"Am I too young to write it?" is one of the most common questions I get asked. Young adults, teens, preteens, and even kids enjoy writing. Many have high hopes of writing a novel and getting it published, and most of them worry that no one will take them seriously as a author, because of their age.
Because my answers to this oft repeated question are often nearly the same or very similar, I am going to compile together on one page several of these questions along with my answers to them.
This is one that, never got approved for publication on Squidoo, so most of you have never seen it before. One of the longest answers I ever wrote, to a question sent to me by a 9/11 survivor who wanted to know if she was too young to write about the gruesomeness she had witness at ground zero...
Are you too young to write the story that's been floating around inside your head?
Well, perhaps we should take a look at my Twighlight Manor Series and ask if a kid was too young to write a book that has a M Rated label slapped on it's cover, and bookstores won't let readers buy unless they can prove they are over 21 years of age.
Guess what? While readers have to be 21 or older to buy The Twighlight Manor series, the author who wrote it was only 14 years old. A 14 year old is waaaaay too young to read these stories and yet the stories themselves were written by a 14 year old. Was I too young to write them? Maybe. But than again, how in the heck does a 14 year old come to write something they are too young to even read?
I started writing as a kid. By age 8 I was already a multi-published author. Granted my early stories were 16 page short stories for kids. However at age 14, I learned about 2 things: That Dracula was a real person named Vlad Tempe Dracul and he murdered hundred of people in his mountain top castle during the 1400s; AND that the Spanish Inquisition happened and they had the utterly most fascinating ways of killing people. I also meet a local person who had been spent a lifetime collecting Jack the Ripper memorabilia and had actual books and diaries owned by Jack the Ripper, which I got a chance to read and really get an inside look into the mind of a killer.
That same year I discovered Edgar Alan Poe's Tell-Tale Heart and Murders at Rue Morge, and instantly fell in love with gory grizzly horror. Well than I just had to go watch the Vincent Price/Edgar Allan Poe movies and fell in love with House of Usher and Pit and the Pendulum.
In the decades since than I have amassed a huge collection of articles, reports, journals, and books on serial killers, mass murderers, cannibals, and their kin. I've cataloged massive databases of every method and implement of torture ever invented and I've used them all in the Twighlight Manor series at one point or another. One of the major complaints people have with the series is that there is so little actual plot or story behind it, with it seeming to be nothing but one murder after another told in horribly graphic detail.
Of course I did have a reason for going out and actively looking for this kind of information. See at age 14 I had witnesses my 5 best friends murdered by being tortured to death, via dissection. Ever watch someone dissected alive? It's not pretty. Ever have to sit and wait while your friends get chopped to pieces, knowing you're next? Not fun. Believe me. It messes with your head. Big time. Most people will tell you I never fully mentally recovered from this.
The timing was bad here. Or maybe it was good? Who knows. Depends on how you look at it. The thing was I had eariler that same year witnessed my best friends murdered. Five of them. One had her leg ripped off and her intestines pulled out, slit open and her breakfast flung out on the ground. The next two years of my life were spent in and out of court as I was the only surviving witness. Death and especially murder became a glaring focus in my life. I took to going out of my way to research serial killers in an attempt to understand why people do such horrible things and why did Lisa Bolduc do the horrible things she did to my friends?
If you read my early stories you see talking cats and puppies, flower fairies, happy little gnomes, and flying talking cars. Happy children's fantasies, which had been heavily inspired by Disney movies and Disney comic books. Two major inspirations for what I wrote those early years was: Herbie The LoveBug and The Cat From Outer Space.
Than at age 14, it was all blood, guts, and gore, followed by more blood, guts, and gore. Characters that once wielded magic wands, suddenly were wielding axes. It was a dramatic change.
I was inspired by Poe's chopped up bodies under the floor boards, Roderic Usher's delusions that his house was hell bent on killing him, and wondered: Well what if Roderic Usher lived in Vlad the Impaler's castle during the Spanish Inquisition? I was a morbid kid, I know, however there was a reason behind my sudden obsession with death and murder and people who did terrible senseless things to other people, after all I had to find a way to come to terms with my 5 friends being chopped up, and the fact that the only reason I wasn't chopped up with them was because my dad walked in on this whole thing, grabbed Lisa by the neck and didn't let her go until the police arrived, and than I couldn't just move on, no ...
I had to sit in courtrooms day after day after week after week, with the horrors of what happened being shoved in my face by scary men in suits yelling in front of a scary guy in a black dress glaring down at us from pulpit, all the while being surrounded by lots of people piled in the seats behind us, and reporters with microphones and cameras.
Here I was a kid with Autism, the only witness to a mass murder, and being yelled at up one side and down the other by more strangers than I could count. My solution was to sit down on the floor in front of the judge and start scribbling furiously in a notebook, in a mad attempt to block out the noise and flashing lights. I also stopped talking and would not speak again for another 15 years. That is how I came to write The Twighlight Manor series.
Was I too young to write the Twighlight Manor series in all it's sex filled bloody glory? Well, maybe the question SHOULD be: was I too young to witness my 5 friends being dissected alive in front of me and than expected NOT to end up writing something as horrific as Friends Are Forever, A Tale of The Twighlight Manor? I mean, come on - look at the frigging title of the book: Friends Are Forever.
Any guesses how I thought that up? My five best friends were murdered days before I write a book called Friends Are Forever, a book about people getting murdered and the only guy left standing alive going bonkers at being left alone while everyone else died together? Yeah. Wonder how I thought THAT up at 14 years old. *seething sarcasm*
In a matter of days I wrote a novel (most of it written in the courthouse) about a guy named Roderic who lived in a haunted house that was possessing him to kill people. It was a small success and the fans it gained were soon asking for more stories about this guy. Before I knew it I was writing a series of short stories for underground pulp magazines. Most readers were stunned when they later found out it was written by a 14 year old girl. Why? Because in addition to nearly a dozen graphically detailed murders (involving torture, dissection, and disembowelment) there was also a graphically detailed sex scene in every chapter, including 2 gang rapes of minors.
I became an author known for writing what I know, and having been the only survivor of a mass murder, I knew some pretty awful things and had an uncompared ability to describe in detail what ACTUALLY happens to the human body as it is being cut up and diced apart, seeing as I had been forced to sit and watch this happen to my 5 friends that summer so long ago. I didn't have to guess and imagine or ask the question "I wonder what happens to a person when you do this to them?" because I knew from first hand experience what happens. It is these vividly detailed and glaringly accurate descriptions of the murders which is why many bookstores will not carry my books for sale, and why many readers find it difficult to read more than 1 or 2 of my stories. A common complaint from readers is that The Twighlight Manor series is not just horrific, it's down right stomach turning.
People would write to me with angry complaints saying that I ought to be in prison for writing such monstrosities. I've been told by readers I ought to be shot, ought to be locked up, ought to be institutionalized, ought to have my head examined, ought to have my kids taken away, blah, blah, blah. I'd write back to them explaining I was the kid who they saw in the media about the court trail and I was simply rewriting what I had seen the day my friends were murdered. They'd be flabbergasted and stunned, write back again saying they thought the author had to be some dirty old perverted man in his 60s, and they were stunned to learn I was a 14 year old female.
Fact of the matter is I was sitting in court day after day, with lawyers making me repeat over and over again what I saw in as much detail as possible, and all I wanted to do was forget what I had seen, but by 6 months of court trail it was branded into my brain so deep by being forced to repeat it so many times that I couldn't get it out of my head anymore and the only way I could sleep at night was if I sat down and wrote about it before going to bed. Thus it became a habit for me to write horrifically bloody stories before bed every night as a way to empty my brain so I could sleep without being plagued by nightmares.
Funny thing was, it wasn't until nearly 20 years later, that my (highly religious, super christian) parents found out what I was writing. They had hysterics, but by that time I was well into my 30s, had published 30 more books and 200+short stories all based on continuing the first one in it's mindless trail of sex, gore, and bloody bodies.
I knew when I was first writing these things as a teen, that my parents would flip out if they ever read what I was writing, however, I also knew that they were so caught up in 5 hour church meetings each Sunday, 3 hour church meeting each of all 5 week nights, prayer services, tent revivals, etc, that they never had the time to sit down and even look at what I was actually writing.
My parents answer to everything was "Ignore your problems and praise the Lord. And if you have any troubles in life, it's because you aren't praising the Lord loudly enough or sincerely enough so get on your knees and beg forgiveness than praise the Lord even louder."
I sometimes wonder if it was because they were so overblown super religious that perhaps that had something to do with why my books were so far in the exact opposite direction?
Once in a while they'd ask what my books were about and I'd say "It's the continuing story of a guy who loved his wife so much that when she died he locked himself away in a castle."
Which was true. I left out the part that he was killing and often eating everybody that set foot in said castle. I was always terrified they would ask to read one, but they never did. My parents, translated my answer to mean I was rewriting Disney Princess stories. No clue how they came to think that, but that's what they used to tell folks "Oh she loves them Disney Princesses, can't stop writing about them."
Well, I did love Disney Princesses, I mean I do wear prom dresses and wedding gowns all day every day for the past, oh, I don't know every day since the day my friends were murdered. *shrug*
That was the last day I wore pants. I was wearing a pink sweater and aciid washed carpi blue jeans. I still have them. Never washed them after that day either. Brown, stiff, and smell like rotted chicken. I was covered in blood head to toe. took days to get the globulated chunks of blood and flesh out of my hair. I'm only alive because my best friend threw himself between me and Lisa, which resulted in her snapping his spine.
About a month before that happened I had sewn a dress for The Green and Gold Ball, which the Mormon Church holds every year. Gorgeous turquoise blue ball gown of taffeta. I changed into that, wore it for weeks, until Halloween, than I changed into a poodle skirt and 50s jacket, wore that for months, until I passed the Salvation Army one day, saw a $5 wedding dress, all sequins, bought that wore it for months.
I haven't worn "normal" cloths since the day my five friends were murdered. Just kept sewing new prom dresses, buying more wedding gowns. Than my grandmother went to Japan, brought back a kimono, next thing I know I'm living in kimono, collecting more and more of them.
That's how people came to falsely assume I was obsessed with Disney Princesses.
No. Fact is I was trying to forget the blood on my cloths that wouldn't wash out and even today 30 years later I am unable to see "normal cloths" and no be reminded of the events of that day.
But here I am getting side tracked. You want to know if being a 13 year old who witnessed your family obliterated on the sidewalk as they came falling out of the Twin Towers if you are too young to write about what happened to you?
No. You most certainly are not too young to write about it if you witnessed it. By all means write. It may very well be the only thing that saves your sanity.
Would I advise other teens to do the same? Yeah, probably. Mostly because I know had an adult told me not to do something, that would be the thing I'd do more than ever, so it's somewhat pointless not to tell teens not to do something. I also know that you can't always rely on adults to be there for you during hard times. and hell, haven't you been through enough without adults coming along and telling you that you are too young to write about things you had no control over being forced to be a witness to?
If the story is stuck in your head, than you are not too young to write it. If you don't write it, it's going to needle you like crazy until you just write it down.
If it's in your head, than it's in your head and there's nothing you can do about it.
No one can tell you it's inappropriate to write if you are already thinking it anyways. It's not like disallowing you from writing it is going to stop you from thinking it. My feelings on the matter is if you are not too young to think it, than you are not too young to write it.
Your story is dealing with things which children do see quiet often. Sad but true. You are dealing with stuff you're family actually faced seeing. The 9/11 attacks were horrific. You have every right to feel deeply effected by what happened. You have every right to feel the need to tell others how you feel. Writing a story about a kid who sees his family brutally exploded to pieces as they fall from the toppling tower and splatter on the ground, yes is horrific, but if it's what you know, than write it.
Children see family members killed in house fires every day. Are they too young to write the story about the horrible things they witnessed?
Preteens see family members killed in car accidents every day. Are they too young to write the story about the horrible things they witnessed?
Teenagers see family members killed in drive by shootings every day. Are they too young to write the story about the horrible things they witnessed?
Children see people killed in tornadoes every day. Are they too young to write the story about the horrible things they witnessed?
Preteens see people killed in hurricanes every day. Are they too young to write the story about the horrible things they witnessed?
Teens see people killed in earthquakes every day. Are they too young to write the story about the horrible things they witnessed?
You know what the answer here is?
I'll tell you why! Because for these kids the best thing they can do is to write about what happened to them. It might just keep them alive. Thet saw very traumatic things and some times writing about it is the only way they are going to be able to cope with it.
You are not too young to write about your life.
No one is ever too young to write about their life.
Never, ever, ever listen to ANYONE who tells you that you are too young to write about ANYTHING that has ever happened to you. EVER!
No you are not too young to write about an experience that happened to you, no matter how horrible that experience is. It's your life, your experience, you lived it, it's stuck in your head, you have to live with that, and no one has the right to tell you not to write about your own personal life experiences. So what if you're only 13 years old? Who cares. It doesn't matter if you were 13 or 30, it happened to you, you are the one who has to live with that, you are the one who has to deal with what you saw, you are the one who has to find a way to keep going forward in life, and if writing a novel based on what you saw is the answer, than so be it.
Will your parents get mad? No idea. I don't know your parents. My parents would find your story incredibly vulgar. Me I wouldn't stop my own kids if they were writing it. It all depends on the individual in question. Every parents is going to be different. It's up to you to decide if your parents will get upset or not, it's up to you to decide if you should ask their permission to write it or not.
I will point out one final thing. Your grammar, voice, etc, which you used in your question DO NOT sound like a 13 year old and that is a big point in your advantage. It sounds like an adult. The grammar is correct, typos and spelling errors are almost nonexistent, punctuation is good. Had you not said you were 13 in your question I would have guessed you an English Professor in their 40s, based on your grammar skills alone.
Most questions I receive (from adults, teens, and kids) are sorely lacking in even the most basic of grammar skills. I'm not talking lacking in college level or even high school level grammar, but lacking in simple 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade level grammar. Half the questions I receive I don't answer because I can't make heads or tails of what in the heck the asker is even trying to say. The grammar of the average question asker is unbelievably atrocious.
Can you read that? What the heck does it say? I have no clue what this question was asking. I assume they were trying to tell me they wrote a book and wanted advice on how to publish it, but, damn, if they can't even write a question legibly how in the heck do they think they'll get published?
Don't laugh and say it must be a fluke. It's not. About 8 in every 10 questions I receive reads like this. 80% of the questions people ask me, go unanswered simply because I can't read the question. They make no attempt at spelling, capitalization, punctuation, subject/verb agreement, or just plain trying to make sense at all.Sad thing is most of these sort of questions are coming to me from adults: people over 21 years old. Questions I get from kids and teens have far fewer grammar errors in them.
My question to these people is, if you can't even write a single sentence question legibly, how in the heck do you think you can write 200 pages worth of sentences to form a book manuscript?
Well, that is why in answering your question here, I had to point out that you have a really big talent at writing legible grammar, and that is going to put you light years ahead of other hopeful-authors. Remember, when you send your manuscript to a publisher, they have no idea how old you are, all they care about is one thing and one thing only: how well you obey spelling, punctuation, and grammar rules.
Moving on to another question...
I see several things going on here to answer.
First off: No! You are not too young to write a book. No one is too young to write a book. If you can pick up a pen and start writing, than you can write any old book you want to write. Never let anyone tell you otherwise.
Secondly, 17 years is a long time. A lot can happen in 17 years. And every person who lived those same 17 years you have lived, will have had completely different life experiences than you have had.
Keep this in mind: everything that is unique is worth writing about. Your life is unique, no body else on this planet has ever lived a life exactly like yours and no body ever will, therefor your life is worth writing about.
So yes, write your book, never think you are too young to write anything.
Now, let's look at some things you need to worry about if you want to be published.
Your grammar is really bad. Don't let this stop you from writing. Keep right on writing. Do however make an effort to learn grammar rules. Buy a few books on self-editing. Don't be discouraged if you have poor grammar skills. I do too. I have Autism. I can't spell worth shit. Everything I write is run through 3 different spell-checking programs, than handed out to a person to cross-check it, before I go back in and hand correct the hard copy with red ink. If you want to be a published author this is just part of the work you are going to have to learn to do. It takes time, but if I can do it, you can do it.
I'm going to recommend the books I use when I edit my own manuscripts:
While there are lots of books out there on writing, when it comes right down to it, these are the only two books you actually need.
A Writer's Reference by Diana Hacker is a college text book but it's not a typical college text book, it's a spiral bound reference guide which lists every English grammar rule under the sun, not just those that apply to authors, but also for essay writers, journalists, etc.
The Writer's Little Helper by Jim Smith is a small pocket sized book you can take with you, it doesn't have as much information, however it's written with fiction writers in mind and is far more useful (and is by far the best writing book I have ever bought so if you have to chose only one of these two go with this one).
Every grammar rule of the entire English language is found in these two books. And I'll let you in on a little secret: that college textbook is the book publishing houses and editors use to check your manuscript against.
Now let's look at your question and see how you SHOULD have written it, and than I'll tell you why you should never have grammar errors in your correspondence with authors, editors, agents, and publishers.
What you actually wrote:
What you should have written:
What did I fix?
These were all simple fixes. And the rules explaining these fixes are in both of the books I mentioned above.
Now, why did I correct your question? I rarely correct questions, usually just posting them the way they were written, so why did I pick yours to correct? Well, it's because of what you asked in your question. You wanted to know if people will take your book seriously or not.
People don't care how old you are when you write your life story.
Laura Ingalls Wilder was 9 years old when she wrote about her family's trip across the country in a covered wagon. Her diary was titled "The Little House on the Prairie" when it was published. (She was in her 40s when she published it). Was she too young to write the story about her life experiences? No!
Anne Frank was only 13 when she wrote her life experiences. Was she too young to write the story about her life experiences? No!
Opal Whiteley was 12 when she wrote about her life and only 16 when she wrote a college textbook. Was she too young to write the story about her life experiences? No!
See? Age has nothing to do with it. Things happen to people. People write about things that happened. People take the books seriously, because the authors took the time to edit and use good grammar.
Nobody cares how old or young you are when you wrote the book. What they care about is that they are able to sit down and read the book, and understand what it is saying. No one will take you seriously if your book is filled with spelling errors, capitalization errors, typos, punctuation errors, and lacks basic subject/verb agreement. You got to get these things right if you want to be taken seriously.
So go ahead and write your book. Don't worry about grammar too much while you are writing your first draft. Keep in mind that every single author on the planet writes really shitty grammatically incorrect first drafts. Keep in mind too that before a manuscript becomes a best seller, the author will rewrite it and edit it 4 or 5 times, and than will have an editor or two re-edit it. Self-editing is just part of the job and the good thing about it is that the more editing you do, the better your grammar becomes and over time you'll find yourself needing less editing.
Are you too young to write the story about your life experiences? No!
Are you too young to write about your life? Never!
You are not too young to write about your life.
No one is ever too young to write about their life.
Never, ever, ever listen to ANYONE who tells you that you are too young to write about ANYTHING that has ever happened to you. EVER!
No, you have NOT reached the end of this article! What you have reached is the end of what it currently online. The rest is coming, hopefully it'll be on here in a day or three so keep checking back. I will remove this message at the same time I put the rest of it online.
As my long time readers will already
know a server crash took down most of the old free-hosted site on June
4, 2013 (which was online since 1997 and had reached 6,000+ pages).
Thankfully everything was saved on a separate hard-drive and the site is
being rebuilt with a new host and for the first time on it's own
I am currently moving all 6,000 questions&answer articles to this site one page at a time, at a rate of about 4 to 7 new pages being added each day, so be patient. Not all links are yet clickable. This process started on September 2, 2013 and will be ongoing at least through to January 2014. (And it may be well into 2017 before all 6,000 pages will be back online if I continue at this rate of 5 a day.)