I receive emails every once in a while from young writers who are curious if I have any advice for kids like them who aspire to be authors one day. I love hearing from readers, and I love this question!
The answer is, yes, I do! This isn’t the only advice out there, and your path to becoming and author will be as unique as you. But I hope these tips are even a little bit helpful as you grow in your own writing and craft. 🙂
Read read read!
For someone who hopes to be an author, being an avid reader is a strong start! Read widely and read often! Find the kinds of stories that stick with you and think about why you love them. Read stories that make you laugh, read stories that make you cry, read stories that heal you and teach you and take you to worlds and places you’ve never been.
Authors are a group of people who love and believe in the magic of books. Live in the magic. Find the books that speak to you.
Some people say writers should write every day, but I don’t think there’s a one-size-fits-all approach to how often a person writes. I have four kids and I homeschool them–I definitely don’t always have time to write every single day. I actually go in spurts where for a stretch of time, I’m writing pretty often, and then I take an extended break while I read or relax and refill my creative well.
But, especially as you’re learning who you are as a writer- write often, whatever often means to you! Try different styles of writing. You could write poems, or songs, or short stories, or longer pieces. Journal! Any writing counts. I have a whole box filled with my writing from when I was a kid, and that writing took on many, many different forms. I just loved writing. If you’re reading this, I’m guessing you do too. Every word you write helps you learn more about yourself as a person and as a writer. Not a single word is wasted, even as a kid.
Think about the kinds of stories you want to put into the world.
I love telling stories that show a kid going through something kind of scary, but who learns to be brave, or to heal, or to forge their own path. Think about the stories you love and the themes of those stories. What issues are close to your heart? What struggles would you like to see someone overcome? What kinds of characters do you wish there were more stories about?
Or, maybe you have an idea that makes you feel excited! That you think would be super fun to explore. A great story can sometimes start with something more serious, or it can start with a cool idea and you can work to find the story inside it!
A Note on Drafting:
When you’re writing a story for the first time- the very first draft- my best advice is this: Write what’s on your heart, and don’t judge it. Don’t filter it in any way. Your particular voice is unmatched by anyone. You are literally the only person who can tell the stories inside your head. Your perspective matters. Write without worrying what other people will think. Just write what you love-what you’re excited about. Even if it’s choppy or messy or weird! First drafts are meant for discovery and exploration. And that’s a really cool place to be.
One of my favorite parts of school visits are when I get to show students how much of my book changed from first to final draft. For THE CIRCUS OF STOLEN DREAMS, I spent less than three weeks writing the first draft, and over a year and a half revising it! Some of those revisions were really big, and some were smaller, but revising is really most of the work of a published author. So if that’s your goal, it will be helpful to grow your revision muscles early!
Ways to do this:
- You could have a couple trusted people read your story and give you feedback. Read the feedback, sit with it for a few days. Sometimes it can be hard to see the areas where your story could use improvement! But, usually, with a bit of time, you can see how some of those suggestions will help your story grow. When you’re ready, come back and think about what suggestions you think will make your story stronger, and dig in!
- You could give yourself a break from your story for a few weeks and come back to it with fresh eyes, looking for areas that need additional work. Try to be brave and cut a scene that doesn’t need to be there, or to add in some dialogue to make a scene come to life. Add some metaphors! Take it from me- a first draft is never the best a story can be.
Play with revision, try new ideas! Some things will work, and some things won’t. The most important part of this stage is to practice getting comfortable with change, and getting comfortable working hard to tell your best story.
And that’s it…for now!
These are just a few tips that might be helpful!
The world is waiting for you and your stories.
I wish you all the best in your journey as a writer.