Sunday, August 10, 2014

Querying for the Young Writer

Hello everyone! Its been awhile since I've posted on here. That's because I have been absent for the past month. For the first ten days I was on a cruise in Alaska with my family. It was really a breathtaking experience and I'll talk more about that in my next post.

But today's post has to deal with the other thing I was doing this July. For two weeks I was a Residential Assistant at a creative writing camp called Shared Worlds. Its a fantasy writing camp in which kids from ages 13-17 get together in world building groups and create worlds together from scratch. Its truly an exciting experience. I should know: I went there myself for three years.

All of the kids who went to camp with me understand what its like to be a young writer. Some of them are more advanced than others. Some of them have been writing for longer. But they all have aspirations to one day have books in print.

So today, I'm talking a bit specifically to young writers, especially those who are querying or want to start querying in the future. I started diving into the trenches when I was sixteen, so I know how it can be. Let's go over some tips for querying your novel.

1) Seek advice

This is important for any writer out there. Everyone should get multiple sets of eyes on their query and first pages before sending them off. But for young writers in particular, this can be a helpful resource. If you were like me in high school, you didn't show a ton of people your writing. Taking this into consideration, the querying process can seem really frightening. So before diving in blindly, you want to do research. Talk to other writers online who have been through this. Sign up on agentqueryconnect.com and find people who are willing to lend you a helping hand. They're out there and super friendly. I don't know where I'd be without the people online who gave me advice for the querying process.

2) Beg for Critiques

If you are a young writer, people will be inclined to critique you less harshly. Again, if you were like me, you received heaps of praise from your peers and teachers and believed, naively, that you were the best writer ever. It only takes a stack of rejections to tell you otherwise. It is possible that, as a young writer, you have never received a thorough critique. Beg for one. Hand out your writing under the guise of 'tear it apart. Leave no word alive.' Not only will it improve your manuscript, but its better to get a harsh critique from people you trust first.

You have to build up a backbone to enter the trenches. It might hurt, but your writing will be better for it.

3) Query as if you were Older

Something I see in the slush pile a lot when it comes to young writers: A stress on their age. People who point out that they are 'just sixteen' or 'in high school' and writing a book. You don't see older writers saying their age. Why? Because its not the age that matters. Its the writing.

I think some writers stress their age as a bragging point. Like 'I'm young but I'm querying and that's special'. Honestly, its awesome for ANYONE to be able to finish a book, no matter the age. If you're a good writer, then age won't make a difference. My agent didn't know I was eighteen until we had the call. And it worked out fine for me.

Those are three important tips for young writers, though some of that advice holds true for writers of any age. Get advice and get critiqued. And young writers, never stop trying to get better. You have a long road ahead of you, but you have the talent and the drive to back it up.

Happy Writing!

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