I was recently contacted by the mom of a very young writer (mid-teen) who asked for advice on how to get her very prolific daughter (has completed NanoWrimo 3 times already) connected (and hopefully published) in the writing world.
I put heads together with my friend Gina Rosati (my weekly kidnapper) and we came up with this response and I thought was information good enough for *any* beginning writer.
Thank you for contacting me, I’m always happy to help another writer and how lucky you are to have a writer in the house!
First, you need to understand that I am a journalist/blogger and not a novelist (although I am working on a book but it’s a memoir) so novel writing is not my area of expertise. However, I do have a few suggestions:
Have your daughter talk to her librarian (both school and public) and take the initiative to set up a teen writers group (from which she will get tons of real world feedback. Kids are brutally honest, and if she’s writing YA, they will give her useful feedback.) FYI, the Merrimack Library has a strong writers and NANO group.
Have her read Story Engineering (Larry Brooks) and Save the Cat (Blake Snyder) because she might not be trained about proper story structure (which is KEY.) I keep both books by my desk and I refer to them often.
Let her know that writers are like butterflies … the struggle to get published – of attending writing conferences (like SCBWI), of meeting writers who have similar interests, of searching online for useful information (which leads to discovering information she didn’t realize would be useful) and of achieving a goal on her own, rather than have someone hand her a golden key, is all crucial to a successful career. She should be networking (online and in-face) as much as possible.
Querying for an agent – that’s something that takes hard work, luck, and a little bit of magic. I currently have 2 agents interested in my book (after a loooong time of trying.) You need to be able to present your book idea clearly and concisely. You have to have an angle (it could be the age of your daughter), a hell-of-a-hook, and you have to show that your book is marketable. It’s not easy, (if it were everyone would be published) and I’ve seen courses and workshops on this topic alone. This one will have to come from her, she needs to do her research, and be able to succinctly explain what her book is about. She also needs to follow an agent’s preferred format. Find the agent that fits, follow her guidelines to create a query and then send it with your fingers crossed.
Shortcuts = Easy Come, Easy Go. If she’s in this for the long haul, she’ll take her time and develop her skills. There are very few teen writers who have experienced the life lessons needed to produce deep, meaningful literature but with practice comes perfection.
For the above reason, she might want to connect with a Literary Coach (you’d have to pay) who could help and advise her with getting her work to the point where it could be professionally published.
Continue being your daughter’s greatest fan. That, more than anything, will give her the courage and strength to continue as a writer.
Many thanks to Gina for her input on this.
Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.
Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). (www.simplethrift.wordpress.com) She writes about her chickens for GRIT, Backyard Poultry, Chicken Community, and Mother Earth News.