When I was twelve years old, I wrote an adventure story about school kids trapped on an island, thwarting a plot to take over the world. My English teacher had me read the story to the class. I decided then that if I didn't play centerfield for the New York Yankees, I'd become a professional writer instead.
That thriller wasn't my first crack at storytelling. I used to make comic books for neighborhood kids (starring my stuffed animal dog). I wrote my autobiography when I was seven. I tried writing a Civil War history when I was nine.
And then, forty years later, I published my first novel. New writers might want to know how I went from homemade comic books to a published novel. If you're a writer looking for advice, you will discover that a lot of what's in bookstores or on Google for writers is geared to adults. Articles on the nuances of marketing, for example, aren't helpful to a beginner. Allow me to offer some general advice to those young people contemplating an author's life.
My first and most important piece of advice is to read. Read everything—even the things they assign at school. (Some of those books will become your all-time favorites.) If you find a story you love, try to figure out what the author did to capture you. Try to figure out how the pacing works. Think about sentence structure and rhythm. Every moment you spend reading will pay off when you write.
If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.
My second piece of advice is to write. Constantly. You may start with a journal, or posts on social media, or little stories and essays. The important thing is to keep going.
Write a thousand words a day and in three years you will be a writer.
Learn to take constructive criticism. Nobody starts out as a professional. Every writer starts out as a rookie, making rookie mistakes. The difference between someone who never gets better and someone who improves has to do with being able to apply useful suggestions from other readers and writers. This isn't easy—some criticism you'll hear will be just plain wrong. Remember that your goal is to get better. Consider suggestions, and then use what you can.
Criticism is something we can avoid easily by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.
You also need to recognize the enemy—impatience. Impatience is the sinister whisper, Are you published yet? Writers write. If you're writing, you're a writer. But impatience can change your focus from writing to publishing. Publishing right away may not be the move you need.
Becoming a better writer is a serious business. This may sound a bit like "eat your vegetables." Remember, broccoli is healthy for you, and blogging or posting stories in writer's communities is more like smothering that broccoli in cheese.
Patience is the art of concealing your impatience.
Do some research. Professionals study their chosen profession. There are a lot of places to start. A young writer named Amelia recommended some great sites. I have no doubt that Amelia will someday be a published author.
Wattpad: Where Stories Live
Underlined: A Community of Teen Writers
By Brian Kaufman