Saturday, February 23, 2008

If You Want to Write... a Book

This is kind of a late-IFYW2W slash late WORD jumbled together.

In conclusion to our series on The Driver's Manual to Publication, on planning your way to print, I'm tackling the biggest project anyone can ever tackle literarily. THE BOOK.

I think just about every teen writer I've ever met is writing a book. Almost without exception it's fantasy. There is nothing wrong with that; fantasy is a great genre. Yet few of these WriTeens really consider publication, and if they do... I have yet to meet one who was really smart about it.

I hold off judgement on genre choice. However, if you are going to drive around the world (or write & publish a book), here are guidelines I've picked up on from books and blogs. I have yet to write a published book, so I can only offer secondhand (and observed) advice.

1. Treat yourself like a grown-up. If you don't take it seriously, success will not take you seriously. READ the books on writing books. READ the books on selling books. READ agenting blogs, publishing blogs, published writer blogs. Familiarize yourself with every aspect of this business.

2. Write a book that ties in with your age. I think this applies to every writer everywhere, but for WriTeens... it helps if you write a book that is directly connected to your experiences and age. Nobody else could have written your book. I think of the author of The Bright Side, a guy WriTeen who wrote a book, teen-to-kids, about surviving your parents' divorce. He made a smart choice, publishing-wise, in writing about an intimate and relevant topic. His age makes this a unique book.

3. Don't worship too many celebrities. Christopher Paolini... we've talked about him before. He wouldn't be as successful, I don't think, if he wasn't so young when he started. But don't pattern yourself on his trail. That's the point about crazy success: it's unique. It won't happen that way again.

Also, there's authors like Kaavya V. who wrote How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life. Sound familiar? The Harvard sophomore plagiarized five or more authors in writing her book. It is no longer found on bookstore shelves.

4. Look for long-term opportunities. If you plan on making writing a career, explore options. If you live near London or NYC, try to get a publishing internship. If not, think about majoring in creative writing or publishing and spending your summers with important writing people.

I don't include our regular "Directions" and "Maps" this week because there are few of either. Nobody really understands why certain books sell and why others don't. I can recommend the Scholastic PUSH! Contest, one of the few novel contests for WriTeens, as well as the Delacorte Middle Grade/Young Adult Fiction Contest. These are really competitive, but worth a shot.

Best of luck to you on your publishing journey, however far or near you want to drive. I, on the other hand, have several articles due and my mother wants me to go driving today. In a car.

Back to regular programming next week.

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