For a long time, I’ve witnessed a growing trend in this “desire’ to be published among teenagers. It sounds like a lovely dream: imagine, your book on the New York Bestseller’s list, adored in the hands of a reader much like yourself, and the untitled connection with your faithful readers.
Unfortunately, all the glamour comes after the actual writing itself. The thing is, I’ve noticed something in most newbie writers: the inability to acknowledge just how difficult writing is. In fact, this was a common trait within myself when I first began writing. Although I’ve never wanted to publish a book, I valued the rewards more than writing itself.
It was only when I finished The City Is Silent did I fully realise how difficult writing was. It was the first novel I had full intention of publishing (despite the nine others I wrote before, without much thought) and decided, the minute I finished, that publication wasn’t for me. I may have written novels, but I am far away from publication, with both my priorities and my dedication.
The point of this post is, you should never rush to publish a novel. I understand a lot of teenagers have age goals –“Publish a book before I turn 22”– but I personally think it’s an unrealistic goal to set. You don’t have control over whether publishers like your book or not, the time-frame it takes for your book to sell, and there is absolutely no time limit to perfecting your novel. Writing can be improved, over and over again.
Secondly, your writing tomorrow will be better than today’s. If you truly intend on becoming an author, you don’t want to stain your name before you’ve even begun. Especially if you publish (or, in most cases, self-publish) a book not yet edited, revised or altered. A first draft, although definitely something to celebrate, is never the finishing point. I am sad to inform you, but a book needs to be rewritten several times before you consider sending it off to an agent or publisher. This due to the unfortunate truth that, regardless of how little time reading a book consumes, writing takes almost a million times the time and energy.
Thirdly, you want your readers to love the book. As a writer, that should be your main goal: write a book people love. If this novel happens to be published anonymously, with readers forever marveling over the unknown writer, it shouldn’t matter. If this novel is published when you’re one-hundred-and-fifty years old, it shouldn’t matter either. Whenever you write a book, the author shouldn’t matter. From my viewpoint, a “this is good for your age” isn’t a real compliment. Only a, “I love this novel” or “This is one of my favourites” can ever count as something truly wonderful.
Fourthly, there is a clear distinction between writing and publishing. Writing can be a hobby, something you can afford to give up anytime, any place. You can stop mid-sentence if you want to. However, when publishing a book, you are expecting the reader to pay for it. In return, the reader has the right to expect quality writing, revision and editing for something they’ve purchased. You wouldn’t sell a half-drunk bottle of water; neither would you sell an unrevised manuscript.
I would like to point out, if you are truly serious about writing, then go for it. Publishing is a wonderful way of becoming a debut author. However, you should never rush the process –if you are truly ready at eleven, go for it. If it takes you seventy years, that’s fine too. There is no equation that lets me determine at what age a person should publish a book.
The best advice I can give you is take the time to enjoy writing, rewriting, building your characters, breaking them down, and starting again. No matter how brilliant your writing currently is, you will always be better tomorrow. If you work on the novel well enough, you will always find a reader who connects with your words. When you finally publish that novel –built not merely upon words, but your blood, sweat and tears– readers will never regret a single cent. And those harsh, untactful criticisms will not hurt you, because it was your best effort at that given time.
In my opinion, that’s the only way you can determine whether you’re ready for publication. But don’t rush it –never rush it.