Five Things I'd Tell Young Me About Writing

Progression and growth are, of course, part of being a writer. You get better at what you do. Every story, every new word, every crossed out and discarded line of crappy, terrible dialogue makes you better. At the very least it makes you different, which isn't always the same, but it's something.

So, looking back at some of your very first work might be cringe worthy and embarrassing (good grief, did I really write that?!), but it can be encouraging as well. You wrote that? Well now you write this! See how you fly! It's a Good Thing.

So what would you say to a young yourself if you could? If letters in a bottle floated backwards through time and you had a chance to give advice - specifically about writing - to your Young You?

Well, I, for one, might say this.

  1. Young Me, finish the damn book. Stop reading about others' successes and imagining agents seeking you from afar and (ye gads!) designing covers, and write the book. Seriously. Buy The Writers' and Artists' Yearbook, and don't look at it until the book is done.
  2. You know the plot? The thing that's meant to tie the whole story together? At least know how it goes roughly before you start typing away. You don't have to plot every chapter out in exquisite detail if you don't want to, but come on - at least know what happens before the characters do. Know why? It makes everything better. You get to play with foreshadowing and irony and character development and hidden meaning and all those other literary tools that are really just reward badges for talented writers who know how to earn them. It's great.
  3. Seek out other writers. It doesn't matter if you're young, or even if you're crap. Other writers will help you - with contacts, with industry knowledge, and with style and voice and art. Try - please, just try - not to take criticism as an attack on your genius. It's what you need to get so much better.
  4. Write a few short stories. Live a little. Try genres you don't really know and styles you're not a fan of. 1500 words is enough. Shouldn't take you more than a couple of days. It's like weight lifting or driving lessons. It's not necessarily always fun, but hey, it works. 
  5. Get out and about, Young Me. Have adventures. You get to decide what that means. You'll be a better writer if you've seen other places and know other people. Let the computer be the place you write about your experiences, not how you experience the world.
Also, buy shares in Google. It's gonna be big.

What would you say? Feel free to let me know!


  1. 'Stop fretting about writing well because you won't do it until you've written badly, read good stuff and seen a bit more of life. It's OK to have your own style.'

  2. #1 - that is a HUGE deal for me. HUGE. I think maturity as a writer teaches you how much patience you need, and determination, to finish something. I finally did and it is just everything to me!

  3. Chloe, great point about being comfortable with your own style - but it takes practice to even know what yours is, let alone have the confidence to use it, especially when it breaks normal convention 'rules'. Certainly vital to get it set in your head from the very start that writing is an art, an expression, and you can't really apply hard and fast rules - even those of correct grammar and proper usage - to it.

    Nicole, thanks for the comment! Patience is certainly something I've had to really, really learn. Know what's a surprise to so many (me included)? Writing a book is HARD! Starting one might be easy, but...

  4. The get out and about is so true! You must observe people, places and interactions. You must be able to relate the same in your stories for them to be believable.

    Another thing you must do is read the bad stuff so that you know what not to do. Sometimes I read a book and want to put it down because it's so bad. But then I push myself to read it because it is a reminder of the things not to do. :)

  5. Great messages for young S.P.!

    I hope that I've learned about being bold and fearless in all areas of my life. Writing is another facet of my life that I hope shines and grows, unfettered by my potential worry!

  6. Awesome post! I might just have to steal this nifty idea! =P

  7. Feel free, feel free! It's turning out to be very informative...

  8. Three cheers for #2! I've found that with writing (and writing critique) there is a lot about the "touchy feely" side of things -- favourite phrases, how the critique reader "feels" about the characters, and so on. There might be a few "show don't tell" comments, and that's it. So few people comment on the plot, and it's easy to forget... well, you need a plot.

  9. Ooh, #4 is a good one. I always whined about writing action scenes and how they weren't any fun and I hated them. Then I started my first book with an alien space battle. Why, I really don't know.

    Old Me still hasn't completely grasped yet that there's life outside of sappy love stories. Oh well. Maybe one day. ;)