Young People These Days Have Got It Easy

Young People These Days Have Got It Easy

I don’t really get why people are so surprised when someone young produces something awesome, whether it’s a book or a piece of music or something completely different. There are plenty of precedents, after all – in the music world, you’ve got the obvious ones like Mozart, and then there’s Mendelssohn’s octet which he wrote when he was seventeen and which, according to the father-person, is an astonishing piece of music. (I’ve never heard it.)

And there are plenty of writers who started young, and you only have to follow the Teens Can Write Too blog chain to know that we’ve got all sorts of talented people who aren’t yet old enough to leave home (or drink, which possibly explains our productivity and relative good health), so really, people should stop being so patronising to teens.

The thing is, we have a lot of advantages.

I’m serious. I think being a teen writer is in many ways easier than being an adult writer. Obviously, I don’t have experience of the latter, but I have plenty of correspondents who do, and I can draw on what they’ve told me.

Time.

Yeah, I know. We’re all busy. We have to be at school most of the time, we’ve got extra-curricular activities, we’ve got parents demanding things of us, homework, university applications, etc etc. But when you’re an adult, you’ve got a job. And maybe a family. And you can’t depend on someone else to spend time cooking dinner because you have to do that yourself. I’m a phenomenally busy person, but I’ve got a structured school day with a 50 minute lunch break which is perfect for getting a couple of thousand words done.

Money.

At this stage, we don’t need to worry about being the starving artist. We can write as much as we want and no one is depending on us to earn a living from it, because we’re living with family and haven’t got all that many expenses. Yes, it might be nice to use it as a Saturday job, but that’s not necessarily going to work out for everyone. If you’re an independent human being, you need money. Which means you need work, because it’s going to be a while before writing will support you, if it ever does. Day jobs. See under ‘time’.

English Literature classes.

Apart from while studying English Literature at university, I believe that there’s no better time to be learning to write than when you’re studying A-Level English Lit, or the equivalent. We’re studying Hamlet at the moment, and my English teacher has pointed out several things where I’ve thought, “I could use that technique.” Parallels between father-son relationships and revenge are a particular one – it never occurred to me to put two characters in similar situations and see how they react differently, but I see now that that could be pretty neat. I’m also studying English Language, so I’m learning about sentence structures, grammar and etymology. But Lit’s the one that’s helping me, as I’m seeing new ways of structuring my writing and developing my characters. It’s particularly because we’re studying plays, I think, as I’m thinking about how it works visually. I can’t see myself having another opportunity like this.

Everyone our age is making mistakes.

When you’re thirty and you write a terrible novel and you screw up the querying process and whatever, it’s embarrassing. At our age, everyone’s making mistakes, whether that’s getting drunk for the first time and puking on a friend’s carpet, or being led down dodgy roads by people they shouldn’t have listened to. Writing a terrible novel is nothing compared to that, and you’ll be so busy doing it that you won’t have time to get pregnant at thirteen. Oh, and everyone’ll be so impressed that you wrote a book at all, they won’t think to laugh at you. As for the querying process, you’ve got plenty of time to keep trying.

You’re not expected to know everything.

I think because most teen writers have this inferiority complex that we’re not as good as adult writers, we’re more likely to keep revising, improving and rewriting before we try for an agent or publication, and I think in the long run that’s going to be a good thing, because we won’t be tempted to send something out before it’s ready. Maybe that’s just me, however.

However, as young writers we have one major disadvantage:

Experience.

If you’ve never lost a close friend, it’s hard to write about the feelings a character might be having. If you’ve never been in love, romance novels are going to be tricky.

Then again, this is something adult novelists have just as much as the rest of us – I mean, I’m pretty sure Douglas Adams never hitched a ride with Vogons, and I like to think that not every crime writer has killed someone, but that might just be a front they’re putting up.

So really, there’s absolutely no reason not to be a teen writer. Because everybody’s first couple of novels are terrible, and if you tackle the learning curve when you’re younger, you’ve got more time to enjoy the decent books that come out later.

For my older readers – never patronise a teen writer, even if they’re just starting out. Never put them down and say they’ve got a long way to go. And never automatically assume they’ll be bad because they’re young. Because:

TEENS CAN WRITE TOO!

43 thoughts on “Young People These Days Have Got It Easy

    1. A-level courses are the last two years of secondary school, where you choose subjects that you want to study rather than being forced to continue with ones you don’t like. They’re more advanced than the exams that everyone takes and some people choose to leave school and get a job rather than continue for two more years :D
      I take English Literature, Classical Civilisations, French and Music (with English Language and Classical Greek as extras because I am a nerd).

        1. I’m taking it after school, and I’m the only person from my year group studying it (but there are five from younger years). It’s not exactly ‘offered’ … I’m just stubborn and refused to drop the idea after they initially said I could take it a few years back! :D We’re a language college, so we offer 7 modern languages, plus everyone does Latin for two or three years.

        1. French or German in your first year – you don’t get a choice, just depends which class you’re in. Italian, Spanish, Russian, Chinese or Japanese in your second year. (And everyone does Latin in the first two years; some drop it to do Classical Civilisations for a year; some continue for a year and then drop it; some continue for three years and take an exam in it.)

      1. What you do mean by it depends which class you’re in? Does it alternate with students in Year X taking German, and then the next year students going into Year X take French? Sorry if I’m being annoying; I’m confused.

        1. Ah, language differences. Class is another word for, like, form group. We have 7 forms in our year (but younger years have 6 because they changed the intake). 4 of the forms took French and 3 took German. Now, 3 take each :D

      2. Oh, got it. So…

        UK US
        Year/form(?) Class/grade
        Class Team*

        At least around here. They tend to be named after the school’s initials, so THS will have T Team, H Team, and S Team. And they usually go in order based on skill level, so the really smart kids will be on T, average on H, and so on. Which as you can imagine probably doesn’t make the S kids feel so great.

        1. We have:
          Year Group
          Form Group.
          Forms are like registration groups. I think you have homeroom or something? It’s like that.
          Then your classes are specific to subjects – eg. my science class was nothing like my English class because I was in the top set for English but the science groups were mixed-ability.
          Your form is named after your form tutor. We were 11TMO last year as TMO were my teacher’s initials; this year I’m 12DT.

  1. This blog post is made of awesome. And it has also confirmed that i ought to stop making excuses and actually write, because I’m unlikely to get this sort of time on my hands again.
    Thanks for the boot in the backside *grins*

    Also, I get to do Macbeth AND Chaucer this year for A-Level. So excited!

    1. Ehehe! Not a big fan of Macbeth myself. See the comments on my Shakespeare fangirl post :D

      GET WRITING BEASTIE. You’ve got just enough time to write or edit a novel before NaNo starts. Ehehe.

      1. I WILL WRITE! I AM GOING TO! I WILL MAKE MYSELF!

        As for Macbeth, well, I’ve always has a soft spot for the play – mainly because I like Macbeth as a character. And the witches are just awesome xD

          1. I don’t think I was quite at that level when I read it before :D Now I’m writing Hamlet/Avengers crossovers, because my teacher described Hamlet as an Avenger and it set me thinking about which character he was most like and… I don’t even know any more. Add that to Voltemand/Voldemort, we’ve got a pretty wacky adaptation happening.

          2. More of an essay than a fan fic. And most of it is still inside my head.
            My English teacher is hilarious. We have two teachers, but he’s my favourite. And he likes the Avengers and Harry Potter and stuff so he’s cool.

          3. Both of my teachers this year are really dry and strict . . . I had a really eccentic guy last year who was hilarious. We were doing Hardy, and we spent one class concocting methods to cheer him up so his poetry wouldn’t be so boring any more. Some of the answers were hysterical.

          4. One of my teachers is stricter, and when we started my crazy teacher said she was the ‘good cop’ and he was the ‘bad cop’. But so far it’s the other way around. Although, everyone in my class sucks at apostrophes and grammar, so he says he’s going to teach us to write in tomorrow’s lesson and then set us an essay, so that’s seriously irritating and will be very boring. I might take a book. After all, he wrote on my last essay, “well-written and focused analysis” which clearly means I can use apostrophes!

      2. Hm… I wonder if they’d let me add you to the Year Round NaNo group that spawned off the Maryland NaNo group. We post about what we did, writing wise, each day on Facebook (in a private ) forum.

        It’s a great way for me to make sure I keep going forward with my planning (even if I’m not writing the story yet) for this November’s story.

    1. Longer ago
      Mary Shelley was 17 when she wrote Frankenstein, I believe.
      In recent years
      Though one could dispute the quality of the writing, Eragon was written by a teenager and was seriously successful.

  2. I really agree, especially about time. I’m busy, but I can’t imagine how crazy my life would be if I had kids and a full-time job, for example. Suddenly this puts everything into perspective… hmm…. suddenly I feel bad for thinking that I don’t have enough time to write.

    1. I wrote a post for Mark Williams International about a year ago, called ‘Time To Write’. It’s my motivational wake-up call to myself and everyone else. If I can find a link, I’ll send it to you :D

  3. Like your style and your writing style too.
    I think you’re right and that’s the reason that many people don’t get around to serious writing until they are ancient. There is so much to do and so little time to do it in.
    Don’t let that time disappear though. It’s easy to think you have forever.
    Forever disappears in a trice.
    Nice post.

  4. Great post! I love your attitude of, “We’re young, we’re passionate, our parents are still paying most of our bills, so what do we have to lose?” You’re so right! And it doesn’t really have to be just writing, but anything. If more kids found something they loved doing, and devoted their time to it, less kids would be doing drugs and getting into other trouble, don’t you think?
    Unfortunately for me, I wasn’t as wise as you when I was a teenager. I loved to write, but people told me I was basically just playing pretend. So I really slowed down on my writing, until just recently. Glad you are using your youth wisely!

    1. People are very unhelpful like that. I continually get patronised because I say I’m a writer – “Oh, you’re writing a *story*? What’s it about?” – but I’ve learned to ignore that or reply with a sarcastic comment :D

      Yeah, absolutely, it’s not just about writing. All these random motivational posts could be about anything. i talk about writing because out of all the things I do, it’s the one I want to make my career, but I could easily talk about other things :D

    2. I’m in your boat as well Nicki. Only for me it was poor spelling and the inability to excel in English classes the way I did in math and chemistry, that kept writing as a ‘hobby’.

      Even as an adult we can be patronized, or not taken seriously. *sigh* it’s cruel world, but there are awesome writers out there giving support to those who seek it to help combat that. :}

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