I get a lot of weird looks when I tell adults I write novels. Because I’m homeschooled, the first reaction most people have is, “Oh, so this is a part of your curriculum?” When I explain that it has nothing to do with my curriculum, their next question is usually, “How long are these novels?” When I say my works are usually around 350 pages long, the usual reaction I get is a laugh or someone saying, “Aw, that’s cute. Let me know if you ever finish a story, okay? I’d be willing to read it for you.”
Unfortunately, most teenage writers aren’t taken seriously. I find this extremely sad, because the belittling comments adults make can be discouraging, and even drive teens away from the craft of writing. So, in order to help people understand teen writers a bit better, I thought I’d bust a few myths about my kind.
1. Teen writers are too naïve to write realistically.
Many teens have more real-world experience than the average 30-year-old. It’s a sad fact of life that a lot of teenagers left their childhood behind years ago. For me, it was impossible to stay naïve when I grew up in doctor’s offices and spent my school vacations in hospitals. You don’t stay innocent very long in the face of that much pain. Other teens face different difficulties that strip away their naivety–pregnancy, homophobia, bullying, mental illness, ect. And, sure, most teens are pretty dang naïve. But that doesn’t mean all of us are.
2. Teens don’t have thick enough skins to deal with critique.
I joined my first critique group at fourteen, and I wasn’t even the youngest member. There are entire forums and blogs on the internet dedicated to critiquing teen writing. There are even professional organizations and camps who work with teens to improve their writing.
Truth is, most teens want to learn and improve their skills. And we’re more than willing to take critique, even if it does sting sometimes.
3. Teen writers expect special treatment, just because of their age.
Most of us just want one thing: to be treated like regular writers. In most cases, it’s not the teens who ask for special treatment–it’s the adults who treat us differently.
4. Teens are too young to deal with the harsh business of publishing.
Publishing is an extremely harsh business. But, as I mentioned in Myth #1, many teens have a lot harsher things in our lives. We’re accustomed to not getting things easily, and many of us are willing to work our butts off to achieve our goals in publishing. There are a lot of traditionally published teen authors who prove this. You can check out a fantastic list of them here.
5. Teen writers don’t have the patience to finish writing a real novel.
This myth has been proven wrong so many times. Just look at NaNoWriMo–hundreds of teens win that event every year. Not all teens will finish the novels they start, but thousands have done it, and thousands more will do it in the future.
So, to sum things up, most teen writers aren’t very different from adult writers. We all have the same passion and practice the same craft. Luckily, there are a lot of people out there who recognize this, and who treat teen writers just like they treat adult writers. And I’m crossing my fingers that more and more adults will adopt this mindset.