Career Advice for Young Writers

I’m still putting up my old posts, but this one is a favourite, and since I’ve had a few questions on this topic lately, it never hurts to post it again.

Career Advice for Young Writers

Here’s my career advice.

Forget about a career.

Write as well as you can, about the stuff that matters to you.

Read and read and read.

Read stuff that you like, and stuff that you don’t like.

Read as widely as you can.

Write as much as you can. Write novels, write short stories, write poems, or whatever it is that interests you.  And keep writing.

Ask lots of questions. Think about lots of answers too, but ask lots of questions. Questions are where stories come from – stories are answers.

Don’t be frightened to make mistakes. Mistakes are interesting, embarrassing, maybe, but INTERESTING is always, well, interesting.

Learn as much about writing as you can.

Don’t let grammar scare you. It’s not scary. It’s just language about language. Learn what a noun is learn what a verb is. You can get by if you know what they are. They’re the important things. Nouns and verbs.

Spaceship.

Flying.

Monster.

RUN!

Get an index book and write down all the interesting words that you find – and their meanings (or you could make up their meanings, which would be interesting).

Only write what you want to write. Because it’s the writing that you want to write that you fight for.

No one fights for things that they think are stupid or boring, or they don’t care about.

Watch people.

Look at what people do.

Listen.

Be still, and listen to people.

People are seriously stupid, and wise, and funny (and funny can come from wisdom and stupidity).

And read.

Write down your favourite book.

Read it again, and you’ll discover that every time you read a book it’s different, because YOU are different.

And when you read, each time you read you’re helping write that book again, in your head.

Write down the worst book you ever read.

Why was it the worst book. Read the first page. Read the last page. Was it really that horrible or was it better than you remember it?

And write down the ten things that you love most in the world, or the five things, or the hundred things.

Write down the ten things that you fear the most.

Slam one thing from each list together and see if you have a story.

Oh, and read some more.

Don’t expect much.  Expectations are poison.  Learn how to save money, then lend it to me (at low interest).

Dream high. Like really high. Dream the best stories. Dream that you can write the best stories and that, even when people tell you you can’t, you do, because you dreamt them.

Work hard at getting better.
You can always get better.

Read.

Read biographies.

Biographies are great.

They show you how vain we all are, and how clever and dumb, and that we all end up in the same spot no matter how hard we work, and that it’s better to do something that fulfils you rather than something that you hate, because you’re going to get to the same endpoint anyway.

And you’ll learn that life is sad and fun and stupid and tragic.

All of these are good things to learn and books will teach you that, so will life, but books do it differently, and they show you that it’s different and the same for everyone.

And, send stuff out.

Send your stories to competitions, send them to magazines, magazines which you have read and magazines which you haven’t. And don’t be frightened if you get rejections.

No hurts, but it doesn’t hurt long.

Read submission guidelines – there’s magic in submission guidelines, and editors will appreciate it when you read them. And you’ll learn things.

Don’t take it too seriously, but take it deathly seriously.

Write as though the devil’s on your shoulder.

Write so that you jump when there is a knock at the door, or see a crow.

Write so you laugh at shadows.

Write brave characters, write scared characters, write big characters and small characters, write about yourself and what you aren’t. Jump in people’s skins, feel what it is to be people that aren’t you.

Think about what you are like. Write that down.

Don’t just write what you know.

Write what you don’t know.  Make it something that you do. Don’t worry about being silly. Have fun.

Write hard. Because writing is hard.

Exercise.

Devour the world.

And never trust anyone that tells you, this is how it is!

Because there’s never just one “How it is” there are many.

Heaps of them – because that’s how it is!

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10 Responses to Career Advice for Young Writers

  1. Peter Cooper says:

    I love it. Did you write this, Trent? It reminds me of that sunscreen song from a few years back :-)

    My favourite line: “Don’t take it too seriously, but take it deathly seriously”.

  2. Trent Jamieson says:

    Thanks, Peter!

    Yes, I did, write it, that is.

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  6. Alan says:

    Brilliant! Excellent post that I’m about to share everywhere.

  7. just quoted this bit on Twitter: “we all end up in the same spot no matter how hard we work, and that it’s better to do something that fulfils you..” Very nice :)

  8. Trent Jamieson says:

    Why, thanks.

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