Author Ellen Jackson

For Young Writers

I often get emails from children and young adults who want to be writers. Lots of people have this dream. In fact, studies show that more than half the people in the United States want to write a book (and many others want to write for magazines). Many people are typing away at this very moment with the dream of getting published.

Almost all book publishers get hundreds of manuscripts each year. In fact, some publishers get thousand of manuscripts every month! You will have lots of competition if you want to write, and you will often get rejectionsĖeven if youíre a very good writer. Iím sure you know who J.K. Rowling is. Did you know that four or five publishers turned down her first Harry Potter book before someone published it?

I get rejections from publishers quite often. If you want to be a writer, youíve got to learn not to let all the rejections discourage you or hurt your feelings. You have to keep going and keep submitting your manuscript. And when you finally do get published, some people wonít like your book or magazine article, or essay. And they will tell you that they donít like it. Or even write about it in a magazine or online.

You also have to learn to write every day, and sometimes you wonít feel like writing. But youíll have to do it anyway. And sometimes youíll be lonely. Because writers spend a lot of time alone, working on their writing.

One more thing. Most writers donít make much money. A few writers, certain screenwriters for example, make LOTS of money. But if your favorite writerís name isnít J.K. Rowling or R.L Stine or Lemony Snicket, he or she is probably just getting by. Thatís another thing you need to think about. You might need to have another job so you can support yourself and write in the evening. Lots of people do that.

Now for the good part, the part that makes so many people want to be writers.

First, writing is fun. You can choose to write about any topic you find interesting. You can spend hours at the library or on the Internet researching ice cream or dragons or dinosaurs, if thatís what youíre writing about. You can write about your life, your family, your dog, what itís like to be ten-years-old. And if you do it well, people will send you fan letters and emails. Theyíll want to know all about you. You might even win awards and go to dinners where people give speeches about you.

Best of all, youíll make a difference in someoneís life. People will say that you touched their hearts, changed them, made them laugh, or gave them something interesting to think about.

When youíre a writer, you can go to work in your pajamas, write for a few hours, and then do something else for a while. You donít have to go to the office every day. You wonít have a boss telling you what to do. (Let me correct thatówriters do have editors and theyíre a little bit like bosses, only nicer.) But mostly youíre on your own and YOU decide when and what you write.

So how do you become a writer? First, some general advice, if you want to write books:

In high school: read a lot, keep a journal, and learn all you can about things that interest you. In fact, start that journal right now.

In college: donít major in creative writing, though do take creative writing classes. Instead, major in history, anthropology, marine biology, or music. Studying journalism has some big benefits, because it teaches you to ask questions, write quickly and clearly, and explore many different areas of the world. Learn as much as you can about everything, so you actually know something about the world. Learn another language. Travel. Hold odd jobs. All of these things will help you be a better writer.

If you want to start right now, my best advice is to get hold of SO, YOU WANT TO BE A WRITER?: HOW TO WRITE, GET PUBLISHED, AND MAYBE EVEN MAKE IT BIG! Don't believe everything you read in this book, but it has good information for kids and teens.

Remember that people become writers in many different ways. Some begin writing when theyíre very young. Some decide to become writers late in life. Some start out as good writers; some donít. Many resources can give you some guidelines, but youíll find your own way of doing things.

Above all, keep at it. Listen to advice, but donít let anyone discourage you from following your dream.