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I am 10 years old (almost eleven), and I'm trying to write a novel. I discovered it is a lot harder and stressful than I thought. I'm also scared of people judging it negatively. This seems a lot more complicated than I thought, and I don't have anyone helping me, other than suggestions. Help! :'(

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    I’m voting to close this question because the minimum age for use of SE is 13.
    – Chenmunka
    May 21, 2023 at 19:44
  • SE? What's that stand for? May 22, 2023 at 1:43
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    Also, way to go, user59719! Way to rock that kid power(I'm also a kid, but I'm older than you by about 4-5 years)! May 22, 2023 at 1:44
  • @Holythe4th 'SE' stands for Stack Exchange' Chenmunka is referring to one of the Terms of Access rules. (See this post in Meta.SE, plus whatever's linked there.)
    – CDR
    May 22, 2023 at 22:41

4 Answers 4

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Writing a successful novel at a young age is the same as writing a successful novel at any age.

Working backward, you write a novel that people will pay money for. To do that, you have a write a novel. As you've learned, that is hard. Fortunately, there is no external reason for it to be stressful. By that, I mean writing a novel is not like running into a burning building to save a family of nuns and orphans. Therefore, learn to not stress out. You are inhibiting your own creativity. Of course, how you go changing your behavior is a really big question beyond the scope of this discussion.

To write a novel, sharing your work is an absolute necessity. This means you need to set your expectations realistically. Some people will react negatively. They might be well-intentioned and actually doing their best to help but are ineffective at being helpful. Some might actually be being very honest, but not tactful. As the author, it doesn't matter what anyone says or thinks about your writing, its your creation. Your opinion is the only opinion that matters, in the end.

This means there is no reason to be scared when sharing your work. Of course, it's natural to feel that way. In fact is understandable. It feels very vulnerable. But, in the end, all it ever amounts to is people will tell you stuff about what you wrote and sometimes you'll be appreciative and find it useful and other times you'll get mad and sad and discouraged.

But, you'll think about what they said and decide for yourself whether they are making a good point badly or are articulating a bad point very skillfully. You might change what you wrote like they said or write it differently or ignore them. That is all people being negative about your writing amounts to.

The most important thing to do to learn to write is to read and read and read some more. You do this to learn to read critically. Because you want to understand why the author wrote each of their sentences they way they did. It's important to read good writers and bad writers.

Fortunately, Amazon self-publishing has unleashed a torrent of bad writers in practically every genre. I know that sounds harsh, but that doesn't change the truth. The "Look Inside" feature on Amazon books, lets you read the first chapters of e-books. And e-books with ratings of 1 star are usually really bad. You can learn by reading them.

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As a fellow young writer, I understand the doubts that one may face while writing on the side. First off, no worries, there is no pressure on anything because writing takes time and effort. My first tip is just write, don't worry about judgement or anything like that as ideas (any ideas) can truly make a difference. If you are thinking that your book is complicated or that you can't easily find inspiration, maybe you should seek for the inspiration deeply. It took me around 3 books that I felt overwhelmed to finish, to actually find the moment and scene in my head that screamed "This is what you will write!", and it came after watching a movie in the cinema that inspired me to do that. If your current book is not working out, don't worry as it may need some time to take off in your head. In the meantime, maybe there's another book you feel more compelled to write, and that's okay! The least you want right now is to feel like writing is complicated...it's not really if you are compelled by your book. I would personally worry about the opinions of others when I finish my book, so I can have it ready and feel good with what I've written first. The priority is your opinion of your book, not what others think. If something does not feel right about it, maybe it needs some time. This does not mean that you are giving up writing the book, the other three books that I never finished are not books I've rejected from finishing. They are just books that I will finish later, when I have a better idea of how to handle them, as the book I am writing now is making me feel less worried and more inspired to keep it up. In the end of the day, there is no chance that the book you are writing is not good! Not a single chance, because art and literature are subjective. If someone says a negative review, there is also someone that will way a positive review. Lastly, don't worry about time, books take a while to write, and you may publish it whenever you feel confident to publish it. You don't need to make headlines saying "young teenager publishes book", it's okay to wait a few years and you'll still say that "I started this when I was [insert age] young", it's just as impressive.

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There are basically two types of writers, plotters and "discovery" writers.

A Plotter basically makes an outline of the entire story, decided how everything is going to go (the plot of the story) before they actually write much for a reader to read at all.

A Discovery writer does not figure out the whole plot at all. I am a discovery writer, and I would recommend this approach as a way to start. Some famous authors are discovery writers, including Stephen King (writes horror), George R.R. Martin ("A Song of Ice and Fire", the novel that became the TV series "Game of Thrones". Ray Bradbury, writing science fiction and fantasy. JK Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series.

What Discovery writers do is really focus on their characters, and the personality of their characters. They get into their heads. They imagine the normal lives of these characters, how they behave, how they treat other people, what they do for a living, what they are good at and (this is important) what they are bad at. Their weaknesses.

They can start to write then, in most books the first 1/8th of the book is following the main character(s) in their normal life.

At that point, something happens. We call this the "Inciting Incident" (call it II). It is a problem that our main character has to solve. Often, for a discovery writer, this II was the idea of the story, like, "What if (II) happened to somebody?"

Now what is going to happen in the story is the Inciting Incident happens, and our MC (Main Character, or if we have a team, the Main Crew) is going to try and deal with the II, but they are going to fail. The II is going to get worse or bigger, and by the time we get to 1/4 of the way through the story, the II will have grown into a problem so bad, the MC has to leave their normal life and devote all their time to dealing with the II.

That first 1/4 of the story is called Act 1.

Now you could plot that out, but Discovery writers basically just get into their characters head, pretend they are that character, and figure out what a person like that would do, or would try. Just remember they have to fail, their attempt is going to backfire and make the problem worse.

What we are going to do is follow what is called the "Three Act Structure". But it is really 4 Acts, so Act 1, Act 2a, Act 2b, and Act 3. Each of these 4 acts is broken into 2 parts. Like the Act 1 is Act 1 part 1, the Normal World (of our MC and maybe our Villain). At the end of Act 1 part 1 is the II (Inciting Incident), then Act 1 part 2 is "Consequences of the II", where the MC tries to deal with the II, and it backfires. At the end of Act I is a dramatic moment, the MC is forced to (or feels they must) "Leave the Normal World".

Below is a graphical representation of the Three Act Structure for a story, which is by far the most followed in professional fiction. It has suggestion points along the way for what kind of story you are writing in each section, the milestones you should be reaching.

The Three Act Structure with Milestones

Now this has more milestones than I use, I typically use the Green Boxes, Gold Circles, Green and Purple Diamonds. You can see those occur every eighth of the story. The little Brown Circles break it down into 16ths of the story, which you can use too if you want.

These milestones can be used for plotting to begin with, but for a Discovery Writer, they can also be used like a compass, a direction for writing, and the type of story you should be telling for that eighth of the story, the kind of event you have to invent for this next part of the story.

It is important that your hero, your MC, has flaws, and they really have to matter. Watch the stories on TV. Although the hero usually wins in the end, notice that in the good stories, the hero usually gets the living crap beat out of him, but keeps getting up and fighting some more. You can see this in Die Hard movies, especially.

Readers don't tend to like heroes that always win and never lose. Those are "wish fulfillment" stories, and beginning writers love to write them. But they are boring. In successful fiction, the main quality of a hero is that they would rather die than give up, and they prove that by getting kicked, beaten, run over, blown up, shot, stabbed, burned, and losing again and again, but they keep getting up to fight again, until they frikkin' win.

Watch your favorite Hit movies, but try not to get immersed in the story. Watch them to learn how it is done, and count how many times the hero gets hurt, or tricked, or set back, or tries something and it backfires, or they lose something (or someone) they loved, or they make things even worse. Notice how much it hurts, physically and/or emotionally. Sometimes they may seem to give up. But despite the hurt, eventually they do get up and keep on trying. They would rather die than fail. That is what makes a compelling hero.

Because in real life, readers can relate to people that make mistakes, but they do not relate well to people that never make a mistake and end up rich and successful. Real people like to fantasize that they can still succeed and win despite the mistakes we've all made in life.

Now in the finale, the chart says "all ends well and the hero marries their sweetheart", but that isn't how I learned it. What I learned is the finale is called "The New Normal".

Basically the MC returns to their normal world, or if that was destroyed, then they find a new Normal life for themselves. You don't have to write a write a romance!

In the Movie "E.T.", for example, the 10 year old Elliot doesn't "marry his sweetheart". Just think of the finale as a satisfying final success, and what Elliot does is succeed in helping E.T. return to his own people, evading all the government people that were hunting him. The movie poster takes the iconic snapshot of this moment: Elliot on his bicycle, E.T. in the basket, framed by the Moon and flying above the forest. That is the final victory for Elliot and E.T.

At 10 yo, I would not try that if I were you. In your place, I would try writing a world you can understand better. It doesn't have to be something you have experienced. Just like Harry Potter isn't anything a 10 year old has ever experienced, but it is fun for a 10 year old to imagine, and it doesn't contain any romance at all. I'd put your MC in a position you can understand, perhaps for a 9 to 11 year old.

There is a maxim (a well known piece of advice) out there called "Write what you know", but it doesn't have to be literally. For you, it would mean writing from the point of view of a 10 year old, but that could be a 10 year old discovering something magical, or experiencing some adventure, or like "E.T." Elliot finding and meeting an Extraterrestrial alien.

The other notes on this graph, you can also take metaphorically. You don't have to have a McGuffin, for example. At plot point 81% the "twist" doesn't have to mean everything is the opposite, it can be some other twist. The hero learns a member of his team is a traitor, or the hero finally understands something that happened earlier, and that gives him the key to defeating the villain.

Also note that the "villain" doesn't have to be a person: In some stories, the villain is just nature. In "Cast Away", with Tom Hanks, Tom is stranded alone on a deserted island. He struggles against nature to survive, to maintain hope, and eventually finds enough to build a raft and escape, then gets rescued. But then, having been gone for four years, he cannot return to his Normal World. His wife, thinking he was dead, remarried. He basically has to start a new life, and find a "New Normal". There never was a human villain.

Also villains do not have to be evil. They can be regular people people trying to do their job. In "The Fugitive", Harrison Ford is wrongfully convicted of his wife's murder, but due to a bus accident, he escapes and runs because he wants to prove his innocence. The "villain" is Tommy Lee Jones, a US Marshall, but he isn't evil, he is just a cop doing his job, and doing it very well. He has to pursue a convicted killer (as far as he knows), and Tommy Lee is very smart and doesn't break any rules, so this puts enormous pressure on Harrison Ford to try and stay one step ahead of Tommy Lee Jones; and sometimes he fails and has to risk his life, again and again, to both get away and at the same time find the real killer. In the end, they both win: Harrison Ford finds the evidence and the real culprit and the real motive, Tommy Lee Jones promises to help Harrison Ford get acquitted, and Harrison Ford surrenders to Tommy Lee Jones.

Again, nobody marries anybody, but the finale is a satisfying conclusion to the mystery and the hero's problem in the story.

If you have questions or want more detail, write another question, and let me know in the comments below.

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Very likely, you don't.

Writing requires training, just like any other skill. Which is why most writers publish their first novel at around 40 years of age.

Also, most writers cannot live from their writing. In 2018 in the US, the average writer earned $6080 per year.

If you want to be a successful writer, you will need:

  • patience, tenacity, perseverance, dilligence, and
  • a job (other than writing) that you enjoy, that pays well, and that allows you to work part time.

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