West Virginia Book Festival

Alex Flinn offers teens some writing advice

One of the reasons people come to book festivals is to learn the secrets of authors like Lee Child (coming to this month’s West Virginia Book Festival). Why, they wonder, is he a best-selling novelist and I’m not? What’s he doing that I should be doing?

In many cases, there isn’t any secret formula. It’s a little bit of luck and a lot of hard work.

In that vein, young-adult author Alex Flinn (also coming to this month’s West Virginia Book Festival) offered some good suggestions earlier this year on her blog for her teenaged readers who want to be writers. The top two are the most obvious: if you want to be a writer, read a lot and write a lot.

But there are some other suggestions geared specifically toward younger writers that are worth considering — including the realization that becoming a success at writing usually takes a long time. Flinn says:

I worry about what I call Christopher Paolini syndrome, the idea that you need to have a publishing contract in high school. Teens like this get a lot of publicity. The reason for that it, they’re rare. Most writers I know got published as adults, and many writers who are published as teens don’t end up being successful. I worry that teens who don’t get published will consider themselves washed up at 18. You have time.