Raelyn's picture
Raelyn from California is reading The Liars' Club January 7, 2012 - 2:13am

Here's my situation: I have an idea for a novel, and at risk of sounding pretentious, I think the concept if fucking awesome. My problem is that I'm afraid to start writing it. It would be my first novel and I'm afraid of ruining such a great idea with my inexperience. The second problem is I'm worried that a publisher would see how old I am (eighteen) and laugh at my audacity to try 'playing writer'. Yes, I am aware that Mary Shelley was nineteen when she wrote Frankenstein, but that was quite a while ago. 

I was thinking maybe it would be a good idea to focus on short stories. Try to get a few of those published so that a publishing house would see I'm not a complete novice. The thing is, this story is screaming at me to be written! 

Thoughts on this matter? Advice? Thanks for sharing! 

Arkadia's picture
Arkadia from Australia is reading Selected Poems by W.H. Auden January 7, 2012 - 2:58am

Write what you want to write. Don't worry about the 'market', or what publishers are going to say. We write because we gotta write, not because we want people who publish books to like us. Which is all stuff you probably know but just need to hear out loud again :)

I don't think age is an issue. Eighteen, particularly, isn't that young for being a skilled writer. And you might very well be nineteen, or, god forbid, twenty by the time you get around to shopping that manuscript.

The cool thing with ideas are that they're flexible. You can write the exact same idea a dozen different times and come out with completely different stories -- main idea still intact. So, write that story, and either it's amazing and a publishing house will eat it up, or it won't be that great but you'll have learned so much from writing the first one that you'll know exactly where to take the idea the second time around. It's not at all uncommon for a writer to rewrite a novel from scratch (I think I read an interview about Chuck Palahniuk doing this?). So go for it!

I have no authority to speak for agents/publishers, but I'd assume publishing credits for short stories are negligible when it comes to shopping your novel manuscript around. I mean, at the end of the day, they'll pick a story up on the quality of its writing and content, not the quality of their previous publishing credits, right? That's speculation.

I'd highly recommend going for the novel, especially since it's fresh in your mind and eager to be let loose. Don't ignore the muse!

 

Fylh's picture
Fylh from from from is reading is from is reading is reading is reading reading is reading January 7, 2012 - 3:12am

Dude. Write your novel. Write while you're young.

In ten years' time, you may have the experience to make it good, but you may not have the interest in the story that you do now.

Nothing beats enthusiasm for your own story when you're learning to do this stuff.

Write it, and start now. Really, if the story is fucking awesome, and you seem to think it is, then stop posting and don't come back until you've written a couple thousand words to test the waters — report back with a word count. I'll be on a plane. When I get back home, I'll ask you about it.

And nineteen isn't too young. It's too young for some things, legally, but that's about it. Write the fucking novel. Workshop it here. You could end up hating it, but you'll have written it, and you'll know yourself better as a writer in the long run beccause of it.

Why are you still reading this post? Go write the fucking novel. And report back.

JonnyGibbings's picture
JonnyGibbings January 7, 2012 - 4:04am

Sounds like your thinking a bit too much. I couldn't read or write till 18, so I had an excuse lol. Good thing about fiction, is, it's fiction. Nobody has ever gone "On, how do you know what space and the planet clitopia is like" because they know it's made up - expereince has nothing to do with it. What it feels like does. Write your shit.

R.Moon's picture
R.Moon from The City of Champions is reading The Last Thing He Wanted by Joan Didion; Story Structure Architect by Victoria Lynn Schimdt PH.D; Creating Characters by the editors of Writer's Digest January 7, 2012 - 4:13am

I agree... Write the novel. Begin working on it. The longer you hold off on writing it, the longer it'll take to write it. 

I believe Christopher Paolini was only 15 when he wrote Eragon. Some say by the age of 15 you have been through enough in your life to write a book. I say, get a few thousand words down, submit it here, see what kind of comments you get. Maybe put it away for awhile, write some short stories to stay on top of your game, then go back to it and write a few more thousand words. You're still young and you've got nothing to lose.

I've read and critiqued your work before. You've got the skills and talent, like Nike, Just Do It!

aliensoul77's picture
aliensoul77 from a cold distant star is reading the writing on the wall. January 7, 2012 - 4:19am

It doesn't matter if you are 18 now, it can take years to work on a book and finish it or even get it published!  If you feel inspired, by all means write it now. Short stories are what I do between my various novel projects.

postpomo's picture
postpomo from Canada is reading words words words January 7, 2012 - 6:52am

do it. love it. write it.

Nighty Nite's picture
Nighty Nite from NJ is reading Grimscribe: His Lives and Works January 7, 2012 - 8:14am

You're doing exactly what I've been doing for the past 3 years. You're over-analyzing the situation. You know how close that's gotten me to a finished piece of work? It hasn't.

Write until your fingers are raw and bleeding, or in a few years you're going to say, "Man, I wish I started writing that novel sooner." Write while the ideas are fresh. And then, when it's done, that work of months or years of blood, ink and tears, you continue to evolve and grow as a writer. And the more you learn, the more you edit that thing until it's your magnum freaking opus. 

I'll be 23 in 3 days and I'm still doubting my own ability. But recently I decided to suck it up and just write. I also went throught the "Maybe I'll just write some short stories." phase of things. But if that novel idea is gnawing at your brain, it won't go away. Feed it. 

Now do what Phil said. Go write that fucking novel.

Good luck, God speed.

Brandon's picture
Brandon from KCMO is reading Made to Break January 7, 2012 - 8:22am

Your age should never play a factor when it comes to putting the words down on paper.  Write your fucking book.  Approach it like you don't have all the time in the world to do it.  You may or may not be able to get it sold, but at least you'll have it done.

I started writing seriously at the age of twenty but never actually put a book out until I was twenty-six.  It took the writing of three books before I got the formula down on what would actually work and be readable.

Start early while you got time on your side.  You've got an advantage I didn't have, which is this place and these resources.  Use them.

Profunda Saint-Sylvain's picture
Profunda Saint-... from Calgary, AB is reading Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy Series January 7, 2012 - 8:30am

Definitely just write it, and if it doesn't come out sounding as "grown up" as you want, just re-write the parts that need help. I'm no expert, but I have shit on my computer I wrote at like sixteen, and I look at it now, and to me they sound like balls, but the idea is still as awesome as it was, so I'm trying to revamp them now that I'm older and more jaded. Being young is no disadvantage with creativity. 

ReneeAPickup's picture
Class Facilitator
ReneeAPickup from Southern California is reading A truckload of books January 7, 2012 - 8:33am

I agree with everything said here. Just do it. You can rewrite the beast 200 times if you feel like you need to--but if you love it and are inspired, you probably won't need to. Get it on paper.

PopeyeDoyle's picture
PopeyeDoyle from Rio Grande Valley, TX is reading Chronology of Water January 7, 2012 - 8:51am

I was thinking maybe it would be a good idea to focus on short stories. Try to get a few of those published so that a publishing house would see I'm not a complete novice. The thing is, this story is screaming at me to be written!

Couldn't you write the novel and then let it sit for a while?  During that time, you could focus on publishing short stories.  After you're published a few shorts, it seems like you'll have the experience going forward with revisions on the novel

I mean, I get what everyone says about writing it down while it's hot, but it does make sense to me to try and get some publications under your belt before submitting a novel anywhere.  Maybe I'm trying to justify it to myself (I'm not going to even start a novel before I get at least a couple more stories published in paying markets).  Does it make more sense to try and get short fiction published first?  Or just submitting the novel your'e passionate about?

ReneeAPickup's picture
Class Facilitator
ReneeAPickup from Southern California is reading A truckload of books January 7, 2012 - 10:25am

Before submitting? Sure. Before writing the idea that is dancing in your head NOW? Nah. Write it. Write short stories when you hit the hard parts and need a break, write and submit shorts while you are letting it simmer before revising.

Raelyn's picture
Raelyn from California is reading The Liars' Club January 7, 2012 - 12:48pm

Wow. Just woke up to a HUGE dose of inspiration, thanks guys! I'll be locking myself up for a few days. See you in the workshop! :)

Raelyn's picture
Raelyn from California is reading The Liars' Club January 13, 2012 - 9:36pm

It seems that the hardest part of writing a story is starting the damn thing. I've written multiple beginnings for this thing, and I'm not particularly fond of any of them. When this happens, do you just push on and get back to it later? Or struggle for an awesome beginning to set up a foundation for the story? 

Here's one opening paragraph I have that I kind of like (more than the others anyway.

Ballyferriter is a small fishing village in Co. Kerry Ireland. The entire town consists of a church, a barracks, a school, a museum with a bookshop, a café, a shop, three pubs, and a hotel. The citizens of Ballyferriter live in a handful of houses scattered around these amenities. Parked outside of these houses are cars that perfectly match the rest of the town. They are both simple and practical. The cars do what they need to do: they drive, and occasionally play a tune or two. They never gleam in the sunlight, but rather they blend in with the subtle, but beautiful, colors of Ireland. A grayish-brown to match the hue of the sea-cliffs and quagmires. A faded green to mimic the fields of grass. Even a dark blue, reminiscent of the ever present rain-clouds. Flynn McCarthy drove past all of these cars in a sleek Rolls Royce phantom coupe.

 

 

Chester Pane's picture
Chester Pane from Portland, Oregon is reading The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz January 13, 2012 - 9:49pm

Just keep writing. You usually discover a whole new beginning along the way. Or the end becomes the beginning.

But I agree with everyone, and I am probably the oldest guy around here. Write while you are young and keep writing. Write what you are inspired to write at the moment.

It is all process. You will be in the same place in ten years. Trying to figure out what to write. That is all you will ever be doing. That is writing.

But I think it is incredibly cool that you are starting so young. 

All of you.

-Grandaddy Pane.

Utah's picture
Moderator
Utah from Fort Worth, TX is reading Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry January 13, 2012 - 9:52pm

Don't worry about your first paragraph.  Or the second.  You're going to be doing a bunch of revising in the future.  Don't start revising now or you'll never get started.  Get going and just strive to keep up your momentum.  You can always come back and fix a rough beginning.

Alex Kane's picture
Alex Kane from west-central Illinois is reading Dark Orbit January 13, 2012 - 9:57pm

Raelyn, I know this isn't the workshop, but Joe Hill gave me one piece of advice during an online Q&A that we should all take to heart: What you write in the beginning, most often, is just discovery. You write to discover the setting, the town, and the people that populate it -- what their hobbies, loves, and fears are; but none of this stuff matters to the reader. Don't fret over mechanics, or even structure, at this point. Focus on story, Story is key. Write what you have to, write some more, and then find the story.

The characters, once you've gotten to know them, will do your work for you. My observation about your sample, if I may, is that it lacks a cast of characters -- especially your viewpoint character. Until you find her, or him, or them, you don't have a story yet. You have a setting, which is excellent, and you have an idea, which is even better. Now find the characters and just let them do their thing.

Best of luck! :-D

Chester Pane's picture
Chester Pane from Portland, Oregon is reading The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz January 13, 2012 - 10:03pm

Great advice.

postpomo's picture
postpomo from Canada is reading words words words January 13, 2012 - 10:33pm

Good advice Alex.

@Chester - I have an extra rocking chair if you want to sit and complain about the government and kids today. Just think Statler & Waldorf.

aliensoul77's picture
aliensoul77 from a cold distant star is reading the writing on the wall. January 14, 2012 - 12:13am

JonnyGibbings's picture
JonnyGibbings January 14, 2012 - 1:04am

Ballyferriter?? Fuck me there is some AMAZING surf around there... giants!

Raelyn's picture
Raelyn from California is reading The Liars' Club January 14, 2012 - 1:49am

Someone who's actually been there!! Would you happen to have pictures? Any information I could get about the place would be great, really. I wanted to go out there for a week to do actual research, but a plane ticket is around $2000...so I'll be staying in California. 

fport's picture
fport from Canada is reading The World Until Yesterday - Jared Diamond November 4, 2012 - 10:53am

I would like to drop a small hint into your path. I opened Mr. Google and searched "Ballyferriter" with no modifiers and the second entry was "images". You live in an age where the world's collective knowledge, or at least a small part of it is online and available to you 24/7. Maps, terrain and roads and weather are available as well as stories - as a bonus look to the bottom of the page at the other searches.

Richard's picture
Richard from St. Louis is reading various anthologies November 7, 2012 - 3:18pm

nobody asks you your age when you submit a story or novel to them. the writing will speak for itself. i'm 44. i think donald ray pollock published his first book over 50. the only way i could see age hurting you is if you have to write about something that you don't know much about (be it sex, travel, relationships, etc.) but research can probably solve those problems. good luck!

fport's picture
fport from Canada is reading The World Until Yesterday - Jared Diamond November 7, 2012 - 4:27pm

Back when I ran a bbs, a hacker game, I had a user who was around for about two years. He was very promising and quick and we'd had many good conversations late into the night. I wanted to meet him before I vetted him to the higher access levels. It just makes sense when most teenage girls are forty something unshaven men typing away at their keyboards in their underwear. They could also be narcs. 

We set a date and I threw my two kids in the car and went down to pick him up from a bus exchange. Thank goodness I did. He was 12. Twelve! Two years I had been having adult discussion with this guy and not once  did I feel that he was that young. I slipped him into the back seat with the kids and took a roundabout way home just to make sure I was not going to be jumped for kidnapping him.

Keep in mind that this was well before internet luring and other bad things that have helped lock down the electronic frontiers but even so it was strange. Court' turned out to be a good guy and he even used my Amiga instead of the brand new pentium box running Win95 sitting next to it. I ended up driving him all the way home - it had been a two hour public transit trip for him to get to that exchange.

Court' made his way to 2600 meets after that and then went on to a CompSci degree but he never really changed. He was always bright, curious and articulate.

 

So, I wouldn't worry about your age. It's who you are and what you have to offer that counts.

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated November 8, 2012 - 7:08am

Well your gut is sort of right. Yes you will screw it up. I've also seen the first 'release candidate' of professionals 3 times your age who I really enjoy their writing, and those sucked too. Every one's first few versions of anything no matter how many novels they may have written need a lot of work. Trust yourself to revise it into something awesome. Don't worry about if it sucks, worry about if it's awesome.