Friday, January 16, 2015

To The Young Authors Out There!

When I was six years old, I would write fantasy stories. I'd draw the little pictures and then I'd staple the pages together, finishing it off with a Rated E for everyone stamp on the back. (That's what happens when you have brothers who play videogames) As I got older, my writing got better, and I started writing actual books. When I was fourteen, I published my first novel, 'Mila' which was an incredible experience in what not to do. Unfortunately, my writing back then was terrible and there were a ton of historical inaccuracies in my book. Later on, I pulled Mila down and wrote a revised version at seventeen,  adding two-hundred more pages to it (part 2 and 3).

A lot of times, I'll get comments from people who can't believe I've written such a good book at my age. This is understandable since writing a book is even hard for adults. So what is my advice to young authors out there who want to shock the world with their talent?

1. Be observant! We may not have experienced everything in the world ourselves yet, but we sure can learn a lot from people who have. Asking questions, forming our own ideas, and being open to hearing views different from our own, takes us a long way in our writing careers. If you make the time to watch how people respond in certain situations, what kind of reactions people have to certain comments, what motivates people do to what they do, you'll know how to mimic that with your characters.


2. Compare yourselves to the best, not who you are better than. One of my favorite storytellers is J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series. Now, I will most likely never be as good as her, but if I could even come close, I would be legendary. By comparing myself to someone great, I strive to reach a high goal. If I was to say, "Twilight is popular and my stuff is already better than that," I wouldn't be pushing myself to be better. You can always find someone worse than you, that doesn't make you good.

3. Have seasoned authors critique your work. Before publishing Mila (A Three-Part Story), I joined a critique site, not realizing that you had to be eighteen years old. Oops. On the bright side, most of the authors were in their later lives and had some great advice on how to improve my stories. Because I didn't tell them my age, they critiqued me as an adult without any of that, "It's good for your age" stuff. Take their critique with an open mind because your first few stories probably aren't as good as you think.

4. Strip down the core emotions from things you haven't experienced. In my novel, my main character is a mother. I have never been a mother myself nor have I ever had my child taken from me. So how do I relate to my character without experiencing half of the things Mila does? Well, I have loved people. Maybe not a child of my own, but my family members. Maybe I've never lost a child, but I've lost things that I've loved, even if it was just a pet. The key to connecting with characters different from you is stripping their emotional scenarios down to a smaller scale. Emotions like love, fear, heartbreak, betrayal are things everyone goes through in their own ways. Taking that emotion and using it for our art is what being a storyteller is all about. In the words of 18 year old singer-songwriter Birdy, "I don't think you have to experience things to understand them."

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