Dear Young Writer,
I've wanted to write and illustrate books for as long as I can remember. Not a lot was available to help young writers learn the craft and test their skills when I was in school (of course, I moved around a lot, too, which did not help matters). Today, however, there are many opportunities open for young writers, including contests, writing groups and book groups.
Contests: I take advantage of contests even now. Why?
- Contests have deadlines attached, and nothing can motivate a writer to finish, edit, and polish a work in progress better than a deadline.
- Contests teach a writer the Ps & Qs about how to properly prepare a manuscript for submission to an editor or publisher (margins, font to use, spacing, etc.)
- Contest judges will often provide helpful feedback, pointing out strengths and weakness in characterization, plot development, and so on.
Some websites to check out:
Writing Groups: Working with other aspiring writers is a good way to learn the craft of writing well and learn to read your work aloud. (BTW, I catch a lot of errors in my own work by reading my work aloud to myself.) Writers in these groups can not only help each other become better writers but also provide encouragement.
Writing groups can be started by a few writers in a school or neighborhood, or there are some online, this one for example: http://www.youngwritersclub.com/
Book Groups: There's a saying among writers that "reading is writing." What does this mean? It means that a writer doesn't just read a book for the entertainment value but also for the educational value. As you read, take notice of how a particular writer created drama or suspense, how the writer developed the characters so they came alive for you, what point of view the writer used (and question why the writer chose that particular POV), and so on. Joining a book group allows writers to share what they have learned with others -- and to learn from others.
Also, many publishers and/or authors post quetions on their websites specifically for book groups. Often, these questions deal with examining the writer's style and development. Don't miss out on the valuable opportunity that book groups offer.
Advice from one who knows . . . To become a writer, you need to develop resiliency. I'm not going to kid you, writing is hard, not only in learning the craft of writing well, but in hearing what others have to say about your work. And that leads me to my second bit of advice.
Don't give up . . . Not everyone can win 1st place in a contest. Not every editor responds to a writer (many used form letters). Not everyone's work is accepted by a publisher/editor the first time around. So, in addition resiliency, you need to develop peseverance. Look upon writing as a destination and know from the start that there will be uncalculated detours, twists, turns along the way. But when you get to the end of the ride and hold that first publshed piece in your hand, you will know that the journey was worthwhile.