3 Things for Teen Writers

3 Things for Teen Writers

We're living in a golden age for young writers. There are so many fantastic opportunities for young writers to get their work read, to build their writing portfolios, and to reach wide audiences. But so many teen wordsmiths just don't know what opportunities are out there, and what they could be doing to grow their readership. Here are a few things I'd be doing if I was a teen writer again, to grow both my readership and my writing ability.

1. Build that online presence, but build it smart.

Posting your thoughts about books on Twitter and building a following? Smart. Posting random photos of what you ate on Snapchat and Instagram? Not so much. Not all social media is the same; some networks might just be for fun and socializing, but other networks can really help build your writing community, and help you meet and grow relationships with the kinds of writers and artists you really want to know. Think about what kind of persona you want to have on the internet; and also remember that in a weird way, the internet is forever. Thoughtless comments can get you in trouble. But more important than just the fear of trouble is the opportunity that networks can present. Follow the #amreading tag on Twitter to get book recommendations, and add some of your own; post a sentence or two of your best writing to entice followers to read more. Check out the places online where you can get feedback for your writing, like WattPad or Storybird; and don't forget lovely Teen Ink, a great resource for getting feedback on your writing.

2. Read the books coming out today, but not just the trendy books.

There's always going to be a new YA novel out that's all the rage, and that everyone's reading in school. It's a good idea to keep your finger on the pulse of contemporary fiction -- but so many of these books are just trend-followers, flash-in-the-pan books that won't outlive the year, much less the decade. It's important to read good stuff because life's just too short to read everything! So be choosy in your reading; these are the books that are going to shape your own writing. Instead of the latest vampire or zombie romance, how about reading a book that really seems unusual and unique? How about the books that are winning this year's big prizes, like The Turner House by Angela Flournoy, Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng, and the latest collection of Alice Munro short stories? This serious literary fiction is no less riveting than the book of the month bestseller, but it's so, so much better in its writing.

3. Find your writing peeps.

When I was in high school, my friend and I started Creative Writing Club. It was a great place to get together and enthuse about writing, making sure at least one day a week we were doing writing exercises and reading great short stories. It was also a place where we made lasting friends. Years later, we were still exchanging stories and getting feedback and encouragement from some of those budding writers. High school doesn't have to be just about academics; it's also a place to start shaping who you want to be, and what kinds of people you want to know. Find your network by starting a club at your school or chatting with the editors of the literary magazine. Volunteer to be an editor. Give feedback on others' writing. The more you give to your fellow writers, the more you'll get in return.