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I’ve always wanted to write a book. I’ve finally gained enough courage to attempt to write a small novel, 100-150 pages. I’m 13, which I’ve learned is a small problem. I hate to say it, but I’m just gifted at writing. I have many adults around me who have the talent and I know I have it, I just doubt myself because I don’t think I’m old enough. I’ve read many articles and books in general but I just don’t know what to do with the information. I want my plot to be detailed to show exactly what I can do, but people have told me that I shouldn’t be writing what I do write. I know the basic steps I need to do, I’m just overwhelming myself. Can anyone help?

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    A small suggestion, prompted by "to show exactly what I can do": don't write to try to meet other people's expectations. Write the thing you want to write, and let other people worry about their reactions to it. I hope you keep your courage and passion! Sep 2, 2023 at 21:10
  • "people have told me that I shouldn’t be writing what I do write" – What do you write and why do people think you shouldn't write that?
    – Ben
    Sep 28, 2023 at 14:02

9 Answers 9

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I see several separate questions, I think, so I’ll give several separate ideas/suggestions/answers:

  1. Age: don’t let your age dissuade you. Starting early, is actually a big advantage! Writing is an extremely competitive sport - one of the most competitive ones in the world. And, like all other sports, anyone who is eventually great has to start early. The earlier you start, the farther you might go! So, I’d say, matter what else is going on, take this opportunity to start developing a habit of writing and publishing, high volume, on a regular schedule, as much as possible. One of the most important things to start practicing, early, which you might not have seen in other advice places - is practicing being fast, and effective, at producing written work. And producing work no matter what - when sick, or tired, or in the face of criticism. Part of the effort required to get great involves just producing volumes of work in the face of resistance or opposition. Some systems like GTD https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Getting_Things_Done might be useful for you to look at and learn from. If you want to see a public log of how much writing a professional writer tends to produce, check out for example Cory Doctorow's log at https://pluralistic.net/

  2. Grace under criticism: if folk are telling you you shouldn’t be writing what you do write - analyze their feedback, steelman it (https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/steelman), and transform it into constructive, actionable goals. If they’re criticizing the content - ask yourself what about it would curtail the criticism (it’s probably not you or your age, even if they say that - is there a mismatch in the voice? Does the content not come across as plausible or believable? Are you writing about topics that “kids your age shouldn’t speak about” - ie., is there a mismatch between your content and the audience you’re publishing to? etc…). The most painful or effective criticism tends to be close to some grain of constructive truth. And there's a hard to learn skill here - how to find that truth, and use it. So, you can practice filtering out the dramatic negativity, finding the grain of truth, and then, rephrasing the criticism into a constructive, steelman-ed version. And then, prioritize whether and how to do anything about it, maybe using some system that works for you (like GTD above)

  3. Find a mentor: Find folk who started writing at about your age, and then became successful. Read their biographies and wikipedia pages. Reach out to them and ask for advice and help with specific problems, like this one. Send them emails, or letters, describing your situation and asking for advice. If they’re within reasonable distance from you, you might ask if you can meet with them in person. Obviously, involve your parent(s) or guardian(s) in this process (and in anything else that leads to you interacting with strangers, especially adult strangers)

  4. Find at least two communities for support: Find and join community of folk at approximately your age, who are writing. Maybe on https://achiveofourown.org, or https://wattpad.com. Reach out to them, share your early drafts, and generally ask for advice. Similarly, find and join (maybe via a class or course on writing) a community of folk who are doing this work professionally. Eg. share some of your writing so far with instructor(s) for courses that teach professional writing - and ask them for feedback, and if you can join the course/class. Collaborate with your classmates. Lookup or start a local writing circle, or find someone to be your editor. See my note above about involving your parent(s) / guardian(s).

  5. Sign up for a workshop/support group: There are multiple places online and in person, which will help you cowork or workshop your way through the actual steps in writing a novel. If nothing else helps, this kind of problem is one you could buy your way out of. If money is an issue, ask for a scholarship or discounted access on account of your age, and talent

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Excellent question. I myself am a teenage writer (which doesn't make me any sort of expert on writing as a teenager), but it does mean that some things I've experienced/thought about may be applicable to your situation.

First, understand that your age is not what impacts your writing the most. Some adults write poorly and some kids can write pretty good. If you think your writing style is at a good stage and your story is well-defined, then don't focus on your age. Instead, focus on writing instead.

In my opinion, the biggest barrier a young writer faces is having enough determination to stick with an idea long enough to see it to completion. For years I'd have one idea after another, write a chapter or two, and then move on to a new idea. Eventually I found an idea I liked enough to devote time to, and I managed to complete it. If you have an idea for a story, and you really think it's good, and you're willing to spend a potentially long amount of time writing it, then you're in a good position.

It's great that you already have a length in mind--100-150 pages. If it helps, create a writing schedule where you write X amount of pages every week in order to meet your goal in a timely manner. What I try to do is write until I have reached a 'plot point'--basically a stage of the story marked by some event, change or scene. This way, I can take an outline of my plot, examine it and say, "I've made this much progress." This kind of scene-by-scene approach can make writing much more structured.

From your question, it sounds like you want to have a complex plot in order to demonstrate your writing abilities (apologies if I misunderstood that part). Because I can't offer specific advice as to details of your plot, you should understand that complexity does not always entail skill. It sounds counterintuitive, right? But if you think about it, you can have a complex story, with hundreds of characters, and still not show off your writing abilities to their fullest. As another person posted, short stories are excellent exercises for honing your writing abilities. Not only do they force you to carefully consider a concise plot, it's also satisfying to be able to finish a project. I know you're writing a novel, but my point is, you don't need a complex plot in order to have a good story. I enjoy crafting intricate plots too, but if you want to show off your skill as a writer, there are other aspects of writing to focus on too--style, dialogue, descriptions, character devlopment, pacing, tension, atmosphere...the list goes on.

And you don't need to worry about all these things immediately. Writing occurs in two stages: First Draft and Editing. Nothing will be perfect the first time around. So try not to worry too much. You can always come back to fix things later.

I know it sounds cliche, but the most important thing to do before starting to write is believe in yourself. If you think you can write a 150-page novel, then you can do it!

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Give yourself some time.

Writing is a difficult skill - not only are the 'rules' of English awkward and arcane, but intensively subjective.

Writing a novel is a huge task, as you're finding out. I honestly doubt I would have attempted it if I'd have known beforehand just how many hours need to be invested to get anything even remotely good out.

It sounds like you're very invested in being an author, which is great. Keep working on your skills, pushing yourself to improve. You may want to hold off on writing your 'dream' novel yet, or be happy to just pick away at writing small sections of it rather than trying to finish the whole thing quickly.

Alternatively, work on crafting short stories - there's still considerable skill involved in doing it well (being concise, quickly establishing settings, characters, hooking the reader etc) and it's a lot easier to finish them.

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    I appreciate someone actually responding, never expected it to go like this. I don’t have plans for writing my dream novel, I’m considering this a large project, to test the waters. I have a list of plots I like, and one I’d like to write later. I’d like to expand on the plots, but I’m confused on how. I’ve also been writing short stories for years and have competed in many contests. I think I just struggle with making a good enough plot, my expectations are high for me and I know that’s probably not the best.
    – Liz
    Sep 3, 2023 at 3:20
  • Happy to help. Part of learning to write is understanding your own process - what works for you in terms of plotting / pantsing, outlining and writing style. Remember that your first draft is just for you, and then go back and edit, refine and improve until you're happy. Or realise you made some mistakes, learn from them, and move on to your next project. You've got a lot of time ahead of you to master all of this, just keep writing.
    – Phil S
    Sep 3, 2023 at 10:00
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Talent vs Skill

Some people have talent. They have an aptitude for seeing or hearing a thing and being able to perform it to an impressive level without any training. Luck has given you talent – in narrative terms we say it is 'unearned'.

That only goes so far, and it won't be mistaken as professional by another professional. Talented people are 'better' than the average at the start, but an average professional is far better than any talented beginner.

Skill is the thing that comes with experience, through trial and error, analysis and training. With skill comes more confidence because several techniques have been tried and experience gives you a better idea how it will turn out. You learn what you are good at, and also learn how to mitigate what you aren't so good at.

You've got a head start by being talented, but as a beginner you don't know yet what you don't know. There's only one way to develop the skill to build your confidence: experience.

Write. Write things you like. Write things that you aren't sure about. Challenge yourself, and most important go back and critique your own writing after some time has passed.

Push yourself outside of your comfort level so you can grow your skill. It's not about what others think about your writing, it's about what you think about it 6 months after you put down the pen.

Good luck, and 'earn' the confidence that comes with training and experience.

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Don't think about this too much. Especially, don't confuse yourself with how-to-write books and other advice. Just write that first book.

The biggest hindrance in learning how to write is the fear that comes from wanting to do everything right the first time. No one manages that, and you won't either. Writing is a skill like any other, and you will built your ability by exercising it. If your first book is good, wonderful, and if it isn't, you can always rewrite it later when you feel you have mastered the craft. Your idea won't be lost, if you botch things up, so don't worry about that. At the beginning, write to find out how it feels to write.

And after you have finished, think about the experience and what you want to do differently the next time. Then write the next book.


As for age, most writers publish their first novel in their fourties. Getting published is a long distance sport, and to succeed you need perseverance. Don't let the rejections you will likely get when you submit your first manuscripts dissuade you. On average, the first published book is the fourth book that most writers have written, and some writers have to write twenty novels before they manage to get published.


All in all, think about becoming a writer the same way you would think about becoming a lawyer or carpenter. All professions require years of training, mental and emotional maturity, experience in life and in the workplace, to master them, and it is rare that someone your age has gained all of that. So give yourself time and grow and learn and keep your goal in mind.

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In addition to other answers here, read the book on writing "Bird By Bird" by Anne Lamott. We were assigned this in a writing class I attended, and found it inspirational/helpful on the art of writing.

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  • I think this answer can be improved by sharing something speciic from Anne Lamott’s excellent book that directly addresses the question. Answers, like writing, are best when specific and detailed
    – EDL
    Sep 4, 2023 at 5:29
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Liz,

Age is irrelevant, talent is talent, and it should be nurtured and developed. It’s true that a 13-year-old does not have the wisdom necessary to craft in-depth novels on all subjects, but you do have some life experience. Draw on that and write too your heart’s consent. As you grow older and experience more life, your craft will become more elaborate, and your stories will become broader in variety.

When I was your age, I could spin some tales that would amaze all those that heard them. I have always wanted to be a writer; it was my lives mission. However, in my 20’s, I put down my pen and began working to provide for my family. A mistake that I wish I could go back and undo. True, I still needed to provide for my family, but at night, I should have kept that writing momentum going.

I say, write, write, and write. Don’t let others discourage you. You are a natural born writer, and you should do all that it takes to continue that career. You will regret not doing so if you put down your pen because others tell you to. That’s what happened to me, and now that I am in my 60s, I am trying to get back into writing. It’s difficult for me because I lost that childhood imagination that I once had. It’s within me I know, I just need to reconnect with that magic of fantasy and imagination. Don’t let this happen to you.

You still need to hone your spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc. so put a lot of effort into those classes at school. Your craft is writing, perfect that craft. Starting young gives you an advantage over others. Diversify your writing while you can. Write for your school newspaper, if they don’t have one, start one. When you graduate, look hard for jobs like staff writer for a magazine or local paper. Perhaps you will land a job as a content writer or blogger. Just focus on finding jobs that involve writing. Writing at the age of 13, gives you time to get some credentials under your belt to showcase when you enter the work market.

Life does not always hand us careers, we must strive to follow our desired career path, so do what you must to make writing your source of income. Never, and I mean never, let anyone tell you that you are too young or too old to write. You are a writer, so write and never give up. The world is waiting for your stories, give them all you have.

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Don't let age discourage you. I myself am also striving to be a young author, and I think you could be one from what you've said.

Also, just a small comment from what you said about how many pages you want your novel to be. In the traditional publishing world (if that's what you're going for), people talk about things from the amount of words, not pages---pages can contain any kinds of font, font size, paragraph sizes, etc.

Back to what I was saying before, I think that age is just a label. Some authors advize teen writers to "Wait, since there's no rush and you can absolutely publish later," but my mother recently gave me the advice that you can never start too early. First of all, you need practice if you want to do soemthing professionally or even just well if you're not planning on publishing. Second of all, if you keep telling yourself that you have plently of time, you'll be 80 years old before you write a novel!

Don't let others discourage you; you know you, and sometimes you can surprise others who think they know you.

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I started my journey a year ago and I'm 45! I was in the same boat, so the feeling is not new. I used shows and movies I was interested in. Think in a way that you want to write a movie. When you get the general idea, write one sentence. From that one sentence, write three sentences that would represent the beginning, middle and end. Then from there, branch each of the three sentences into three more sentences. You wont do this the whole way through, but it should give you the basis of your story to work from. Visualization is a great help as well. I started with characters and actors who I think would performing my story as if it were a movie or show. This will help you develop the mindset of the characters. Think of how different it would be between your character being Robert De Niro in Casino versus Jack Black in Nacho Libre. Now make them both cops patrolling (that's an exercise).

Don't try to be a perfectionist. Finish that paragraph. Finish that scene. Finish that chapter. Just get the idea down and move on. As your story develops, new ideas will come to mind. Maybe something you seen in a recent show or movie may inspire an incident, new character, new setting, etc.

Once you have you rough draft (I call it your alpha draft) down, THEN go through all the technical stuff of making it better, tying up loose ends, adding, removing, rearranging, etc. This is where you finetune your skills. Knowing the difference between active and passive voice. Really trying to bring out the personality of your characters as unique in words. A good source of inspiration when you want to add more flavor is MasterClass

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