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Ten Tips for Young Writers

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.


  1. 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 hundred pages.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

Good luck!

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Revised 05/23/2005