Monday, October 25, 2010

Q&A with The Lit Coach, Part Two

I wanted to give this next question special attention, it's own posting, because it warrants a special kind of encouragement.

Q: I'm a young author, as are a few of my friends. I've been told we shouldn't try to write a novel or get published because:

a) agents won't take us seriously

b) our style changes as we get old so we'll regret publishing now

What do you have to say on the subject? I'd love some advice as would my friends who follow this blog religiously (as do I).

A: Thanks to you and all your friends for reading and thanks for your question. I've been thinking about my response for several days.

When I was an agent, I received queries from a few teen (but maybe you're not teens?) authors, which I passed on because their stories didn't resonate with me, just like I would any other "adult" writer. And just like considering any other project, I would have gladly offered representation if I loved the story, the writing was great, the market identifiable and the young author able to handle the rigors of the publishing world (with support from their parents or caregivers, of course). I know other agents would feel the same. Besides, what better marketing hook could a publisher hope for than a young, prodigy writer (or maybe you're in your early twenties). Ever hear of the Eragon series? So that takes care of the agent issue.

As far as voice goes, your voice won't be the same fifty years from now due to all your life's experiences. It's all about perspective, isn't it? At age 17, S.E. Hinton published The Outsiders, now an American classic, as a result of not being satisfied by what was being published for the young adult reader. What did she write about? Social stuff that happened at and around her school in Tulsa, Oklahoma. All she did was bring her own perspective and great writing to the table. She also identified and filled a void within the publishing world.

Then there's Mary Shelley, authoress of that little novel called Frankenstein, the Romantic era Gothic classic that encapsulated the tension between the religious beliefs of the day and some major new discoveries in science (and much more). She was 21 when her immensely influential novel was published. While this is a very dated example, I realize, it just goes to show how important and valuable discipline, dedication and attention to craft are in any writer's life.

The best thing you can do, my dears, if you really want to grow as writers, is turn off the tv. Turn off your cell phones, take a break from texting, ignore your social media once in a while (ok, maybe a lot), and pay attention to detail. Look up. Go outside. Engage. Catalog detail in this life like you're Charles Darwin or Walt Whitman. Read voraciously. Realize also you'll learn more about writing by studying the really old stuff because so much of it is symbolic of something else and every word best writing instructor was my Middle Ages Literature professor (which I survived and to this day is one of my favorite classes). Your best writing will come from a place that is totally connected and aware to human nature and how everyday drama unfolds and resolves.

I hope this advice helps keep you on track and firmly motivated to grow and learn in your craft and further your approach to the publishing world.

Let us hear about your successes as you move along.



  1. If you haven't read BREAK by Hannah Moskowitz you should. I believe she was 17 when she published her first YA novel. She also has a web page with great advice for young aspiring authors. She pulls no punches about the publishing industry, and advises would-be writers about professionalism and the craft.

    Very inspiring.

  2. Oh my God.

    Ms. Reel, thank you, thank you so much. When I asked that question, I had no idea that you would actually even consider it, let alone answer it- but to give it an entire post? That's...incredible. You have no idea how grateful I am.

    To make it clear, you don't have any way of knowing I am the same person who asked the earlier question, but let me assure you, I am. On behalf of my friends, who will surely be shocked when I inform them of this, I would like to say thank you, thank you so much. You had no idea- no idea at ALL- how much this means to me.

    Yes, we are in our early to middle teens, and I am a big fan of The Outsiders, as a matter of fact- it's one of my favorite books.

    Anyways, I thank you again, and must go off to brag to everyone I know that my question is answered. Let me assure you, my various electronic devices will not be getting much usage for the next couple weeks!

    (And thanks to hellis72 for that information).

  3. You are so welcome, Anon! I'm glad I can help you. (-:

  4. Aragorn didn't exactly start out with an agent. It started out self published and got a big push from an actor whose son loved the book. It is really unfair to use that as an example of a young adult having success with an agent.

  5. My apologies for not fully researching the publishing history of ERAGON, Anonymous. My oversight. But what a fantastic example of a young adult experiencing success as a self-published author. Even better! Thanks for adding that bit.


Leave your thoughts! Feel free to share with us your success stories or tips.