Order and age

August 13, 2009 at 19:43 (1)

Spent today getting ready for Edinburgh. I had planned to read out three brand new extracts at my event on Tuesday, but in the end, reading through them, I decided to go with two new extracts and one old favourite instead. A good author event should be like a good rock concert in some ways — new material is fine, but there should be some crowd pleasers in there too!!! I’ll do either my Cirque Du Freak or Lord Loss scene — I’ll bring both with me, and probably decide on the day!!

I received the following email from a fan called Bella:

First off, I would like to tell you that I cannot wait for The Vampire’s Assistant. My friend and I plan to go to the midnight showing to show our complete dedication to you. The trailer looks great too! I also have some questions for you about writing. When you write, do you do it page by page from beginning to end? Or do you write the big part of the book with all the action first? I ask because I’m starting to write and I have a great beginning to a story but I’m not sure where I want to take it yet. Also, is there an age that you have to be to publish a book? Because I’m 14 and I plan to be done with the rough draft by the time I’m 15 and would like to try to edit/publish it soon after.

In answer to Bella’s first question — I start at page one, and carry all the way through to the end. Every writer is different in this respect — I know many who prefer to write scenes out of sequence. As a general rule of thumb, though, I would recommend the linear method, certainly for young writers who are just starting out. It’s like painting — you might choose to break all the rules later, when you have some experience under your belt, but it’s usually best to learn the rules first. Structure is vital to any story, and I think you learn best about structure by taking a story from start, through its middle, to its end. If, further down the road, you feel confident enough to write a story or novel out of sync, fine, go with your gut instinct. But if you start out as a beginner by trying to write the BIG scenes first, you risk not learning all the secrets of writing the “little” scenes — and in a novel, especially, they’re every bit as important as the bigger, dramatic stuff.

As for age… if the desire is there to try, then you’re old enough to try!! Some teenagers CAN write good stories and novels, and DO get published. But there aren’t very many, and sometimes I think it’s better not to have your work published at too young an age — most teenagers haven’t yet clocked up the experience necessary to do justice to their ideas, and publishers who accept their work might view their young age as a gimmick. I would have loved to have had my work accepted when I was a teen — but looking back, I’m glad it wasn’t, as I can tell with hindsight that it just wasn’t good enough. But all means WANT to break the mould and hits the heights early — just don’t be too disappointed if it takes longer than you think. I was 26 when my first book was published, and 11 years later, at 37, I’m STILL one of the youngest authors at any book festival that I go to!!!! Good writing can take time — so be patient, enjoy your writing, enjoy other things in life too, and just keep pegging away. Publication will come in its own, natural, individual time, and you’ll enjoy it just as much at 25 or 35 or 45 if that turns out to be the age at which you start to hit your prime.


  1. Rajdeep Dhadwal said,

    The author of Eragon was only 17 when he published his book, now look at him.

  2. hotara said,

    … Though I didn’t really like Eragon. Maybe it was the movie that ruined it for me, it just felt really childish in my opinion. But hey, not saying that you can’t write a good book when you are young. Its just as you age you gain new insights and ideas. I keep the basic ideas of my stories and develop it as the years goes by. Don’t be in such a hurry to publish things, you’ll know when the time is right 😀

  3. The Monologist » Blog Archive » Does Age Matter? said,

    […] Shan. As usual, I was checking out his blog for new entries and found a new post named ‘Order and Age‘ where he mentioned about writing and publishing a book at a young age. I found this very […]

  4. Kathryn Winstanley said,

    Hi Darren!

    I hope you have a lovely trip! And the people at your reading will really love it!

    Good advice, and good luck to Bella!

    Have a nice time in Edinburgh. Take care.

    From your big fan, Kathryn.

  5. Bella said,

    I remember when this blog first got posted. I was like “that’s my email!” lol I don’t think I could thank Master Shan enough 🙂 since this blog I’ve gotten one poem published in a contest and I took all this advice. I’m holding off on publishing my stories, making them better as I go along. I don’t rush anymore like I was before this advice lol so thank you Master Shan! You rock! No other author I know of takes emails, reads them, and then gives really awsome advice 😀

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