Sunday, February 10, 2008
Young Writers - The Tumultuous Teenage Years
Ordinarily, I would handle this topic differently, but I had an experience about two days ago that put the whole teenaged writer conflict into new perspective for me.
What, you ask, is the teenaged writer conflict?
Publishing is a competitive business, and as we all know, everyone likes to think that their book will be good enough for publication. That's why we're all here, yes? For the most part, writers are wonderfully accommodating and supportive of all their writing collegues. But there's a rough patch when it comes to age.
People know writing takes experience and practice. I know writing takes experience and practice. The problem is, the fifteen year-old who has been writing for two years has just as much experience as the forty year-old who has been writing for two years.
And people can't grasp that.
"But," they cry, "surely the forty year-old has been alive for longer, and thusly has more experience in everything?"
Yes. Yes, they do. When I ask for advice on life, the universe, and everything, I'll probably ask my forty-ahem year-old mother instead of my sixteen year-old best friend. But what if I want writing advice? Do I ask the forty year-old who has been writing for two years, or, say, the eighteen year-old who has been writing for five? (Note: the forty year-old who has been writing for twenty years trumps both.)
When young writers (we'll say under 25-ers) seek publication, so many people tell them to wait. Wait ten years, until you're twenty-five, and then put yourself out there. Your prose will improve so much! You'll be stunned! The writer you are now is nothing compared to the writer you will be!
Yes, but doesn't that apply to the forty year-old, too? If she waits until she is fifty, then her prose will have improved exponentially. She'll be stunned. The writer she is now is nothing compared to the writer she will be.
I don't want to preach anti-ageism tripe because I doubt any of you lovely readers thinks this way. I mean, if you did, you wouldn't be reading a blog whose members are 80% under 25 (guesstimate, please don't check my math). I just want you to think:
Why would a teenage writer not want to be published? Why should she not seek publication with her first book, like many adult writers do? If she should approach this business differently, why should she do it, what should she do, and why shouldn't everyone approach it this way?
"But! What about the business aspect of publishing?"
Ah yes. This is where my happy little rant was sidetracked by recent events.
Kiddies. Publishing is a business.
This means that, while talking to your prospective agent, you do not conduct yourself like you're stuck in your God-awful Chemistry class and you just want to get out. You attempt to retain some maturity at all times. You do not insult people. Ever. Ever ever ever ever ever.
Because immaturity, inability to cooperate with others, and plain ol' obstinate stubbornality make you look bad. Just as bad as an adult who would act this way. Your age is no excuse to behave badly.
I shake my (index) finger at you, you son of a silly person.
Hm. I think this became a two-pronged rant aimed at both sides of the argument. My problem is that I've seen this debate played out multiple times and I always have the same thing to say:
Young people should conduct themselves just as well as older people, and they should expect the same amount of respect from their collegues that adults do.
My name is Sophie, and I am a sixteen year-old writer.
Peace to the world. :)