Writer’s Block Party is honored to host Chapter One Young Writers’ Conference team member Katelyn Pettit, as part of their Ch1Con Blog Hop. For more information on Ch1Con go here: chapteroneconference.com.
My name is Katelyn and I am a writer, conference attendee, and host for Chapter One Young Writers Conference. I am so excited to be chatting with you today!
Just a bit about me: I am 23 years old, I started writing when I was around 11, and my favorite genre is Young Adult, specifically YA Fantasy. I graduated from university (yeah, I can’t believe it either) with a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature, and I am now doing freelance editing work while working at a shoe store. I also have a dog, a miniature schnauzer named Humphrey, who I’m half convinced is my patronus because we are both old souls.
Working with fellow young writers is one of my favorite things to do, which is why I was so happy to jump on board with Chapter One Events and help promote a fun, supportive, educational community for young writers. Our annual writing conference will be taking place August 5th, 2017. We have some awesome speakers this year, including Kody Keplinger (author of The DUFF). More information and open registration is available at chapteroneconference.com!
I want to share some of my experiences as a young writer with all of you, so hopefully you can learn from some of my mistakes, and, most importantly, be the best writer YOU can be.
(Ew, the cheese in that was kind of cringe-worthy, but I still mean it!)
So, with that intro out of the way, let’s talk about dreams vs. goals as a young writer: what is realistic, and when does self-applied pressure becomes unhealthy/unhelpful?
First, I want to tell you my story.
Throughout my high school career, my number one goal was to be published before I turned eighteen. For me, that meant that halfway through my senior year of high school I would be a published (and bestselling, if things went my way) author. Well, believe it or not, that didn’t happen. It didn’t happen before I graduated college either. And now, one year later, it still hasn’t happened. And that’s perfectly okay! I just didn’t know it at the time.
I was really disappointed in myself for not writing that bestselling novel. I thought for sure the novel I was working on throughout the majority of my high school career was in fantastic shape. I submitted queries to agents, I went to writing conferences, but the results were all the same – a big fat nothing. I think more than wanting to be published to share my writing, I wanted to do it to prove a point. To every person that said: “you’re too young,” “you can’t make a future in writing, you won’t be able to pay the bills,” “Oh, English, huh? What are you going to do with that? Be a _____?”
(If any of you are English majors or are considering majoring in English in college, you should know that sentence ends in the word teacher. If you haven’t experienced this yet, it will become very familiar to you – trust me).
Suffice it to say, things did not go as planned, and I was devastated.
And that devastation caused my writing to suffer. Because I stopped writing altogether.
The thing that I thought for sure would be my future suddenly wasn’t, and I didn’t know what to do moving forward.
DO NOT STOP WRITING.
If there is something that all writers understand, it is that writing is a need, not a want; not even a choice, if I’m being completely honest. Sometimes it can be really inconvenient. Especially if you suddenly get inspired at work and all that is around to write on is receipt paper.
Writing helps fuel your mind, even if it’s only a paragraph a day; it’s a way to exert mental energy in a productive way. Okay, that sounds super lofty and hipster-y (and maybe a little Dr. Seuss-ish because of the accidental rhyming), but does that make it less true? I don’t think so.
The Point: I should never have stopped writing. Not only did I miss it, the less I wrote, the more depressed I got, and the worse I felt about my writing. Practice makes perfect? Yeah, well, it actually does. Good writing is not something handed down from the heavens, it is something you have to work at to improve.
So, what does this all have to do with goals? Or dreams for that matter?
As far as dreams are concerned, I will always believe that bigger is better. That overused idiom about shooting for the moon and landing amongst the stars? A bit cliché, but not entirely untrue.
However, when it comes to goals, achievability is key.
Wanting to get published by eighteen was a dream. I know that now, because as I got older, I realized the insane amount of work that goes into publishing a novel. Not only would I have had to have a high quality, largely error-free manuscript (spoiler: I did not), I would have had to query an agent, sign with an agent, edit my manuscript with said agent, he or she would have had to pitch it to publishers, a publisher would have had to buy it, and then I would have had to work with the editors at the publishing house, before, finally, the book went to print.
All while trying to graduate from a public high school? Yikes.
I’m not saying it is impossible – it has been done before – but there are always extenuating circumstances, and everyone’s lives are different. My life (and, let’s be real, my skill and level of writing at the time) were not where they needed to be to have been published.
If I could go back and give my younger self a piece of advice, this would be it: be realistic about your goals and the timeframe in which they can be completed.
Finish my book by _____, fully edit a draft of my manuscript by _____, have three manuscripts written by _______.
These goals are big, but reasonable. More importantly, these are all goals you can accomplish on your own. A lot of work by a lot of people goes into publishing a novel; these goals are all something YOU have complete control over.
Does this mean that you should stop dreaming about being published at a young age? No, of course not. But just know that if it doesn’t happen, that is perfectly okay too. One of the biggest authors of our time, J.K. Rowling, was in her early thirties before she published her first novel, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, and that was after the manuscript went through a long series of rejections from various publishing houses.
I’d say she’s pretty successful now 🙂
Keep your dreams big and your goals small, feasible, and frequent. By doing this, you will be able to get farther faster. Having numerous small goals rather than one big goal gives you the motivation to keep going. It allows your inspiration to exist without becoming exhausted or overwhelmed. The small successes of every goal push you forward, and that is a great feeling; a much better feeling than not writing at all.
Until you kill off one of your favorite characters and start crying in your dorm room and your roommate walks in and the whole thing is just very awkward.
I hope this post could help you in some way. Maybe you aren’t a young writer, but are still disappointed in where you are (or aren’t) in terms of your writing career. I think that all writers can relate to this feeling, and you are not alone. But don’t ever stop writing, don’t stop dreaming, and don’t stop having goals.
Now is the time I get to reveal something pretty cool: a critique giveaway!!! I am partnering with Writer’s Block Party to give one of you lovely readers a free critique of the first ten pages of your manuscript! (See below for further instructions from the lovely writers of WBP to find out how to enter). Also, feel free to keep in mind that if you are the winner, and the first ten pages of your manuscript ends in the middle of a chapter, you are more than welcome to send me the remaining pages of said chapter and I will edit those for you as well!
I am excited to hear from all of you, and I can’t wait to read your work.
All the best,
Here is the link to the Rafflecopter giveaway for Katelyn’s critique!