by teen writer Abigail Hartman
Abigail Hartman is a Christian, which she hopes colors everything else about her; she also just happens to be a sixteen-year-old writer of historical fiction and fantasy, a homeschool almost-graduate, and author of the historical novel The Soldier’s Cross. On her blog, Scribbles and Ink Stains, she posts about writing, literature, and the odd cup of tea.
If you asked every writer you ever met whether or not they want to be published, I would venture to say that the answer for the vast majority would be yes. It isn't why we write, of course; we write because we're writers, because we love the art of story-crafting, because we can't not. And there are some writers who are satisfied with that and don't mind the thought of never showing their work to another pair of eyes as long as they live. For the most part, however, writers cherish the thought of publication, perhaps to earn a living, perhaps for the sake of presenting to the public stories into which they have poured so much of themselves.
This part of the creative process is natural, and, with the rise and increased success of the self-publishing process, perhaps easier than it has ever been before. With programs like Amazon's CreateSpace, getting a novel out to readers is now little more than a click (or ten) away. Young writers no longer have to wait for agents and editors to take notice; we can launch out into the world of published novels on our own.
The subject has been hashed out and beaten to a pulp in numerous articles in the past few years, so I'm not going to delve into the pros and cons of self-publishing. My point is publication itself, and especially publication as it relates to teen writers. Some of us have been writing for a good number of years, editing for a few less, and we're now either tinkering with or actively seeking publication - sweating over query letters, getting the scoop on advances, the whole shebang. Our work is ready to face the world!
But are we?
Pessimistic, I know, but I'll say now that I am not one who believes teenagers are incapable of writing good novels, or of getting them published even if they could write them. On the contrary, I believe that teens, especially well-read and dedicated teens, are as capable of producing fresh, well-written works as their seniors; the issue is not with teenagers' capabilities, but with the low expectations generally placed on them. Those ought not be allowed to handicap us.
And yet I believe the question still holds for every young writer thinking about publication, whether on their own or through traditional means: is it the right time? Your story may be ready, but are you? We should never rush blindly into things; the cost should always be counted in advance, so that we may then take the plow and move forward without looking back. As you start to mull over publication, gathering facts about the process, remember to take these things into account:
1. Do I realize what this will entail? As I've studied the details of publication, have I also gleaned information on what it requires of the author? Or do I still treat it as a daydream?
2. Is this a good time to be putting this in motion? Am I willing to sacrifice time and energy, not only to finding a publisher, but to marketing and all the finer points as well?
3. Am I emotionally ready for this? Have I, or can I, learn to take bad reviews and negative feedback professionally? (Work on that plastic smile!)
4. Is this what I want to do? To be cliche, is my heart and soul in it? If writing is merely a hobby, perhaps self-publishing is a better option; but seeking traditional publication demands dedication.
If these seem overwhelming...it's probably a good thing. On some days they seem overwhelming to me, and I'm sure the same is true of many other authors. But that last question is really the clincher, and if your answer is yes, then the others can be conquered through wisdom and perseverance. After prayer and thought you may find that now is not the right time to take this step; but it's certainly better to discover that sooner than later, and if this is your vocation, then the step will come in due course. So be ambitious, aim high, and apply wisdom as you do so. That is a recipe for godly success.