Friday, January 6, 2012

From The Trenches -- Maggie: Should teens be published?

I know this topic has been chewed to the bone in the blogging/writing world, but I want to add my voice to the crowd, and what better place than Write On!? I'll just dive right in.

The question is: Should teen writers be published?

This stands back to back with the question "Can teen writers be published?", which, in my opinion, has only one answer. And that's yes. Obviously. It's been proven and done. There are teen authors out there (way to go, guys!). That's not the question I'm tackling in this post. This brings our attention back to the "should" in my first question.

Should they be published?

I don't think there is one, solid answer, to tell you the truth. It is completely dependent on that writer, both as a person and as-- well, a writer. The way I see it, the deciding factors of whether or not you (as a teen writer) "should" be published are as follows:

  1. Your maturity. Can you handle a book deal? Can you handle a professional relationship with your agent, publisher, and editor? Are you prepared for the life of an author (book signings, tours, readings, etc.)? Are you prepared for both success and no success? All those questions should have a very confident "yes", with agreement from the older, wiser people in your life (peers, too) before you consider taking the road of publishing. If they don't, one of them might come back to slap you in the face, later.
  2. Your work itself. Is it well-written? Has it been read/honestly critiqued by your critique partners /writing peers? Is it at least a third draft? (I'm sorry, but you have to be extremely lucky and/or incredibly talented to have a presentable draft that's anything earlier than a third.) Is it properly punctuated, edited, and clean of all grammar mistakes? And (possibly most importantly) do you love it? If you pass all those tests, and you have something that's tight, squeaky-clean and that you're head over heels in love with, then you're totally ready to start asking the questions in #1.
  3. Your readiness and willingness not to give up. This is a hard one because it's so easy to become discouraged. Ask any author who's queried (well, not counting those amazing ones that land deals on their second try) and they will tell you that it's quite a ride. It's not going to be easy, and you're definitely not going to be offered a rainbow bridge or a flying unicorn to the Land of Published Authors. (Unless, of course, you are one of those amazing second-try deal-landers.) It's good to be prepared for rejection, to remind yourself often your vision for that novel (a.k.a why you wanted to publish it in the first place), and to be able to separate the opinions of agents from fact about you and your writing. That goes hand in hand with humbleness and being ready to back down and admit -- after the eleventh agent that says something -- that maybe your main character really isn't likeable.

While all the above is totally my opinion (do keep that in mind!), there is truth to it. I know this, having followed more than one writer in their journey toward publication. Some have succeeded, some are still trying. And what separates those (mostly adult) writers from us teens?

Nothing but a few years.

So my overall, summed-up answer to "Should teen writers be published?" is why not? If you are ready in all aspects mentioned above, and then some, then what should stand between you and success? Age is but a number. If you're ready, your novel is amazing, and you're surrounded in loving and supportive writer friends (hey, even if you're not!) GO FOR IT. And I wish you all the best.

Just my two cents. 

For the comments, I'd love to hear your opinion! Do you agree or disagree with what I've said? Are you a teen author with a goal of publication? What are the things YOU think should be deciding factors of whether or not teen writers should query, and ultimately, aim for publication?

Until next month!


  1. When I was little, I wanted to be The Youngest Published Author ever. XD

    That did not happen. But I am going to try for publication. I just need to polish a manuscript first, before I can start querying. Maybe that will begin during my college years, or maybe after that, or...?

    I think if your book is good, and you've made it as good as you possibly can, and... Well... Pretty much everything you mentioned. Then yeah, it SHOULD get published.

    Besides. I've read more than a few books by adults that could've gone through a little more revision before they hit the library shelves. -_-

  2. @Silent Pages Haha, awww. Me too, actually. I don't know about Youngest EVER, but I did often use the phrase: "If Christopher Paolini can do it, so can I!" ... though, honestly, he didn't go through all the querying trouble. :P He totally cheated. *coughs*

    Anyway. I so agree! I've read more than one adult-written book that totally needed work.

  3. I think the "youngest ever" was a 4 year old little girl who wrote about Noah's Ark (likely self-published, but there are some legit credits for 8 year olds+)

    I've known some teens who were published, and they've done just fine. If you've got the skill and you get the offer, then go for it.

  4. My two cents? You're a smart cookie. I do agree, and I'm pretty sure there is nothing I don't agree with in your post. As helpful as ever. :P

  5. @Josin Well-said!

    @Cpnstance *sparkles*

  6. I agree with Constance: you are a smart cookie. Great post.

  7. @Brittany Thank you! =) *hugs* I just saw your email in my inbox, and I'm now excited.

  8. BAM! This is a great post. I got the squirmies/butterflies of excitement. I am SO ready. 8D

    I did have a dream of publishing before I turned 16, then publishing before I left high school, and now…well, I'd like to have a book deal before I'm 20, even if it's only a couple weeks away. So I have…a year and two months to get on that. *heh* I often motivated myself with that exact phrase—"If Christopher Paolini can do it, so can I!" But now it's more like—Christopher Paolini did it at 19. I'm almost 19, and my writing's better. LET'S DO THIS. It gets me going whenever I lose sight of the light at the end of the massive tunnel that is Polishing/Edits 2. ^_^

  9. Hahaha, I just read over that. Sounds a bit like I'm missing the "humbleness" part, lol. But I'm really not, it's just not that hard to write higher quality, after four years of continuous practice. I'd be really sad if I wasn't writing higher quality, especially with Inheritance Roran scenes in recent memory… O_o

  10. Yes, THIS. Perfectly stated, Maggie. ^_^

    I have the maturity part, but not yet the skill, so I'm working on that. I generally hinge my dreams of publication on Amanda, living vicariously through her works, but I'm striving to get my own skill level up to par, hopefully within the next 1-1/2 to 2 years. =D

    @Amanda—You didn't even read them! You read the one paragraph I pointed out; everything else is secondhand. (I do admit, based on that one paragraph…it would be really sad if you weren't writing better by now. O_o)

  11. @Amanda No, no! That didn't sound un-humble. I was reading parts of it out loud to Constance and agreeing heartily. (Especially that bit about Christopher Paolini. Although, not to diss your talent or anything, but it doesn't take a whole lot to write better than him. XD)

    @Renee Hahaha. "I have the maturity part." I agree! XD And you'll get there one day! *has faith in you*

  12. I agree with this post! Whole-heartedly. I'm only going to add that teens who are trying to get published (or anyone who wants to, really) have to be willing to do the work. Even if that work means having to write five different novels and treating each and every one of them like they're the one. Even the "overnight successes," as people like to call them, aren't really that since if you get to know them more, you'll see that the novel they got the rapidly fast good response on is their sixth novel or something like that (I think this was the case for Tahereh Mafi, who got picked up by Jodi Reamer and later on Harper Collins). Teens also have to learn how to make time for their writing. If a teen honestly does not have the time (or can't make the time) to do all the edits and meet the rigid deadlines that an agent/editor will surely require him /her to do (and even full-time writers have trouble meeting these, sometimes!), then my answer is: no, that teen should wait until later to get published. Or at least, be prepared to lose a lot of sleep. :P

    Wow, that was a really long post. Sorry about that. o_O

  13. @Lyla Ahh! How could I forget? YES, YES, and YES! That's another big one. And don't apologize, it's a great post. You're totally right. That's one thing I've thought about, too, as I think about when I want to query and with what... is "Will I have the time for deadlines, revisions, etc.?" and the answer right now is "I don't know." O_O

  14. While you do have some excellent points, I do think age can have a negative impact on a teen's publishing journey. I'd love to be proven wrong, but I think agents can be bias against age. I think it's best not to put an age in the query.

    On another note, what's with all the Eragon hate? I'm re-reading the first three books before I start Inheritance, but I haven't found any evidence of bad writing (apart from some of his word choices). Unless it's just the final book?

  15. @Matt It's true. I forgot to say so in here, but I definitely agree that age shouldn't be mentioned in your query letter. If you've met all the other "requirements" like maturity and readiness, like I said, age is just a number. Then you avoid the biased responses and labels, and get a decent chance.

    Eragon isn't very well written. (Unless he's gotten better since Eldest? I haven't cared to read beyond it.) Really, though, I'm not going to argue with you about it. But compare Eragon to any well-written book and you'll see what I mean. Eldest was even dubbed the worst book of the year... I forget when. And I won't even get started about how he copies Tolkien. Yeah, I'm really not a fan. ^^

  16. I wouldn't say Eragon hate so much as Eragon disappointment. We all looked up to him. And then we realized his writing is…not good. =/

    He's actually gotten worse since Eldest…you know how editing is called 'cutting/trimming the fat?' Brisingr & Inheritance both weigh over 1,000 lbs and get out of bed in the morning with the help of a forklift. That beauteous metaphor refers to how much fluff there is. He could've fit everything into one book. Brisingr was random side-plot & character development. Nothing happened.

    Eragon was his best written book, for the most part, because it was the most edited, and he wrote it when he was still learning and growing. His newer books show regression and a self-satisfaction that wasn't seen in his first. It's like he's trying to emulate Tolkein's writing style without Tolkein's natural grace, and won't let much get cut. So even his final, published versions are over-worded and stalled by minutiae. I'm morbidly curious to see his first drafts. O_o

    I honestly LOVED Eragon & Eldest the first time I read them. But I hadn't edited anything yet. I learned how to edit, and I started seeing the flaws…lots of flaws. Random sentence pulled from random page ex.—"Instantly Eragon's finger burned as if it were on fire." Not great, but better, & without putting words in his mouth—"Instantly Eragon's finger burned as if on fire." And he used 'concluded' as a dialogue tag on the next page. Concluded. *shudders*

    That wasn't a very bad example, but an easy one to fix, lol. Overall, there's lots of telling, little showing, poor word choice, & lots of 'to be' verbs and adverbs instead of strong verbs. All of this bogs down what could've been a quick-paced, magical, and enjoyable story, taking the Tolkein-copying out of the equation. /end the prosecution's long boring case against the defendant *heh*

    @Maggie—Entertainment Weekly rated it one of the worst books of the year in 2005, on account of its unoriginality and slow pace. Other critical reviews also commented on its unoriginality, dragging pace, and lack of humor.
    ~ Wikipedia ^_^

    On that line of thought—when I was 15, I changed the characters' names, to break the boredom. Eragon was Bubbles(he was once described as "bubbling"), Brom became Winky(after the house elf, + he winked after puffing on his *cough*Gandalf's*cough* pipe), and Murtagh was Captain Emo, because he always said thing with "much emotion". And I couldn't keep the same names for my reread of Eldest, so Saphira became Wesley, and Eragon became Buttercup, because they said "As you wish." to each other way more times than can be considered normal. I was a mature 15 year old. XD

  17. @Amanda Wow. Well-said, Amanda! *agrees and nods at all* And that's HILARIOUS. Captain Emo? Bubbles? *likes muchly*