15 Tips for Young Writers (and Old Ones, Too)

Originally posted May 18th, 2015 8:01:35pm @ nicolecrucial.tumblr.com.

Everyone is saying that the first step to writing is to just do it, and that’s absolutely true. But sometimes writers—young writers especially—have trouble finding the time or the motivation to write. As someone who’s been there/done that, here are some actual things you can do to improve your productivity and just do it.

  1. Try to set aside time every day (or at least very often) to write. I guarantee you’ve heard this before, but it is tried-and-true. Get into the habit. I find that getting up before school to do it is best, because there’s nothing else for you to really be doing that early in the morning. But if you’re like me and have to wake up at 5:30am every day because your school district hates you, this might not be possible. Word Sprints can be helpful for this, especially during NaNo Season. These are generally on twitter and can be found at NaNoWordSprints, in the hashtags #2k1hr or #1k1hr, #WriteClub, and #amwriting.
  2. Try out a writing-logging website. 750 Words and 4thewords are great websites that let you track how much you’ve written, how often, and for how many consecutive days. 4thewords is especially cool because it has a video game feel to it, with badges, achievements, and challenges, but it does charge a small (in my opinion, well worth it) fee after the free trial.
  3. Read things that inspire you. If you want to write dystopian scifi, read dystopian scifi books. If you want to write thrillers, read those. Read what you love to write, and it will get you excited to write.
  4. Read things about writing. I believe every writer should read Stephen King’s On Writing. Seek out blogs and articles that post advice and inspiration. The more you read about the process of writing, publication, etc., the more excited and motivated you will be to start writing, yourself.
  5. Take creative writing classes, if you can. You will literally be forced to write for a grade. For many of us, that is motivation enough to get writing.
  6. If your school does not offer a creative writing course, consider taking a study hall or online class, or becoming a TA for a period. Find a class (preferably one during which you sit in front of a computer) where you have very little work or can finish it very quickly.  The free time that you have in this period can become your daily time to write (as well as to research, or blog, or finish other homework). The reason I took two extra language courses in high school was solely because of this! If you are sitting in front of a computer doing nothing anyway, you may as well write.
  7. Take AP Language and/or AP Literature, or an IB equivalent, if your school offers it. Yes, these are AP classes; yes, they are extra work; yes, the type of writing you will be doing in these classes is generally not what you will be writing in your own work. But these classes will make you write. They will make you write under deadlines. They will make you learn to be a better writer, even if you’re not writing fiction. They will also make you a better reader, which is one of the most important parts of being a writer.
  8. Join (or create) a writing, reading, or literary club at your school. I founded a Writing Club at my high school during my sophomore year. Not only has it given me motivation to write and some beautiful friendships and memories, it has given me a community of writers—something invaluable, especially to young writers. Your community will offer you support, ideas, and criticism. Hopefully your club leaders will also offer you publishing opportunities, prompts, and workshops. Most importantly, utilize this community! There is no point to being in a creative writing club if you are not going to bring in, share, or do any writing in it!
  9. Join a writing community outside your school. They exist, I promise, and if they’re any good they will be extremely excited to have young, fresh faces, so don’t be intimidated if many of them are adults. You can find these groups on social media, in NaNoWrimo regions, on Meetup.com, at your local library—everywhere. You just have to look and reach out. (Note: my outside-school writing community is the Off-Season NaNo Nuts. If you’re in the RDU area, definitely check them out!)
  10. Attend writing workshops and camps if you can. The summer after my junior year of high school, I attended the University of North Carolina Wilmington Young Writers Workshop. It has been the single most valuable writing experience I have ever had. In the almost-year that has passed, I have written and completed more pieces than I likely have in most of the rest of my high school career combined; I have won writing contests; I have even had work accepted for publication in a charity anthology. Writing camps and workshops give you the inspiration, motivation, skills, and resources to be a better, more productive writer. Hopefully there are several near you. Workshops are often offered locally at libraries, so check back often—or tell your local librarian that you’d like to have one.
  11. Submit! This is hugely important. The earlier you begin submitting work, the earlier you become familiar with the process, the more likely you are to get published. When you have already been published, it is much easier to get published again, so the earlier you break down that wall, the better. There are many, many contests and publications that accept work from young writers. One of my favorite resources is New Pages. I’ve also made a spreadsheet of many of these places and more. The Submittable twitter almost constantly retweets submission opportunities. And there are many tumblr blogs devoted to posting about writing contests and opportunities.
  12. Participate in NaNoWriMo. The biggest problem that young writers face is actually learning to get those words down on the page. NaNoWriMo and Camp NaNoWriMo are excellent ways to fix that. You may not win—you may not even come close to winning! But maybe you’ll pump out two thousand or even ten thousand words, and that is way more than you had before. For those of you who work well under deadlines/challenges/pressure, like I do, NaNo is perfect. NaNo is responsible for both of the complete novel drafts I currently have and for over 350,000 of the words that I have written over the past several years. It is important to know how to get things down on the page and crank things out—NaNo teaches you how.
  13. Get your mom, friends, boyfriend, or whoever to nag you. Find someone who is at least semi-interested in your work and reading it. Tell them that they should bug you frequently for updates. Better yet, find a friend who likes to write and nag each other.
  14. Go seek out writing and publishing opportunities. Is there a poetry reading in your town? Hit it up. Is there an author coming for a book signing? Go check it out. Is there an indie bookstore or publisher near where you live? Go ask the owners if they need an intern or volunteer. Is the English teachers’ association of your state holding a writing contest? Enter it. Do you live in NYC? Go to BookCon. Wherever you are, there are opportunities to immerse yourself in the world of writing and books and to find people like you who will help you on your journey. I know that many of us young writers are shy people, but I promise you this: by putting yourself out there, you will be faced with far, far more delighted smiles than frowns.
  15. Have fun. Writing isn’t always fun. A lot of the time it’s hard and frustrating. But as long as the reward is worth the hard work, you’re doing what you need to be doing. Write what you want to write, and make it the best you can.

Featured image courtesy of FreeImages.com.


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