I’ve been interested in being a writer ever since I can remember. The first story I remember writing was in 3rd or 4th grade. But I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t have the knowledge or resources that are available to young writers today. Writing was my favorite part of school, and I have almost always kept a journal. But I didn’t know how to be a creative writer. I tried to write stories here and there. But I didn’t have a mentor until I started studying creative writing in college.
If I could go back and give my young self some writing advice, there are 9 tips I’d share.
9 Quality Tips for Young Writers
1. Young Writers Shouldn’t Wait
Don’t ever tell yourself you are too young to write. There are six-year-olds who are published authors! If you want to write, if you have ideas then don’t wait. Start writing, now. Don’t think you have to wait until you are older. Until you know more about writing. Until you’ve learned how to spell more words. Until you’re in high school or college.
2. Young Writers Should Start Small but Dream Big
Keep your goals and expectations realistic. Don’t expect too much of yourself. You are still learning. Don’t compare yourself to older, more experienced writers. This goes for anyone, but never compare your writing now to that of a published author. If you work as hard as them, you can be published too.
So start small. Take it one bite at a time. One word, one sentence, one paragraph. Don’t expect your first novel or short story or poem to be perfect. But don’t aim low. Don’t be afraid to dream big. Keep those lofty goals in sight. Believe in yourself. Don’t settle for anything less than the writer you want to be. If you want to be the next Emily Dickinson or J.K. Rowling, who’s to say you can’t be?
3. Young Writers Should Read
Read everything you can get your hands on. Read the classics. Read about writing. Read the genre you want to write. Find authors that inspire you. Read as much as you can as often as you can. Read every day, even if it’s just 15 or 20 minutes.
As you read you will learn what works and what doesn’t. What books stay with you and make you want to read them again? What books leave you thinking days, weeks, even years after you’ve read them? Why do they do that? How do they do it? Reading is an essential way to learn how to write.
4. Young Writers Should Observe
Observe the world around you. Pay attention to the five senses. Observe what is unique about the world. Look for interesting things to write about. Observe what doesn’t make sense. What you don’t agree with. How people interact with each other. Be observant of your thoughts and feelings.
As you make these observations, write them down! I cannot stress that enough. Keep a writer’s notebook for your observations. Not only will this ensure that you don’t forget anything you observe, it will also help you see patterns and connections among different observations.
5. Young Writers Should Ask Questions
In a way, this goes along with observing. Ask yourself questions about the world you live in. Why are things the way they are? Why do people act the way they do? What bothers you? Asking yourself important questions will help you find worthwhile things to write about.
Young writers should also ask questions about writing. If you don’t understand a rule or the meaning of a word, ask a teacher. Ask a parent. Learn about the language you speak and will write in. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about language, grammar, and writing. Over time, words change in meaning. Don’t be afraid to ask about the history of a word.
As you ask questions about the world and what it means to live in it you will find meaningful things to write about. As you ask questions about your native tongue, your writing will be richer and more engaging.
6. Young Writers Should Practice
Practice really does make perfect. If you never practice writing, you’ll never excel. You won’t be the best writer you can be without practice. Knowing you can always revise can make it easier to practice. The beautiful thing about writing is that your first attempt doesn’t have to be your last one. So practice writing. Practice revising. Any piece of writing can be worked again and again until you are satisfied with it. But if you don’t practice, writing you’ll never have something to revise. And if you don’t practice revision, you’ll never reach your writing’s full potential.
Use writing prompts or activities to practice writing. They can help young writers practice and develop new skills.
7. Young Writers Should Mimic
If you have an author you look up to, or come across a passage in a book that you absolutely love, try mimicking that author or passage. The idea here isn’t to write something you’ll be able to publish, but to practice and develop the ability to use skills and methods that you admire. Mimicking the masters is a great way to learn how to do something yourself. As you copy the skills of others, you will perfect them and develop your own.
Eventually, you will move completely beyond the point of mimicking, but if you have no idea where to start this can be a helpful place to begin.
8. Young Writers Should Experiment
If it’s not working, try something new. Don’t be afraid to experiment with your writing routine, your voice, your level of outlining. Nothing is off limits. If you don’t know what works best for you, experiment. Even if you have a good system going, experimenting may help you find an even better routine, a more authentic voice, or more effective outline. Whatever it may be. Experimenting can help you find your best writing self.
Once you observe and practice, and learn the rules of writing you can also begin to experiment with breaking them. Almost all rules of writing are successfully broken, but only by those who know the rules well enough to know when to break them.
9. Young Readers Should Never Give Up
You’ve decided to start small, but you have a big dream. Don’t give up until you’ve reached it. You can do it. Don’t you dare quit. As long as you keep going there is always a chance you will succeed. The moment you give up is the moment you seal your fate as a failure. Big dreams take time and hard work, but they are achievable.
I hope all my young readers, and everyone else reading this post, realizes that these are actually valuable tips for all ages. So, young or old, novice or expert, don’t forget the basics.
My dear young readers, what is the best writing advice you’ve been given? To my older readers, what advice would you give to young writers?