Heya, TWNers! We’re back with the next installment in TWNs 2022 Teen Writers’ Rally! If you’re visiting for the first time or a returning reader, on behalf of TWN, I want to say welcome and thank you for joining us as we kick-off National Novel Writing Month with back-to-back posts featuring amazing authors, bloggers, and more! Tune in every day until November 5th for new posts with writing tips, advice, and encouragement. Posts go live at 6:00 EST, and we encourage you to subscribe to Teen Writers’ Nook via email so you can receive a notification when the next post for the rally is up. (Form can be found to the right if on a computer or at the bottom of the page if on a mobile device.)
Just like in Mary’s guest post, we’re going to do the entry to the giveaway a little differently this time. If you want to be entered into a chance to win one of the books pictured below, then all you have to do is answer one of the questions of your choice that Grace leaves at the end of this post!
Okay, so even though Grace Johnson needs absolutely no introduction, I have to take a couple of minutes to introduce her anyway. If you don’t know who this writerly genius is, chances are you’re either new to TWN or you’ve been living under a rock. TWN has had the pleasure of having Grace featured over here so many times because not only does she write fun and engaging posts, but she also has SO much great advice and wisdom!!!! Some of which you’ll no doubt see today!!! Grace Johnson is the author of SEVERAL amazing titles such as Held Captive, Prisoner at Heart, Daylight, With Fear and Trembling, and the upcoming Bound and Determined (which, y’all, I just now realized releases THIS month!!! *fangirl squeals*)! She is also an editor and blogger and honestly, is there anything this girl can’t do? I’ve had the honor to get to know Gracie over the last couple of years and she is such an amazing, inspiring, God-honoring gal (and my twin sister, but that’s a long story) and I am just literally bursting with excitement to share her post for the rally!! I hope y’all enjoy reading it as much as I did, and make sure to check Grace out online where you can also find links to her other socials. =) Now, if you’ll excuse me, I will be over here fixing the time machine I stole from Grace which she also broke (that’s also a long story…) while y’all enjoy her fantabulous post!!!!!
It still feels like yesterday that I was pounding out words on my mom’s computer keyboard in my free time on lazy Sunday afternoons. At only ten, writing seemed like such a distant dream, something to truly pursue when I was at the ripe old age of sixteen or, better yet, twenty-six; so even though I wrote then as a hobby, my focus was on other things (like becoming a ballerina).
Well, seven years have come and gone, and now I look back and mostly wonder at how in the world time has flown by so quickly…and I also shake my head at my younger self, who had no idea what was going to happen next. Maybe then I would’ve prepared myself better and made it even farther by now than I have; who knows?
But seeing as how Issabelle stole my time machine to rescue Xavier (*coughs* long story), I can’t go back and tell younger me all the things I want to say, so y’all will have to suffice.
(Kidding, kidding! But also not.)
We all know the scripture 1 Timothy 4:12, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young” (NIV). And if you were like me, you probably took a look around you and thought, “Hmm, no one appears to be looking down on me. Oh, well.”
(If you’re also like me, you later realized everyone looks down on you because you’re so short. But that’s beside the point.)
But sometimes our worst critic and the one who discriminates against us most…is ourselves. So before you start thinking about how old you are and how many years you have left in school and how long you’ll be in college before you can start pursuing your career in writing (provided your parents don’t go on that rant about starving artists again), pause for a minute. Remember what the Bible says and what people like David and Jeremiah lived out, that God can use us no matter our age, that our destiny has no time limit, that our purpose on this earth has no start date apart from the day we’re born and no end date but for the day we die.
You don’t have to wait for the ripe old age of sixteen, thirty-six, sixty-eight, ninety-five (please don’t wait ‘til ninety-five; I don’t recommend it). You can start now and turn your free time into your forever.
When we think about waiting, we all probably think about waiting rooms: sitting around doing nothing but looking through magazines.
But that’s not what waiting periods should look like, whether you’re waiting for five minutes or five years! Waiting periods are preparation periods, in which we’re growing and building up to the next season of our lives. Never should we find ourselves sitting on our bums, twiddling our thumbs.
So start in your waiting period. Start preparing yourself for whatever comes next, even if you haven’t the foggiest notion of what it is. (This doesn’t just apply to writing, by the way. This goes for every area of your life.)
One thing I regret the most (apart from being socially awkward, not that I plan on doing anything about that) is not devoting more time and effort into developing my craft and really learning what writing is, experiencing being a writer. I rushed to complete full-length novels when I should have honed my voice with short stories and studied prose with flash fiction. I jumped into self-publishing when I should have been researching the publication process and building my author platform.
Long story short: don’t be like me. Take advantage of every moment you have and prepare yourself by researching, learning, and—most importantly—experiencing. Being a writer, even having an author career or business, is not a job. It is not a nine-to-five that you clock in and out of. It is a journey, a lifestyle. And it should be treated as such, so instead of hitting your word count for the day and then procrastinating with YouTube, enjoy writing. Immerse yourself in your stories and their worlds. Try new genres and styles. Entertain those plot bunnies. Go off on six-hundred-word tangents. Spend three months developing new characters.
I know that seems like a waste of time, but guess what? It’s not. Everything you do, every word you write and every story you start and never finish, has a purpose. Enjoy it. Experience it. Learn from it. Use it as a tool for the future. Trust me, you’ll be better off for it in the end.
Keep Your Eye on the Prize
Like every book coach will tell you, see the book, be the book.
Wait, no. That’s baseball. Never mind.
You can apply that to writing, though. Keeping your focus trained on what you want to be and to accomplish helps. It just does. It gives you motivation and inspiration and simply pushes you to do the very best you can.
Don’t ever let yourself get bogged down in the doubts, the defeat, the “I’ll never finish a novel,” “I can’t write well,” “I don’t have a strong style,” “my plots are all cliché.” Here’s the thing: your goal is not to finish a novel or have a completely original story.
It’s to be who God has called you to be and do what He has called you to do. He called you to write, so write!
We recently talked about vision in my youth group, from Proverbs 29:18 that states, “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (KJV). Even though this refers to prophetic vision and revelation from God, the same goes for the vision for our lives. When we don’t have vision from God and goals that align with His, when we aren’t seeking Him in all we do, when we’re just floundering through life or trying to survive…well, things aren’t gonna end in a happily-ever-after. It’s only when we seek God’s heart and His desires for us, when we fix our eyes on a solid vision and work toward it, that we will find reward and accomplishment.
Remember that He’s the one holding the strings. He’s the one pitching the ball, and He knows good and well where it’s headed. Just keep your eyes straight ahead and your feet moving forward, and you’ll be fine, believe me!
Don’t Be Afraid
I know, I know. You’ve heard it all before. (At least all 365 times in the Bible.) Don’t be afraid, never fear, faith over fear, yadda yadda yadda.
As cliché as it is, I’m serious. (As serious as my fear of spiders, that is, which is pretty serious.)
There are always so many fears at play when it comes to trying something new and big. Fear of rejection (“What if no one ever reads my book? What if everyone hates it?”). Fear of failure (“What if I never finish? What if it’s horrible? What if I never achieve my goals?”). Fear of not measuring up (aka, imposter syndrome) (“What if I’m not as good as Joanne R. or Stephanie M. or Jenny H.?”).
Heck, even the fear of being afraid! (“What if I clam up at the last minute and get so scared I can’t do it?”)
All those what ifs, all those doubts, all those questions, all that anxiety…
It ain’t right. It ain’t natural. Shoot, it ain’t even real, if you wanna get serious. There is no foundation or reason for you to fear anything. Literally anything.
Why? (Be ye forewarned: sermon incoming.)
Because you were made in the image of God, and He is not a God of fear. Moreover, He didn’t give us fear (2 Timothy 1:7). He gave us a sound mind and spirit of love and power. (Sound mind equals logical, critical thinking that is rooted in faith and peace rather than overrun by fear, in case you were wondering.)
So start resting in that, believing that, operating in it…and remember: God made you special, and He loves you very much.
*coughs* True, but not what I was going to say.
Remember that no one may read your book, you might not finish that novel, and you may not compare to Jerry J. and Leigh B., but that doesn’t change a thing. That doesn’t mean you are any less worthy, loved, and full of purpose, with an amazing destiny ahead of you!
So don’t be afraid to be rejected, to fail, to be different. Don’t let the joy of your life be robbed from you by anxiety, worry, and fear. Like I said earlier, enjoy it. Enjoy writing and editing and formatting (yes, even formatting). Enjoy publishing and designing and marketing (oh yes, especially marketing). Enjoy making $1 a month or $100 a month. Enjoy making 7 friends or 1 reader. Whatever stage you’re at, whatever road you’re taking on your journey, enjoy it. Savor it. Have fun, and be thankful for every step you take!
Work Hard & Research Harder
You know, some of us (*coughs* me) kind of expect things to just happen. To come about at there own time and fall perfectly into place without any effort on our part.
In a perfect world, maybe. But not in reality. To get somewhere, you’ve gotta walk there. To find something, you’ve gotta search for it. To accomplish something, you’ve gotta do it.
It’s literally that simple, so remember that even though it’s fun to just play around and procrastinate, and even though it may seem easy to just up and start something one day, you have GOT to work at it. Moreover, you have GOT to do your research!
Want to publish a novel? Write one. Want to sell 100 books? Market them. Want to gain 1k followers? Start posting.
See what I mean? Y’all take this as your motivation this month to just do it. Put the pedal to the metal (or, in our case, the fanny in the chair) and get to work! Outline and plot and prep. Write and edit and format. Read and read and read some more. Learn and study and research.
You’re never gonna make it to your destination if you don’t actively move forward. That’s the major mistake I made: I jumped into writing and publishing like I already knew everything, like it’d be a breeze and everything would fall into place.
Wrong! I should have (1) done as much research as I could before even jotting down my first word (maybe then I would’ve known how to indent paragraphs) and (2) worked hard and put serious time and effort into doing the absolute best I could rather than half-tailing it then calling it quits.
Trust me. You will not regret actually devoting time and effort to your work. You will not regret researching and learning. You will not regret trying (and therefore failing) and working hard on all you do.
Long Story Short…
Let’s face it: this post should have been named “mistakes I made that you shouldn’t.” But that’s no fun.
So what have we learned today, kids? (Kidding again! But…kinda also not…again. *chuckles*) So very many of y’all have these AMAZING callings and commissions to fulfill, so many inspiring gifts and talents to share with the world, so DON’T look down on yourself because of your age, lack of time and resources, busyness, tendencies to procrastinate—none of it! Don’t be afraid to dive in and start learning and growing as authors—and as people. Don’t fear failing or crashing and burning—instead, remember that your author journey isn’t just a long stretch of highway; it’s full of hills and valleys and rocky cliffs and oceans to cross and skies to soar through! And in every season and every leg of your journey, you’re preparing for something even greater, for an awesome destination you’ll reach through hard work and dedication—a prize that will be worth it if you just keep your focus on what matters most!
Remember who you are, what you’ve been called to do, and why you do it! That is how you make the most of your hobbies and daydreams. That is how you achieve great things and reach epic goals. Not through algorithms and routines, but through good old-fashioned trusting in God and letting Him guide you through all you do!
Y’all let me know down below what piece of advice spoke to you the most! What do you need to start doing to reach your goals and make your dreams reality? Has anyone ever looked down on you, especially because of your age? Have you ever made mistakes that you wish you hadn’t? I’d love to read y’all’s thoughts in the comments!
PS: There is absolutely a reason for mistakes. Remember that trying and failing I talked about? Some of us make those major mistakes or botch things up so that we can share our dos and don’ts with y’all—and even though I know I should have done things differently, I also know that God has worked in and through all my stupid choices to make something wonderful, so I ain’t complaining, and neither should you!
PPS: I totally should’ve thrown something about positive thinking into this post (because it’s also super important). Darn. I need to write a couple more in this vein…I just do.
PPPS: Also, while you’re down there commenting, let me know if I missed anything or if there’s anything else y’all’d like me to write about! If y’all beg hard enough, maybe the girls will let me come on and guest post again! *winks*
Grace A. Johnson is a teenage Christian fiction authoress, book reviewer, and avid reader. She lives in beautiful (but humid) South Georgia, surrounded by farmland and forestry, with her parents and six younger siblings. She has written four novels, three of which are published, and a smattering of short stories and novellas, which you can find on Amazon. She’s also a homeschooler who loves learning about history, linguistics, art, and the world around her. You can find her on Goodreads, Pinterest, BookBub, or blogging on her website at www.graceajohnson.com. Join her for a virtual cup of tea and a free preview of her debut novel when you sign up for her e-newsletter!