Editor’s Note: Marietta teen Emily Ross, 13, is the youngest author signed by Title Town Publishing for a multi-book contract. Her sci-fi/fantasy book, Blue’s Prophecy, is the first of three in the Canis Chronicles, a series about robotic and genetically enhanced dogs, who turn on their creators. She started the book when she was in fourth grade, writing and illustrating it at school. She received her first book contract on Thanksgiving Day at age 12. Here are her writing tips for teens thinking about creating their own novel.
- Know what you’re getting into.
I’m not going to say, “Go out there and write that book! Everything will go great!” I’m not your mom. It took me three years to publish a book — and a majority of that time wasn’t spent writing the first draft. The first draft was only 17,000 words, and I was 10. So it took another two years of edits and then, ugghh, marketing, to get the book ready for sale. Remember, anyone can write a book — and you can self-publish it (which is what I originally planned to do). But to get the book accepted by a publishing house, and then hope it becomes a bestseller — well, take a deep breath and be realistic. Love your book for your book. Nothing more, nothing less. So here’s my advice: First stare a long time at your laptop, look at your words and think: “Do I really want to write this story? Is this story so great, it almost makes you sick to your stomach to NOT write it?” If yes (and I hope the answer is yes), then ask this question: “Am I willing to spend one to three years working on this?” If yes, then write that story! I don’t want to discourage anyone from writing a book, but I had no idea the process took so long.
- Don’t let your book consume you.
Your friend texts you, “Wanna come over tonight?” You groan — yes, groan — because you were really looking forward to writing that fifth chapter that day. I know it sounds weird, but when you really are knee-deep in the writing, you’re busy creating your private universe, developing epic scenes or killing off your characters. It’s the same kind of intensity that people get when they’re playing RPGs, except you’re the actual builder of the game. It’s addictive. So back to your friend’s text: Say, “yes,”because constantly pushing aside your friends and activities — especially if you’re already an introvert — is a bad idea and a bad habit to get into. You’ll be spending many years on this book. Trust me, it’s going to still be on your laptop tomorrow. Don’t let your book ruin your friendships.
- Editing is not an attack on you, or your book.
“This scene needs to be rewritten.” These words have become a trigger for me, especially when I just spent two hours rewriting another scene that didn’t make sense, either. Look, it’s impossible to skip out of the editing process. Heck, I even know this tip is going to be edited. But the point is, when someone — your parent, your editor, the publisher — says something has to be edited, or deleted or tweaked, they usually have a pretty good reason why. And it’s not that they hate you. They are not trying to destroy your book, but they are fresh eyes. You — if you love your book, which you will — are too attached. You’re its mom, and no one can say anything wrong about your baby. But you’ve got to calm down. Edits are like alcohol on the wound. It stings at first, but in the long run, it’s going to make it much better.
Note from Emmie’s editor: If the author does feel very strongly about a certain point, he or she should fight like a wild cougar to keep it.
- Doubt is OK.
I suffer from doubt all the time. I will look down at a new book idea or fan fiction I’ve written and think, “Oh. This is terrible.” And that’s completely normal for writers. Even when I’m told how much someone loves my book, I still cringe at certain scenes because I don’t think they’re as good as they should be. So, doubt is not necessarily a bad thing — it means you care, and you’re not lazy or OK with kind-of-good. So rewrite it. Or at least ask someone you trust and who will be truthful to see if it’s as bad as you think it is. And if you get a bad review, or if you’re truly suffering from self-doubt, remember to tell yourself, “I finished this thing. I actually did it.” Most people don’t. And remember, you’re probably reacting to the truly terrifying fact that the entire world can see — and give its opinion — on your book.
- Be excited.
Your book is published! Happy day! And then, people want to interview you. But maybe you’re like me, and you’re really shy or nervous. The thought of having to constantly “be on stage” for the book is terrifying. This can result in you acting in the exact opposite way that you feel. People are excited for you, but you’re in a constant state of cringe, which makes you sound bored about your own book — which is not the case, it’s just that you’re overwhelmed by it all.
So here’s my final tips: Do what you need to do to chill before you go out to talk about your book: play video games, talk to your friends or even blast Spotify on your cellphone and shake it off. Ask the interviewers if they’re willing to share some questions before you meet so you can prep and not feel dread. And if you’re a laid-back person, go to Starbucks and throw back some caffeine — just to match the energy of the people who are genuinely thrilled for you.
Visit www.bluesprophecybook.com to learn more about Emily, Blue’s Prophecy, and events and book signings in your area. Also, “like” Blue’s Prophecy on Facebook. Blue’s Prophecy, $7.99, is available for sale on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
Author photo by Billy Howard.
Emily Rose Ross, 13, attends Dickerson Middle School in Marietta. A week ago, Emily finally learned how to snap her fingers.