Elise Howard, editor in chief of Avon/Tempest Books for Teen Readers,
offers ten tips for teen writers who would like to be published. Write
regularly, write about what you know, imitate writers you admire, don't
be afraid of rejection... -- those tips and more from an experienced editor
of fiction for young readers!
Write regularly. Be prepared to edit and revise. Read, read, read...
Those are three tips for young writers from Elise Howard, editor in chief
of Avon Tempest Books for Teen Readers. If you're a young writer eager
to see your work published, Howard has ten tips for you. Those tips are
reprinted below with permission from Avon Tempest.
- Write regularly. Some writers work every morning. Some set
aside an hour a day to write. Some write once a week or on the weekends.
Some writers write for as long as it takes in a day until they have
produced a page. Look at it this way: If you set a goal of two paragraphs
a day for your writing, at the end of a year you will have written one
- Join a writers group. The need to discuss your work in a group
can help you out with #1, by motivating you to get your "homework" done
and have something to contribute at a meeting of the group. It can also
help to know you're not alone with your creative struggles. Can't find
a local group? Try posting notices at school, at the library, or at
the local community center or Y.
- It's an old saw, but do write about what you know about and care
about. That doesn't mean you can't write about runaways if you've
never run away, or about ancient Tibet. The world is full of great historical
novels, and it's not because the writers were there. But the good ones
take the time to know their subject -- so well that they might as well
have been there.
- Speaking of published writers, one great way to hone your craft is
to imitate writers you admire. Another old publishing chestnut:
good writers plagiarize, great ones steal. Well, maybe not. But if you
begin by attempting to write in the style of another writer, you may
find that this gives you a starting point that gets you over the terror
of facing a blank page.
- When you're ready to submit your work for publication, research
publishers. Not every publisher publishes every kind of work. And
since most publishers take months to get back to writers, you can waste
lots of time sending your work to the wrong house. There are also a
number of good reference books on publishers available at virtually
every bookstore or public library.
- Once you know where you would like to submit your work, write
for publishers' submission guidelines. Some publishers only want
to see a letter about your work before they see the work itself. Some
publishers want to see a partial manuscript, or a synopsis and a few
sample chapters. Others want complete manuscripts only. Many will not
accept manuscripts also being considered by another publishing house
at the same time. Once you know a publisher's guidelines for submission,
respect them. In general, all publishers will require that you submit
your work in typewritten form, double-spaced, printed on one side of
plain, white bond paper, and that you enclose a self-addressed stamped
envelope (be sure it's the right size envelope with the right amount
of postage!) if you want your manuscript to be returned.
- Make sure your work is as technically correct as possible.
Spelling counts. So do grammar and punctuation. If you are a mad, maverick
storyteller who cannot be reined in by paltry conventions like spelling,
find somebody who can and let them help.
- If you succeed in interesting an editor in your work, be prepared
to edit and revise. Almost no one's work makes it into print without
going through some revision. Sometimes these changes require major structural
work, including cutting or adding or re-arranging large chunks of material.
Sometimes they are simply small stylistic refinements.
- Don't be afraid of rejection. If you are receiving rejection
letters, it means you are submitting your work for publication -- and
that's the only way to have your work published. It may take time. History
is full of stories about masterpieces that were repeatedly rejected
before they were published.
- Read, read, read. Not only will reading offer you an education
in the craft of your work, but if your goal is to write for publication,
it will give you some idea of market trends, prevailing styles, and
suitable formats for commercial publication.