NaNoWriMo has been retweeting these incredible tweets with the hashtag #ToAFutureWriter today. Details at NaNoWriMo.org
These are the bits of advice I wish I’d heard as a younger writer…and some advice and experience I think young writers might need in the future, including Future Me.
Grab some popcorn. It’ll be wacky and long. Or it may make a good commencement address one day.
Remember when you were nine and you decided that you should try writing a story since you were already a bookworm? Remember how fun it was, how awesome it was to just let go and be as wacky as you wanted, to create characters, places, and situations?
I hope you still feel that same glee in having new ideas and creating. I hope you always remember it, because that’s the root of why you do this to yourself: because you love it and it’s fun, even when it doesn’t feel like it.
As the shy, quiet, non-verbal child (and teenager and yes, sometimes, adult) you are, writing is the best form of communication for you. Your writing is how your teachers came to know you, especially Ms. Feigelsen in sixth grade. You credit her story-prompt-a-week with teaching you the basics of the writing process.
When you were an angsty teen, you kept a pretty hefty journal. It helped you through the Dark Ages. You learned how to be honest and confessional by journaling. You may not have known it then, but that’s the beginning of your blogging voice. You decided that you were going to be a writer in your teens and even if you’re not published yet, you are still a writer.
But—you should really learn how to finish your stories. Don’t throw them away because they don’t work. Learn how to push through and finish it. Learn how to revise it, how to edit it. Learn how to recognize when the story is beyond your skill set—for now. Come back to it. Learn how to take criticism. Learn how to offer criticism.
Read. A lot. Read what you like, read books that you think will bore you to tears. Read craft books. Read non-fiction. Read the newspaper (if those still exist in your future).
Someone will tell you that writing is something one does on weekends, in secret, as if creative writing is a shameful pursuit. It is not. You will hear lots of this kind of nonsense as you grow into your writing groove. Use it to fuel you. As you get on in your writing life, you will hear lots of other nonsense along the veins of “writing will never make you money,” “fiction is pointless,””are you ever going to finish writing your book?”
Do not let it get you down—and don’t lie, because you know you do get down.
Don’t write what everyone else is writing, whether that is copying your friends, your writing class, or the market. Write what you want to write. If you feel happy writing fanfiction, then write it. If you want to write dark horror stories, write them. Don’t worry about reaching your peak too early and never having a better idea ever, ever again. Ideas will come. Writer’s block will happen. And you won’t reach your peak in college, you pretentious douchebag.
There is no right way to write. Everyone has a different process–panster or plotter or in-between? Outliner? Characters first or plot first? Action-heavy or more literary? Experiment. Read. Write a lot. Figure out what works for you and don’t let anyone tell you you’re doing it wrong. If it’s finished and turns out halfway decent, then you’re doing something right.
Also–know that whatever you think your process is, it may well change with your next project, as you learn more. Be flexible. If you think it’s bad or you’re bad…you may be right. But you may just be a writer.
Listen. No, really. Anything you see or hear or watch or read may come in useful one day in a story. Store it away. Relax. You’re not on deadline yet. When you are, you’ll look back at these times and think those were relaxing.
Writing may be a solitary pursuit, but actually, you need other writers. Join a writing forum, do NaNoWriMo, join a writers’ group. Only other writers will understand you and they’ll help you brainstorm, will talk you off your neurotic ledge, will help you come to insights, inspire you, beta read you, critique you, and they’ll cheer when you get agented or published.
Back your work up. Get the hell off Facebook and Twitter. Stop Google-stalking cute actors. Write.