B&A - Set notions regarding teen writers?

Hi.

I've seen a lot of comments in answers and generally around B&A about teen writers/authors/whatevers. I would say the majority of people in B&A are teens (right?), so I wanted to get opinions.

Picking up bits and pieces from questions and answers asked on here, this is one of the many opinions I've picked up on (which I disagree with):

Teen writers haven't got enough life experience to write a book good enough to the standard of an adult.

Does life experience actually have that much to do with it? You can go out and... (man, this going to sound creepy) study people to portray body language, to see how they speak and therefore get speech patterns. And a plot. Well, you only need your brain for that. A person of any age can do this, within reason. Life experience does come in useful, but if you have less than another person it doesn't mean your writing will be lesser. You can cram life experience into a week. Enough for a novel, anyway.

Is there some kind of magic line that we cross from nineteen to twenty, making us a better writer? In my opinion, the writing of a fifteen year old can be just as good as a thirty year old's. That's just on general terms, though.

Teen writers are banded together when actually there's a range of abilities and standards of writing. What makes us assume that a teenager's writing is worse than an adult's? Because the image that's being portrayed is that there are ranks in the writing world, teenagers being near the bottom.

I do understand the other side of the argument that teenagers do have a lot to learn, but so does any writer. I think every writer goes through stages, the stage where they write phenominally badly, then they're okay, then then border on good and so on. I think that if you work at it hard then your age can be irrelevant. In some cases, it doesn't matter that you're sixteen or thirty.

What's your opinion?

Thanks for answering. (And well done for reading through all of my... hmm, what to call it?... not a rant but not just an opinion. More than an statement but less than a rant). Anyway.

I'll shut up now.

:)

Update:

@ The Writer -

See, that's exactly what I hate - that sterotype that you (and David, I think) mentioned that teenage writers think that all of the words they spit out onto paper is amazing. The ones that are serious about writing know that they can improve bucketloads. Furthermore, the ones that are serious about writing, and love writing, will not want adults (or anyone) to shower their @rses will praise. They'll want to get better. Yes, teenagers can learn things from an older writer, but that's not to say it work the other way around too.

Okay, maybe I'll look back in twenty years and think what I've written on here is complete crap, but how will I know that unless I write now? Unless I practice now, and learn to get better as a writer, then I'll still be the same writer I am today in thirty years. I may know more about life, but that doesn't necessarily mean that that's going to be reflected in my writing.

"... most teenagers simply are not

Update 2:

DON'T CUT ME OFF, Y!A. GOD. Here's the rest of it (hopefully).

"... most teenagers simply are not good writers."

Could the same not be said for adults? How many, out of *all* the adults in the world dedicate their time to writing?

I think, also, that the life experience factor depends completely on what you're writing about. If you've made up a world, then you'll way less life experience from *this* world to convey it realistically, because it's your own world. It's made up.

I do agree with some things you've said, but most of it is plain stereotyping, which is inaccurate for some teenage writers.

18 Answers

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  • 7 years ago
    Best Answer

    Firstly, I don't believe that the majority of B&A participants are teens -- it's difficult to age Y!A users and I like that anonymity. A large proportion probably are teens, but it's difficult to say for sure.

    I began writing seriously as a teen, but am now a young adult in contact with literary agents and haven't so far received any prejudice. I am keen to assert myself as a serious writer and have always come across as older. I think the teenage life stage is a turbulent one and a burgeoning time for writers, and I wouldn't be happy presenting anything I wrote as a teen for publication -- the foundations of many manuscripts began then but my style has altered and developed since then.

    I don't think age should be a barrier, and unfortunately some people can be prejudiced against teen writers because they think they are incompetent, underdeveloped as writers and incapable of sophisticated writing -- this is complete nonsense.

    I think teen writers have to fight a little harder to be taken seriously, and whilst at that time I think we're more sensitive about our writing, it's also the peak time to hone your writing skills and explore your style. Teen writers need to be supported, not prejudiced against, but I would still argue that this formative time is a prelude for young adulthood where penmanship is improved.

    :)

  • A User
    Lv 7
    7 years ago

    Let me just start by saying that I do know teen writers who are absolutely brilliant. Certainly much better than I am and better than a lot of adult writers. Does it mean they're ready to publish? Maybe some short stories. Novels? Absolutely not.

    You are right that any writer has a lot to learn. I think with some exceptions, it takes at least a decade of practice to really start mastering the craft. With most writers starting between 10 and 12, it's unlikely they'll get to publishable level before the age of 20 (and I'm being extremely geerous here). That also means that a 16 year old who's been learning a long time is bound to be better than a 30 year old who has just started.

    The real difference is life experience. Yes, teens can garner some life experience and they can observe. But there are experiences a teenagers just cannot get. And what's actually even more important, they do not have the hindsight on their experiences that an adult has.

    No, there is no "magic line" you cross between 19 and 20. But I can assure you as somebody who was once 13, 16, 19. Heck even 22. There is a massive difference between who I used to be and who I am now at age 27. I was a very mature teenager. But a teenager is necessarily limited: they're mature for their age, not just mature.

    I GUARANTEE that with hindsight you will find yourself fairly naive when you re-read this. It's something only an adult can know: that everything you thought you knew as a teenager, all the certitudes you had will make you smile a little and shake your head.

    PS: Steven J Pemberton put all this a lot better than I have. I agree with every point.

  • 7 years ago

    Aw, ****. Let me just say that anyone who believes many teen writers think their skills are wonderfully significant has probably never been a teen writer. Sure, at first some teens may think they are, but once they're exposed to more tips and techniques in writing, the less they'll believe so. And it doesn't take much exposure to learn this, trust me.

    I believe a teen writer can be good, but as they gain life and writing experience, they'll become even better. Just like an adult can be good, but as they gain even MORE life and writing experience, they'll become even better. This is a no-brainer. This is how every skill in life works.

    Like another user said, there are different types of teen writers. Some are serious and want to get better, others just want to publish so they can say they did something special. I think this argument over teen writers (which has probably happened several times before) is like the basic argument that adults underestimate us in general. Immaturity, selfishness, etc. I think it's a sign that even adults don't know everything, because your elders had to put up with your **** too. And if they think they were so "beyond their years" as teens then they definitely don't know everything! Every generation complains about every generation. I'm seriously mentally exhausted that people act as if this is new, and that any generation is any better or worse. I've been writing for about seven years (outside of school). I'm 14 now and very aware I have ways to go, but I'm proud of the progress I've made so far. Everyone's a critic and teens who complain left and right should get used to it, because it's everywhere in the industry that they claim they want to enter. Most adults compliment and kindly critique my writing, but it hasn't always been that way. I only focus on my writing instead of worry about these "adults". Sorry if I don't sound so nice, but the truth hurts.

  • 7 years ago

    I don't think writing is just a matter of creative brain power. Or at least writing of a deeper than entertainment value caliber is. I absolutely do have faith in this teenage generation, despite videos like Making the Bus Monitor Cry. I'm a stubborn optimist like that. I think that's why I answer as much as I do and how I do, because I believe these people right here are the people who are currently writing the books I'm going to enjoy in the future, and I want them to be successful. So I tell them what I've figured out because they want to know--and I think that's what makes authors the wonderful people that they are, they're the only people I know, regardless of age, who are constantly trying to improve themselves. And they keep improving themselves, only thing is that adults have had a head start because they've been here longer. They know themselves better, know people better. I'm only 20 and yeah I do notice a difference between the way I was when I was 17, even 19, writing style aside. That being said, the person on here I have most faith in is 15, and she's probably better than I am now.

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  • Rani
    Lv 5
    7 years ago

    That is exactly how I feel. Okay, I know I may be biased seeing that I am fifteen years old, but still you made a very good argument (argument . . . you call it an argument ^-^). I do that "creepy" thing you mentioned all of the time! I love to study people and notice they way they move, talk, and even what they talk about. Everyone has such a unique and convoluted story behind them that shapes their person, and I just love that. It's one of the reasons I write, because of the psychological complexity of the characters I create. And, personally I think that age is but a number when it comes to writing. It's about how committed the author is, skill, creativity, and the amount of hard work and passion they put into their writing.

    Instead of what you mentioned, I think that the problem with most teen writers is that they aren't serious enough ("at all," in some cases). Some may say that they "want to write for a living when they're older," yet they barely take time out of their lives to practice, pay no mind to grammar/spelling, never go beyond a first draft for a stories, don't do their research, and ignore the people who give them honest feedback just because they think it's "mean." As a teen writer myself, I hate that. I know that what they mean is "I want to be rich and famous like J.K. Rowling," but it just isn't that easy and they need to understand that. They need to be knocked down a few pegs in my opinion. And, right now I'm in a stage where my writing and mentality is maturing. By mentality, I mean I'm finally starting to "think like a writer." Rather than bouncing up in down when a friend wants to read a sample of my story ("OMG, praise is about to come my way!"), I now cringe and say "WHAT?! No! It sucks, it isn't ready . . . goddamn woman you can read it when it's published and that's it!" Oh, and I know they'll lie anyway. I only trust my editor-in-chief to review my stories now. I'm getting to that point where I would write something and realize how many flaws it has soon after, and I think that's a good thing. You should see how much my skills and style has improved in just two years!

    Goodbye =]

  • 7 years ago

    Thanks for writing this. c:

    I'm a teen and at the moment is writing a novel. Maybe it isn't the best novel in the world, but I enjoy the beautiful art of writing. I love how stories write them self. Yet again, thanks.

    Michael

    David, that's stereotyping though. A lot of starter writers think that, but some, like me know it takes a while. Last year, I had enough patience to take months to write a contest winning short story; perhaps a short short story. Some cases you are right, but in some others, you are wrong.

    Michael

    Sofia, I completely agree with you. Some people on here are plain old ridiculous. That's why I spend my time writing 2,500 words a day and not asking questions about the future.

    Michael, also a published author. (:

    Lynn, I agree with you too. Ha ha. I actually think a teen cannot write a good story about an adult. I do YA fiction. (Young adult) I do that because I have weird ideas in my mind, and writing YA fiction is a great way to express imagination.

    Michael

    The writer, I've been working on writing for three years. My teacher inspired me in Junior High, and ever since then I have been writing. I find your post very stereotypical.

    Michael

  • 7 years ago

    Personally, I see three different kinds of teen writers on here:

    Type One: The Newbie.

    This writer has just decided to start writing, and asks general questions (i.e. What are some good ideas for plots?). He/she also asks what publisher he/she should send it to, and look at you strangely when you say the word 'literary agent'. These are the teens who have done zip research and believe first draft writers.

    These teens are so ignorant and annoying, but people are really rude to them.

    Type Two: The Deniers (spelling fail)

    We all know 'em. They are the people who go and try out for singing competitions who sound like Justin Bieber's zombie because their friends and family said they were good. They ask for opinions, and when they come back negative, berate the reader. These are the teens who think they can be 'gifted' but not have to work. They drive me insane. "Please, no rude comments," they put for their question asking for opinions on their prologue. When so-and-so says the plot is vague, the teen reports them.

    Type Three: The Experienced Author

    This is the teen who has been writing for several years (by that, five or more). They've worked hard at their craft; many of them were told they were prodigies or phenoms at the written craft. However, they understand that talent requires development. They understand that perfection isn't within their reach and chances are, there are going to be a fair share of negative reviews. He/she will read feedback and analyze their story.

    Teens like this are often more mature than the rest of their age. They have an 'old soul', one that can step back and look at the big picture. These are the teens- while few and far between- who can write amazing novels. Ever read S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders? One of the best books I've ever read, and on many, many reading lists, and it was written by a sixteen year old girl.

    Looking at this, I see that these are the stages any writer goes through.

    I am biased, because I am a fourteen year old writer, but teens can get published- by the traditional way. It HAS happened.

  • 7 years ago

    The major difference between teenagers and adults is the fact that adults are willing to put effort into their writing, whereas [the majority] of teenagers are not. It's not necessarily life experience that separates this majority - it's laziness. Teenage writers, frankly, suck most of the time, because they whip up their steaming pile of crap in five minutes and expect exorbitant amounts of praise for it.

    Beyond that, teenagers can only have been writing seriously for, at most, 5ish years. That's not a lot of experience with writing. In fact, with only five years under your belt [probably less], you're still most decidedly a novice to intermediate writer. That's just facts. Most advice I see floating around B&A suggests the need for writing over a million words before you've come to the point where you're writing publishable material. And I can definitely see that.

    The problem with life experience comes up when a teenager has come to the point where they have halfway decent prose. Sometimes, if they put enough work into it, a teenager's writing *mechanics* can be on par or at least comparable with published/adult writing. But there's a huge difference between the mechanics of a story and the interactions of characters and all that.

    I'm sorry, but I'll have to disagree with you when you say life experience can be learned in a week. A teenager that's never been in a committed relationship simply will not be able to portray a teenage, committed relationship the way someone that has can. Likewise, a teen that's never had experience in the workforce won't be able to relate to their characters' jobs, because they've never been to work.

    True life experience is vastly different from what you've cited. It doesn't include things like body language and dialogue. Rather, it's the building of relationships between characters, and when you've only been alive for a short time, and you've only been forming mature relationships for a few short years, I'm sorry, but it's just not the same as being a thirty or forty year old that's graduated college and been working for a decade.

    You sound like you've got a bitter taste in your mouth because you're one of those teenagers I mentioned earlier that has developed some halfway decent prose [I can tell from your writing that that's probably the case]. Trust me, the vast, vast majority of teenage writers will never produce anything that's comparable to published writing. That's because we're lazy. I can relate to how you feel - I consider myself to be an above average writer for a teenager. But I know that my characters are not written well enough that I deserve to be published yet.

    Above all, it seems like you're a teen writer that wants the notoriety of being published before you're an adult, because so few have done it. Let me be real with you - being like Christopher Paolini isn't what you want. Honestly, he's a crappy writer with a crappy idea that got extremely lucky. Publishing isn't a race to the finish. So don't worry about all the stigmas that are attached to teenage writers. Eventually you'll have crossed that magic line.

  • 7 years ago

    Nobody is a born writer. There are no writing prodigies, like there are for musical instruments or dance or other skills. Writing is something that must be learned. Needing "experience" is not "life experience." It's "Writing experience."

    If you begin learning as a very young child and write constantly through your adolescence, then you may be experienced enough as a teen to publish.

    Here's the thing, though... if you're a teenager who's good enough to publish, then just think of how amazing you'll be in 5-10 years. Instead of publishing an "okay" book that is one of your early good books, you could write another, later on, that is a masterful debut novel. You only get one first novel. Don't cheat your future self by pushing for publication too early.

  • 7 years ago

    To be honest, I think it's very unlikely for someone in their teens to write to the best of their ability. Not really even because of life experience (Life experience is good for writing, but for most I say you don't need to study it for 30 years to write half-decently) but simply because they haven't been writing long enough. Writing is like any skill - practice makes perfect. Like you wouldn't expect a teen tennis player to be ready to play against professionals - so why would you expect a teen writer to be able to publish against professional authors?

    Unlike most sports, though, you can't really sign your kid up for writing lessons when they're three years old like you could with dance or other sports. Most people don't start writing (as in, stories and what-not) until they're older - 9 or 10 seems a common age, with a few a bit earlier. even though that may seem like a lot, it isn't always. I started writing when I was ten - I'm fifteen now. It feels like I've been writing forever, but it's only been five years. In those five years, I have improved tremendously - heck, with every sentence I write I feel like I improve. But, I really didn't get in to taking advice on my books until I was around 13/14. I'd say in those less than two years I've learned even more just by talking to other writers and paying more attention to what I read. I'd say I'm a decent writer, probably at least for my age. But I still have lots to learn - and I'm excited to learn it.

    But, to actually go with the question - I think teens can be good writers. I'm sure I'm better than some adults out there. Hopefully. You know, maybe the illiterate ones . . .

    To be more serious, teens can be good writers. Like how they can be good baseball players, or tennis players, or dancers - whatever. But the more they practice, the better they get. There are a lot of people out there who write books, and a lot who have been writing them for much longer than others, so they may just be a bit better.

  • 7 years ago

    I definitely believe there is a difference between a teenager that writes and a writer who is in their teen years.

    See, I personally feel like teenage writers that are actually talented and intuitive can't be classified as teenagers in their mentality (and, thus, their writing). Teenagers are typically pretty selfish and don't think very deeply (a personal observation of my high school years), which never makes for impressive writing. The assumption that teen writers aren't good largely comes from lack of writing and reading experience and a lower level of maturity. But someone with innate talent and creativity has a mind that operates differently to begin with, regardless of age.

    I think teenagers should stop posting their age here, though. It's not enough in the real world of publishing to just be good for your age.

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