Today, I'd like to write about a lot of different things writers hear as teen. Mainly, being that our writing sucks, we don't have the wisdom to write, and that we need time to grow and get better. That last bit is indeed true, but the rest, is something I disagree with.
I am doing this in the format of a post I made earlier this year, 9 Most Annoying Things to say to Homeschoolers.
The other morning, I woke up to one of my very dear friends sending me long fuming messages about a certain article 10 Things Teenager Writers should Know About Writing by John Scalzi.
So. Naturally. I read it.
I did agree with many of the points. I think it's important as a teenager to accept a lot of these things, and follow through with a lot of the other recommended courses of action. But more importantly, I hugely disagree with a lot, and this subject (not necessarily the article itself) is something that inspired me to make this post.
Of course, everything I say could be shoved down and called bias. Because yes, I am in fact, a teenager. Gasp! That must make me an immature, terribly spoken, angst filled, mood piece of disrespect!?
I’ll try to refrain from being condescending to any people who have said things like this but who knows. I may just fall into my disrespectful dramaqueen teenager self.
1. "Your Writing Sucks"
Let me explain you a thing.
Hundreds of teens want to write novels. And some even make that first step and do it. Granted, everyone starts somewhere. We write yucky first words but when we’re writing them they are beautiful. We keep writing. And with every single “the end” we write, with every single story we finish, we get better.
Now, I do get what people are saying when they say things like this. We’re teens, we’re growing, we aren’t quite “there yet.” But good lord, you do not tell teens that their writing sucks. Not because it’s not “nice” or “helpful.”
But because our writing does not suck.
I am not saying this in a way saying I have reached the full extent of my talent. But we write novels. We make characters, we weaves together stories. And we’re already more talented than a lot of people out there. This isn’t a braggart thing. I’m speaking for all teen writers when I say this. We’re freaking talented even if our story is a plot-hole filled wad of clichés.
Our writing does not suck.
Writers need to be judged how long they've written and what they have put into it, not their age.
2: "You should be aware that your writing sucks!"
Some people say that most teens are aware that their writing sucks and that’s what bothered me most.
Being an unpublished teen writer is one of the most discouraging thing in the world. Every person you run into will say something like you did. “Get a job outside writing.” “You write? Oh. What really do you want to do?” “You still writing your little stories?”
There is so much going on in our lives and half the people you run into don’t think you quite got it. We think our writing sucks every day even if it’s quite good. It’s the way a writers brain works.
I think the dumbest thing to be doing is telling ourselves our writing sucks. Our writing is growing.
2: "You don't have what it takes to do well."
I’d like to show them the almost three drafts my best friend has struggled through with her 70,000 word novel. Each word she’s edited, each scene she’s written over and over, each character arc she’s pounded her brain over.
I’d like to show them the two novels my other best firend has written. The process of tears and anger at just trying to get it done. The overjoyed look on her face when she’s done. Each oage as it’s grown.
Imperfect, but perfect.
Because they wrote books. They went through with it. Not everyone can say that.
No matter your age, teen or adult, new writers are going to write things that need a lot of work. With every word you write you're getting better.
And that doesn’t suck. Be aware that you're growing and that there is always room for improvement. Do not be aware that your writing sucks.
I’d like to pause to just post a disclaimer. I am in no way writing this is a spurt of arrogance. I’m not sitting here going “How DARE they say MY writing SUCKS!?! I won things! I… I!!!! I AM A STRONG INDEPENDENT WOMAN TO NOT CROSS ME.”
If I would allow myself, I’d say my writing sucked. Half the time I silently believe it. My grammar sucks, my characters can be flat, my prose gag-worthy.
I still will not allow myself to say it sucks, not in denial, but in honesty with myself. I don’t suck because of every bit of growing I’ve done. I don’t suck because even with my “terrible” writing, I’ve discovered some amazing insights. And I’ve gotten better. In ten years I wouldn’t be a good writer without this stage. And this stage definitely does not suck.
3: "You're too young, you don't have enough wisdom!" or "Don't write about that, you don't know enough."
One of the arguments I hear a lot is that we’re teens, so we shouldn’t write because we don’t know enough about life.
Okay just stop and think about that for a moment.
Well. Then adults, you should not be writing about teens. Not because you don’t remember being a teen, but because you DO know more about life. It’s cases like that which create books like The Fault in Our Stars. Characters that are just too smart.
Okay. True, many adults write very good teenagers.
But. Who else could write amazing teenagers than…teenagers? Whoa! Fancy that!
4: "You're an angsty teen, what do you even have to say?"
We do lack some grammar. We do lack some wisdom. But teenagers have a completely different outlook on life. Some will classify it as angst, and believe me, as I write my current modern day novel focusing on many current teen issues, I am wowed by the amount of angst that is happening on the page.
But why not. Adults will look at those angst teen books and think “GOOD LORD stop HATING YOURSELF and GO TO COLLEGE. Don’t do drugs!” (That was a dramatic impression. Not all adults are like that)
Teens can look at something like that and actually connect.
I think it’s majorly important for teens to speak and write about their current lives simply because of their lack of wisdom. Because once you gain that wisdom, you have it. It’s there. You can’t gain back the pure ignorance of being young.
Write. Every stage of your life, write. You don’t have to keep everything. But you can get insight to many stages of life people can’t. Because when you’re writing in retrospect, you have knew knowledge that will taint what it was like then.
We’re young. That doesn’t make a difference, other than what we’re interested in.
5: "What are you ACTUALLY going to do for a living, though?"
I've gotten a lot of reactions when I tell people I'm not planning on doing four years of a university college. I have a lot of plans, but most of them involve basic college classes and maybe some trade schools. I want to pursue writing.
And I have had many friends be told things like "You won't really do well as a writer, it's not a real job."
You never ever say this to a writer. I am 100% aware at how hard it is to survive off writing. I am aware that I will need an other job. But no, writing is a real career. Don't ever tell someone it isn't.
6: "So your books are just self-insert fanfic, right?" or "Are these characters inspired by your life?" "Is that character you?" "Is that character ME?"
I really don't even want to flatter this with a response. No.
Because obviously I want to be in a world filled with misery and possible ghosts. That is DEFINITELY fanfiction about what I want my life to be!
Yes, I do relate to many of my characters and that helps me write. Doesn't make them me. Occasionally a character will be inspired by someone but in no way do I make them that person. Because characters tend to go through a lot. Do bad things. Have no parents. I'd prefer people not to think it's inspired by real life or they are going to start to think that I really don't like my parents.
7: "It's just a hobby."
Why do people say this. For many it is a hobby. But would you tell published famous authors that their writing is a hobby? Of course not!
Well. News flash. They started out just like us.
8: "When are you going to get published??"
There's no freaking rush. Calm down. Self publishing is hard. Some people just want to traditionally publish and not end up as an ebook and that's okay.
9: Never ever tell a Historical Fiction writer to do their research.
Unless you are critiquing it. Maybe there are some false data but let them figure it out. When you write hisfic you are working tirelessly over each area. The research is HARD. Okay. When someone tells you that you should do your research you can just sit there like -eyetwitch- did you just tell me to do research.
10: "When can I read your novels?????"
I get asked this all the time and this isn't meant to be rude or anything but. NEVER. Okay. Lie. But you got to understand, writing is hard and first drafts and even second drafts are messy. I don't want anyone but my writing buddies to see it. Be patient.
I really went of track in this post. Maybe I ended up being too lofty and poetic saying “ThiS iS a BEAUtiFUl THinG!!!!!!” but my points still remain and I will stand by these.
And lastly I would like to directly take something from the article by John Scazi that I do agree with.
"Understandably, no one wants to hear that you’ve got to wait the better part of a decade to hit your stride — who doesn’t want to be brilliant — but I think that’s looking at it the wrong way. Knowing you’ve got years to grow and learn means you’ve got the time to take risks and explore and figure out what works for you and what doesn’t. It’s permission to with your muse, not stress out if every single thing you bang out is not flat dead brilliant. It’s time to gain the life experience that will feed your writing. It’s time you need to write — and time you need to write and to give your brain a break. It’s the time you need to learn from your literary influences, and then to tell them to piss off because you’ve got your own voice and it’s not theirs. And it’s the time you need to screw up, make mistakes, learn from them and move on."
I think this itself is an important note. Yeah. We're growing. We have all the time to develop our voices and grow. So keep writing.
(And don't let anyone tell you that your writing sucks)
If interested, read the full article here. It really does make some good points later on that are helpful for teens and new writers alike.