Recently, I received an email from a teen writer who had decided to write a novel, but she was struggling to find the time.
Between school, homework, music lessons, and other commitments, she didn’t know when she would actually be able to write.
But she was smart to ask for help. She had three specific questions:
1. How can I find enough time for writing?
2. How do I know if my novel idea is any good?
3. If I finish my novel, and nobody wants to read it, what should I do?
Here’s what I told her:
First off, those are all good questions. Writers of all ages, young and old, struggle with these same problems. But they can be solved.
The best thing to do is to just keep writing. There are only 24 hours a day, so saying “yes” to writing often means saying “no” to something else. It’s not easy, but think of it as a class. See if you can schedule your writing time, just like any other class or appointment. Even just 20 minutes a day is worth it.
During your writing time, go someplace quiet. Shut off all distractions: cell phone, internet, everything. Commit to doing nothing but writing during that time. If you get stuck and can’t think of what to write, then write about that. The more you write, the easier it will become, and the better you will get.
Carry a small notebook with you just for writing ideas. Jot them down whenever they come to you. Story ideas tend to come when you least expect them. So write them down when you have them, and then you’ll always have something to write about during your writing time.
Don’t worry if you think up ideas that don’t fit into your novel. You can always turn those into short stories. In fact, I recommend trying to write a few short stories. Short stories are quicker and easier to finish than a novel.
Once a story is finished, you can show it to someone else to get feedback. Good feedback will help you grow as a writer.
I don’t necessarily recommend showing your stories to family members, unless they are avid readers. See if you can find a teacher who can read your stories and offer suggestions. There are also online critique groups that can help. Critters.org is one, and critiquecircle.com is another. There are plenty others out there. Look for one that feels right for you.
Just remember that some of the advice you get will be helpful, and some will be wrong. It takes time to figure out which advice is good and which isn’t. Don’t get discouraged. Just keep writing.
One book I highly recommend is:
The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes (And How to Avoid Them) by Jack Bickham
It’s an old book. But if you can find a copy of it somewhere, it will help you immensely.
Also, don’t worry about whether anyone will want to read your novel or not. That’s a constant fear that every writer has, and it never truly goes away. I have written a bunch of novels, and I still worry whether anyone wants to read my books. : ) It’s best to push aside that fear and focus on what’s important:
1. Keep writing.
2. Finish what you start.
3. Get feedback.
4. Publish it, either yourself or by selling it to a publisher.
Keep repeating those four steps.
Again, it’s easier to do that with short stories than novels, so that’s a good place to start.
Above all: don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t be a writer. You are a writer as long as you choose to write.
Just keep writing. You can do it!
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