I’m not going to try to define young here (I know I don’t qualify – I’m 46), so let’s just say you’re not yet an adult and you’re an aspiring writer. If that’s the case, then you face a unique set of challenges. Don’t worry, you can overcome each and every one of them!
Here are the 10 most common problems I see among young writers:
You have a great idea for a story, but when you sit down to write, your mind wanders off to all sorts of interesting places. You might find yourself thinking about which famous actors would be the right ones to play the various parts in your story. You might also find yourself dreaming of what it will be like when you’re a famous author. While such thoughts are fun to explore on occasion, they won’t help you fill up that blank page sitting there in front of you! This is when you need to focus.
It can be hard to avoid clichés, but your writing will be much better if you eliminate them. The reason it’s hard is that clichés are helpful when you’re talking to people. When a cliché applies, it’s like using short-hand to quickly get your ideas across. It works because everyone understands what is meant by the cliché, which is why it’s a cliché to begin with. Using clichés is a lazy approach, and you can do better. Find a new and fresh way to say what you mean.
This one is hard because you want your writing to be as descriptive as possible, right? Well, what you really want is to get your ideas across in a way that will keep the reader engaged and wanting to read more. The way to do this is to show, don’t tell. What that means is focusing on the action rather than the setup. Skip the long descriptive passage and start with the action. That’s what will keep the reader engaged. Focusing on the action rather than the setup will also help you keep your writing brief and to-the-point.
When you’ve got a big exam coming or homework assignment that’s due, it can be very tempting to work on writing a story rather than studying. This can be one of the hardest things for young writers who are excited to develop their craft. The best way to do that is by writing as much and as often as possible. However, you’re only hurting yourself in the long run if you let your schoolwork or other responsibilities fall by the wayside. Try using your writing time as a reward for getting through your schoolwork.
The Oddball Effect
A lot of people, including many if not most of your friends in and out of school, find writing a very painful chore or necessary evil. You, on the other hand, love to write. When you mention to people that you like to write for fun, they’re likely to look at you as if you have just arrived from another planet. There’s not much you can do about this except recognize it and then move on. Whatever you do, don’t dwell on it, because it can end up being a barrier that keeps you from writing. Enjoy being different!
Sometimes you’ll get a great idea for a new story or article in the middle of whatever project you’re currently working on. You might even start working on that idea, or at least thinking about it, when what you should be doing is finishing your current project. This is a sidetracking problem you need to learn to manage. I keep a journal of writing ideas. When I’m working on a project and I get an idea for a new project, I jot the idea down quickly so I will remember it, but then I get back to work on the current project. The best writing projects are those that are finished!
The Too-Young Effect
You will probably run across more than one person who will say something like, “You’re too young to be writing about that.” When people say things like that, they tend to “stick” in your mind. You might even find yourself worrying that people won’t take you seriously because you’re “too young.” In some cases, this can be a real difficulty, such as when you’re trying to write about something adults do with which you have no experience. One way to avoid this is to stick to things you do know, or make it clear that the perspective is that of a young person, because then it’s through a young person’s eyes, which is just fine.
This is hard, but you have to write every day. Every. Single. Day. This isn’t an option because it’s the best way to become a better writer, so just do it!
The Get-a-Real-Job Effect
Many people think writing isn’t a real job. After all, the only people who really make a lot of money at it are the famous and gifted best-selling authors, right? Wrong! Making a living from writing is not as hard as you may think. There are all kinds of people and companies out there who need people to write for them, and many of them are willing to pay well for quality work. You just have to find them.
To Read or Write?
If you like writing you probably like reading as well. The good news is that you don’t have to make this an either/or choice. Both are necessary. The next best thing for improving your writing besides writing every day is reading, so make sure you do both!
If you can figure out how to deal with the 10 problems listed above, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a great writer. Who knows, you might even become a best-selling author! Just remember to spend most of your time making it happen rather than dreaming about it.
Check out our blog post on how to write a fiction story and see list of typical mistakes that spoil fictional characters.