I remember being in middle school and being so genuinely in love with my crush-of-the-month that I thought I might literally die — and I mean fall over, grab my heart and die a horrible death. I also remember thinking my family knew absolutely nothing about life (and I mean zero). My mother was the only mother at my school who wouldn't let her daughter (i.e. me) wear the same cool clothes other girls wore and my older brother only existed to mortify me and me alone. I was also pretty much sure I was the only girl on the planet who had to put up with such rampant injustices on a daily basis.
Okay, I'm all grown up now, and I know none of the above is true (except maybe the brother part), but I still remember those feelings—how strong they were and how I truly believed them at that time in my life. I suppose what I'm trying to say is when we're young the feelings about all the things mentioned above run deep. Deep enough, that some good writing could tumble out of you if you let it.
It doesn't have to be the sort of writing that turns into your first published novel, just writing that makes you feel. Writing that lets me, as the reader, know who you are—what you're going through. Why it's important to you.
When I wrote NIGHTSHADE CITY, that was a key element for me — pulling from those gut-wrenching middle grade days, when everything was so intensified. You may not realize it now, in fact you may feel the exact opposite about your life, but as a would-be writer, you are very lucky. If I so clearly remember those long gone days now, just think how you can pull from them being that you're still living in them! The worst thing a writer can hear is that his or her characters are contrived or not believable. When you think about it, we all love the books we love because we believe in them—they are real to us. When we read them, they become our reality. We feel exactly like those characters—and all those books were written by adults (boring moms and dads like me), so just think what a smart tween or teen could come up with! You could write what grown up authors write, only in real living color because you're living it!
Writing this, I wish I could go back and start over. That whole, "If I only knew then what I know now," expression keeps rolling through my head. I should have kept up with my writing when I was younger instead of wondering for months on end if Chaz Mulroney was going to ask me to the school dance. (He didn't ask me to the dance. But he's bald now, with a gut, and my husband is super cute so things worked out very well!)
More and more brilliant kid writers are getting noticed, getting praise, and yes, I'm saying it, getting published!! You don't have to be published to be a great young writer, but it certainly puts things in perspective. All those out-of-control emotions do count for something, and in some weird way, maybe those feelings make it possible for dreams to come true! A dream you may not have even known you had. When I was a teenager, I sure didn't know being a writer was my dream — but here I am now — living it!
So, my question — or maybe my challenge — is why aren't you giving it a shot? Do you really want to sit around for days and days pining over a guy named Chaz? ;)
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