On Writing: How Are Teen Authors Perceived?

“Some people break all the rules and get published. You could cross a road blind-folded and not get run over. That doesn’t mean that crossing the road blind-folded is a good way to live a long life.”

–  Nicola Morgan


This post hits home, because I’m a teen author myself. I have been since I turned thirteen, though I’m not exactly one of those types who scores a major book deal by the time they hit puberty. I fit into the much larger category of teens who write books but haven’t broken into the industry yet. I have, however, gotten four full requests from literary agents, including the woman who represented The Hunger Games…so, hopefully that bumps me slightly towards the “publication” clan.

It seems like teen authors are everywhere these days, doesn’t it? When I started high school, NO ONE knew that I was a writer, not even my close friends and family. Why? Because I felt like zero other teenagers were interested in that sort of thing, and of course when you’re fourteen, the last thing you feel like being is different.

Now? 180 flip. Not only do I enjoy being weird and breaking social norms, but teens who like to write are becoming more and more common. Okay, maybe teens who like to write full length novels are still a bit rare, but even that movement is blossoming thanks to NaNoWriMo (which, incidentally, I’ve never done. Hmm…)

But how are these teen authors perceived by adults?

We teens would love to believe that everyone sees us and immediately starts rooting for us. “Oh, you’re only FIFTEEN and you’re trying to get a book published? Bless your precociousness! May you lead the charge against a society that believes kids can’t change the world.”

Let me be clear, I’m all for the “kids change the world” movement and even hope to be a part of it. But unfortunately, I think most adults take the pessimistic approach: they see a teen writer and think “good hobby, but you’re probably way too young to succeed at something like this.”

Want to hear the best part?

I agree with them.

Hypocrite! you guffaw at your screen. Caleb, you’re saying teens shouldn’t be authors, yet here you are doing the THING.

Not quite. First and foremost, I absolutely do think teens should write. I think all teens should test to see if they like expressing themselves that way, and if they find they do, then write and write and never stop. Whether it’s for yourself or the blog world or whomever, if writing (or ANYTHING!) is your passion, I believe it’s not only healthy, but important, to embrace and pursue it.

No, no, when I say most teenagers probably aren’t a good match for the publishing business, I mean just that: the publishing business. The get-a-literary-agent-and-sell-to-a-publisher business. I don’t think the majority of teens are cut out for it.

Do I still sound bitter? Alright, nitpickers, check this: most PEOPLE aren’t cut out for the publishing business, whether they’re fifteen or ninety-seven or forty-three or twenty-eight. But beyond that, I’ll build my case.

Hey, teenagers. Yes, you people. I want you to picture yourself, who you were, one year ago. And I’m willing to bet that you would literally throw that person down a flight of stairs if you met them today.

There are worlds of psychological findings—not to mention common sense—that show how prone teenagers are to dramatic development as they approach adulthood. What high school senior dresses or acts how they did coming into high school? We grow up, yo.

It's Reality!

But here’s the thing! Let’s say an ambitious teen author slapped together a novel by the age of fifteen and started querying agents. Now, what do you think the twelfth grade version of that author would think of their book, if they glanced over it three years later?

Sounds like a horrifying situation, doesn’t it? It is, my dear readers.

I would know. I lived it.

I tried to be one of those hotshot teen authors. No, correction…I wanted to be the first hotshot teen author. (Yes, teens have gotten books published occasionally, but how many of those books have done that well? And don’t you dare cite Eragon; I’ll fry that fish later.)

I wanted to be the breakout kid, the one who actually becomes a bestselling teen author and actually turns a profit and actually makes it before finishing high school.

Then I grew up and realized that maybe, that was a tad unrealistic.

Is it good to have goals? Of course. Is it good to pursue them? Yes! But the thing is, when I first started trying for publication, I hadn’t grown up yet. I followed all the querying rules and I knew what I was up against, but sadly and quite simply, I just wasn’t good enough yet.

I’m not trying to discourage anyone with a similar dream. Maybe you HAVE grown up by age fifteen and are ready to go! But I’m just saying, I wasn’t, and while I wasn’t necessarily a terrible author, I was no where near ready to be published.

Which of course begs the question I know some people are thinking.

How do you know you’re ready NOW, you nincompoop?

Well, I don’t. Maybe I’ll never be published. But that’s exactly why I have only ever tried for publication through the traditional querying method. No self-publishing, no teen writing contests, nothing. I play the big game, same as every other prospective adult author out there. This novel of mine is going to sink or swim completely on its own, damn it, and it’s very slowly starting to swim amongst interested agents.

That’s why I think I might be ready.

I used to think that when/if I ever became published, it would have something to do with my age. I even hoped it would. Now, I don’t even consider it as a factor. For one thing, I’m now in college, and I legally am an adult, even if I have a little bit of teenage time left. But more importantly, this thing is working, highly respected agents are interested, and it has zero to do with any marketability related to being a teenager who writes books for teenagers. For all they know, I could be some English professor trying their hand at the YA genre.


Would that angle help me, maybe, if I put my age in my query letter? May…be. Would agents—subconsciously or otherwise—read my novel through a skeptical lens, knowing I’m barely out of high school?

Yeah, I’m pretty sure they would.

My point is, I don’t want my age to influence any success I may have (if any) as a writer. I don’t want to be some wunderkind who breaks convention.

I just want to be a plain old, regular, boring, published author.

NaNoWriMo and the Problem With Star Wars: Episode VII

“For the past 35 years, one of my greatest pleasures has been to see Star Wars passed from one generation to the next. It’s now time for me to pass ‘Star Wars’ on to a new generation of filmmakers.”

 –  George Lucas


Whoa, lots to talk about tonight. Two particular topics, both of which I’m several days late on. But still, here are my thoughts anyway.

For those unfamiliar with NaNoWriMo, it’s short for “National Novel Writing Month,” which is November. In recognition of this, NaNoWriMo is an organization that challenges people everywhere to sit down and write a novel at least 50,000 words long (roughly two hundred pages in book form) in just one month, from November 1st to the 30th.

Those who want to officially participate sign up on http://www.nanowrimo.org/, create an account, and enter their story in an online word processor. If you make it to the word count by midnight on the last day of November, you get egregiously large sums of money, along with a mansion of your choosing and every Harry Potter replica wand ever made…

Just kidding. You get an online certificate.

Still cool though, right?


Am I participating?

…Kind of.

Officially, no, I’m not creating an account and uploading my work. Nor am I starting a novel from scratch. But, I am hoping to write one.

Fasten your seat belts, ladies and gentleman, because I’m about to blow up this world with a great, closely-guarded secret:

The first book I ever wrote was bad.



Slight Dramatization.


Okay, so maybe that doesn’t surprise you. It shouldn’t. But the point is, I’ve spent the past few years rewriting portions of this manuscript, rewriting other portions, editing the whole thing for wording, adding chapters…and finally, several months ago, I realized I just need to start it all over.

So that’s what I hope to do this month. I already started over, had a friend look at the first few chapters, and got several aweing ideas to incorporate. And so I begin incorporating, with the goal of finishing the REAL, FINAL version of the manuscript by November 30th.

Wish me luck.

And do NaNoWriMo! Just because I’m not, officially, doesn’t mean you can’t. Get going, though…you’re already three days behind.

And, next…Star Wars.

Maybe it’s because I didn’t grow up in the 80’s, but unlike most people, I don’t hate the prequel trilogy of this saga. In fact—I’ll lose a few readers here, I’m sure—I thought Episode III was the best one.

I’m just unleashing secrets tonight, aren’t I?

But regardless of your stance on which movies were good and which weren’t, everyone was in a significant state of emotions when it was announced on Tuesday that Disney bought Lucasfilm, and Star Wars: Episode VII is due for release in three years. (http://www.variety.com/article/VR1118061434).

First of all, relax! When I say “Disney” bought Lucasfilm, I don’t mean Disney Channel, the network currently airing shows such as A.N.T. Farm, Fish Hooks and their latest installment, Dog With a Blog (Yes, that is a real show. And yes, its premise is exactly what the title implies).

I mean Disney, the movie company that brought us Pirates of the Caribbean and The Avengers. And Disney is working closely with George Lucas in developing storylines for Star Wars Episodes VII, VIII and IX.

Don’t get me wrong; I was excited when I read this. I still am, especially seeing as George Lucas will serve as story consultant. But when I stopped and thought about it, one little problem with this new set of films crossed my mind.


I have a bad feeling about this.


Okay, so Luke, Leia and Han aren’t exactly as spry as they once were. I agree that the CGI team will probably long to create another lava battle when faced with the task of making these three senior citizens look remotely similar to their characters, who are supposed to be in their thirties.

But still, I’m willing to give them a shot.

So, in conclusion: write lots this month! And pray that the production team behind Star Wars knows what they’re doing.