Anyway, on to today's topic!!!
So, I was randomly surfing around on the internet the other day, and I stumbled across this blog post by author John Scalzi called 10 Things Teenagers Should Know About Writing, the first point being #1: Right Now, Your Writing Sucks, in which he claimed that teenagers lack the grammar skills, knowledge, experience, etc. to produce good writing. Now, this post had a lot of good advice in it, but he made a note about how most kids reading the post automatically stopped after the first point and wrote him a long angry note in the comments section. He then wrote a second post called On Teens, and the Fact that Their Writing Sucks in which he basically shot down all the comments he received; this irked me more than the original post.
To be fair, I read the entirety of both these posts, and I understood what he was trying to say. Furthermore, I actually agreed with most of it. The thing is, he said it in a way that was angering teens instead of helping them, so they wouldn't listen to his good advice.
It's not fair to tell teenage writers that their writing "sucks". Inexperience does not equal suckageness. That's like telling some little kid on a tricycle, "Dude, you SUCK at riding a bicycle!" Then what's the kid going to do? Will he feel like riding a bicycle ever again? Or is he more likely to feel discouraged and offended? Hmmmm?
So, I thought I'd make this easier by explaining it teen-to-teen. None of that condescending crap. Yes, I am learning and growing as a writer, and I know what it's like to constantly be reminded of it as if I didn't know. Yes, teenagers lack life experience and possibly the basics of English grammar, but that does not mean that we "suck". We just need practice! In my opinion, the adolescent stage is one of the best times to be a writer, and I'll tell you why.
WHY TEEN WRITING DOES NOT SUCK/WHY IT'S AWESOME TO BE A TEEN WRITER IN THIS DAY AND AGE
1. You don't have to worry too much about publishing, so it's a good time to practice, practice, practice. Yes, of course I support teens who are trying to get published––I'd be a total hypocrite if I didn't. But I know that many kids are just starting to experiment with writing at this age, and I completely support that too. If you're a teen writer, it's not like "OH CRAP, MY EDITOR NEEDS MY MANUSCRIPT IN TWO WEEKS!" There are no deadlines, so you can write whatever the heck you want. You can try out all different kinds of styles and genres, and there's no pressure to make it "good"––not that teens can't be critical of themselves. But if you are critical of yourself, you can also edit/rewrite as many times as you want to.
2. You have the time. Sure, you have school and homework––maybe some after-school sports or a job. But (hopefully) you don't have a bunch of kids to take care of or a full-time career. It's easier for kids to find time in their schedules to just sit down and write. Finding the time to write is the first step of becoming a good writer, and time is something that most teens have a lot of.
3. There are a lot of ways teens can get published nowadays. I'm not talking book-publishing necessarily, but there are great literary magazines where teenagers can get short stories and poetry published––such as Stone Soup, Cicada and Teen Ink, to name a few. There are also a lot of websites where writers can put up work and get feedback, like Mibba, WEbook, Goodreads, etc. It's a good idea to start small when it comes to publishing, because it's not too overwhelming but you still get a glimpse of what the publishing experience is like. I used to enter Cricket magazine story contests all the time; I got third place once for a lovely little story about singing mice. :) But Cricket also sent out little form-rejection postcards to the entries that didn't win, so I learned what that was like, too.
4. You're in your "prime suffering years". Okay, so one of my favorite movies of all time is "Little Miss Sunshine", and here is one of my favorite quotes from it:
Dwayne: I wish I could just sleep until I was eighteen and skip all this crap––high school and everything––just skip it.
Frank: Do you know who Marcel Proust is?
Dwayne: He's the guy you teach.
Frank: Yeah. French writer. Total loser. Never had a real job. Unrequited love affairs. Gay. Spent 20 years writing a book almost no one reads. But he's also probably the greatest writer since Shakespeare. Anyway, he uh... he gets down to the end of his life, and he looks back and decides that all those years he suffered, those were the best years of his life, 'cause they made him who he was. All those years he was happy? You know, total waste. Didn't learn a thing. So, if you sleep until you're 18... Ah, think of the suffering you're gonna miss. I mean high school? High school-–those are your prime suffering years. You don't get better suffering than that.
A little off-topic I guess, but the point is, you learn a lot from your suffering––and as teenagers, we suffer a lot. What's great about teens is that we are brimming with angst. Now you're probably wondering, "Why is it a great thing that I'm full of angst?" Well, when you are a teenager you become very questioning about life. You start to wonder what the point is and where you're going. It gets to the point where you're so confused and stressed out that you feel about ready to explode from it. And that's why a lot of teens write––to get out their ideas and questions and relieve all that stress. So yes, this may produce rambling and/or choppy prose, but it helps you to get out a lot of ideas. Maybe not all of these ideas will be useful to you now, but they may be inspiration to you when you're an adult. I know I get inspiration from my old writing all the time, and I'm predicting that my writing today will inspire me in the future.
5. There are teenage authors out there! Now, I suppose this point is kind of a cheat. Just because some teenagers have published books doesn't necessarily mean that they're "good". In fact, most published teens seem to have stories that go along the lines of, "My mom's neighbor's grandma's cousin's friend happens to be a literary agent and heard about my book and wanted to read it! What a crazy random happenstance!" But oh well, at least these teenagers had the integrity to write full novels in the first place, and some of them have talent. Teen authors include S.E. Hinton, Mary Shelley, Amelia Atwater-Rhodes, Isamu Fukui, Flavia Bujor, Nancy Yi Fan, Alexandra Adornetto … and I suppose I have to include Christopher Paolini but … ah, let's not talk about him. I'm sure there are lots of others that I don't even know about, but as you can see there are already quite a few that come to mind. And even if these teens haven't produced flawless books, they all write a lot better than a majority of adults. If they can do it, so can we!
To make myself clear, I'm not saying that all teen writing is publishable. I have to agree with John Scalzi that a lot of young adults still have much to learn about grammar, about style, about originality, etc. That doesn't mean that they SUCK, but it means that they have to keep practicing. Write every day, get feedback and take it into consideration, and (as corny as it sounds) keep believing in yourself! Don't expect it to be perfect, but don't be too hard on yourself either. Polishing your writing and finding a voice is very important, so keep at it. ;)
** Now, to be completely off-topic, I would like to advertise one of my best-friend-ninja's blog since I promised her I would. So HERE IS SELLA'S BLOG in which she gives out "free advice on life and fiction". :) Sella is amazing, I love her, and she needs followers. So check it out! Thanks :)