Friday, April 19, 2013

What Advice Would You Give to Young Writers?

By Jordan Dane

Today I am presenting a workshop to the Creative Writing students at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA). This is a free offering of like-minded authors getting together to share their thoughts on the publishing industry and the craft of writing. I plan on sharing my thoughts on the latest trends in publishing with a focus on the Young Adult and New Adult markets. I will also spend more time talking about author craft and the epiphanies I have learned through the books I've written. Each book teaches you something different, right? Writing is the best way to learn those things, mostly through trial and error when you learn best from your mistakes.
I also want to spend time talking about the writer’s life and the discipline to accomplish daily goals. Usually life, the day job, and other obligations can force you to set aside your passion to write, but if it’s important to you, I say make time for it, even if that’s only a page a day.
The hardest thing I will broach is the crazy things happening in the publishing industry with regard to the changing contractual terms and what it means to self-publish or navigate the ebook services being offered by large publishers and agents, etc. But I find it hard to stop the long list of warnings that I would want them to be aware of so they don’t sign their copyrights away for the life of their book, simply to get published. It’s a scary world out there in this interim phase while the industry is sorting things out. But I don’t want to scare them off either. So I am limiting my warnings to only the most treacherous ones that dangle like gems stones and look all polished and pretty, but have complications. Things like royalty value for digital books, the ala carte subrights menu, rights reversions, and what agents and publishers are offering that could be troublesome. When the goal is to get them to incorporate writing into their daily life, or to nurture something that could become a passion later in life, I don't want to discourage them from the start.
When I talk to young writers, I want to simply encourage them to write and recognize that if they have the drive and passion for writing, they should write whether they get published or not. I remember how important reading and writing was for me in school and how it stayed with me for my whole life. But first comes the desire and getting hooked on it. It’s a quality of life thing. I usually encourage them to keep a journal of their thoughts or characters they want to develop, or keep a file of ideas for future books. I will share James Scott Bell’s wonderful post at The Kill Zone (TKZ) on how to write a short story or share one of my favorite Joe Moore TKZ posts on editing your work in Writing is Rewriting. There are so many posts that I’ve found useful at TKZ that I’m still pinching myself that I am a contributing member at a group blog that just received an award from Writer's Digest, naming The Kill Zone as ranked in the top 101 blogs for writers. So cool!
But my question to all of you is – what advice would you give to a young writer? Someone who is in college or high school and has the writing bug? What would you tell them?


Sechin Tower said...

The most important thing is what you said about writing for the love of it. For most people, it's a good idea to write one million words before putting their name on anything.

Jordan Dane said...

Totally agree, Sechin. Nurturing that love of writing will sustain a young writer through the down times or when the cash flow can't earn them a living. Sometimes it's best to land that day job that will allow a writer to make a living while they are pursuing the thing they love too. The practical reality.

But since you teach, I know you have a lot to say to your students about writing. I was telling the kids who attended about YOU and your series. That's how much I love your writing.

Anita Grace Howard said...

Best advice ever, JD! And I agree w/Sechin. I've actually read that somewhere. That a writer hasn't truly found his voice until he's written a million words. ;)

Jordan Dane said...

Vool. Something to look forward to. Actually, I should add up my word count. Ha!