So you want to be a writer.

So you’re a kid and you want to be a writer.  Where do you start?

1) Find out what you like.

Obviously, before you learned how to write, you learned how to read–by listening to your parents read stories to you or something like that.

Listening to and enjoying stories tells you both what a story is and what kind of stories you like.  As it turns out, this is important.  Pay attention to the kinds of stories that you like–and how you like to get them.

You don’t have to write books, if you like to write.  You can write plays, movie scripts, instruction manuals, and all kinds of nonfiction books, filled with facts and new ways of looking at things.  In fact, a lot of writers don’t just write one kind of thing.  Over the courses of their careers, most writers work on many different types of things, from editing documents to writing poetry.  So if you find yourself enjoying more movies than books, you may want to try writing a movie script.  If you read a lot of information about dinosaurs, try writing a dinosaur book, and so on.

Also pay attention to what kinds of things show up the most in what you’re reading or watching:  if you like superheroes, write about superheroes.  If you like nonfiction books and superheroes, write a nonfiction book about superheroes.

It sounds pretty obvious, but a lot of writers (myself included) think, “Oh, the things that I like to read aren’t real writing.  Real writing is what we read in English class.”


2) Write.

The most important thing for any writer is to write.  A lot.

If you find yourself asking, “Why isn’t this working?” about your writing, the answer is almost always, “Write more.”

“Why don’t my characters sound like people?” “Write more, and they will.”

“Why doesn’t anyone laugh at the jokes in this story?” “Write more, and they will.”

“Why did my teacher say the beginning of this story was boring?” “Write more, and you’ll find out.”

Writing new stuff is more important than fixing the old stuff, although of course you’ll have to fix the old stuff, too, so you can turn in your assignments (and writing to get published is the same thing, with fussier teachers).  Fixing the old stuff will not make you a better writer.  There are tons of adults who say they want to be writers who never write anything new, just fix the old stuff over and over again, trying to figure out why they can’t make it perfect.

Don’t be like that.  Get a writing project done good enough for what it’s for–turning in to a teacher, sending in to a magazine, sharing with your friends, scaring small children with, etc.–and then write something else.  You will quickly turn into a better writer than the people who try to make one thing perfect, over and over.  Plus, you’ll have like 100 stories done by the time they finish one.

3) Ignore your critics…and your fans

The best way to handle both the people who really, really like what you write and the people who really, really don’t is to say, “Thank you.”  The worst thing that can happen to a writer is to be ignored.  So if someone says anything to you about your writing, that’s better than nothing and deserves a “thank you.”

However, some people will have all kinds of criticism about your work.  Ignore them: don’t argue with them, don’t tell them they didn’t understand, don’t agree with them and decide to change your work based on one person’s opinion, even if they are a teacher or even a professional writer.

Okay, if a hundred people say, “You should really learn how to spell,” maybe they’re right.  But if one person says, “I think the main character is stupid,” so what? Should you write about someone else?  You thought the character was awesome when you came up with the idea for the story, right? Just because someone disagrees with you doesn’t mean you should change your opinion about what is and what is not worth writing a story about:  it just means that person should go read something else.

Now, if you’re not paying attention to what you really like and don’t like (as in step 1), then maybe the other person is right: you’re just writing about a character because it sounded like a good idea or someone told you to, not because you thought it was going to be cool.

Of course, if a critic gives you an idea that makes you light up with excitement–then take the advice.  But never do anything that makes your story less awesome.  It’s better to have a crazy story that doesn’t make sense and has bad spelling…but is, in your opinion, awesome, than it is to have a perfect story that bores you to sleep.

Watch out for your fans, too: if someone praises your main character, you don’t have to write every single story with that main character, or with someone like that main character, or whatever.  It’s what you think is cool that is important, not what your parents or your friends or your teachers think.  If you believe in it, and if you keep writing, you will learn how to show even people who hate knitting how to think knitting is cool…or how to show people who hate running that track meets are cool…and so on.  That’s what writers do.



NaNoWriMo is a-coming!


Print version now available: Tales Told Under the Covers


  1. This is the best advice ever, and it should be taken by ANYONE who wants to be a writer. Write. Write. Write. Thank you for posting this!

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