Teens Can Write, Too!

Changing the world's opinion… as soon as we finish this math homework

Being a Teen Is Not the End

Update: 3/30/14

So, quite obviously, this is a teen writing blog. And by definition, that means I’m all, “Rah! Rah! Teen writers rock!” “Teen writers can get published!” “Teens can write, too!” (See what I did there?) I talk a lot about how teen writers, just like all other writers out there, are completely capable of securing a book deal, and often, as is the case with our teen author bookshelf, I highlight all of those who do.

But, here’s one thing I don’t often talk about: what if you don’t get published as a teen?

What if you work your heart out, write a great book, fully deserve to secure that book deal… and it just doesn’t fall through? Or what if you realize that you just need more time to improve your craft before you can get published? Or… what if it just doesn’t happen while you’re a teenager?

And I know this may sound silly to any non-teens reading this, but I think a lot of us teen writers, myself included, fear this. In fact, we fear it not just a little bit, but a lot. There’s something in the back of our minds that says, “Okay, you need to get published before you turn twenty-one.” Or, “Okay, you need to get an agent before you turn twenty-one.” Or, “Okay, you need to write a full novel before you turn twenty-one.” There’s something telling you that you need to do X writing-related thing while you’re still young, because you know that you are talented, and you want to show it to the world. But more than that, there’s a certain level of personal pride in it, because you want to be able to look back on yourself in ten years and say, “Yeah, I did [insert thing here] when I was only eighteen.”

Whatever the case, this is something we all deal with on some level, and it’s 100%, totally normal. Everyone, knowingly or not, sets goals for themselves. Everyone. And it just so happens that many of us teen writers set goals revolving around our age, so the possibility of not doing X writing-related thing before we turn twenty instills fear in a lot of us. (In a weird way, it’s sort of like the “I need to get kissed/need to lose my virginity before I turn Y age” mentality that a lot of us, myself included, feel.)

I get this. I really do. Even now, I still feel a little tingle of fear whenever I remember that, chances are, I won’t get published before I turn twenty. But today, when this possibility popped up again, I found myself thinking, “Well, who cares?”

To help give you all some perspective, I’ve spent the last thirty minutes researching all of the things that happen if you don’t get published as a teen, and I’ve culminated my findings into this one picture. So what happens if you don’t get published as a teen? Well:

There is a legit picture here. You just can’t see it. #SneakyJohnIsSneaky

The answer is nothing.

Nothing happens. Absolutely nothing. The world does not implode. Dinosaurs don’t come back to life and take you hostage in your own basement. Your fingers do not, out of protest, refuse to ever form words again.

It just… passes.

Because here’s the thing: you’re a writer, and you know what writers do? We keep writing. We keep writing better and better books, until we finally write The One. Whether that’s the one that we first complete, or the one that gets us an agent, or the one that secures us a book deal, it doesn’t matter. But if you keep trying, it will happen, and the glory will be just as sweet as it would have been if you did it as a teenager.

You’ll get there.

Remember that, okay?

You. will. get there.

You’ll get there, and it doesn’t matter one bit when you do, because the beautiful thing about publishing is that age is a nonfactor. Writing is not like, say, gymnastics where you have to “make it” at a young age or else you’ll never make it at all. In writing, it’s all about your book–and if your book is good, that’s all people will see. So think of it this way: wouldn’t you rather wait to publish an incredible book that will garner you fans from all across the globe, than to rush to publish one you know isn’t so great, just because you want to secure a book deal while you’re still a teen?

Don’t get me wrong: I think positive peer (self?) pressure can be a good thing. But you have to remember that at the end of the day, even if you don’t hit your goal of accomplishing X thing before you turn twenty, or twenty-one, or whatever the age may be, nothing will change. The voice in your head is wrong, because you are not a failure. You started following your dreams at an age before most people even realize what their dreams are, and for that, you deserve nothing but applause.

Because, really? I’m confident that if you keep working at it, one day, each and every one of you will have your books on the shelves. Some of you will get published as teens; some of you won’t. It’s that simple. But you all, no matter how or when you get published, have something amazing to say through your stories, and you will get a chance to say it. Sometimes it just takes a little bit of time.


About Michael Waters

I'm Michael, I'm eighteen, and I blog about YA books for Barnes & Noble.

20 comments on “Being a Teen Is Not the End

  1. Sana
    April 6, 2013

    Makes sense. I tell my heart this everyday.

  2. Amanda
    April 6, 2013

    I agree. 🙂

  3. cait
    April 6, 2013

    Ahha! I’ve been waiting for this post… 😉 It IS a bit scary when you realize you’re not going to be “ready” to be published as a teen. But, as long as the planet doesn’t explode when I leave my teenage years, I guess I can keep working towards my goal. Age doesn’t matter! Meanwhile…I’ll go back to writing an insane number of new books while I play the waiting game.

  4. Liam, Head Phil
    April 6, 2013

    The problem with being published as a teenage prodigy is that as you get older, people expect you to be proportionally more awesome. If you’ve got a static quantity of awesomeness, you might be disappointed. This, most likely, is what will happen to people like Christopher Paolini, unfortunately. Once you’re an adult, you’re an adult, whether thirty or eighty. But when you’re published at eighteen, you’re expected to mature and be better by the time you publish the next book at twenty-five.

    Excellent post.

    • John Hansen
      April 6, 2013

      Very true! Great point! And also, people only know Christopher Paolini as a teen prodigy. He’s what? Late twenties now? And that’s still what he’s known for. Personally, I wouldn’t want that to follow me my whole life.

      • Liam, Head Phil
        April 7, 2013

        He also writes books at five year intervals. We won’t see anything new until 2017.

      • John Hansen
        April 7, 2013

        Yes! To make it in this business, he needs to learn to write faster. A book year AT LEAST is necessary. I’m afraid he’s just going to be a one-hit-wonder, though.

      • Liam, Head Phil
        April 7, 2013

        Once he figures out plot, he’ll be fine. Right now, he’s a slow writer with a bit of a swelled head because of his success, even though his last book was a train wreck.

  5. Andrea
    April 7, 2013

    I agree completely. 🙂

    I don’t have a must-be-published-by-X goal, simply because there’s no way for me to tell when my book(s) will be ready for querying, and publication. I’d rather work on my story until I feel it’s polished, and then send it into the publishing world rather than try to rush myself through the self-editing process and end up querying a novel that I’ll hate a few years down the road…

    Well, that was some rambling. But anyways, yes. I agree that the age really doesn’t matter–the novel matters most in the end. 😀

  6. Julia Byers
    April 8, 2013

    Fantastic post. 🙂 I had the goal of publishing before I graduated from high school–when graduation came and went with no agent or book deal last June, it was definitely a hard pill to swallow, but not nearly as hard as I thought it was going to be. Age really isn’t as big of a factor as a lot of us make it out to be. 🙂

  7. M. Saint-Germain
    April 8, 2013

    Great post, John! As a much “older” writer who’s waiting to get published, I’m envious of your youth (and your followers’ youth). I believe, like you, that you will all be authors some day. It’s not a matter of “if” it’s a matter of “when.” Don’t give up. The only writers who don’t succeed are those who quit. Make your mess your message. Write what you feel passionate about. Make your character speak for your passion and show your readers a new point of view, the “other” side of the story, the one that makes you angry, sad, or frustrated.
    Random Writing Rants

  8. bandersontps
    April 10, 2013

    Reblogged this on worldpen and commented:
    Good advice–some I should make myself follow!

  9. AvonleaWriter
    April 10, 2013

    This is so true and important. I see teens always pushing themselves to get published early, and in a way, it’s not good…simply because if someone finds out your age, you are known(and judged) for that.
    And lots of authors don’t get published until they adults and not “young adults” either. Eoin Colfer didn’t really get noticed until he was…forty, I’m thinking. And he is epic.

  10. Ravena Guron
    April 11, 2013

    Basically, yes. I’ve had a lot of trouble with pushing myself too far in the past. Things don’t come easily to me, and I wish they did, so I try to force them. But I’ve realized that publishing isn’t a race, simply because there’s no “end.” Got the first book published, great. Where’s the next one? The film deal? The millions? Me being so competitive doesn’t help but ah, well. Things happen in their own time (am I rambling?) Yeah, age shouldn’t matter in publishing is what (I think :D) I’m trying to say. What matters is what you’ve published.

  11. Kennedy Hill
    May 13, 2014

    Well, I am 11 and I write books. I hope to get published soon but I always worry that I am way too young and publishers won’t take me seriously. I don’t necessarily look 11 but I am, I’ve heard that even teen writers get crap and look at me.. I just get worried no one will want to publish a book written by an 11 year old.
    it sounds like complete trash, they will publish anything that can sell. But I can just see myself scare mongering the publishers to publish my book XD (Sorry..)

    • John Hansen
      May 13, 2014

      Don’t worry, you’ve got this! Good luck!

      (Though I’m not sure they’ll necessarily publish *anything* that will sell. But if they enjoy it, feel it will be resonant with readers, AND think it can sell, then yeah, they will! 🙂 )

  12. Allison the Writer
    April 19, 2016

    Reblogged this on Allison the Writer and commented:
    From the archives of Teens Can Write, Too! I feel this post is an important and worthwhile read for all teen writers who are experiencing mid-teens-life crises. 😀

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