If you follow news about YA literature at all, every once in a while you’ll see articles or blogs about an actual teenager who did the seemingly impossible and signed a contract to publisher his or her teen writing. Now, I’ve talked in the past about John Scalzi’s advice for teenage writers, the key component of which is “Your writing sucks.” But I haven’t shared any evidence.
Today, I aim to correct that.
Not all that long ago, when I was a wee kt, I was a very EARNEST wannabe writer. I started a literary magazine in my high school, had a poem published in an anthology, wrote songs with my friends, and was hard at work on what i promised my dad was my “Great American Novel,” TM, all rights reserved. Readers, I did it all. If it had anything that could be remotely considered “writing”, I wanted a part in it. Literary fan fiction for English assignments? Sign me up! A “poem because the typewriter is on and the wite-out is drying”, ee cummings style? Oh heck yeah!
But all that was nothing compared to the novels I penned (literally, in pen in black & white composition notebooks — see photographic evidence above) under various pseudonyms, each more ridiculous than the next.
When I advise teens who seek to have their writing published now to wait, and spend a few years practicing their craft and learning how to be a better writer, it is in full recognition that I once wrote this:
Adair briskly rode her mare into the forest, followed by her sister Acrin at a slower pace. Acrin cried out to Adair, “Must we go in the forest? Maybe your vision was wrong.”
“Acrin! You should know that visions are always right. Besides I remember clearly, on our sixteenth birthday we are to go into Emerald Forest, go straight to Faregotte Loch and wait for a lady to come out of the loch. When she comes, we are to listen to what she says and do her will. Remember, we are to listen!” Both Adair and Acrin paused, conscious of the sound of their voices in the neverending forest. Then Acrin remarked, “How are we to know if the lady is the correct one?”
“You know not much wisdom, do you, Acrin?”
Hoo boy! Burn!!
Then there’s this part, talking about the twin princesses’ birthday presents:
They had just gotten chestnut mares for their birthdays. Adair’s was all chestnut, except for a white blaze on its forehead. It was a beauty. It’s name was Bellezza. Acrin’s was also mostly chestnut except for its four white stockings. Acrin had christened it Carino. Their parents, King Chresgon and Queen Felicia, had also showered upon them gifts of jewels and gowns.
Exciting stuff, huh?
But you know what? I got better. Sold a couple of short stories, spent years in writing workshops and classes, and continued to read, read, read until I could distinguish good from bad on my own.
And I’m CERTAIN that many of you — except for those of you who have burned your teenage writings (ahem, Amy Spalding, ahem) — have equally bad examples to share. Feel free to do so in the comments!
And just to make it interesting, on Friday I’ll pick one random commenter* for a one-on-one phone conversation to answer ANY questions you might have about the publishing process. This prize isn’t a chance to pitch me your novel, but I’m open to just about any other topics of conversation. Cool? Allons-y!
*To clarify — in order to be eligible for the prize, you need to post some of your early writing!