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Justine Larbalestier on beginning writers

A follow-up to John Scalzi’s comments on teen writers from Justine Larbalestier, who some time ago wrote her own piece called “Too Young to Publish.”

She writes:

Neither Scalzi nor I have any interest in stopping teenagers from writing. Au contraire. We both wrote then and got a hell of a lot out of it, including reasonably successful careers now. I wrote the piece in the spirit of passing good advice along. (As well as to mock the younger me.) When I was a beginning writer lots of people went out of their way to help and encourage me.

Still, were I to write that piece now I would call it “Too Early to Publish” rather than “Too Young”, because the crux of the matter is not age but experience.

And concludes:

Many beginning writers are clueless about the depths of their writing ignorance. And the beginningest of them squall and rage when it’s pointed out to them. But that has nothing to do with how old they are. I know a few teenage (or just post-teenage) writers who are well into their journeyman writing years. And I’ve come across all too many older writers who are no where near them.

Too many people try to rush their babies into print before they’ve learned how to tell a story, before they’ve learned how to structure a sentence, or even a clause, or, Elvis help us all, how to pick the words they want (I do not think that word means what you think it means).

Whether you’re sixteen or sixty, if you want to be published then you have to learn how to write.

Read the whole thing, with which I greatly identify.

I’m almost 48 years old, I’ve more than 30 published books to my credit (including five novels), and I’m still learning how to write.

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    • Edward Willett on June 20, 2007 at 2:30 pm
    • Reply

    I wrote around ten novels before I managed to sell one, three of those in high school. So I was a teen writer in a big way. I think what sets apart the teen writers (and beginning writers of all ages) who eventually become published writers is simple bloody-minded perserverence. Write, write, write, write, write, and expect rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection…until finally, one day, you sell something. And even that doesn’t mean you’re going to sell everything you write. You still have to persevere.

    But then, if getting published were easy, everyone would be doing it.

    • Ian H. on June 20, 2007 at 1:55 pm
    • Reply

    As a beginning (but not-so-young) writer, I find these articles more helpful than discouraging. I know my writing is terrible, and I don’t expect ambrosia to be dropping from my pen (or keyboard, you know…). I think a lot of teens don’t display the amount of self-awareness required to take these columns to heart. Too bad. I think if more of them were aware of it, they’d keep writing past the first couple of rejections.

    I’m interested to see the peer influence that’s starting to make itself felt with online writing communities, but I’m also a little worried that they give a skewed perspective on the quality of writing – I’ve had a student tell me that their fanfic was one of most highly rates pieces on a site as an indicator of how good their writing was…

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