so much by doing. If I could have gotten a few books under my belt before college . . . I think I’d be in an even better position today.
So that’s my vote for best advice for a teen writer. Anyone have a counter?