Hallo allemaal! I know I have been dreadful in keeping the Magical Realm updated, so today I am bringing you something new: a guest contribution. I will be writing a post of my own in the near future, though, don’t you worry.
Writing a book is something many people dream of, and few actually accomplish. Some have already achieved that goal as teenagers, though, including Alex and I. When most people hear that I wrote a book during my junior year of high school, they usually respond with, “Wow, how did you have time for that?”
The answer is, with volleyball and homework and clubs, I didn’t just happen to have hours of time I could use to write. I did, however, find ways to work writing into my schedule.
I wrote on the bus on the way to school, or at least thought about what was going to happen next in the story. Also, I set aside at least thirty minutes a day after homework, and before anything else, to write. This meant while I didn’t totally give up TV, I definitely wasn’t watching regularly, just as I wasn’t spending as much time reading for fun or watching movies.
When I did read for fun or watch television, though, I was sure to capitalize on the experience: taking character and actor names for my own stories, looking for what made realistic dialogue, and getting new plot ideas that made me excited to continue my story.
Similarly, I was sure to capitalize on the resources I had as a high schooler to strengthen my writing. I used the same techniques for peer reviewing in English as I did for editing my novel. Annotations and close reading, while usually used for literary analysis, helped me determine plot holes and awkward wording in my manuscript. Analyzing other authors helped me hone in on my writing style and discover what I liked in the books, and, conversely, determined what I incorporated into my writing.
Other classes helped me grow as a writer besides English class. Spanish taught me almost as much about the English language (such as parts of speech and faulty predication) as it did about Spanish. Psychology gave me the idea for my novel, INSOMNUS, and the scientific explanations for the supernatural abilities my characters had. Of course, some classes, like math, had limited effect on me as a writer, although I suppose without it, I wouldn’t have been able to number my chapters. (Although I could’ve just made them chapter names, so really, who needs math?)
So, if you’re a writer in high school or college, what can you do to take advantage of the resources you have?
- Take writing classes. This may seem obvious, but do it!
- Take compelling classes that have nothing to do with writing, such as engineering or cooking, to give you ideas for characters, plot, and worldbuilding.
- While walking to class or sitting in the library, listen to how people talk so you can write more realistic dialogue. Listen for things like how often they day what they really mean and what kinds of words they use.
- Maximize downtime. Whether it’s on the bus, like me, in the few minutes before class starts, or as a study break, take the time when you can to come up with new characters, outline your plot, or just to write.
- Join a writing/reading club or schedule in time. Especially in college, it can be easy to go weeks without reading fiction or having writing time. By scheduling it in, either weekly or daily, you’re more likely to end up doing it. Plus, joining a club or reading with friends can be a fun way to make a solitary activity more social.
- Review other people’s work. Even if it’s just looking over a friend’s essay, it can help you refine your editing skills. Plus, it’s always easier to edit other people’s work, so it’s a great place to start.
- Find people to review your work. Whether it’s the same friend whose paper you edit or someone else, there are likely plenty of avid readers who would be willing to look over a chapter or two, at least, of your book, and see errors you missed after having read the manuscript four hundred times.
- Reach out to teachers in the industry. I wouldn’t have published my book without help from my creative writing teacher, who is a part of the writing and speaking industry, so reach out for advice or to be connected to other people who can help.
- Even if it’s only for a few minutes, journaling can be a great way to collect information (events, feelings, ideas, names) for future stories as well to help you write stream-of-consciousness. It’s also a good tool for writer’s block.
- Use social media/screen time for writing instead. The same goes for any time-wasting activity you normally do. While you don’t have to give it up completely, limiting your time on such activities can free up a fair amount of your day. That being said, when you do go on social media or watch television…
- Use social media/screen time for inspiration. Use pictures people post for characters and settings or use social media to connect to other authors and grow your platform.
- Make school assignments lessons in writing. Take what you learn about writing essays and expressing your thoughts coherently and apply them to your writing. Use research skills for research papers to get background on your story. If you find you work better with deadlines for school projects, give yourself writing deadlines. Use ideas from psychology, sociology, and economics to give your characters realistic motivations.