Friday, June 5, 2009

The age of innocence

I am a young writer, 19 at the time of writing this, and I just cannot achieve any progress with any of my work. I have written two novels. The first one, I know, is a fairly trashy effort and was just to see whether I could achieve a full length novel with a plot that made sense. I did not seek publication. However, I loved doing it so much I decided to try a second one. I did the next one by the book, making sure I read the genre and understood the conventions, putting it away for several months and then reworking it with fresh eyes, and making sure it was the best I could make it. Now, when submitting for consideration by an agent, I can't even get past a query letter.

Sure, perhaps my query is letter is trash, but I think it's fairly consistent with successful ones yourself and Miss Snark etc have posted.I know I'm not the next Dan Brown or Stephen King, and neither do I want to be, but I would like the chance to try to be a writer. So I guess my question comes down to how I might attract attention from an agent/publisher without any qualifications or credentials and a lack of "adult" world experience? (that last one I have been told by a rejecting agent). Should I draw attention to school and university based achievements, such as being part of an International Honour Society for Academic Excellence, or does that just sound trivial and make it seem like I'm bignoting myself?

Your age is a problem. Not because you're not necessarily a good writer - I don't know if you are or not - but because it sounds as though you're writing for adults, not teenagers, and no adult wants to read a teenager's take on the world unless they have a specific interest in young adult fiction. You as a teenaged writer would be almost an impossible sell for a publisher to booksellers and for booksellers to customers.

Here's the good part: you're going to turn 20 soon. And then 21. Both of these ages are probably more palatable to an agent and publisher. So just wait, and while you wait, work at your craft. Most published first novels are not first novels - they're third, fourth or fifth novels. You have time on your side - what a gift! Make the most of it.


TL said...

The upside of being a young grasshopper is that you have 15 years to keep submitting to The Australian/Vogel. It took Vennie Armanno 10 years to win it ... so get cracking! :) The writing apprenticeship is, unfortunately, a very long one (for everyone). We all BBQ our first couple of manuscripts.

Anonymous said...

Keep writing and work on your thick skin as well! I started writing around the same age as you and got all kinds of rejections -- from publishers to Masters programmes (one of the Masers programmes rejected me calling me a 'foetus'). You're too old to be snapped up as a child genius, but you've got fifteen to twenty years on most writers. Use it wisely.

Anonymous said...

Or perhaps just don't mention your age? My age hasn't been a barrier to publication.

Anonymous said...

Keep going! There's a common quote:
without dreams, life is a broken winged angel that can not fly.

Although I do not write for the adult market, I am only 17 and in the same boat as you. My query was critiqued in post #10 of this blog.

I generally do not mention my age in my query letters. They do not seem a barrier for my writing, at least not now. In fact, my age allows me contests specifically for young writers. Also, I have managed to land writing assignments in professional paid magazines (even as staff writer) despite my age.

Zara Penney said...

You are only as good as your best writing.
Think of this. How many times have you watched somebody being asked
"How does it feel to be an overnight success?"
It's one of the most stupid questions I think anyone can ask.
Some people take years, some people don't.
Most important is knowing your genre well. I find that the rule 'write what you know' in a literal sense is like saying 'blue and green should never be seen' when I look out my window and through the green tree I can catch glimpses of bright blue sky.
Research is important. World building is important. The most important thing is to keep writing. Probably you'd be better off writing within your own age group and I'd say what a waste that you aren't given that YA is so popular at the moment. And remember there are loads of 50 and 60 year olds writing picture books for children.

Just be good. (the other fifty percent is luck - ie., being in the right place at the right time.