I’m going today to a high school English class and writing class to talk about my writing process. It may not come up, but I’ve been thinking about what advice I would give a teen about becoming a fiction writer.

Advice on Becoming a Fiction Writer


First, be a reader. Read widely. Read everything you can get your hands on, regardless of genre. Put words, phrases, language into your head, banking it for the day you need it. Be voracious. Gulp down stories. Mystery, historical, sff, contemporary – genre almost doesn’t matter. In high school, I read a Harlequin romance a day. Trash reading, yes, but reading. And in between, I read everything else I could. Read.

Photo from http://www.flickr.com/photos/danamarie593/3153514213/
Photo from http://www.flickr.com/photos/danamarie593/3153514213/

Love story. Besides reading, learn to love storytelling and story. Learn the elements of story, enjoy stories, tell stories, listen to stories, write stories. Stories, they are the stuff of books.

Love language. Get the dictionary habit and don’t ever stop looking up words. Revel is an apt word or phrase. Read aloud whenever you can, so you develop an ear for a story well told.

Pencil and Paper. Buy a good pencil and a stack of paper and start writing.


Well, anything else is optional. However, I think these things are helpful, if you have the inclination, opportunity, funds, etc.

Computer skills. Today, almost everything in publishing is done on computer and the more comfortable you are with computers, the better. Word processing, those awful Adobe programs, video-editing, etc. Learn as much as you can.

Web skills. Likewise, any skills you can develop for the internet will help. Learn to do blogs, webpages, social media, upload pictures, upload videos, etc. Anything you can do will give you a way to boost marketing.

Accounting, marketing and basic business classes. Fiction writers are generally self-employed, so I’d recommend any business classes which will help you track income, market yourself and your work, negotiate contracts, etc.

Career-based training. Everyone has to eat. A job is a good thing, especially in the early years of your career. Get trained as a doctor (Michael Creighton), a lawyer (John Grisham), or a gemologist. Avoid teaching, because grading papers bleeds away your time to write.

Public speaking. Many writers earn a large portion of their income from public speaking. Take as many classes as you need to become comfortable in front of people.

OK, what skills or passions did I leave out? What else would you advise a teen who wants to be a successful fiction writer?

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