Teens Can Write, Too!

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

Why There Is No Such Thing as a Teen Writer

So let’s get right to the point: there’s no such thing as a teen writer.

Now, I know this sounds really weird coming from me–I run a teen writing blog, after all*–but it’s true. There is no such thing as a teen writer. We are the unicorns of publishing; we are more myth than we are reality. (Sorry, unicorn lovers.) Because really, we aren’t teen writers. We’re WRITERS. Period. End of story. Blog post over.

When you think about it, what makes teen writers so different from everyone else? Well, we just happen to be a different age than most (which in itself is sort of untrue since writers span all ages). So why is there this major divide between teen and adult writers? Why are we viewed so differently than other writers are? The internet is filled with “advice” geared toward teen novelists, but you don’t see similar blog posts for writers who are in their twenties, or writers in their thirties, or writers who are exactly forty-two and two months old. Why? Because when you’re a writer, your age doesn’t matter. 

So why, despite this, are teen writers often looked down upon compared to adult writers? I think, obviously, it’s because we’re young, and many people think that automatically equals Not Good. In fairness, yes, it’s 99% likely that you won’t be an excellent storyteller when you first start out as a teen. (That’s not to say this non-excellence will carry through for all of your teen years, of course. All I’m saying is that during your first few months or so of writing novels you may not produce the best books ever.) But you’re equally not-excellent when you start out at age 22 or 35 or 43 or 82. The whole point is that writing is something you can’t improve on without actually going out and writing. And yes, it’s true that some people won’t ever be ready to publish as teens, because we all need time to develop our craft. But by that same logic, some beginning thirty-year-olds won’t be ready to publish until they’re thirty-nine and some beginning seventy year olds won’t be ready to publish until they’re seventy-five, while some beginning forty year olds may be ready to publish at forty-one and some beginning sixteen year olds may be ready to publish at seventeen. It all depends on you, the individual, and how much time you put in, how much you get critiqued by trusted sources, how much you read and study books by your favorite authors to see what they’re doing right. It’s not about your age. It’s not about how many years of life experience you have. It’s about your drive, the effort you put in, and in a lot of cases, just pure luck.

And then there is the argument for the teen/adult writer separation that basically says teen writers aren’t mature enough to tell a real story with real life themes that asks all-important questions, which is just so untrue. Because I don’t know about you, but I’ve found my teen years to be the ones in which I have the most questions about this crazy life thing, in which I care about politics and people and love and religion, in which I feel myself gaining an opinion and a voice and ideas I want to share with the world. I’m not just a clueless kid any longer, and that’s the amazing thing about being a teenager. Because suddenly, we gain a voice. Because suddenly, we know all of the questions we’re supposed to be asking, plus some of our own. Being a teen is about exploring, just like a book is about exploring–whether it’s a story or a character or a theme or a question or all of the above–so why is it so odd that they can mesh together in an innovative and thought-provoking way? 

The answer is, it isn’t, just like it isn’t odd for an adult to do the same thing.

Thus, teen writers don’t exist. We’re just writers, and like every other one out there, all it takes is the right amount of effort, natural ability, and luck for us to create great books. It might be two years or ten years or thirty years from when you start to when you’re “ready” to publish (which is incredibly subjective as is), but one day, you will get there. The “when” of it just varies from person to person, not from age to age.

My point being: when you write, you’re a writer. There’s nothing more to it. You’re not an aspiring writer, you’re not a teen writer–you’re a writer. You have your own style and your own voice and your own ideas and processes and stories to tell, and one day, in some form, you’ll get a chance to share them.

Publishing is that awesome industry in which your age just does not play a part (aside from a possible marketing perspective). Because, think of it this way: when you query an agent or self-publish on Amazon or post a short story on Wattpad, the agents or the readers aren’t paying attention to your age.** They’re paying attention to your story. They’re paying attention to the characters you create and the themes you get across and whether or not your writing can suck them away from the rest of the world.

Because–like I said–whether you’re thirteen or twenty-five or forty-four or eighty-two, you’re a writer. And telling stories is just what writers do.


*The main reason I label this blog as a teen writing blog even though I don’t believe there is a such thing as a teen writer is because I really want to provide a genuine resource for writers-who-happen-to-be-teens that doesn’t treat us as lesser than every other writer out there, and to do that I have to add the teen writer label. (There are some really discouraging blog posts on the internet that supposedly give “advice” to teen writers, and the advice is basically that we suck and should quit now and wait until we’re forty. Which… yeah… not true.)

**Unless you make them pay attention to it by touting yourself as a young author, which is not something I recommend when you query an agent.**


About Michael Waters

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

26 comments on “Why There Is No Such Thing as a Teen Writer

  1. lillianmwoodall
    December 14, 2013

    Supremely inspirational words. I don’t think I’ve any more to add, except to thank you from the sincerest depths of my allegedly hormonal and puerile teenage soul for this ^^^ and everything it means to we prejudice-suffering writers-who-happen-to-be teens.
    I hope your own inspiration returns, because you’ve just fired mine!

    • John Hansen
      December 15, 2013

      Wow! I’m so glad you connected with the post so much. Thank you! 🙂

  2. Nina Alvarez
    December 14, 2013

    Thanks for this really insightful and smart post. I work with teen writers in Rochester, NY and they are some of the best writers I know. We even started a teen literary journal, Canvas Literary Journal, to create a haven for publishing teen work because, as you’ve said, it can be hard to get published as a teen. Actually, it can be hard at any age.

    Thanks for creating this community. I wish I’d had it when I was a teen.

    • John Hansen
      December 15, 2013

      That is amazing what you are doing! Do you happen to have a link to this literary journal? I’d love to see it.

      And thank you for commenting!

  3. Liam, Head Phil
    December 14, 2013

    *applause* Very good post. I agree– everyone has, in their early years, a time of terrible stuff. Everyone writes badly when they begin. It’s the way of everything in life. But just because teens are still trying to figure out life in general doesn’t mean they can’t excel at something in specific. But yeah. Good post.

    • John Hansen
      December 15, 2013

      Yes, agreed! Everyone needs their time to write bad stuff to start with, but that doesn’t mean it will last all through your teen years. You can start writing genuinely great books after just a few months of starting out, teen or no teen.

      Thanks for commenting!

      • Liam, Head Phil
        December 16, 2013

        You’re welcome! Thanks for the post.

  4. Mrs. Roberson
    December 15, 2013

    Well said. I always tell my teen students that age alone does not bring maturity (or skill, in this case). Experience does. It’s the work ethic and effort you put in that matters, not the number of years you’ve checked off a calendar. I’ve read some stellar writers who happened to be teens, and I’ve read some terrible writers who were in their thirties and forties. The more you write, the better you’ll be. Period. Age doesn’t matter.

    • John Hansen
      December 15, 2013

      Totally agree with you! Thanks for commenting!

  5. A.R. Files
    December 16, 2013

    I loved this post! First of all, welcome back (were you dead?)! Second of all, I agree with you! An author is an author and during NaNoWriMo this year (my first), I learned that. We were all authors, despite our ages and that made me proud.

    Thank you for reassuring us all that as teen writers, we have a voice, and yes, we can take the ‘teen’ out of ‘teen writer’!

    • John Hansen
      December 22, 2013

      Ha, hi! How are you? I wasn’t dead, I swear. Just busy. 😉

      I’m so glad NaNo helped you discover that! I think that very reason is one of the ways in which NaNo is so great for teen writers.

  6. jpbtheblog
    December 16, 2013

    I haven’t posted in a while on my old blog. This inspired me to start up again. Thanks! Can’t wait to get bloggin’ again!

  7. Susannah Ailene Martin
    December 16, 2013

    When I first started writing my first novel, I thought it was great. And it was… for a first attempt. Editing the sucker has really opened my eyes. It’s not fun to go back and go, “Ah, that kind of sucks. I suppose I should fix it,” but it’s something we all need to do. I’m 17 now, and I’ve gotten much better. I’m actually about to publish that first book.

    • A.R. Files
      December 22, 2013

      Oooh~! What’s the book called? What’s it about?

      • Susannah Ailene Martin
        December 22, 2013

        It’s called Super Star. It’s about a pastor’s daughter and a pompous pop star who hate each other. The girl takes her sister to a concert and the boy shows up. Then, someone tries to shoot the boy and the girl pushes him out of the way, taking the bullet in her shoulder instead. After that, they both get kidnapped and dumped in the desert. The rest of the book is about them trying to get home and evade further capture.

      • John Hansen
        December 22, 2013

        Oh, that sounds awesome! When is it releasing?

      • Susannah Ailene Martin
        December 22, 2013

        Soon. I’m not sure yet. I have to wait until my editor (mom) finishes the final grammar sweep, and then we’ll be talking to some publishers. I did release the chapter names a couple of posts ago on my blog.

      • A.R. Files
        December 28, 2013

        Whoa! That’s deep! 😀

  8. mandilynnwrites
    December 19, 2013

    Reblogged this on Mandi Lynn and commented:

  9. traceymoonsparkle
    January 10, 2014

    Wowza. What a post! You know what?…I’m a forty-two (and ten month old) lady in biological age at this point on the planet. Without sounding like a prize cheese-ball, I feel like I can morph into any age at anytime, be whatever, whenever, however….because I believe in ‘The Story’…I believe in the Writer and I believe in the Pages, Written, and to-be Written…by every glorious person who gift’s their words from mind, through the heart and onto the page. You have made my year already! Thank you and I think what you are doing is genius.

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