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Advice for Young Writers


In 2008, we posted a question from a teen named Makayla and received a wealth of valuable advice in response. Here are some of the top comments.


"It's standard advice, and for a good reason: it works. Read everything you can, from the classics to contemporary fiction. And then write. As you do these two things, which you probably love to do anyway, your writing will naturally improve over time. Later on, you might want to read books about writing or take a writing class to get feedback and find community, but it's important to first just enjoy the process and learn through that very basic enjoyment." --Ginny Wiehardt

Work with Your High School English Teacher

"Some of the best advice as a teen writer (I’m now a 30-something writer) was from my H.S. English teacher. I still remember it: 'You have great talent, but you must learn the rules so that you understand how, why, and when to break them.' Plus, H.S. English teachers are aware of many contests and publications directed toward teen writers, and these activities are excellent venues for improving your work as well." --Steve Bargdill

Get Feedback Online

"Makayla could publish her stuff on one of the online fiction websites to get good feedback. She might also find an editor, if she wants one." --Ed Greenberg

Bird by Bird

"My favourite book on writing is Anne Lamott's Bird By Bird. It’s emotional and yet extremely practical -- a nice combination. I'm a playwright and I use her exercises all the time." --Lindsay Price

Write Your Heart Out

This is how Joyce Carol Oates begins her essay, "To a Young Writer." She continues, "Never be ashamed of your subject, and of your passion for your subject. . . Don't be discouraged! Don't cast sidelong glances, and compare yourself to others among your peers! . . . And again, write your heart out."

Keep a Journal

"I have found that writing just for myself has helped write for the public. A few years ago I realized I needed to bone up on grammar, so I picked up books on English grammar, such as the Barron series available at most book stores. Working through the exercises was the best thing for improving my writing. And the last thing: keep writing." --Susan

Use Sensory Details

"When you are stuck, start with a sensory detail, and see where the writing takes you. Explore. Read (I know it’s been said.) When you finish a piece, read it over and ask yourself what you want to know more about." --Lynn, www.writeradvice.com

<em>What can you do when your <a href="http://fictionwriting.about.com/b/2010/06/15/reader-comment-my-parents-dont-approve.htm">parents don't approve of writing</a>? See what readers had to say on this subject.</em>

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