Miss Write's Advice: A how-to guide for budding authors

Miss Write Illustration by One Fine Day Cartoons
Category: Writing

I am only just now entering high school and I want to become a bestselling author. How can I prepare myself to become a professional writer? Cassandra

I’m impressed at your conviction and ambition to be a writer. There are lots of adults who still don't know what they really want to do! But I'll be honest with you, writing isn't an easy path to choose. Getting your work out there is hard and becoming a bestselling author is even harder. 

But it’s not all doom and gloom. There are lots of ways you can develop your writing and in time you'll build a solid body of experience towards your chosen career.

But before you get too lost in daydreaming about your future success, here are my top tips for preparing to be a professional writer:

1.    Write, write, write

The most obvious thing you can do right now is write. Anytime, anywhere, it doesn’t matter, as long as you’re writing. It can take years to hone your style and find your voice, so the earlier you start this journey the better. Don’t feel too pressured or tied down by a particular genre; try lots of different forms while you’re still young and fearless. Keep a notebook with you and scribble down notes about characters and stories while you’re waiting for the bus or walking between classes (just make sure you look up every now and then). Enjoy exploring your imagination and don't worry too much about the end result, it's all good practice for now. 

2.    Read, read, read

I guarantee you will learn something from every book you read.

The second most obvious thing you can do is read. Read all kinds of books, including genres you’re interested in and authors whose style you admire. Mix in some books you wouldn't normally pick up as well because I guarantee you will learn something from every book you read. Pay attention to the craft of these books - plot, dialogue, characterisation - and make notes. Don’t worry about right or wrong answers, you’re not writing an essay to be graded! Explore your thoughts more deeply and you’ll develop a strong instinct for your own writing.

Don’t forget to read for fun as well. Nothing beats escaping into the pages of a book when writing isn't going well. Ask your friends, teachers and school librarians for recommendations or take a look at our book lists for inspiration.

3.    Make the most of opportunities at school

There will be plenty of opportunities for you to get involved with writing at school. Relish the creative writing essays and exam options, but don’t forget about the extra-curricular opportunities too. Write for your school paper, submit to school anthologies or get involved with a drama group if you're interested in writing for the stage.

You could also start an after school or lunchtime writing group with friends and classmates. Getting support and feedback from like-minded writers is useful; you'll feel much less isolated and you’ll learn a lot from reading other people’s work. 

4.    Write what you enjoy

You’ve got plenty of time to develop your writing, focus on what you enjoy writing.

I would argue that this is the most important thing for you to do right now. You’ve got plenty of time to develop your writing, so don’t feel pressured to immediately complete a novel or write loads of short stories. Instead, focus on what you enjoy writing. You might just enjoy keeping a diary or scribbling down a few rough stories before embarking on anything lengthier. Fan fiction might also be an ideal pursuit. Fan fiction takes away the pressure of creating something entirely from scratch, giving you existing characters, settings and a potential readership. 

5.    Get your work out there (when you’re ready)

Don’t rush to get your work out there, but if you do feel that you’re ready, there are lots of opportunities for young writers, including digital platforms such as Wattpad. If you're aged between 14 and 17, you can apply for the Young Writers Awards.

6.    Be patient

It's important to remember that writing takes time, and unless you’re very lucky, you’re unlikely to be a bestselling author, but with hard work you may find some success. Use this time to experiment with your work and enjoy the process of writing. Make sure you're also out there having fun with your friends and making the most of your time at school. All of this experience will find its way into your writing and even the hardest working writers need a break! Good luck and happy writing. 

Have you got a question for Miss Write? Add it as a comment at the bottom of this blog or ask away on our Facebook page or @ScottishBkTrust on Twitter, using the hashtag #askmisswrite.

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Miss Write

Miss Write is Scottish Book Trust's resident writing Agony Aunt. When she's not busy drinking tea, making to-do lists or alphabetising her book collection, she likes to get some writing done.