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What would you say to a 12-year-old who told you they wanted to write novels when they grew up?

21 Mar Posted by in Writing Life | 8 comments
What would you say to a 12-year-old who told you they wanted to write novels when they grew up?

Not long ago, I got to experience this, as one of the kids at our church told me that, then asked for advice. Though startled, I was thrilled to answer her question. You see, I was in her exact position when I was twelve. I would have loved to have been given advice on my writing when I was her age, but good advice is hard to come by when you’re that age.

So this is something of what I told her.

  • Are you serious about it? If you are, make sure you’re in it for the long haul. It is not easy to earn money writing novels because the competition is outrageous. It’s easier to pick another career and write part time until your writing career progresses to the point where you can quit your day job.
  • Practice. Write, write, write. Don’t worry about the grammar or whatever at your age. Just write.
  • Pay attention to English Class. It’s easier to handle the grammar aspect of things if you remember the lessons you learned in English.
  • I was told to write what you know, and then spent the next ten years trying to figure out what that was. I say write what you like. Poetry, vampire novels, westerns, high-school dramas—it doesn’t matter what you write, as long as you like it.
  • Journals are your friend. I use mine for more than just ‘dear diary, I had a horrible, no good, very bad day.’ I write down story ideas, lists, and anything else that strikes my fancy. Writing out my story ideas there help me practice my brainstorming and outlining skills. Not to mention venting.
  • Find a writing buddy, someone to read your stuff, give you advice and cheer you on. Don’t go it alone and don’t be afraid to share your stuff. It’s hard to improve without input from others.
  • There are all kinds of advice, articles and books about writing out there. They exist. Finding them is hard for those who have no idea where to look. The internet makes this easier than it was when I was 12. (Think about where you’re reading this . . . .) But once you find them, read them.
  • Above all else—have fun!
  1. Jenny McLeod Carlisle03-21-13

    Great advice! My 12 year old self would have loved it

  2. Jenny Carlise03-22-13

    Also- her school might have an outlet for creative writing. At my high school we had a newspaper and a Literary magazine.

  3. Ann Cooper McCauley03-22-13

    What a great article, Jenny Miller! I have many young friends who will gain from reading this. Thank you so much!

  4. Debbie Archer03-22-13

    In prepping the kids for the Benchmark
    Test and now for The Common Core Assessment
    we’ve just about sucked all the fun
    out of writing for kids! And its about to get worse
    mow that the focus will be on persuasive
    writing. Sigh. Hopefully, there will be
    kiddoes who will always find their
    treasure in putting words on a page and
    creating a world they can call their own.
    Great post, Jenny! You’re going to be
    missed, girl. I hate that I missed ur
    last meeting. Good luck and stay in touch! :0

  5. jenny miller03-22-13

    Thanks everyone for the comments and encouragement! I’ll miss you all!

  6. Avery Cove03-22-13

    Such truth in your words, Jenny! Gonna miss you girl–keep in touch!

  7. Alexis03-23-13

    Thanks me and my good friend write together. I never thought of going on line and looking for advice. i have about seven journals all of them with partial story’s or ideas. I have two “books” going weather they will ever get finished i don’t know, but it is fun.

    I’m fourteen and love to write.

    • Jennifer Miller03-23-13

      Hello Alexis you are in good company here. I’ve lost track of how many journals and story ideas I have saved up through the years. I will probably never write them all but I’m loath to get rid of them. If you want to find more advice, this website is a good place to start! Feel free to explore our past articles.

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