When I was a teenager I thought that my passion for books and writing was going to save me.
From the ages of fourteen to sixteen I’d rebelled against the system, bunking off school, going on protest marches, clubbing and drinking and taking drugs.
But then I had a reality check. If I wanted to leave the estate I’d grown up on – if I wanted to create a life I loved – I needed to start working hard to make that happen.
So I knuckled down and worked harder than I’d ever done before to pass my A levels so that I could get to uni.
I thought that a degree in English Literature and Screenwriting would be a passport into the world of writing.
As it turned out, it wasn’t.
I dropped out of uni two years into my course as I allowed the voice of fear inside my head to tell me that I didn’t belong in that middle class world.
I was wrong, but writing did end up saving me … just a few years later than planned!
I now care passionately about helping young writers believe in themselves and achieve their dreams.
So, if you’re a young adult with a writing dream, here are my top ten tips (PLUS some exciting workshop news at the end of this post).
Please feel free to share with any young – or new – writers in your life…
One: Write about what you’re passionate about
… As opposed to what you think will be popular. Don’t follow a trend, make a trend. It will help you stand out and your writing will be all the more vibrant and real. Plus, writing about the things that fire you up help give you the stamina to keep on writing.
Two: Start small.
If you dream of being a novelist but the thought of writing 70,000 plus words gives you a bad case of the dreads, downsize your writing dream. Not forever, just for now. Start by writing short stories or blog posts. Hone your craft in smaller, easier to achieve ways.
Three: It’s OK to be bad
Everyone is bad at first. Or, as the writer Ernest Hemingway put it: ‘The first draft of anything is shit.’ The main thing is that you write. Just like physical exercise, the more you do it, the better you become. So keep on showing up at the page and putting down the words one at a time, and hone that writing muscle.
Four: Write anyway
When doubt and fear strike, write your way through them. If your inner voice tells you that you’re not good enough, ignore it. It’s just your fear trying to protect you from disappointment. Focus instead on how amazing it will be when you achieve your writing dreams. Keep writing your way towards them.
Five: Use a character questionnaire
This is probably the tool I recommend most to other writers. Not only does it help you create interesting and well-rounded characters but it should give you a ton of ideas for your plot too. You can find a character questionnaire here. Feel free to add your own questions to it.
Six: Focus on your reader
When you start writing it can be really easy to forget all about the person you’re writing for. Remember your reader. When you’re coming up with ideas, fleshing out characters, creating a plot and writing a scene, ask yourself: what will my reader get from this? Make sure they’re getting something.
Seven: Do the right writing
There are many different types and genres of writing. Make sure you’re doing the right one for you. In my next novel, Tell it to the Moon, one of the main characters, Amber, is really struggling with writer’s block. She just can’t seem to find the motivation to write. But when she starts writing a play she just can’t stop. Experiment with different types of writing until you find the right one for you.
Eight: Don’t let the dream-busters get you down
One thing I’ve learned over the years is that whenever you have a dream you will encounter ‘dream-busters’. These are people who will try and put you off your writing dream with sly put-downs or passive aggressive remarks. This is usually down to their own unhappiness or jealousy. Try not to let it hurt you – let it fire you up and make you all the more determined instead.
Nine: Learn from constructive criticism
Writing is such a personal thing – even when you’re writing fiction it still feels liking you’re pouring your heart and soul on to the page. So if you receive criticism it can really sting. But – if the criticism is constructive – try to learn from it. Even best-selling authors get notes from their editors telling them how to improve their work. And ultimately, that should be your main objective – to make your writing the best that it can be.
Ten: Write for joy
Don’t write for fame and fortune, write for the pure joy of it. I used to think writing success and talent was measured in book sales, now I know for a fact that this isn’t true. Now I measure the success of my books in terms of how much joy I had while I was writing them. You should too – it makes the whole writing thing SO much better.
Bonus tip: Come to my young writers workshop
I’m running a workshop for young writers (age 11 – 15) on Saturday 27th May at Brighton Festival.
We’ll be going into all of the tips featured here in a lot more detail.
And it will be a lot of fun.
Find out more and book your ticket here.
Young writers wanted…
I’m looking for young writers to write guest posts for the Moonlight Dreamers website.
Topics I’m looking for posts on include:
- Achieving a dream
- Political causes / activism
Or you can pitch me an idea of your own.
If you’d like to find out more or pitch me an idea, simply fill out the form below…
Coming August 2017
Tell it to the Moon, the Moonlight Dreamers sequel, is available to pre-order on Amazon here. Perfect for writers, dreamers and people who want to be the change.