Writing Books/Too young?


Hi, I am 13.  Am I just too young to write a novella?  It is YA historical fiction (Reconstruction era) A lot of thing my protagonist (a girl my age) goes through hasn't really happened to me.  Should I go for a different story line, even though I've planned this for MONTHS AND MONTHS (eight to be exact)? Or just take any thing my character feels and try to relate to her, just maybe in a sort of different way? Meaning, say her dad went missing during the war. Take how I feel if my dad forget to take his cell to work and is a little late coming home, and just put it in perspective? Walk in my characters shoes?
I know they say write what you know.  But what I DO know is boring.

Hi, Victoria!

No, you're not too young to write a novella. In fact, another author your age, Amelia Atwater-Rhodes, published her first BOOK at 13 ("Demon in my View"). She's written several more since and the first book has been picked up to become a movie.

One of the nice parts about writing fiction is that you get to imagine. Sure, "write what you know" is thrown around, but if an author could ONLY write what they knew, then books like Harry Potter would never have been written! Let's face it, as far as historical novels go, NOBODY is around anymore who lived it, so all we can do is try to make it feel real. What you're talking about with the cell phone is called "extrapolation" and is just exactly what you describe. You're taking a current worry about your father missing, and placing that very same worry and fear in the mind of another person a hundred-plus years ago. It's a perfectly legitimate writing tool, so feel free. :)

But with historicals, research is important too. So you can't ONLY take what you know presently and make it believable to the reader. Since you're writing about Reconstruction, try some experimentation at home to be able to describe things better. Like, if your heroine is about your age, what would children during the time have done around the house? Laundry was a big one, and usually took an entire DAY to hand-wash all the family's clothes, towels and sheets. So, try it. You don't have to do them ALL, but take a few pairs of jeans and maybe a couple of shirts and ask your Mom if you can try washing them outside in a bucket. It's harder than it seems to get the soap out of them. It's tough to actually get out dirt and stains and wring them out to get out all the soap (otherwise, they'll be itchy when you wear them.) But then you can DESCRIBE the sore fingers and sweat dripping down your face and feeling too exhausted to move. And yet you still HAVE to move, because there's supper to get ready and a house to clean. All were children's chores at the time. Usually, the kids did potato peeling and vegetable slicing and bringing in water in a bucket to cook with. Not everybody had indoor plumbing, and some didn't even have a pump, so they'd have to walk to get water from a stream or crank up a bucket from the bottom of a well.

If your parents are willing to let you try, it would lend a lot of believability to the story as a subplot to the actual events.

Hope that helps a little and feel free to ask any other questions as they come up. Good luck with it! :D


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Cathy Clamp


I'm happy to answer questions about any aspect of writing novels, from the beginning kernel of an idea through completion. I can help with writing a query letter and synopsis to an agent or editor. I can explain publishing terminology and acronyms. I can also assist with questions about verifying the credentials of agents/publishers and how to proceed once you've been accepted for publication. I can teach the rules of formatting a manuscript, creating viable plots, characterization and flow in the following genres: romance, science fiction, fantasy, thrillers, suspense, horror, women's fiction, mainstream and mystery.


I'm a USA Today bestselling author of urban fantasy and paranormal romance for Tor/Forge Books. Along with a co-author, I've published fifteen novels (combination of mass market and trade softcover) since 2003, and have contracts for four more books through 2011.

Romance Writers of America, Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, Western Outdoor Writers, Horror Writers of America.

Tor/Forge Books, Western Reflections Publishing, BenBella Books, Running Press, Wild Child Publishing. Many others.

My educational background is limited to real life experience of publishing novels commercially for the past five years.

Awards and Honors
USA Today bestseller, Waldenbooks Mass Market Paperback Top 20 bestseller, Nielsen BookScan Top 20 bestseller, RT BOOKreviews Career Achievement Award winner, 2009, Book Buyers Best Award for Paranormal, Romantic Times Best Werewolf Novel, Write Touch Readers Award, EVVY Best Historical Chronicle Award, The Lories Best Paranormal. Many others.

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