Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Perks of Being a Teen Writer

Tessa Emily Hall is a 19-year-old author of Purple Moon, her YA Christian fiction novel to be published September 2013 by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. She is also a freelance writer, the editor over the faith department for Temperance Magazine, a column writer for Whole Magazine, a contributing writer for More To Be, as well as the PR for God of Moses Entertainment. Other than writing, Tessa enjoys acting, music, Starbucks, and her imperial Shih Tzu—who is named Brewer after a character in her book, as well as her love for coffee.

When I tell people that I’m an author, they think it’s crazy that I’ve been published at such a young age. I’ve never understood why it’s such a rare thing for teenagers to pursue publication. I mean, what makes writing different than other forms of the arts—such as dancing, acting, modeling, or singing?

Many adults try to discourage teenagers from pursuing publication. However—by pursuing writing as a teenager, I was able to get a head start in my career. While publication may not be your goal for right now, your teenage years are prime time for developing and honing your craft. It’s completely fine to use these years to “prepare” for your publication journey rather than let it begin.

Besides, there are several perks to writing at a young age:

1. Your teenage voice will come across as authentic. I recently ran into several “books” I wrote in middle school, all of which consisted of a pre-teen protagonist. When I decide to write middle grade books one day, I’ll be able to study and “copy” the voice I had when I wrote those stories. There are some YA books sound more like an adult trying to be a teenager rather than an actual teenager. By writing YA books from a teen perspective, your voice will come across as genuine. There will no need for you to “fake” being a teenager since—well, you are one.

2. You have first-hand experience of what it’s like to be a teenager in this generation. Although adults were at one time teenagers themselves, let's face it—the times have changed. Since you’ll be able to relate to your protagonist, your story will most likely come across as believable and authentic.

3. You have an early start in your writing career. Many of those who dream of becoming an author "when they grow up" don't find their name in print sometime until late in their adult years. And for several, their dream of being an author remains a dream. They never try to make it happen because they think it’s too late and not likely. Why wait when you can begin now? If you begin researching and developing your craft now, you’ll be doing your future self a favor.

4. As teenagers, we have the ability and influence to reach out to the youth. 19-year-olds Alex and Brett Harris discuss in their book, "Do Hard Things", how important it is that we don't sit around and watch our youth pass by when we have the power to change it now. Who best to reach out and understand teenagers than another teenager?

5. You’re able to write without feeling pressure. You’ll have time to develop your craft, knowing that it isn’t a race. Plus, once you do get published, writing will become your job—you might not always have the motivation to write like you do now.

And, of course, there are the fun aspects of being a teen writer, such as:

1. You can weave your own experiences into the stories that you’re writing. A few years ago, I attended a summer camp and played a dare game called Farkle with some of the girls that I met. Since it was so much fun, I decided to incorporate the game into my upcoming YA novel, Purple Moon (which releases Sept. 24).

2. If you’re an introvert like I am, you have an excuse to stay home. You need some kind of social life, but it’s always nice to spend some time with yourself if you’re an introvert. Plus, it makes a great excuse to not go places where you know you won’t feel comfortable. “Sorry, I can’t. I have to work on my book this evening.”

3. You can have fun with it. Of course, every writer can have fun with writing. But like I said—once you become an author, your writing will start feeling more like a job rather than a hobby. Be creative when you write (and not just with the book you’re working on): sit in your favorite chair, sip on your favorite latte or tea, burn a few candles, turn on some music, etc. Don’t take for granted the time you have now as unpublished author. =)

What are some of your favorite parts about being a teenage writer?


43 comments:

  1. Absolutely an inspiring post, Tessa. I am 12 years old and Am writng books for tweens and young teens. I like to write about about girls finding courage. And I feel as if I know exactly what the girl feels like because myself need help fjdjg courage sometimes. Thanks for this post!!!!!! Oh and your book looks AWESOME!!!!!!!! Tw

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    1. And my favorite part?that I know how the character is feeling.

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    2. Exactly! When I wrote and rewrote “Purple Moon”, I could relate so much to situations and emotions that my protagonist, Selena, was going through. It’s always best to “write what you know”. =) Thanks so much for your comment, TW!

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    3. YES, it totally is!! :) You're welcome!

      I have a question...

      Tessa,

      how old were you when you started writing?

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    4. I started coming up with stories when I was 3 (I would dictate them to my mom so she could write them), and I've never stopped since then. =)

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  2. I LOVE this post! I'm 16, and have been writing since I was 12. Not only has writing helped me process my tumultuous feelings, but I can pour my experiences into my stories to create authentic emotional responses. Just love being a teen writer. This post made me smile!

    Zara

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    1. I completely agree. When the author can relate emotionally to what the protagonist is going through, the reader will be able to connect as well, and the emotions will come across as authentic. I’m glad you enjoyed it, Zara!

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  3. Great post Tessa :) I agreed with a lot of what you said, especially the last one. My mum keeps telling people I'm writing a book (which I am) and I feel kinda guilty because while I am writing a book I'm taking it slow and going at my own pace and finding what I'm comfortable with. I love being able to be semi-serious and write for fun right now :) Another great thing about being a teen writer is meeting other teen writers and being just inspired. Seeing stories about teens getting published just makes me want to push harder and having other teen writers is such an encouragement when you can share with each other and everything :)

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    1. It’s always best to go at your own pace rather than rush--which, of course, is one of the reasons why being a teen writer is so great. It took me a total of about four years to write, rewrite, and edit “Purple Moon”. During those years, I noticed that it’s never worth sacrificing the quality of my story in order to rush and get it published. I completely agree--I love meeting other teen writers and reading the stories they’re working on. =)

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    2. I'm not sure how long I've been working on my WIP but it's been maybe 2 years? Hearing you took four (and I think Ms.Stephanie did too...with one of hers) makes me feel a whole lot better about my pace.

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    3. Yes, my debut novel took me four years of off-and-on writing, rewriting, scrapping, rewriting to finish. And then the next two in the series each took me about six months :) With that first one, I was still learning how to put together a story. It's different for everyone, though.

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    4. See, hearing that from published and amazing authors makes me feel better :)

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  4. I completely agree with this post. You can start at a young age, and you experience every aspect of being a teenager. When adults try and write about a high-school experience, they will have lost a lot of the memories of being a teenager in high-school. Teenagers have those memories and experiences first-hand. There are so many perks!

    www.alicekouzmenkowriting.blogspot.com

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    1. So true! It reminds me of Stephanie Morrill’s latest book series, Ellie Sweet. Ellie is able to turn her own experiences in high school into the stories that she writes. =) Thanks for commenting!

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    2. Oh, there you are, Alice! How did I miss you? *facepalm*

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    3. Tessa, when I read your post, I was thinking, "Ellie would love this!" :)

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  5. I LOVED this post! I'm fifteen and have been writing since fourteen, so still relatively new. A few month ago I finished my first novel, and I'm now editing it. I guess my favourite part would be the freedom -- you can create your own world and characters and whatnot, and if you dislike someone, you can kill them off >:) also, it's a fun hobby to talk about. A few of my friends also write, but even the ones who don't ask me how the novel is going occasionally. Not that I give them many details, haha. Anyway, congratulations on your book! I will be keeping an eye out for it :)

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    1. Thank you so much, Hannah! Yes, I love the freedom that comes with creating my own world and having the "power" to control what happens next, haha =)

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  6. Great post, and very encouraging! I need to get busy on my hoping-for-publication book.

    My favorite part about being a teen writer? I don't know. Maybe it's seeing the characters come to life on the page and take over the story. Or maybe it's coming up with all the unusual things that could happen- including, every now and then, deaths. Or maybe it's the fact that being a teen writer gives me an excuse to be a bit weird, a bit crazy, and to go around with a pencil stuck through my braid.

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  7. This was a great post. :) I hope to be published, but once I do writing will become my job, like you said. I'm happy with where I am at right now, actually. :) My favorite part of being a TW is probably that I can take my own time with writing. I can go at my own pace. :)

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  8. Like you, I never understood why people discouraged teen writers.... Also like you, I knew teen writers had the teen voice...
    My favorite part of writing? Um.... I like telling people about my stories and ideas to see them get excited, but I also like how they can become like their own person.:-)
    Naomi

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  9. Excellent post, Tessa! I'm not a teenager anymore (I'm 26), but I started writing as a teen. Your points are right-on and I'm so thankful I stuck to writing through my teen years instead of waiting or quitting. I didn't have a lot of support from adults because they constantly said, "It's not a good profession." Well, that's an adult speaking. I never thought of it as a profession and still don't. It's an adventure!

    So, from the other side looking back, I've benefited from writing as a teen. Granted, I may not be able to write fully realistic teenagers in my book, but I've kept hold of the excitement that comes from writing without that pressure to rush. Now I'm a full-time author. (My debut dystopian novel will come out through Marcher Lord Press in the near future. We don't have a release date yet.)

    My favorite parts about having been a teenage writer is being able to look back and say, "I never quit. And it's totally worth it." So, keep on it, Tessa! Thank you for posting.

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    1. You said this so well, Nadine! I have a similar story - I started as a teen and was published in my twenties.

      Congratulations on signing with MLP! I love dystopians :)

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    2. So true--I've also heard adults say that being an author isn't a job that is likely, nor is it a job that brings a steady income. I don't think that should hold anyone back from pursuing their dream. I agree--I'd much rather have an "adventure" than a profession. =)

      That's awesome, I absolutely love dystopian novels. Can't wait to hear more about it!

      Thanks so much for your comment!

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  10. I think it's fantastic that you had the dream and began pursuing it in your teens. I was 19 when I sold my first magazine article (through a contest), but I hadn't even dreamed of starting a book at that time. Keep it up! Hope to see more titles with your byline in the future!

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    1. I didn't realize you started writing as a teenager, Mr. Barry. Cool to know.

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  11. Great post, Tessa. I love your reference to "Do Hard Things". That book is a great example of how teens can get published and a great title to reference when people tell us we're to young to pursue publishing. Don't ever let the culture's low expectations discourage you and make you give up!

    My favorite part of being a teen writer is being able to devote a lot more of my time and energy to my writing than I would be able to if I was an adult juggling a job and family or the hundreds of other things adults do.

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  12. Don't know if anyone is on this late, but I need help. Really badly. I've hit writers' block and I know realize why people find it so challenging. It isn't that you can't write, it's that you CAN'T write. I don't have a will anymore.

    I need a new middle grade idea. If anyone has any good starter sentences or titles, please help out a fellow writer. Thanks in Advance,

    Shaneene

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    1. Hey Shaneene,

      That's really annoying that you have writer's block! I hate it when that happens... Are you trying to start a new story or are you in the middle of one and you're stuck? If you're starting a new story, I don't really have any specific suggestions but this website has generators for titles, character descriptions, and sentence starters... http://shortstoryideas.herb.me.uk/. If it doesn't work for you type something like story idea generator into Google and it should give you some good websites. Hope that helps!

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  13. Yay for teen authors! I totally agree with the introvert part. What better career then hiding with a computer and talking to your imaginary friends all day (they used to call that...um...insanity. But hey! Whatever.) XD

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  14. Intriguing. I'm working at the writing craft as a teen, but I don't expect to get published while I'm still under 20. I'm mentally nodded in agreement at every perk listed: totally agree. The downside to being published as a teen though is the fact that our vocabulary is so much more undeveloped as teenagers vs. adults. What happens, in ten or so years, when you look back on your teen novel and realize how "juvenile" it sounds? That's my fear. But working without pressure is fantastic. :)

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    1. I've been concerned about this before too, although I'm not much worried about my vocabulary being underdeveloped as I am with my writing craft not being completely developed. However, I've learned that it's more about experience than it is age. The fact that my writing level is probably not where it's going to be in 10 years doesn't bother me, only because every writer should grow in their craft over time. So when I look back, I hope not to cringe at my writing, but instead to be happy at how much I've grown.

      However, I think it's great that you're waiting to pursue publication until your in your 20s. As I mentioned in this post, there are several advantages to waiting. =)

      Thanks for your comment!

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  15. That's a great post, Tessa!! (and so true!)I never thought of my writing that way - being authentic. I published my first book in February and many people (adults, mind you. Hehe) commented on how a teenager could write with such strong emotions. The book is written in first person about a teen, so, I suppose, I have just come across as genuine. :D
    Favourite parts about being a teenage writer? EVERYTHING!
    Your post has got me excited...I'm off to write! :D

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    1. My book is written in first person also. =) I think it really helps with getting inside of the character's head and making their voice sound like a teen, as you mentioned. That's awesome that you have a book published too, it sounds great! Thanks for commenting!

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  16. Hi, Tessa. I think this post sums up being a teen writer perfectly. I'm a teen writer too, and have been writing ever since I can remember. I hope to publish one of my books soon. I think teen writers these days are lucky because they have Amazon and Kindle to market their book. Your book sounds very interesting!

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  17. Cool post! I've only a year past ascended from being a teenager, but it's still fresh in my writing. It is definitely a perk. :)

    Stori Tori's Blog

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  18. I like that you can sound like a teenager and experience things first-hand. You don't have to think "well if I was a teenager what would I do" becauase you are one. Thanks for the post

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  19. great post! I like, since my character is a teen like me, being able to kind of BE her, especially since it is a POV (hopefully) novella. One way shes lik me- its a fantasy, so she tries to curtsy to the queen and trips over her feet. a lot like me, lol! She says "Im fine. Its a daily occurrence. Twice an hour, at the least." that's one of my favorite lines so far hehe.

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  20. I love this post! I'm a tween and love writing. This is a great post that perfectly describes the awesomeness of being a teen/tween writer.

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  21. Hello there tessa! This post is very inspiring! But, there's one question I need to ask. How do you know if your even good at writing? I've tried countless amounts of times to edit one of my stories. Every time I try, I screw up the paper and just toss it in the trash. I really want to become a writer, but, I see other people my age (13) and gasp at the amazing words put together in a sentence that pulls you in instantly. I don't really know what to do. I don't really put my stories out to anyone. Could you help me?

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    1. Hi! I noticed your comment is recent so I'll just give my two cents and hopefully it'll be of some help. :) First off, you're not alone. Many writers hate their early work and chances are, you are better than you think. Even if you're not, I think the important thing is to have a passion for writing, and you'll eventually get better with practice. You're young (as am I!) and have got plenty of time to improve. And it's true - some people have a natural talent for writing, while others need to work hard to get to that same level, but that shouldn't deter us. If you haven't already, you could read some books and articles on the craft of writing. I know that has really helped me to improve my writing skills. And if you don't mind showing a couple of pieces of writing to others, you could even find a critique partner/beta reader from forums and blogs. I hear it's a very helpful experience.

      Good luck with your writing!

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