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When you imagine what a “typical author” looks like, do you picture a gray-haired, bearded professor, or a refined, mature woman old enough to be your…mom? You may think that all published writers have spent many years honing their craft. But believe it or not, some authors experienced publishing success while they were young. Mary Shelley started writing Frankenstein when she was just nineteen. Christopher Paolini began writing his first book, Eragon, at the age of fifteen—and it was published three years later. And Alec Greven’s book How to Talk to Girls was published when he was nine years old!
So if you’re a young writer itching to see your work published, consider these tips:
Strategies For Young Writers: Land Your First Publication Credit(s)!
1. Write every day. Remember the old saying, practice makes perfect? It’s true! Whether you spend just a few minutes or more than an hour, it’s important to put aside time to write every day. Don’t worry about word count, speed, or even editing. Use writing prompts, freewrite, and experiment with styles and topics to expand your skill set. Trying out different genres and forms will also help you find your niche and your unique voice.
2. Read, read, read! Read like a writer: Question the plot, settings, and characters. Think about what works in the story and what doesn’t. Read classics, contemporary work, and everything in between. Even books you dislike will help strengthen your writing skills—figure out what you would do differently. Examining other writers’ styles will help you develop your own.
3. Edit your work. It’s a fact of life: You haven’t had as many years to practice your craft as more mature writers have, so your drafts will need more rewrites. It’s tempting to submit work for publication the instant you finish writing—especially when you’re eager and impatient! But failing to edit is forfeiting opportunities to improve: Typos are a hallmark of first drafts—and they’re among literary journal editors’ biggest pet peeves. Keep in mind, self-editing is a vital skill found in every successful writer’s tool kit—develop it now!
4. Start “small” with school and local publications. Looking for publication opportunities? They’re probably right under your nose! Your school literary magazine, school newspaper, and publications specific to your township are all great places to start your path to publishing. School publications exist for the very purpose of giving a voice to students, and many town-run publications are thrilled to publish local talent. Submitting locally will teach you about the submission process—and you just might start building a list of publication credits!
5. When sending your writing into the world, target the right publications. Don’t have an impressive cover letter with a long list of publication credits? Afraid editors will balk when they learn your age? Don’t worry! There are several journals and contests specifically for young or first-time writers! You can also consider publications that are actually run by young people. There are also publications that simply don’t wish to see cover letters or lists of credits—the editors let the stories, essays, or poems speak for themselves. Be sure to research journals and contests thoroughly before you submit your work. Each publication has specific guidelines for formatting, word count, and subject matter—and will expect you to follow them!
6. Reach out to a writing mentor. Writing may seem like a solitary or even lonely endeavor, but it doesn’t have to be, especially when you start young. Join an age-appropriate writing group or sign up for a reputable workshop. It’s especially important for a young writer to find a writing mentor: an established writer (perhaps a teacher, older family member, or schoolmate) who has experience in the world of writing and publishing and is happy to share what they’ve learned. The world of publishing is big—it can be overwhelming and a little scary! It helps to have someone guide you through it.
With these tips and the dedication to put in the time and effort, you just might get your first publication credit before you finish school!