October 20, 2011

Advice and Other Wise Things

...that is, we hope they're wise things. Today I'll be answering one of Carrie's questions on You Haven't Got an Appointment:

Is there any general advice you can give to young author-wanna-be's, who may be on the brink of setting out on the adventure of publication?

People are usually pretty shocked that I've gotten a book published by the age of fifteen, and fellow writers out there of my own age often ask me how I would suggest they go about doing the same thing. But there are a few things that must be kept in mind as you consider submitting your stories for publication, and I admit that they aren't all particularly cheering.

First off, don't be too inspired by the fact that other people have done it. By this I mean that you shouldn't be so excited that you forget to consider, as objectively as possible, what stage your own writing is at. It's easy to fall into the trap of obsessing over publication until you think that as soon as you finish a novel, you should start submitting it to agents or publishers. This isn't a good idea. As a young writer, your focus should probably be just on writing and reading, practicing and learning from example. It's a process that will last all through a writer's life and it is to be hoped that you won't ever reach a stage where you feel like you have arrived, but as a young writer it is particularly important. Never put the cart in front of the horse.

Second, when you do start wondering if you're ready to start sending off query letters, get someone else to read your writing and to give their honest opinion. Don't choose someone who you expect to be crushing, but also don't give chapters to your eight-year-old sister who thinks everything you do is fantastic (although I suppose an eight-year-old sister could be pretty crushing, too). It does not, however, have to be a non-family member, just so long as you can trust them to give you a good critique. It is a bad idea to try to be the judge of your own writing one hundred percent of the time, and especially when you're trying to decide whether to attempt getting it published; you will either be too hard on yourself or too lenient.

Third, don't be too sanguine and don't be too depressed. It is hard to get published - no two ways about it. If you go in thinking you'll be accepted by the first, second, or even third publisher you query, you will likely be disappointed. Expect to have to work hard before your book is published, while you're trying to get it published, and after it is published. On the other hand, don't lose heart; starting young means that you have a greater chance of being accepted and getting your works out there than you would if you started in middle-age. Keep plugging away, writing stories and getting a little better with each one. You're never guaranteed success, but at least you're doing something you enjoy. Through the ups and downs, I wouldn't trade being a writer for anything.


  1. Thank you for the advice, Abigail!! It has been very helpful and enjoy reading your posts

  2. I can see that there definitely has to be a balance... I have a few friends and relatives who are willing to read my novels, and they give honest opinions, thankfully. Of course, then I have to decide which advice to use and which to ignore.

    Thanks for answering my question!! I have thought of another one... how many times have you submitted books for publication? And, was there anything that you learned from that, that helped you get better each time?

  3. Glad it helped, you two! Carrie, I'll stow your other questions away as well. I enjoy getting and answering them!

  4. I have one. How many people should you send your stuff to? How do you write a sad, emotional scene without making it sound forced and causing the reader to laugh?

  5. This, to me, is a particularly refreshing post as it reflects my own view of the matter so very, very well. There needs to be a time in a young scribbler's life where they write simply for themselves, where the thought of publication is but a dot of promise on the horizon. A time, a season, for the scribbler to simply write without fear or inhibition. To try new things, to experiment and to learn, to write anything and everything, to find the beauty and power in words and stories. To write only for themselves, and in doing so, to find their voice; to find what inspires them, to find what works and what doesn't. It's a season, as all thing are, one that mustn't be shrugged off or begrudged. In my mind, it's quite a beautiful thing.

    Thank you for this wonderful post. ^.^

  6. I quite agree with you Katie, dear.

  7. Exactly, Katie. The whole drive of the writer-oriented blogosphere is toward publication, which, though not necessarily a bad thing in and of itself, isn't usually the best thing for young writers. I'm very glad I didn't know about blogs when I was getting started with writing. I had the freedom to write my rubbishy things without worrying about whether or not I would get them published (beyond the occasional daydream about covers and the like). We shouldn't ruin the charm of childhood by forcing the expectations and realities of adulthood on it too soon.


meet the authoress
I am a writer of historical fiction and fantasy, scribbling from my home in the United States. More importantly, I am a Christian, which flavors everything I write. My debut novel, "The Soldier's Cross," was published by Ambassador Intl. in 2010.
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published writings

The Soldier's Cross: Set in the early 15th Century, this is the story of an English girl's journey to find her brother's cross pendant, lost at the Battle of Agincourt, and of her search for peace in the chaotic world of the Middle Ages.
finished writings

Tempus Regina:Hurled back in time and caught in the worlds of ages past, a Victorian woman finds herself called out with the title of the time queen. The death of one legend and the birth of another rest on her shoulders - but far weightier than both is her duty to the brother she left alone in her own era. Querying.
currently writing

Wordcrafter: "One man in a thousand, Solomon says / will stick more close than a brother. / And it's worthwhile seeking him half your days / if you find him before the other." Justin King unwittingly plunges into one such friendship the day he lets a stranger come in from the cold. Wordcount: 124,000 words

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