Mar 08

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Advice to young writers…

As promised, here is another snippet from my many forum posts.  You can view the original here.  The following was some advice I posted for a young 18-year-old writer who was having difficulty finding other writers to join his circle…

First off MC, let me start this post with a few words of praise. If what you have written is correct (and from your stated interest and dedication to writing, I have no reason to think otherwise) you are miles ahead of any other writer I have ever met in their twenties—no kidding—and you aren’t even twenty yet!

"Damn carpal tunnel syndrome..."

As you already know; I consider myself a professional no-nonsense writer. Crafting stories isn’t just a hobby for me—it’s my career. Granted, I still have a day job; but that’s just what I have to do to pay the bills. Like most writers, I’m not independently wealthy. After all, writer’s are artists; and there’s a reason we’re often called ‘starving.’

In addition to my day job—which, as a Soldier, frequently has me working far longer hours than the average job—I’m also married, and have a family to take care of. What all this comes down to is, when it comes to writing: I’m always in a war fighting to find time to write.

And I’ve lost many battles…

MC wrote:
I am a little annoyed that I could not keep my 1,000 word a day pace.

Sometimes I consider myself lucky to write one thousand words a week. If one thousand words is what you are presently churning out A DAY, you already have the drive and dedication required to become a published author—right now! All you need is skill, and experience. Both of which will only come with time.

So, have patience…

There is a mysterious idea that writers are young, lead interesting and exciting lives, and through luck—or a mysterious coincidence—will end up getting successfully published. Guess what?

It’s a lie!

One probably rooted in all the films being churned out on writer’s and writing in Hollywood. Statistically, the average successfully published author is in their mid-thirties. There is a reason for this, of course—to write believable fiction, the writer has to know what they are writing about.

“Write what you know!” The professor in my creative writing classes would tell me, almost every week, pounding on his desk. Good writing is based on ‘telling details.’ Things, images, or dialogue that isn’t made up in your mind, but comes from studying the real world.

MC wrote:
…there were some portions that I thought required a little more life experience than a 15-year-old could offer…

Knowing—knowledge—only comes from experience. And the only way to experience something is to live it; to do it. And you can’t live all your life in one moment. Aging is a gradual process…it takes time. Just like a vintage of fine wine, your skills as a writer will slowly improve, just by living your life.

After all, your life is just the culmination of all your experiences since you were born. And as I’ve said, the more experienced you are, the better you will write…
It’s no wonder when you were fifteen you had some difficulties writing believabley about some things. At that age, you’ve never been married, or had kids yourself. In fact, except for perhaps tossing newspapers, you probably didn’t even have a job.

And a person’s job—the work they do in their lives—is a critical part to any character you write about. After all, when the names and pleasantries are dealt with, what’s the first thing you ask someone?

What they do for a living, of course. And some people, when they are asked that question…like to say they are writers. Only, they really aren’t.

Like acting, writing has acquired some sort of magical prestige. Writers and the art of writing have been glamorized. That’s why so many people want to call themselves writers. They want a piece of that prestige. But only a precious few of those who ‘call’ themselves writers, are willing (or even able) to do the work—and make the sacrifices—that are required to be a successful writer.

Most writers don’t lead exciting, and wonderfully strange lives; filled with ironic coincidences. They don’t go on adventures breaking into colleges, or professor’s homes. They don’t have the time too. They’re too busy writing.

It’s understandable why Hollywood has just glossed over the real work of writing—and only addressed it’s perils, and rewards. When you look at it while it’s happening, writing really isn’t that interesting. Would you want to sit through an hour and a half movie, watching someone type on a keyboard?

And so, the hard part of writing—the actual work of the job: the writing process itself; is completely ignored by popular media.

And that’s exactly the reason you do see so much bad writing—and fan-fiction—on the internet. It’s out there precisely because the people who ‘call’ themselves writers, don’t have the drive to make it into anything more.

And I’m warning you; stay away from that kind of writing—and the people who write it! It’s like junk food. Reading it; even interacting with the people who create it—will only make you a fat and lazy writer…

Don’t fret that you don’t have other writer’s around you now. When you get done with high school (which is where you’re presently are at I’m assuming from your age), and you end up going to college…you’ll meet those people. Lots of them.

And if college isn’t an option, you can still take a fiction writing course or workshop at a community college, or adult learning annex, and meet those kinds of people.

And in today’s digital world, meeting face to face with another writer is an antiquated way to go about doing business, anyway. I haven’t met face to face with another author in my writing circle in years…but then again, I don’t need to.

I’ve got the internet. And so do you…

How many billions of people are in the world now?

Granted, if you only speak English, you’re going to be narrowing your options a little—but your private school of 60 people isn’t the only place you can look for other writers. You have the rest of the state you live in, and all the rest of the country!

In fact, you’ve got a whole world of writers out there: in Canada, England, Ireland, Australia, and several countries in Europe and Africa—all places where people speak and write in english. The wonderful thing about the internet, is not you actually can have writers in your circle living in different places all over the world.

Just because you are separated physically by distance, doesn’t impede your ability to share the work you create—what you write, and what they write.
The writers you are desperately looking for are out there, MC. And guess what? I promise you; even in the state you live in—even the town, or city you live in—there is another writer who is having the same problems as you! One who is looking for another writer for help; just as you are.

All you need to do is find each other.

But how do you find them? How do you connect with them? Yes, it isn’t going to be easy. As I’ve already touched on, published authors are privy to a network, those of us who are not published, don’t have access to.

But when you break it down to the lowest level—you’re having problems finding those writers because of how you’re going about looking for them. You shouldn’t even be looking for them in the first place!

Stop looking for writers! All you really need to do is go out and meet people. Make some friends who have similar interests to yours. And because one of your interests is writing, I guarantee you; some of them, eventually, will be writers. In fact, as you’ve already mentioned, you had a friend who was a writer already…

MC wrote:
This is an issue for me; I find it difficult to organize people…

…I do not know any creative writers local to me outside of fan fiction and piss poor, two acres out of Tolkien’s backyard high fantasy writers. The only person I know who was any good has given up creative writing for some time now. I have nowhere to even post a notice that would get any attention…

…So I am at somewhat of an impasse, lacking both the means to start such a group and the means to join one…

When in comes to a writing circle, no organization skills are required. It’s not a class, or a meeting—or even some sort of club. It is simply a very informal network of friends—who also just happen to be able to write well.

Yes, there are tools that make starting and maintaining a circle easier. And I’m going to share those tools with everyone, soon. In fact, I’ve been creating a watering hole just for writers who want to start their own circle; and for writers who are looking to join one. And shortly, I’ll open its doors.


Because you’re right MC; presently there isn’t an easy place for serious writers on the internet to meet, and discuss, the craft of writing.

But that will soon change…

Keep an eye on this thread.

MC wrote:
Most people with equal experience are older than I am, and would be quite put off by my age.

Don’t let the fact that you are only eighteen discourage you. Writers come in all shapes, races, and ages. Some have experience on their side—as I do. Some are born with talent—as it seems you may have been.

But very few writers have both.

That’s why we network and share what we write with each other. When our writing is weak, we depend on the strengths of other writers to help us see how we can improve it.

You being eighteen doesn’t put me off at all. I couldn’t care less if you are twelve, quadriplegic, or even in prison! What matters to me is how you write. If you write as well as I do, I know I can help you—just as I know you can help me.

And that’s how the circle works. What goes around…

To close this up, as long as you keep writing, keep practicing—your writing will improve. You don’t need feedback to run this writing race. You will still get from point A to point B, eventually.

But a professional runner can help you with your technique; tell you what kind of running shoe works best for your feet; shout encouragement to you, as the finish line comes into sight.

While it’s true, another writer can’t run the race for you…they can help you cut minutes from your running time. And if you keep training, and don’t give up—eventually, when you do cross that finish line…you’ll be in first place.

MC, it doesn’t matter if you ARE the only writer running in the race. What matters is that you don’t give up, and that you keep running. You don’t have to be an Olympic athlete (or a published author), to be able to put one foot in front of the other, feel the breeze on your face, and enjoy the feeling of running your fingers over a keyboard.

After all, when it comes right down to it—that’s the real reason you write; and the only one that’s important—because you enjoy it.

Keep writing MC; improve your writing endurance, speed, and technique. And maybe one day in this park of life, we’ll meet each other while were writing—heck, we might even become running partners…writing together in circles.

I’d like to see that happen.

Because just like you; I don’t like writing alone either…

Good luck, and good writing…


Peter Usagi
(The Writing Rabbit)

Permanent link to this article: http://peterusagi.com/2011/03/08/advice-to-young-writers/

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