On Teens, and the Fact Their Writing Sucks

More than a year ago I wrote my “10 Things Teenage Writers Should Know About Writing” entry, which had ten bits of useful information for teen writers, the first of which was “The Bad News: Right Now, Your Writing Sucks.” Because, well, it probably does: Most teenage writers, for various reasons, aren’t particularly good writers (I wasn’t). I thought it was important to get that bit of news out of the way, because among other things, the fact that teenage writing sucks isn’t a bad thing (that’s point number 2), and because I think it’s not a bad thing to be honest with teenagers about this stuff. They might not listen (I probably wouldn’t have), but they deserve the truth nevertheless.

The only problem with this set-up is that reading the comments to the piece, it’s clear that quite a number of the teenagers reading the entry never got past the first point, in which they’re told their writing sucks, before making a comment that explains why teenage writing doesn’t suck — or, at the very least, why their teenage writing doesn’t suck.

Now, to be sure, I expected this to happen. But, silly me, I forgot that in a rush to complain, the teenagers wouldn’t bother reading the comment thread, in which I refute many various arguments regarding non-suckage, before they banged out their comments. To be fair to the teens, the comment thread is now a few hundred posts long; I don’t imagine I would now read all the way through it either. But on the other hand I get tired of responding to the same arguments over and over.

To avoid this in the future, I am now creating this canonical “No, actually, your teenage writing does suck” piece, to provide ready answers to the usual arguments I see posted in the comment thread. This will allow me to point these young folks to a single source to counter their arguments, so I don’t have to do it over and over again, saving me time and repetitive strain injury.

Before I list the arguments, let me stress again something that gets lost in the shuffle: It’s okay that teen writers are not particularly good writers right now. Almost all of them will get better with time and practice. I mean, hell: I did. It’s not an insult to note that someone doesn’t do something well, yet: It’s just an observation. I have every expectation that teen writers will get better. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have bothered to write the original article at all.

There. Now, on to the arguments, arranged in no particular order:

1. It’s not nice/helpful to tell teenagers they suck.

I’m not telling teenagers that they suck, I’m telling them that their writing does. There’s a difference.

2. It’s not nice/helpful to tell teenagers that their writing sucks.

I disagree. I think it’s important for teenagers to know that even those who have a real aptitude for writing will go through a period in which their writing is no good, even considering their best efforts — but that with persistence, that period will be temporary.

Look, teenagers aren’t stupid, and they’re not uncritical. Most of them understand that their writing is not pro grade stuff. Some of them will get discouraged because of it. I say there’s no harm in letting them know that this period of suckage is not only natural but necessary, and that they shouldn’t stress themselves out when they’re in it. There’s a lot of important writing they need to create before they get to the good stuff.

Don’t teenagers deserve to know this? Aren’t they able to understand it? I think they do and that they are.

3. There are lot of teen writers who are published, like Christopher Paolini.

Actually, there aren’t a lot of teen writers who are published outside of specifically teen-oriented markets or assignments (for example, a “teen” section in a newspaper). And as far as Christopher Paolini goes, his particular path to publication is so unusual that he’s an absolute rarity for any writer, much less a teenage writer.

More to the point, being able to name an exception or two to a general rule does not invalidate the rule. By all means, on certain rare occasions a teenage writer will get published by a major publisher. Paolini is one; a generation earlier SE Hinton was another. That said, their successes do not mean that the vast majority of teenage writers don’t need to work on their writing, or that the average, random teenage writer will write sufficiently well to convince a publisher to publish their book. Basically, if Paolini’s success was so easily achieved by any teen, no one would note him as an example at all.

As an aside to this: Yes, there are an exceptional few teens who are so preternaturally talented that their writing does not suck. That chances that any one teen will be that writer are even slimmer than the chance that they will be published by a major publisher. Most teen writers — nearly all, in fact — will not escape the suck.

3a. You say most teen writing sucks, but I’ve been invited to have my poetry published, so there.

Hate to break it to you, but a whole lot of those poetry contests and compilations are scams. It’s entirely possible you write fine poetry, but your selection wasn’t about how good your poetry is.

4. What you’re saying about teenage writers might be generally correct, But my writing doesn’t suck.

How nice for you. By all means, get yourself published and rub my face in it. I await an autographed copy of your book with the words “HA! HA! HA!” above your signature. However, I would note that when I was 17, I thought my writing was better than “suck” level, too. In the fullness of time, I have had cause to re-evaluate that assessment. Entertain the notion that you might, as well.

4a. My parents/teachers/friends tell me my writing doesn’t suck.

I think it’s lovely that your parents/teachers/friends are so encouraging. That’s how they’re supposed to be. Mine were too. Didn’t mean I didn’t still have work to do.

5. You’re telling us our writing sucks because you want to keep us down, to keep your job as a writer safe.

The way I keep my job as a writer safe is by writing stuff that doesn’t suck. That’s pretty much independent of worrying about what any other writer is doing. Also, I’m a writer, but I’m a reader too. As a reader, why would I want to keep the next generation of writers down? I need new stuff to read. I want a new generation of writers, please, as soon as we can bring them up.

6. You say our writing sucks because you don’t understand what it’s like to be a teenager.

Contrary to popular opinion, most adults worldwide did not achieve that advanced state of being by skipping the intermediary step of being a teenager. We understand what it’s like to be a teenager just fine. Also, and contrary to what the media would like to suggest, being a teenager is largely the same today as it was 10, 20 and even 30 years ago. There are minor cosmetic differences (teens today have much stronger thumbs thanks to all the text messaging, for example), but at its core it’s pretty similar.

7. Who cares what you think? I’ve never heard of you.

My being correct about teen writing sucking is not actually dependent on teens knowing who I am. However, they may read my bio if they wish.

As for who cares what I think: Well, no one is obliged to, of course. If people find the piece useful, great. If they don’t, that’s fine, too.

8. It’s just your opinion that teenage writing sucks.

Sure. However, it’s also the opinion of someone who has been a professional writer for sixteen years, who is a bestselling and award-winning author of a dozen books and thousands of newspaper and magazine articles, and who has been a professional editor. Which is to say the opinion is not an uninformed one.

8a. My opinion is that my writing is good, and my opinion is just as good as yours.

Not really. That’s like saying that because I know first aid, my opinion of a complex medical issue is as good as the opinion of a medical doctor with many years of diagnostic experience, or that just because I can change my own oil means that my opinion on what’s going on in my car’s engine is as informed as the one from the mechanic who actually fixes engines for a living. There’s opinion, and then there’s informed opinion, and then there’s informed opinion backed by years of competent practical and professional experience.

9. How can you say our writing sucks when you haven’t read it?

For the same reason that I knew when I edited a science fiction magazine that I would reject the vast majority of the stories before I got out of the first couple of pages: experience, both personal and collective among writers and editors, who as it happens do gossip and share information. This is not to say common wisdom is always right, or that personal experience may always be expanded into the general. In this particular case, however, I feel pretty confident about what I’m saying here.

10. There’s no objective way of saying whether writing is good or not, anyway.

Eh. As a practical matter, even if this were true in an overarching sense, the fact of the matter is that in the context in which we live, there are enough practical rules and guidelines to separate good writing from the bad, even when accounting for personal taste. Grammar is one; at any one time there is a large collective set of agreed-upon rules of grammar, and largely speaking good writing conforms to those rules (or, at least, chooses its battles wisely). True geniuses can flout rules and conventions and help guide language and narrative into new forms, yes. But, no offense: Most of us ain’t them. And even fewer of them are going to be teens, especially ones without a firm grip of grammar and narrative to begin.

That’s enough for now; I’ll add more when they come to me.

489 Comments on “On Teens, and the Fact Their Writing Sucks”

  1. I stumbled upon these articles, and honestly have no clue what I’m doing right now, but I read the Policy and it does say you participate, so I’ll just submit this question (if that’s what it is) anyway I guess. Couldn’t hurt, right?

    I’m fifteen, a sophomore, and I do write very often. Everyone who knows me knows this. However, half the things I don’t show anyone, and the other half I only post online. There are two sites that I’ve found and absolutely love. The first is fictionpress(dot)com, and after reading these articles the only thing I can think that is wrong with this is that the reviews given back are obviously not professional, and might not be too useful. The other site though, is fanfiction(dot)net. Now, some authors are fine with the idea of this, and others (most famously – Anne Rice) are not. I’m not sure what your opinion on this is, so I guess that’s why I’m asking.

    Just to clarify some more though:
    In my opinion, fanfiction is not so much taking the influence of a writer, but the influence of the story. Or in the case of Alternate Universes, just the characters. Yes, it is still horribly unoriginal, but would you consider this a chance of practice for teenagers? Or are you against fanfiction, since it only encourages an influence by other author?

  2. To address the only point that I think is flawed:

    You say that because adults have been teenagers, they understand teenagers. This is faulty reasoning. I have been, variously, an infant, a toddler, a small child, a preteen, et cetera et cetera. However, I am no longer any of those things and even though I have many memories of being a small child/preteen/etc., that does not mean that I still remember how it was to be at that stage. No matter how clear, detailed, or emotional one’s memories are of a certain stage of their life, it is in no way equivalent to actually being there.

  3. I must second Aoede, and even expand on it a bit.

    Our memory of our past is both incomplete and inaccurate. “Highly edited” is an apt description. But there is an additional flaw in your reasoning beyond that.

    While there are commonalities nearly all teenagers share, and we may each have some relatively reliable memories of those shared experiences, we all have different lives during our teenage years, sometimes vastly so. This may be due to environment, family circumstances, our own personality or some other particularity. As a result, our ability to accurately imagine what some other teen is going through is limited if their experience differs too greatly from our own. As we age and gain a wider perspective, our ability to better imagine the experiences of others may increase, just as our memories of our own experiences flow and fade.

    As a result, a person of my relatively advanced years can only dimly imagine at best what it must be like for teens today. Yes, there are constants through the years; I remember kids from my youth who were much like the “emos” of today. But that wasn’t me. Those of us who had quite placid and uneventful teenage experiences cannot really accurately imagine what it’s like for teens who are having experiences today which are far different from our own so long ago. We are separated by gulfs of both time and experience, and there’s only so much even a good imagination can do to bridge that.

    All I’m saying is that it is not true in general that just because adults were once teens they are necessarily capable of imagining what it’s like to be a teenager. Individual adults vary, and some may be better at it that others. I have little doubt that you are yourself. But that is not the general rule.

  4. No, it’s not right for one to say, “I’m thirty now and so I know what it’s like to be fifteen.” It would be more accurate to say, “I’m thirty now and so I understand what it’s like to be fifteen better than when I was fifteen.”

    To say that no adult can “understand what it’s like” because they’re not that age anymore, well… that’s just arrogant.

  5. Why is it arrogant? The only ones who can understand an age demographic are those who are themselves in that age demographic. It doesn’t just apply to adults and teens, but to every other group as well.

  6. I would say that teens don’t understand their own age demographic either. For the majority of them, life is no more difficult than they choose to make it. I choose to make my life easy, by doing slightly above the bare minimum to get by in school and work, and then enveloping myself in my own world that centered around reading.

    At a very early age I was aware that life is not fair and I learned to accept it for the most part and only complaining about what I couldn’t accept a minimal amount. Think of it as the “Shut up and go with it” method. Sure I questioned things, but I usually did so at the appropriate times, when tempers weren’t flaring and when rational thought could reign supreme.

    It’s not that difficult, you just have to realize that the world doesn’t revolve around you and your concerns. Life will continue even without your approval.

  7. I don’t believe that the term “understanding” was being used to indicate control or mastery of one’s life, but merely the understanding of how it is to exist as a certain type of person. The quale of being a teen, so to speak.

  8. Aoede 5: The only ones who can understand an age demographic are those who are themselves in that age demographic.

    What evidence do you have for this assertion? Because it sounds patently wrong to the point of being truly stupid. Are you just saying this because you believe it without evidence? Because that would really be the very definition of arrogant.

  9. Xopher:

    Oxford English Dictionary: “Arrogant: adj. Making or implying unwarrantable claims to dignity, authority, or knowledge; aggressively conceited or haughty, presumptuous, overbearing.”

    I make no claim to any particular dignity, authority, or knowledge, and I’m quite sorry if I come across as being aggressively conceited, haughty, presumptuous, or overbearing. I only seek to point out a logical flaw in an argument, and am somewhat surprised at the amount of ire that this has aroused.

    My statement in #5 is based on the disparity between direct, immediate experience and description of said experience (which includes memory). It is not specific to age differences, but to any sort of difference in states of existence.

    Note that I do not claim that a person of a certain age is unable to comprehend the idea of being another age, nor that said person would have no memory, or be unable to empathize. Unfortunately, I don’t think English really distinguishes between different shades of “to understand”; I find that definitions are a recurring obstacle to understanding (ha) between people in a debate, but since words are always defined with more words, it can’t really be fully resolved.

    If you or any others have any specific and logical objections (i.e., not just “You’re wrong and you’re stupid!”), I would be glad to hear them. After all, that was my basis for posting.

  10. I absolutely agree. I’m twenty-four and my writing still sucks. I’m writing a novel at the moment, and in every chapter of every draft, I find myself getting better.
    (Which will happen when you practice something every day.). That said, it’s still rubbish.

    Oh, there are little bits of sparkle here and there, but nowhere near enough *shine*.
    The idea I have in my mind is still buried under the mud of poor language, weak structure and inconstant pacing. It’s getting better, but it’s still not good enough.

    But then I look back on my old work (You can read some of it on my website. Dreadful, adolescent nonsense, every word.) and I’m amazed by how far I’ve come.

    Persevere, I think is the watchword.
    You’re going to be a lot better a-quarter-of-a-million words from now.

  11. Aoede, you made the bald assertion that “The only ones who can understand an age demographic are those who are themselves in that age demographic. ” It was primarily that assertion I was disputing. Whether it matches the OED definition of ‘arrogant’ is somewhat beside the point, though I do think you’re claiming special knowledge by virtue of your being in the age demo in question (or, if you aren’t, claiming authority to decide who has such knowledge). But I’d rather talk about the assertion itself (specifically and logically), and I’m not interested in saying that you’re stupid—please note the difference between calling the assertion stupid and calling you stupid; I don’t think you are at all and did not say so.

    Quite aside from the simple illogic of claiming that no one can understand certain things unless they’re in the throes of experiencing them personally, this “you don’t understand me!” meme, and especially its darker partner the “no one understands me” meme, are among the most poisonous false beliefs adolescents have. The “no one” belief can lead to despair and even suicide at a time when people are so acutely vulnerable to depression that some psychologists have claimed that periods of depression are NORMAL for adolescents (the objections to this have more to do with the definition of ‘normal’ than with the incidence of depression among teens—it’s widely acknowledged to be virtually pandemic).

    Adolescents are subject to terrible hormone surges (in fact that’s pretty much what adolescence IS); these affect their emotions strongly and even their thoughts to some extent. Boys in particular have sudden attacks of indogenous anger; since in our twisted culture we don’t admit that some thought-things (like feelings) are generated by the body, anything they happen to be looking at at the time this happens can become an object of anger. This association can persist; this is my personal theory about why a few guys in my high school were obsessed with whaling on me whenever they saw me, despite the fact that I’d never so much as been in front of them in the lunch line.

    I remember my adolescence. I know, from my personal experience, that I was less rational during adolescence than I was after or even before, because all the social and biological (and I’m not getting into the adolescent brain development issue here*) crap that teenagers are subject to makes them volatile and frequently completely irrational. I remember what it was like. I remember the continual sense of “why did I do that,” and the continuous sense that I was a fool six months earlier (for my entire adolescence).

    I did not understand adolescence while I was in it. It took years of contemplating it from outside to understand. I never noticed that the “bad kids” in my school were of a different socioeconomic class than the “good kids” (guess which ones were upper middle and which were working?), and that a lot of the conflicts in my school were class conflicts. I thought my parents were completely unreasonable (actually they were only moderately unreasonable). I certainly thought they didn’t understand me, and that in fact no one did.

    I was a pretty weird guy, so maybe I was right. But some people did like me, which astonished me when I found it out. Some people even had respect for me, which was jaw-dropping news. And my parents, with all their flaws, really did deeply love me (as they showed later when I came out).

    My thesis: no one who IS adolescent understands adolescence. The pressures and distortions of that period of life make comprehension of it impossible.

    Of course I have more to say, but that’s enough to be going on with!

    *But down here I will: the brain changes from its child form to its adult form during adolescence, starting with the oldest part of the brain, the part that provides motor coordination, and ending with the newest, which is the part that provides judgement and impulse control (late teens to early TWENTIES). That means that teenage boys, for example, develop the ability to do the skateboard slide down the banister that leads to the busy street (and no, I’m not making that up, I’ve seen them do it) YEARS before they develop the sense not to do something so crazy.

    Also, teenagers still need 10 hours’ sleep (as children do) but their melatonin-release time (which controls the ability to go to sleep) has switched to ~11 PM (like adults); this means that any teenager who habitually gets up or is gotten up before about 9 AM is chronically sleep-deprived, which makes it harder to think and easier to be cranky. The fact that high school starts at 8 or before in most places is a crime against the entire teenage segment of the population.

  12. As I’ve said, my statement applies to all differences in states of existence, not just age; it would thus be impossible for me to be claiming special knowledge by virtue of being a certain age. Furthermore, any time that someone makes an assertion, they are claiming knowledge of something.

    Moving on to important things: I think that we have a definition gap here. When I say “understand what it’s like to be [x]”, I don’t mean “comprehend the significance of being [x]”. Obviously, that latter kind of understanding is not always tightly linked to whether one is or is not [x]. Furthermore, while it may be true that phrases such as “Nobody understands me” may cause teens to become depressed, I don’t see what that has to do with the truth or untruth of my statement. “Should” often has very little correlation with “is”.

    Personally, I don’t believe that the fact that “Nobody understands me” (in the sense that I used in my statement) is a reason to despair, since it’s true of every single person in the world… and “Nobody understands me” (in the sense that you used in your rebuttal) applies not only to others’ lack of understanding, but also your own.

    Of course, understanding – in either sense – is not a Boolean value. And we get along tolerably without achieving full understanding of anything, again in either sense. So to reiterate: my purpose in bringing all this up is not to criticize adults (or any demographic divided along any line), or to make people depressed, but to point out a flawed statement.

  13. To toss in my $0.02 with the above argument – I think Xopher has the right of it. I’m 30, but I can remember (rather painfully, at times), my own adolescent arrogance and stupidity – and the times where I was particularly clever and well-adjusted.

    But I was a *teenager*, which is to say that I had very little world experience on which to base an objective opinion on anything. I also (due to the hormones mentioned by Xopher) was nowhere near emotionally mature enough to be objective about subjects I considered “dry”. I wrote like an emotional, somewhat sheltered, self-absorbed *teenager*.

    For example: I thought the DragonLance Chronicles was a brilliant series, full of characters I could connect with emotionally, and an amazing, fantastical story that kept me enthralled through multiple readings. Now that I’m older, I can’t read it without thinking how very *angsty* the characters are, and how very formulaic the story is. I still have warm memories of how much I loved the series, so I’ve failed to reread it recently, almost as if I’m trying to preserve the memories. :)

    Besides having been a teenage writer, myself, I’ve observed other teenage writers and I could also say with confidence that I probably understand teenagerhood better now than I did when I was a teenager. I might not understand what current teenagers are faced with, but overall, the emotional self-absorption of teenagerhood has never changed, at least not in post-modern society. Because teenagers are so emotionally self-absorbed, they can’t see that they are – but they WILL look back and realize it later. That’s where the understanding comes from, and hopefully maturity.

    Touching on the last point of the article . . . I worked briefly for a tiny upstart publishing company that had a goal of publishing people who just couldn’t get published elsewhere (they were starting with e-books, so there wasn’t the major expenditure of paper that actual publishing companies worry about, and thus do a better job of weeding out those who probably won’t sell enough to make up the difference).

    I remember having an argument with one of the self-made CEOs regarding “voice”. I was trying to edit someone’s story to sound more mature and, frankly, publishable. I’m sorry – if the grammar sucks, it needs to be fixed. The CEO argued that by trying to change the person’s writing, we were changing their *voice*. Every publishing company out there tries to make people’s voice fit their ideals, but that wasn’t what *this* publishing company would be about! We wanted to keep the author’s voice intact! She even used the example of e. e. cummings as someone who bucked tradition and had a unique voice that people love and aren’t trying to “fix”.

    I tried to argue that a) e. e. cummings was *famous*, and therefore could do whatever he darn well pleased, b) he was a *poet*, and therefore did not really fit into this argument, since we were working on prose, and c) we cannot enable someone’s pitiful grammatical skills and call it their “voice”, and hope that someone’s going to buy it! If the voice sucks, IT WON’T SELL. Readers are picky! *I’m* a reader, and I wouldn’t buy something like we were trying to publish (unless it was out of morbid curiosity), because I would be wasting my time and money.

    I was canned shortly thereafter, and eventually the company died. They put out one short story compilation I never did buy (but kind of wish I did, out of the aforementioned morbid curiosity). There were other extenuating circumstances, but even if those hadn’t existed, I think they might not have done well.

    I guess I wrote all that to say that it takes practice, rejection, more practice, and a basic knowledge of grammar and what people like to read in order to even get your foot in the door. It takes application of all of these, some faith, and more practice to get yourself published. And it takes being published *on paper* multiple times to be able to do weird things with writing and still be read.

    Teenagers think their angsty, emotion-filled prose (and poetry) is so very good because they’ve poured their heart into it. They have trouble separating themselves from their stories (one of the main reasons for the “Mary Sue” phenomenon). To them, *nothing* they’ve spent so much on could *possibly* be bad – and to criticize it is to criticize them. It’s more difficult for them to improve during adolescence because the criticism strikes them in such a tender place. It takes several years of emotional maturity to realize the difference between themselves and their voice – and *why* there’s a difference.

    Unfortunately, many adults don’t make this realization when they should, so you still see the occasional 40-year-old teenager trying to submit for publication and throwing fits when their putrid prose is rejected.

  14. To reiterate yet again: I don’t claim that teenagers write well at all. In fact, I agree with all of Mr. Scalzi’s points except the one about understanding what it’s like to be a teenager.

    Note that I specifically quote “what it’s like to be a teenager”. NOT “adolescence” or “teenagerhood”. Understanding the one is very different from understanding the other. The latter is objective and intellectual, the former is not.

    This is a very important distinction.

  15. You have yet, Aoede, to explain why it’s impossible to “understand what it’s like to be a teenager” when you aren’t a teenager yourself. You seem to think this is self-evident. It is not.

    Please provide a non-circular definition of “understand what it’s like,” and use it to explain why you think it’s impossible for a non-teenager to do that about “being a teenager.”

    Please note, if you define “understand what it’s like” as “be experiencing it yourself,” that would be circular. And also it would be utter nonsense.

  16. “My speech is not suited to this. It is uncircumcised, unevangelical; it is as nocturnally hoarse as the screech of a gull, or it fades away like a blessing on the lips of a mute.”

    So if I can’t do it, someone else can. See the following link for a thought-experiment that demonstrates what I mean, albeit with a far simpler subject: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/qualia/#Irreducible

  17. Personally, I don’t believe that the fact that “Nobody understands me” (in the sense that I used in my statement) is a reason to despair, since it’s true of every single person in the world… and “Nobody understands me” (in the sense that you used in your rebuttal) applies not only to others’ lack of understanding, but also your own.

    I do not think this is correct. I have a very good understanding of myself. I also have a fair to middling understanding of most people I know. I also have a decent understanding of people I meet on a sporadic basis.

    There is a common misconception among, well, most people, that “Nobody understands me because nobody IS me.” That is crap. Anyone who has had trouble paying a bill knows how it feel to not be able to pay a bill. Everyone who gets stopped by a cop knows what it feels like to be stopped by a cop. Ad Nauseum.

    Now, it is true that many people react differently to each circumstance, but I submit that the number of reactions is limited to the types of personalities that exist, of which there are a limited number. Being stopped by a cop, for instance, either makes you feel happy, sad, ashamed, anxious, or some other emotion. If you feel sad, anxious, and/or ashamed, you understand everyone else who feels that way, at least in that moment.

    In this way do we understand each other, at least in the most general sense when it comes to random humanity. When it comes to the individuals who exist in your sphere, you have, I would hope, slightly better insight, and can not only empathize, but in some cases predict behaviors. In this way do we understand each other.

    To bring this back to the topic at hand, anyone who has been a teenager understands at some level what being a teenager is like – the sense of alienation, the loneliness, the mood swings, the sexual awakenings, etc. While they may not specifically understand one single individuals experience, they can certainly empathize with the general experience of being that teenager.

    I smoked for ten years and quit. My wife never smoked. I have an understanding of smoking and addiction that she does not have, and she finds it difficult to understand the experience of quitting smoking. But we were both teenagers, and even though we grew up in markedly different circumstances, I am constantly struck by the identical feelings and emotions we both experienced when we discuss our childhoods. We also helped raise my brother through his entire teen years. We realized that, while neither one of us was a gay teen boy at a terrible high school, every emotion and attitude he was exhibiting matched pretty closely to what we both experienced as teens.

    So, no, Aoede, you are not going to convince a group of adults that they do not understand what it is like being a teenager, especially a group like this that is thoughtful and introspective, populated by writers and artists and even parents and – gasp – teens. We understand very well what being a teenager is about, and sorry to say, your insistence that we do not brings this discussion full circle.

  18. I don’t think that experiment proves what you think it proves. In fact, if I read it correctly, teens in general, and you specifically, are “Mary”.

    Xopher? Correct me if I am wrong?

  19. Whoa, a time-traveling comment! I am utterly confused.

    What you are saying is certainly true when understanding is not treated as a Boolean value. However, since “understanding” was originally being discussed in terms of understand/not understand (as opposed to different degrees of understanding), I assumed that it would be prudent to address the issue in the same way.

  20. Honestly, I did not read the entire comment thread above, but I read enough of it to understand the gist of it. Hopefully my own forthcoming opinion will improve the adults’ opinion of teenagers these days.
    I myself am still a teenager, and I do believe that the adults around me understand, and do remember what it was like to be a teenager. They remember being grounded and sneaking out anyways, begging for a [insert object] and not receiving it, and they can often sympathize. My mother, while she knows me better than most adults for obvious reasons, often predicts what I am going to do before I think of it myself. She can understand me.
    There are discrepancies due to changing times and different financial or social situations between adults and teens. These, however, are minor. So you’re Dad wanted a record player for Christmas, and you asked for an ipod, the basic situation is still the same, and so is the resulting disappointment. Give the adults a little credit.

  21. Corby, this is weird. I like what you say in 16, but 17 seems to respond to Aoede’s 18. Something weird is going on with the way these posts are dated.

    But Aoede, I have two things to say about your post at 18; the first is that if you really understood what you were claiming, you could explain it in your own words, without copying from or, as in this case just referencing an explanation elsewhere. The second is that I don’t think you understand the article your link points to, because it doesn’t in any way support your assertion.

    “Mary” has never experienced colors, and has only a theoretical understanding of color and color vision, albeit a highly developed one. This supports the idea that teenagers cannot possibly understand what it’s like to be adults, but not the other way around. And it only barely supports that; what teenagers do you know with a highly-developed theoretical understanding of what it means to be an adult? It’s certainly possible, but most teens IME are just not that interested in the topic.

    The analogy to what you’ve been claiming is a person with full color perception who’s been forced to live in a black-and-white environment, but remembers colors. You’re claiming they wouldn’t really understand colors, as Mary couldn’t; this is nonsense.

    I would propose a different analogy, one Corby suggested: Teenagers are like Mary, and adults are people who used to live in the colorless room, but who’ve already gone out into the colorful world. Mary complains to them that they “can’t possibly understand” what it’s like to be in her miserable black-and-white world; they tell her she’s wrong, that they remember it perfectly well, including how much it sucks. She goes to her bedroom and sulks at their insensitivity.

  22. Xopher:
    First, I did not claim that the link was analogous to the situation we were discussing. I used it as an example of the difference between the two different kinds of “understanding” – i.e., the theoretical versus the experiential.

    Second, I note with some trepidation the prevalence of emotionally loaded words in your last paragraph. Please recall that my statement is not meant to apply solely to the teenager/adult relationship, and is not meant to disprove Mr. Scalzi’s overarching claim (i.e., that teenage writing sucks, barring improbable circumstances). Furthermore, it is a wholly impersonal statement and should be treated as such.

  23. Julie-Anne, thanks, but I think you misconstrue some of the things said here: we don’t have a low opinion of teenagers today, or at least I don’t. In fact I have found the teenagers I know today to be if anything more sensitive and less selfish than I and my whole cadre were at the same age.

    You do, however, provide an example of the excellent quality of today’s teens.

  24. Aoede, I understand THAT distinction perfectly. What you haven’t done so far is explain how the distinction applies to adults’ understanding of what it’s like to be a teenager. Adults have the experiential understanding, unless you’re claiming that they necessarily* have amnesia for the state once they leave it.

    Since that’s patently absurd, it’s seems implausible to me that that’s what you’re saying. But this leaves me at a loss to figure out what you do mean. Could you explain, please?

    *Clearly there are adults who do, but none of them is in this conversation.

  25. Hmm, dunno how that happened. ¶2, that “it’s” should just be “it.” Typing too fast, and no Preview here.

  26. Ah, I see. No, what I should have made clear is that based on the personal experiences of myself and the friends I’ve discussed such things with, memory is closer to intellectual understanding than to experiential understanding. Does that make it easier to follow my argument?

  27. Yes, it does. But of course I disagree, since almost all experiential understanding is actually memory. Otherwise you’re saying you only have an intellectual understanding of what it’s like to be at a football game, except when you’re actually at a football game (of course, IMO if you’ve seen one football game you’ve seen them all, so the analogy kinda falls apart there).

    In fact, you’re asserting that right now I have no truly experiential understanding of anything other than sitting at a computer typing a comment on Scalzi’s blog, while I have a cold. That seems like an extremely limiting (to the point of being virtually useless) definition of an experiential understanding to me.

    If you assert that the length of time is relevant, I will point out that that contradicts some things we know about memory, and also that it’s been longer since I went to a football game than it has since I’ve been a teenager!

  28. May I know what these contradicted facts are? I’m afraid I haven’t retained a particularly satisfactory amount of knowledge from my psychology classes.

  29. Internal rehearsal strengthens memories; emotionally charged memories remain fresh even years later; understanding of surrounding facts can make the structure of a memory more vivid.

    I just saw an interesting diagnostic trial on TV the other day. A woman with an extraordinary memory was given a list of words (they read them to her) and asked to remember them. Immediately afterwards, she did only slightly better than the average person does. After a period of being distracted with someone else, however, she did MUCH better than the average person, remembering virtually all the words.

  30. Otherwise you’re saying you only have an intellectual understanding of what it’s like to be at a football game, except when you’re actually at a football game (of course, IMO if you’ve seen one football game you’ve seen them all, so the analogy kinda falls apart there).

    So, this is actually a fairly accurate summation/metaphor of what we are discussing.

    In literal terms – I have been to one football game, so I can say I know what it is like to be at a football game. But I didn’t go to the Super Bowl, so I don’t know what it was like to watch that specific game play by play. But I can make some pretty fair guesses that before the game the crowd did the wave, the mascots danced, they threw t-shirts into the audience, and made announcements over the speakers. I couldn’t tell you what t-shirts, or what the cheerleaders did, but I know THAT they did.

    In analogous terms – Adults were once teenagers, and while they don’t have the specific teenage experience of every teen, they do have the experience of being A teen. Also, keep in mind that a lot of adults hang out and talk about the past, and they discover that, wildly enough, they all had much the same experiences in high school, or at least close enough to be somewhat interchangeable.

    Talking to my brother, the teen, he discovered that the older he got, the smarter I got, even though I always said the same things. I felt the same way about my own Mom, and as a new parent, I’m still surprised by the lack of understanding I had/have and how much more she knew than I ever gave her credit for. I strongly suspect that Aoede will feel the same as she ages.

  31. Xopher @29,
    The trial you mention seems to prove Aoede’s point. Teenagers are closer to the experience of being a teenager, so the average adult will not remember the experience as well. I know that I don’t remember a lot of the details of my teenage years. (I remember a lot, but not the details.) Do you have a specific memory of doing homework in 10th grade?
    Even adults’ increasing understanding of others is an indication that adults don’t understand what it’s like for teens. I no longer understand feeling like all authority figures are inherently evil, for example. I remember it, but I don’t understand it anymore.

  32. Marc 32: I no longer understand feeling like all authority figures are inherently evil, for example. I remember it, but I don’t understand it anymore.

    I still do understand that feeling. Teenagers are treated very unfairly by our society; it treats them either as children or as adults, whichever is more to the disadvantage of the teenager in question.

    They are neither. They are a third category that a dualistic culture doesn’t want to acknowledge. They do much, much better if you treat them with respect—but treating a teenager with respect is not the same set of behaviors as treating an adult with respect, because teenagers typically are not ready to be fully self-determining, even though they often think they are.

    However, most authority figures get into the positions they have because they like power. Liking power and treating others with respect have a hard time coexisting in a single person, and the idea that respect should go “down” the social hierarchy tends to be especially alien to them.

    So if all or virtually all the authority figures you’ve interacted have treated you like shit (which is a typical teenage experience with authority figures), you might conclude that authority figures are inherently evil. And in fact that’s not a bad operational assumption; the change many teens need is understanding how to manipulate authority figures, not realizing they aren’t evil. If you assume they’re evil and out to get you, you do much better in interactions with them, provided you know that defying them makes them worse, and that not giving them an excuse to “get” you is a wiser move.

    As for your question about specific memories of doing homework in tenth grade, I have a couple, but it’s the generalized memories that lead to understanding in my experience, not the specific ones. I remember what it was like not to understand algebra as I now do. I remember the moment when I first began, occasionally, to think in German.

    And actually, I think that experiential understanding is less important to dealing appropriately with teenagers than empathy and respect. My young friend Ben has a hard time writing (the physical act), because of a learning disability I’ve never had. If I deal with him with a sense of how he feels (and my empathy gets better and better the older I get, because my experience of reading people gets broader and broader) and with respect for his point of view, I will help him much more than if I had the same problem, but lacked empathy or respect.

  33. Oh, and Marc: read my description of the trial again. She remembered better later than she did immediately after the list was read to her.

  34. Xopher, I’m pretty sure that’s a long-term versus short-term memory thing. Short-term memory is quite limited in capacity.

  35. She wasn’t given a second reading of the list. Her memory was better after a delay, with no reintroduction of the information.

  36. I was a teenager, eldest of five siblings.

    My father was killed when I was seven, my mother mentally ill throughout my childhood but especially after that, and — had the diagnostic criteria been in place in 1964 instead of 1984, I probably qualified as an Asperger’s Syndrome child.

    I was diagnosed as a chronic-depressive at eleven however and have continued as such to the present.

    My take on adolescence is probably is terrifically skewed as a result. I was the adult in my home.

    Now granted, this maturity was erratic and I went through all the hormonal rollercoaster that most of us do. Yet most of the time, I was the planner concerned with consequences.

    As a result, my mileage varies considerably from the norm. But the core behavior of my siblings and all my friends had a commonality I could perceive, model, successfully predict, and cope with on a daily basis.

    Said coping may have involved lots of slamming doors, but part of maturity is absorbing the lesson that, “This too shall pass.”

    Theory of Mind holds that we model what goes on in other people’s heads. Some individuals demonstrate astute modeling and others simply suck.

    It’s fruitless, Aoede, to propose — on the forum of writer who is being widely praised for nailing the interior voice of a teenage girl — that 1] one cannot “get into” other people’s heads who are experentially different than ourselves for doing so repudiates the entirety of literature and drama speaking to the human condition; and, 2] one cannot even “get into” the head of one’s past self.

    Please reflect on this contention.


  37. JJB:

    Empathy is a key psychological trait of the human species. It would be silly to deny it – but empathy is not the same as understanding. I would propose that if Mr. Scalzi woke up one day to discover that he had been turned into a teenaged girl, he would be surprised by more than the physical change.

  38. …oh, and forgive the double-post, but another thing: I would hardly call my OP “fruitless”. Look at all the lovely arguments it’s generated!

  39. Xopher, I have little of note to say to this study – I’m no neurobiologist, and I haven’t even read the paper. However, as a student, I would like to point out that there are very many differences between recalling a list of memorized words and recalling childhood experiences. For one, the act of deliberately committing something to memory affects memory encoding; for another, emotion and language are processed in completely different areas of the brain in the first place. Furthermore, experiential memory is malleable – have you read the studies about implanted childhood memories? Or the one in which students give descriptions of the Challenger explosion that wildly vary from their original descriptions? A quick Google search gives what my own memory can’t – names like Elizabeth Loftus (http://socialecology.uci.edu/faculty/eloftus), who is qualified to talk about the subject.

    And as, well, me, I would like to say that the idea of a positive time-memory strength correlation completely contradicts my personal experience… as well as that of several acquaintances and, apparently, Kirk of post #3.

  40. The thing that was going through my mind when reading Scalzi’s original piece (and the reactions thereto) was how useful the caustic advice given to Anne of Green Gables in her writing endeavours – book four or five of the series I suspect. Combined with the ruthless slashing of her finer phrases that Jo from Little Women had to employ to make her writing readable. Both, cumulatively, had a positive effect, and when I recently re-read my early teenage poetry I was not too horribly amused (apart from the doomed love aspects of course!)
    My point is that this advice, in one form or another, has probably been being said by experienced writers to teenage writers (as protagonists or more directly) as long as the medium has existed. Presumably the issue was more pressing when not too many people survived to their good writing years too; this may be the reason that so many people were needed to write Homer. Still, generation after generation, it presumably needs to be re-said in a medium that teenagers are likely to access, for all our sakes.

  41. Angela: Your comment about your own poetry was pleasantly reminiscent of the scene in “Anne of Green Gables” where the Story Club sends their best pieces to Diana’s great-aunt and are told that the stories were the most amusing things that said aunt has ever read.

  42. It’s silly for me to hold a grudge after so many years, but from 1964-1968 when I was at Stuyvesant High School in New York City — in modern nomenclature, a Magnet School — all of the poems that I submitted to the school literary magazine were rejected.

    Caliper, Stuyvesant’s biannual literary magazine, is one of the oldest high school literary publications in the nation, and along with monthly open mic sessions, helps the Stuyvesant literary community flourish in an environment focusing on math and science.

    Given that I was already a professional author and editor, this was very frustrating. I’d sold a crossword puzzle built from the names of science fiction authors. I was paid (through an adult intermediary because of child labor laws) as a technical proofreader for Chemical Abstracts (knowing an o from an omicron AND knowing the molecule in question was a key). Other things I’d written were later professionally published.

    I was a teenager, to be sure: thirteen to sixteen. Some of my writing sucked. But some was seriously antisucular. My analysis at the time was that this was mostly stylistic censorship. The verse they ran tended to be imitation e e cummings, and other experimental and unstructured stuff. I was submitting sonnets, villanelles, sestinas, and the like. I was a formalist in a den of antiformalism.

    I was getting A and A+ in the English Lit classes, even when my book reports were on genre prose. I wish I still had my long paper on symbolism in “The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress.” My Math and Science exposition was at least adequate, as (after all) I was to be selling cover articles to Omni magazine less than a decade later, and then appearing in the usual litany of Analog, Science, Scientific American, and various anthologies.

    Nobody told me that my writing sucked. Rejection slips do that well enough. Some of my writing still sucks, but I can’t blame that on teenagership. In fact, this is the last year that I’m three times the age of a teenager.

    Rejection, and learning how to cope with it, are good for the artistic temperment. My 3,000+ publications, presentations, and broadcasts to date stem in part from my “I’ll show THEM attitude.”

    Once I started teaching (on and off from 1973 through the present) I found myself reading great volumes of writing by teenagers. Most of it sucked. But most of the writers were nice, and I tried hard to make it clear that a rejection is NOT a personal attack, but merely a chance to find another submission venue. Some of what my students gave me — a very small fraction — was a pleasure to read.

    This is a useful thread. I cited it to a high school English Language Arts teacher today. She summarized her theory of why teenagers’ writing sucks: they are lazy.

    Well, it is true for most of us that writing well is VERY hard work. But, like all other human activities, it gets easier, or at least faster and less painful, with practice. Millions of words of practice.

    Ray Bradbury says that he got lucky with his first sale, and had to throw away the next 500,000 words.

    Thanks for taking the time to read my spontaneous comment. No, I won’t rewrite it unless paid to do so. Thanks for the tip, RAH!

  43. I agree I’m 17 and though I think my writing is good I’m about 75% sure that if I do look back on it not even two years from now I will be horrified that anyone thought it was good. -as it has happened now when i read things i thought were perfect when i was 14-
    My writing lacks description and has one heck of a lot of punctuation mistakes.
    Though I’m sure I will be a writer worth her name, it is something we all should know that to become something you have to be someone and as teenagers most of us are too wrapped us in the ME image that it is impossible for us to look beyond it, our eagerness is something to be admired -in my opinion- but to be eager isn’t everything, too emotional, to influenced, and to taken by the shiny nickel on the street.
    In conclusion I thank you for your articles as I have found them helpful amusing and a joy to read.

  44. I’ve just read both of your articles, and they’ve given me some hope.

    I am also reminded of the advice David Eddings gives on writing fantasy: “Write a million words, burn it, and start over.”

    I just need to push past my tendency to burn it for being terrible after two paragraphs!

  45. To be honest, i appreciated your bluntness and i think we all need it. I’ve nearly finished my first story and i will follow your tips to try to make it better. And a lot of them were helpful and i do hope to maybe see about getting my story published in the future. I really enjoy writing at my age because you can have the teenage point of view without trying to think ‘back in the day’ (no offence), so thank you, you’ve helped me a lot.

  46. I really like these two articles. It’s good to hear that I shouldn’t take myself too seriously because, you know, I’m 18 and I don’t know very much yet =) I’ve been studying novel form for 6 months now and feel really stupid when I come across the same ideas again and again and I just don’t know how to apply them. These articles are encouraging because now I know actively plowing through a long break-in period. It’s exciting because every time I do some studying I run into a vast new category of writing elements that I didn’t know existed, let alone understood.

  47. I have to say that now that I’ve actually read this article (as previously instructed to on original artical) I agree one hundred percent.

    Something you could add to this is that if anyone tells us teens we suck at anything and instantly we rise to it’s defence. It’s like a sort of alarm that goes off and screams “Hurry and argue with the adult! Proove them wrong!” I thinks it’s hardwired into our minds by about age thirteen…

    Anyways I know my writing sucks, and I also know that like you said as long as I practice it will improve.

    Thanks for clearing things up.

  48. You bring up some very good points. I think my writing is good, but only on the level of being a teenager. My friends and family keep telling me I should try to get published. Now, as great as this sounds to me, I don’t want to just yet because my writing isn’t professional worthy. I think most teenagers see their friend’s writing and that’s what they compare their writing to. Now I’d expect that the person who wants to be an author is going to be a lot better at writing than the person who doesn’t care about it, but their writing still, like you said, sucks. It doesn’t suck as much, is all.

    Also, I have a question. Do you think that writing fanfiction is a good practice for writing? I happen to have an account on fanfiction(dot)net and post there frequently. Now, as long as the person still writes their own original stuff, would this be okay and good practice?


  49. @Megan and @Rasko:

    Since Scalzi hasn’t answered your questions about fanfiction, I’ll offer my own opinion. I’m a twenty-something writer, as-yet unpublished and still learning. Fanfiction was how I started out, and I know of several published authors who started with it as well.

    Don’t worry about the fact that you’re working with characters and worlds that you didn’t create; fanfiction is a great way to learn. Even though the characters aren’t your own, the difficulty of transplanting a pre-existing character into new stories will teach you loads about character development. Same goes for story setting. And having the framework already in your head will allow you to focus more on plotting and pacing. I’ve heard a pro writer say (sorry that I can’t remember who or where) that fanfic writers often turn out to be masterful plotters when they turn to original fiction.

    Oh, and then there’s the automatic critique/support group you’ll get from fandom! I recommend branching out from ff dot net and using a blogging site to network with other fanfic authors. LiveJournal dot com and its clones are extremely popular for fandom. Take the time to seek out other fan writers. You can learn a lot from their writing successes and mistakes, and the community atmosphere is wonderful.

    Re: Megan’s concern about being influenced by the author of the original work … go read other people’s fanfic and tell me how much of the original author’s influence you see in their stories. In most cases (especially among writers with a modicum of talent), the only things that tie a fan story to the original are its characters, backstory and universe. The style and voice are completely different, and often the plot goes in a wildly different direction than the original author intended. With time, you’ll develop a style all your own that will persist in your original writing. I have seen this happen in fanfic authors who later got published largely because of their unique voices.

    Plus, fanfic is fun. Whatever else you get from it, enjoy it for what it is.

  50. This definitely brings up a good point – I’m sixteen now, and even going back and seeing stuff I wrote at maybe thirteen or fourteen (which I’d thought was decent at the time), the reaction is somewhere along the lines of, “… I thought this was /good/?” Conversely though, there’s other stuff from around last year that I’ll go back and re-read and it’s more like, “…Dang, why can’t I write like that any more? Am I actually getting /worse/?” }.{

    The other teen writers who flare up without even bothering to read the whole story – as Dr. Phil would say, “Past behaviour predicts future behaviour.” Is this not indicative of refusing to listen to opinions other than one’s own? Isn’t this (potentially, although not always) the sign of someone who could turn out full of conceit and arrogance, unwilling to listen to constructive critism and stuck in a world of “le vaniteux”, so to speak, of Saint de Exupery’s “Le Petit Prince”? Careful, people. Just something to think about.

  51. … I’m actually very glad to see many of the debates have ceased. Thrilled, actually.

    I still am having issues with plot, for I am constantly raking my brains out with a fork attempting to be thoughtful, organized, and logical.

    This is difficult for me, and if anyone has any tips, I would be more than happy to set my fork on the table and read them.

  52. I’m a teen and I dream of being a writer, but I understand what you’re saying and I value your advice. I don’t have your patience to read all the comments, but don’t be totally disenfranchised by this generation’s acute immaturity. We will be great writers — in about fifteen years.

    Thanks for speaking truthfully and frankly to a group of wanna prodigies who really, really don’t want to hear it.

  53. I have been published by five different professional publications, and I’m 17 years old.

    You really need to make it clear the difference between article writing and book writing. You didn’t make much of a distinction. No, teens shouldn’t write a book until they are 18 if they want it to be any good, but teens could easily crank out articles.

  54. Jes –

    You realize of course that the impulse to jump up and say, “But I’m a success so blah blah blah” is just a hallmark of immaturity?

    It’s one thing to argue against injustice, but another to argue against professional opinion and advice. John’s offering something valuable, for free. Take it or leave it, but don’t argue with it.

  55. Are you serious about that autographed book? Because I have one or three that I’d be happy to send you.

    All right, they’re anthologies, so it doesn’t really count. :-) My forte is short fiction, not novels by any means.

    But [my] present company excepted, I agree wholeheartedly with what you’re saying. Teenage writing does suck, but mostly because teens aren’t trying to get published. Oh, they say they want to, but they have no idea what that entails. I gave a presentation to my high school’s writing club once about how to submit work for publication, and everyone was so surprised that they actually had to go out and find publications to submit to! I don’t know what they thought–that publishers were going to stumble across their blogs some day and offer a bajillion dollar contract? But without the context of what is being published and what editors are saying about rejected work, it’s difficult for them to know what is good (read, for purpose of this discussion, publishable).

    I just want to put it out there that not all teens are terrible writers. It’s just that those of us who aren’t won’t admit to our age! A teenager is an embarassing thing to be, because if by some miracle you write something halfway decent, people will assume it’s luck because by golly you can’t possibly know anything about life at seventeen! And you also need a parent to counter-sign your contracts–very embarassing, let me tell you, to be making ten cents a word and still need mommy’s signature between yours and the publisher’s.

    All right, I’ve said enough. Time to head back over to Library Thing and update my bibliography…

  56. Firt of all let me say here: I may be wrong.I’m willing to admit it and so if anyone want to argue feel free but:Maybe there isn’t a lot of teen writer that get published.It’s probaly true but really what good are you doing us by telling us negitive facts.Maybe It just my upbringing but in my family we didn’t just say “That sucks”,because we wanted to foster creativety.I as a teen felt high;y discoraged by point three.To me(again feel free to correct me) it felt like you are saying there is no good teen writers.Teen should just write but not even dream of getting published till 18+.As i read this here were my exact thoughts “Maybe I do suck…Actually I probaly do now that I think of.Well now I thought I had a plan for my life but If i suck now who’s saying i won’t suck five years from now”.Just my opinion.

  57. Megan, first off, your comment post is full of typos and grammatical errors, so I think you need to be very open to feedback at this point in your writing career.

    Second off, I can tell you from vast experience, you will learn almost nothing in life from positive feedback and encouragement. You will learn mountains from criticism.

    If you cannot handle a stranger suggesting that you “suck” as a teen writer, then you don’t sound very passionate about your writing.

    About point 3: Most people suck at writing, even adults, professionals, doctors, scientists, etc. I know. I edit their work. If you cannot accept the notion that you are currently at the lowest level of a very long journey of improvement, then don’t bother with the journey. Do something else.

  58. Someone left the link for this on the Absolute Write YA Forum-and I am so glad they did! I read your previous article on this, and had to laugh at the pridefulness of some of my ‘peers’. There is nothing wrong with being told your writing sucks. I started when I was twelve years old, and looking back on my old work-my writing really did suck! But I had to learn. My ma bought me Writer’s Digest, I joined online forums and writing sites where I could post my stories to get feedback. I studied writing and the publishing industry. I’m almost nineteen now. Still not published but on my way there. I starting a magazine this year and have decided to focus on that for the time being. No writer is perfect. I’m sure Stephen King has stories he will never publish because they ‘suck’. And I don’t think it’s so much of a matter of age too. Adult writers can suck just as bad as a teenager. The thing is, you, the writer have to have something I like to call ‘humbleness’ and the willingness to learn from others who have been doing it longer then you have. No matter what type of career you choose-the truth is…you are going to suck at it for a bit. Pratice makes perfect!

  59. Hi, my names Zak, and I’m a teenage writer.
    “Hi Zak.”

    Good article, but I stopped reading at get yourself published now. I have been published twice, in some small-ass community arts paper. And yah, my grammer sucks, though I blame that on the fact I mostly write poetry. Either way; if I am legitimately encouraged, I believe I could write prose or essay easily enough.

    So thus said, I challenge you to a duel old man.

    For my pen is mightier then your pen is.

  60. Zak:

    “And yah, my grammer sucks, though I blame that on the fact I mostly write poetry.”

    I don’t see why. Most published poets have lovely grammar, and those who break the rules of grammar do it in a purposeful manner, which suggests that they know what the rules are so they can break them effectively. You more likely have poor grammar because you don’t want to bother with it, and use “but I write poetry” because it seems like a convenient excuse. If you want to sell your work to anything but a small-ass community arts paper, that’s one thing to work on.

    As for a duel, well, see. I don’t fight poorly-equipped opponents. Your lack of grammar disqualifies you from my weight class. Come back when you have that nailed down.

  61. I agree as a teenage writer my writing isn’t as well developed and wholesome as my favorite authors. I think this article is sending the right message, we do suck. A friend of mine walks around thinking he is amazing because his stories get published in our school newspaper and I’ve met a few delusional teenage writers who think they are more than adequete and this article is a real wake up call for them. I think a young writer has to come to the realization that he or she isn’t as good and strive to improve. Personally I’ve been writing by this quote: “Don’t write what you know—what you know may bore you, and thus bore your readers. Write about what interests you—and interests you deeply—and your readers will catch fire at your words.” —Valerie Sherwood. Sadly my recent stories have all involved sex. I used to write what I knew and then I realized at 15 I didn’t know much at all. So I accept it, my writing sucks, sure I got published a few times in a local paper, even that is a feat in NYC. Yet I feel I would get a greater satisfaction if I could publish a short story or novella of some sort and that won’t happen anytime soon with the quality of my writing now. So thank you Mr. Scalzi your article has certainly helped me.

  62. Personally I think that you can’t say that teen writing ‘sucks’, I’m 14 and I think my writing suits the age that I am and the age of the people I am writing for (ie. my friends). No adult can understand how modern teens think as they didn’t grow up in the same environment or time.Therefore when they were a teen they wouldn’t have had the same thoughts and preferences as my generation does now. Also I like the way I write, it’s my way of expressing myself and I don’t think that anyone has a right to pre-judge an extension of me if they have never read my work or even talked to me.=P

  63. Monty:

    “Personally I think that you can’t say that teen writing ’sucks’”

    Well, the thing is, I did say it, so saying that I can’t is wrong. As for your reasons why, well, did you actually bother to read the article to which this comment thread is attached?

  64. So my initial thought when i reading the start of the article was; ‘this is quite a depressing point he’s expressing, maybe my writing does suck and i should give it up’ but then i read on further and changed my mind, because I will admit that my writing when in 1st to 3rd year [oh, I live in Ireland so, sorry but I’m not sure what 1st year is in Grades but if it helps to explain i’m currently 15 and in 4th year] sucked and when i look over something i started only a few months ago, i again agree that it does indeed suck. I don’t think I will give up, as i have been writing since i was in Primary 3 [again, i apologise, but i think i was 7 in Primary 3, possibly 8] and it is probably the only creative aspect of my life.

    On further consideration, i’m actually glad for some honesty for once, as every time an adult reads my work the only comment i will get back is; ‘thats very good’, when what I really want is some constructive critisim to help me improve the piece of writing, because sometimes i know myself that the piece of writing is not always to the best of my abilities but i struggle to improve it with the limited experience that i have of life.

    English teachers seem to have very low standards and expectations when it comes to marking creative writing in my school as i often got very high marks, if not full marks, on my pieces of work. But when i read over them now, i cannot figure out how on earth i managed to get such a mark with sentence structures that leave a lot to be disired and plots that seem non-existant.

    I would like to say though, that i understand the views of Monty as the quality of writing for a teenager may not be equal to that of an adults and sometimes it can be difficult for an adult to get into the mind-set of a teenager. However, i do find it possible for some adults to be able to see, or read, through the eyes of a teenager better than others, which is most likely where these pointers came from and i think that all teenage writers that read them should at least consider them when writing.

    Also, Monty, you’re not meant to take this constructive critisim [emphasis on constructive] to heart. ok, you’re writing is for your friends for the moment, but these tips can help you later on in life if you chose to continue your writing as either a skill or a hobby.

  65. [quote]Well, the thing is, I did say it, so saying that I can’t is wrong. As for your reasons why, well, did you actually bother to read the article to which this comment thread is attached? [/quote]

    I have to say John, this trend is becoming more and more ppopular. It’s also becoming more and more annoying. If you ever lurk around YouTube, you possibly begin to read comments form time to time for various reasons. What you will find 99% of the time is some comment, very recent that goes against what the author of the video clearly explains in the description. Despite this, you still have people commenting, “That’s fake,” on a video that has, “This is not real, it is fiction,” in the description.

    I plan on blogging about this sometime, along with the atrocities of /b/, and various other horrors of the internet.

  66. I’ll keep this short, but I only wanted to say a word or two to the author who created this website.

    I don’t know why I searched “teen writing tips” on google, I’m not even a teen (I’m only 12 and in 6th grade). I had a feeling that if I did search it, however, the website would give me tips on my writing, (because honestly I love writing, and have a lot of good ideas that just don’t come out right on paper). The sad truth is that this site has only made me hate my writing more and more. Yes i already knew my writing sucked, thanks, and thats exactly why I came to this site. I thought the point of tips was to HELP us make our sucky writing better. I might be wrong, but I don’t think I am.

  67. I have to say, I’m just about to launch the anthology I’ve edited/drawn/written with my friends, and having just read this, I’m terrified. Maybe it’s a good thing that no one will read it!

    On a less flippant note, I agree that it’s often easier to understand a group from more than one perspective. As a teenager, we have two perspectives: that of a young child, who sees almost everyone as a hell of a lot older with not much distinction, and that of a teenager with all the distortion that puberty brings. When you reach adulthood, you get a third perspective with all that experiential wisdom that people have mentioned.

    Here’s some of my own experience. Because I was accelerated a few years (I’m now 17 and in my first year of uni) I went through my dramatic, depressive stage very early. Four or five years later, I find that when I’m about to do something ‘teenagery’, I can catch myself and stop. I’m pretty sure that’s maturity starting to blossom – and the biggest part of that is admitting imperfection. I know my writing sucks, for a number of reasons. When I try to develop the novel I’m working on, I can definitely see your point about copying styles of writers I admire.

    However I think that putting some of my work out there (in this anthology) will net me some valuable criticism. My point is that publication when you’re young is fine if you can be mature about it. Organising this project has taught me a lot about working with people, especially our prickly creative egos, and about my own writing style, which seems to be incredibly complex and confused. Hey, just like a teenager.

    To those who have posted saying that these articles have made them hate their writing even more, that’s not the right attitude to take. The point of all this is to let us know that we need time to develop. All the tips in the world won’t help bad writing without practice. That holds true for everything – you wouldn’t expect to master classical piano after playing a few pieces, would you? There are plenty of writing tips out there, but not many articles like this. Feeling hopeless won’t help your writing, and believe it or not, how you take this advice is under your control.

  68. I don’t think that him saying our writing sucks is a downer on teens at all. Most likely it does suck. I know mine does. Even when I think it’s great, I look back at it and go WOW! I was a loser. And each piece I write gets a little better each time.
    I don’t know the person who wrote this and no I have never heard of him either but this advice is extremely helpful to me atleast. Thankyou for this wonderful article. Havn’t found one this good on this subject ever I don’t think.

  69. The way you harp on the word suck is really amusing. I liked how you pointed out the truth in a blunt, in-your face manner. Maybe we all really need that.

    (In reference to the emo article)
    My mom should be pleased. At least I won’t be parading around with tear-smudged eyeliner and a book full of depressing verses for the rest of my life. Yipee.

  70. Pingback: Grrrr… Argh…. | kt literary

  71. I disagree. Yes, some teenage writing isn’t even worth reading but there are those who even at their younger age who have not only the talent, will and vocabulary whose writing is truly amazing(even to older writers). I also believe that every teenager along with every generation is different so even if you can remeber what it’s like to be a teenager you couldn’t understand what their particular situation is. Everyone will have a point in their life where thier writing is no good but that’s human nature. And no matter what age you are the more you write and read the better you will get no matter what age you are. As for exprience, yes having exprience is extremely helpful and while your writing will greatly improve from it, you can do without it depending on how much you read and write and understand. Depending on your situation, of course, in some cases you will need to have more exprience. Teenage writing contains a sort of innocence and modesty about the world that you can’t get from older writers because they don’t see the world as full of politcis and constant worry other writers do. In other words thier writing isn’t tainted. But, of course thius isn’t with all adult writing. Because thier minds have more time to roam the world of imagination who knows what kind of amazing storys they could create! So all in all while some teenage writing may suck… all teenage writing in general does not suck(,maybe to an older writer who only reads older books.) All of this mostly depends on thier intended audience

  72. Yes…it’s an interesting phenomenon, isn’t it? When I was a teenager I considered myself a very good writer — and by teenager standards, I was. But to the extent I can get my hands on things that I wrote back in high school now, reading it makes me cringe…

    Even in college — a time at which I considered myself a pretty outstanding writer (and had the grades to prove it) — I was, in retrospect, way too verbose, had a tendency to repeat myself, would write repetitively, and used too many words to express one idea, thought, or concept. ( :

    Interestingly enough, I probably have less confidence in my writing ability now, even though I am far better than when I was younger (and more confident). Maybe the benefit of perspective has enlightened me to the fact that writing is never perfect and can always improve, and that it is constructive to focus on those aspects in need of improvement — so I keep my ego in check accordingly.

    But…yeah…I can’t say that I have ever seen anything written by a teenager that I would consider to be “good” by conventional standards (myself included). Good relative to other kids, sure. But not “good” good.

    Of course, now that I’m a lawyer, I have had to unlearn virtually everything I had learned about writing in an effort to become a more effective LEGAL writer…which is a whole different ball o’ wax. C’est la vie.

  73. First off, let me say that I enjoyed both this article and your other article on teenage writing. I’m always looking for advice, as I am sixteen and a huge part of my life is writing, and will take whatever anyone will give me. I was actually Googling information on young writers when this came up and caught my attention.

    I’m proud to say that I am not one of those teens who read these articles and immediately jumped to the “but surely you don’t mean MY writing” conclusion. In fact, I agree with you completely. While my friends and mom enjoy what I’ve written, clearly it isn’t even close to being ready for publication. I’ve been writing since I was really little, and have read some of the stuff I wrote even just a couple years ago. At the time, I thought it was incredible. Reading it now, I laugh.

    I should probably mention what type of writing interests me. I love writing realistic fiction novels for young adults. It’s a popular road for authors right now, but I like to try and make my stories different. What you said in your first article about my narrator being a warped version of myself is true enough (at least in the book I’m currently working on) but sometimes I do break away and go for an asshole guy, which I’m pretty sure is my polar opposite.

    At any rate, I was wondering if you think writing drafts of a book is a good idea? I wrote a 100,000 word book about a year and a half ago in which the writing is… let’s just say that it embarrasses me. However, I love the story. I think that the new version (at least now, at 20,000 words), which is going to end up probably being a series, is much, much better, though I know that if I were writing it in ten years it would be a hell of a lot improved. Do you think the fact that I’m writing the story a second time will help at all?

    Thanks so much.

  74. Okay, a question for Jon here.
    I get that the fanfiction stuff helps. That makes sense to me. But I started thinking about all the things you said more often, and wondered, how much of the stuff that I do day-to-day helps? If blogging and fanfiction can be good, then what about the RP (role-playing) websites, in which knowing your characters’ reactions to any situation are crucial? The zany plane letters written for friends involving impossible stunts and situations?

    My writing sucks. I know it does. In fact, I think I had unreal expectations for myself to start, because reading that all teens’ writing essentially sucks made me feel pretty good about my own. But that’s just me.

  75. My writing sucks. But my SUMMARIES don’t. XDDD

    Sorry. Just had to say that. I think I’ve mentioned before–my summaries are pretty awesome. I WOULD say they are professional-grade. Yeah. I went there.

    I’m probably going to get a mob attacking me by saying this, but I LIKE people telling me teen writing sucks. I feel the same way. I can tell even when I read books by teens. They’re just . . . not-so-great.

    I’d say my ideas are WAY more mature than my writing, so I’m saving all of them ’til I actually get some experience, and some decent classes in high school . . . *grumbles* Advanced Language Arts isn’t as advanced as I would like it to be. xD

  76. I’m sixteen and I agree teen writting sucks, for sure. I write fanfiction (which many people in this thread have mentioned) and looking just from the first few chapters I’ve written to know, I realize “woah, I really sucked at writting when I started.” But, then I’ll look at what I’ve written recently and compare it to other people’s writting, I realize that despite the obvious improvement I’ve made, I still have a long way to go. A very, very long way to go. I do agree (with some of the posts here on fanfiction) that fanfic net and fictionpress are both great websites for improving writting. It’s especially good (as Scalzi mentioned) to write every day: consistantly. That’s really the best way to improve. Of course, you also need to pay attention to reviews as they often contain good advice for improvements – especially when you obtain more readers. I’d say just keep writting and practicing, as well as read literature and other published books. I’ve noticed that a lot of fanfiction is poorly written, though there is still a lot that is written well. I have found that reading the stuff that sucks, I’ve learned what not to do in a story. However, though reading fanfic is good in that sense, you need to read some real, published fiction. You can always learn a lot just by reading.

  77. Mr. Scalzi: I have to say, I am deeply thankful for this article. I am a 16-year-old-writer and I agree wholeheartedly that teen writing sucks. It has made me physically ill on several occasions. However, there is one issue that you have not considered, and that I wish more writers – or any writers – would confront: what if someone doesn’t WANT their writing to be good?
    Maybe I’m the only one in this position. See, I don’t want to be a writer when I grow up. I don’t have a talent for it. I’m skilled at science, and I want to devote my life to that. However, I do spend the majority of my free time inventing stories. And I know one imaginary Dr. Leonard Murphy who has been begging me to tell the world of his struggle with mental illness. So while I have no desire to be a writer, at the same time there is a novel within me that will set my intestines on fire if I don’t write it. I’m just wondering: is it okay if I write it in my teenage suckitude? I don’t want it to be a great novel. I want it to be published (it doesn’t have to be right now, maybe it’ll be after I win my Nobel Prize in biology) but I’ll settle for mediocrity. So can I get this thing out of the way right now? Or is it advisable to wait until I have at least a serviceable grasp of the art of language? Because I’m kind of accumulating a queue right now. After Leo, his son Nick is jumping up and down waving his arms, and a young lady named Morgan who has slept with both is about to pummel her lovers in order to cut in line. I fear I may never be undistracted from my neuroscience at this rate.
    Please let me know your opinions on the matter, as I would greatly value them. Thanks!

  78. =] I like you. I was Googling ‘Teenage Writers’ and this came up and I was like, why the hell not!

    I’m choosing my A Levels at the moment and was going to take psycology, then changed my mind, now might go back to it thanks to your whole issue with writers who have no experiance of life. This is what has also persuaded me to take a gap year and travel before I go to university. I’m still taking an English Literature course and Creative Writing as a minor, but that’s beside’s the point!

    I don’t think teenager writing sucks, I think the preliminary stages of any wannabe authour sucks; if you discover a passion for writing aged 16 or 36, your early works will suck. The difference is that a 36 year old can hide behind their experiances and emotions while a 16 year old who has been stuck behind a school desk and had no more than a couple of boyfriends doesnt have these reserves to call on for either inspiration or insight.

    So I’ll happily hold my hands up and say my writing sucks compared to more experianced writers, just like a med school kid should accept that the director of surgery in the hospital they are interning in is probably a tad better than they are…

    Anyway, I’ll probably go read your books at some point now if I see them in Waterstones; I usually just browse and don’t buy, I’m crap at spending money! =]

  79. Well, as a teen writer, I found this article helpful. I know that I am not ready to produce Ulysses, Hamlet, or Leaves of Grass, but I like the notion of writing every day for IMPROVEMENT! Hey, since our writing sucks now, it can’t get any worse, now can it? Hopefully not! I’ve reread some of my “Mucho-Profoundo” writing from several years ago, and I must admit, I cringed more than I found myself impressed. I understand why all of my “fellow teenagers” would become defensive over this, but I also understand that 99.9% of the time their writing (including my own) SUCKS! They must all feel like these articles were personal attacks on their oh-so-sophisticated writing, but that is simply part of being an insecure and insensible adolescent. To John, I must say I found myself laughing when you described, what fits almost exactly, with a description of most of the teen writing I have read (including my own). However, I am encouraged by your honesty! The fact is, that since I know that my writing sucks now, it will get better! I’m already enrolled in Honors English (whatever that is, for a fourteen year old), and I am considered one of the schools “promising” young writers. So, perhaps, one day, I will have a voice of my own! THANKS! ^^

  80. By the way, therapeutic writing (a.k.a. Journaling) is supposedly a good start on writing for Teens. I suppose, this way the web isn’t jam-packed with as much of the trite fan-fictions with you (the mediocre young writer) as a star. Maybe some of us will even avoid some of the junk writing forms such as…
    -Blogging about boyfriends/girlfriends/stupid, hurtful, gossip
    -Myspace mood updates
    -Quizilla (only good if you are an Anime freak, looking for “your” anime life stories by other perverted Anime freaks)
    -Soliciting to online “predators” (I always imagine a velociraptor at a keyboard) in chat-rooms
    -Very long comments (like this one)
    By the way, kudos Lucie! Psychology will benefit everyone in America (assuming that we’re all in America)!
    David Hill, unfortunately, I think your piece may require some disambiguation…
    “I have to say John, this trend is becoming more and more ppopular.”

  81. Hey, I haven’t read all the posts in here yet, but I still wanted to say something. “Teenage writing SUCKS” : That is SO true! I’m a teenager (16), I’ve been writing for 3 years now (mostly fanfictions cause I think it’s a pretty good training for teenagers) and I know most of my writing sucks. But I have to say that it doesn’t suck because I’m a teen it sucks because I’m a human being! I think people forget that : 1) only the best writers get published whether they are adults or teens, 2) For a 200 pages book, a writer wrote at least 400 pages and only half of them were good enough to be published, 3) There is a higher % of teens who write than adults who write. And there’s a reason to that, teenagers are usually trying to figure out what to do with their life and a lot of them think they can become a writer. Whereas a lot of adults used to write as teenagers and then stopped writing when they found out it wasn’t something they were good at. That makes more teenage writing so more crappy teenage writing.
    Moreover, trust me, it’s been three years i’m reading fanfictions and god, I can assure you: there are a lot of 30 years old moms whose writing suck! They just don’t get published: thank god! We can read a lot of teenage stories right now on the internet but only 5% of these teen writers will continue writing after they turn 20. I may be wrong but I believe these 5% were writing good at 15 because talent doesn’t come out of nowhere. I’m not saying that practising doesn’t make you get any better because it does but I believe a writer who really SUCKS as a teen can’t become a GREAT writer as an adult. My french teacher (I’m french so that would be like an english teacher in america) made us study Flaubert who is a quite famous french writer and she gave us an extract of a novel he wrote when he was 17 and it was great! Not as great as what he wrote at 50 but it still was impressive.
    Finally, I could add that I don’t know why but I’ve found out that a lot of teenagers publish EVERYTHING they write while adults publish only their best stuff. I’m 16 but I’ve been writting since the age of 13 mostly fanfictions on the american show Without A Trace and now looking back at what I used to write I’m like “how the hell could I think that was good?!” BUT (yeah there’s a but) there are some stories (above the huge amount I’ve written) that I still believe as “good” stories. Usually, I have to say that those stories were the ones I knew as “very good” while writing them.

    To end this LOOONG comment, I think even teenagers themselves know when they write something really good. They ARE able to judge so no need to tell them “your writing sucks”. I’m not writing anything anymore because I don’t have the time but once this year my english teacher asked us to continue a short story she had gave us and I decided I would write womething good. I worked on it for two weeks trying to do my best and I got a 20/20 (makes an A+ in america I guess). At the time, my teacher didn’t say anything about it. Two weeks ago we had to write a legend and she came to me and said “what you wrote last time was REALLY good and I enjoyed reading it as a reader.” I answered honestly saying “I know” and she laughed because I was being so modest lol. She then carried on and told me “I hope this will be as good as what you did last time. Have you ever written anything else?” I lied and said I hadn’t and she said “Well you should” I was really proud and started writing again in the evening. I don’t know if she truly thought what she said but somehow I don’t care. I had really put all I had into this story and as far as I’m concerned, I KNOW it was good because I felt it while I was writing it. At last and after all, even if I’m not trying to say you were wrong when you told teenagers their writing sucked because saying things is always better than lying I guess a little bit of encouragement doesn’t hurt sometimes :).

    However, I enjoyed reading the article ;)

  82. Mr. Scalzi,
    I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for this article and its innumerous nuggets of wisdom and advice.
    I, as a teenage writer, am always looking to catch snippets of advice or words of caution from more experienced, and, forgive me fellow teenagers, talented authors. This article not only encouraged my future writing but simultaneously catalyzed some inate desire for me to constantly better myself.
    At this juncture, I know that my writing isn’t a match for published works, stylistically and in its formatting.
    To those who argue against the ‘suckage’ of teenage writing, read your old work, I’m you’ll feel embarrased and ashamed of every writing so poorly. In about six years, read the work you’re writing now, again I can garuntee you’ll feel the same reaction you had to your first pieces of work. Stop arguing with the man who took time out of his cramped schedule to jot down a guide meant solely to help struggling teenage authors. He didn’t ask for anything in return, so quit with the nasty comments and challenges– he’s older, more experienced and talented, in other words, he knows better than you.

  83. Here is a question you need to add, Mr. Scalzi:

    Everyone from friends and foes to my Literature teacher tell me I am a good writer.

    I read both articles, and I don’t really know how I feel about this. I am currently writing a novel, and I’m not impressed with it, more the fact I’m still writing. I don’t think I suck, and others don’t. But you make good points. When I was younger than now (I even wrote as a child-ha), my main characters were warped versions of me (yet I would never write a real biography).
    I think understanding what it was like to be a teen depends on the adult. Sometimes, like in my current case, the parent has gone through nothing the teen has. My mother didn’t date until college, I’m currently taken. My mother was unsocial and studied around the clock. I’m quite the chatterbox, I have a good number of friends, and I never study. Knowing what I will do when what happens probably has more to do with her knowing ME than knowing what being a teenage was like.
    Anyway, I liked your writing. It’s funny, and good and has a nice theme. I know you’re going to say, that proves you suck, because that writing sucked. I don’t know authors of your teenage years, so I wouldn’t know who you were influenced by or if you were…if you hadn’t told us.
    Cat-vacuuming. My friend April is always on MySpace, always texting, all of that. Yet she is not a good writer, and she hates writing. I am always on twitter, chats, email, etc. I am a *good* writer, and I love doing it. Whether or not it’s okay to use such things to improve you’re writing depends on where you’re skills are. If you can’t write at all, or want to claim cat-vacuuming as actual writing, give up now. You’re writing will show you’re habit. If you know a thing or two, go for it.
    By the way, I read every comment, haha. Mostly Xopher vs Aoede and everyone assisting. I have to say this: I know enough from my mother, Media, and other things what it’s like to be a teen. I will remember the common things: my first crush, lockers, popularity, dating, my period. I won’t, and don’t remember things like homework, what I wore when (unless I regretted/love it dearly). BUT, when I am an adult, I am confident I will know, and understand what it was like, even if my daughter is nothing like me (remember, I said there are different possibilities). If my daughter comes home laughing about she told off a new, uncool girl, I’ll remember when I was an uncool girl (Never new-I’ve been going to the same school for years.). If she’s talking about how desperate she is to hold on to her boyfriend, I will remember how badly I wanted to shake mine at certain points.
    I do not have adult wisdom, but I’m not writing for adults, now am I? ;]

  84. I don’t believe that you can generalize an entire age-group as being “uncool” (I believe you referred to yourself with this label because of your minivan and love of Journey) or “bad writers” – yes, it’s true that I have sat down to write and realized how poorly my last ten pages have been, but there are also times that I feel proud. And who cares if others things their writing sucks? If they want to get it published, yes that will be a problem, but if they’re writing for the sake of writing, for the sake of finding themselves, for the sake of trying to figure out how their feeling and their place in the world, I don’t see how the quality matters one bit.

    Perhaps the teen writers haven’t had all of the life experiences they need to truly feel and effectively express complex emotions in their writing, however, how will they get better if they do not try?

    Quite honestly, I do not see your point for the article. As I read through I kept thinking about how would you have felt had you been told this as a teenager? I doubt, judging by your arrogant tone, that you would have reacted in a calm, understanding manner. And truly, you wouldn’t want to be grouped with the others, you would want your writing to be judged by itself, or not at all. And let me make this one last point very clear: I have not read your current writing other than these two articles, but you may very well be one of those adult writers who suck and won’t realize it until they hit middle age. Now how would that make you feel?

  85. Mildly amazed, inasmuch as I’ve been making a living as a writer for two decades now. I sure fooled everybody!

    “I do not see your point for the article.”

    Given your complaints, most of which are addressed above and in the original essay, it’s not clear that you’ve actually read the article, so your not seeing the point is not entirely surprising. Go back and try again.

  86. Although I’m slightly surprised that the commentary on this article is still going strong, I’m glad because I can comment with some hope that it will be read.
    The first thing that I thought when I read your article was: “Well, duh.” Now, I’m 19, so I’m not quite out of the sucky teenage writing phase, and I’m perfectly aware that my writing was, to put it mildly, bad. Of course I didn’t know this while I was writing, but generally it would just take a single glance over what I’d just finished typing for me to realize what tripe I’d just put down. I’m not even going to claim that what I write now is worthy of anything more, although I certainly hope it is.
    I thought that both articles were rather accurate, and am of the firm belief that teenagers should be told that their writing sucks, if it indeed does, by those that read them. Of course, this is mostly because I personally would have loved to have been told what I was doing wrong. Muddling through was fun and all, but it would have been great to receive some real feedback.
    On a different note, your articles were definitely entertaining, and I’m looking forward to checking out the rest of your writing.

  87. I’m a teenage “writer” or more “storyteller” or “hopeless case” whichever you prefer. I found this incredibly helpful as well as the first article. I laughed a lot, but it doesn’t mean I didn’t take it seriously. I read the first article last year and scoffed “Ha, my writing doesn’t suck”. This was around the time when I thought I could write a Bestseller and get really famous for it within a week. A year on, I like to think I’ve grown to be a better writer and I still fantasize about being a bestseller, but I know I’m not going to get there without writing, reading and living a life. I look over my writing from last year every so often, and boy, does it suck! If my writing can better within a year, I can’t wait to see my writing in ten, twenty years.

    Thanks for your advice!

  88. Hey you, i am a young writer and i mean like not even a teenager yet.(11) SO get this straight, i want to write an actual book. you are probably right, it does suck. I do read a lot of books. I love reading. I don’t like to share my personal writing with my family or teachers, but i will share it with my close friend that will actually tell me if it was shitty or not. She will probably think that it’s interesting enough, but hey we’re both kids so who cares if we think it’s good. i know i have a long way to go but i just want an actual chance. Anywho i think that your article was very inspiring. I hope other kids find it encouraging and i can’t wait to read more!

  89. After reading through your article, I have to say that I whole-heartedly agree with you. I’m nineteen and an avid writer but my work is far from publishing material!
    This could partly be because I’m a perfectionist and want it to be the most amazing piece I’ve ever written, rather than a good story.

    I started seriously writing about five years ago and the difference between my first pieces and my work today is jaw-dropping. If I can progress as much in the next five years, that would be amazing – although I understand that the jump from fourteen to nineteen is pretty major in terms of vocabulary, grammar, writing style etc.

    It’s odd, as no one has ever told me the home truths that you listed, but I feel like I knew them for the most part. I have a story that is pretty much my baby, but I’ve had the idea for years now; it’s like I’m saving it for when I’m a better writer. I’ve written snippets here and there to get a feel and have it all mapped out but I just don’t feel ready to write my ‘masterpiece’!

    I think the advice of writing everyday is important and getting your work out there is a must. Having people read your pieces is the best way to develop your style. A fresh eye is usually needed to see any flaws in your work. People will also point out the good parts, and there is nothing better to spur you on than a nice review, so I strongly suggest ‘publishing’ anywhere you can. It worked wonders for me!

    Thank you, John.

  90. I’m 14 years old (been writing since age 5), and I agree with you. I think that what I am working on how is awesome, but 2-3 years ago, I thought that what I was writing then was awesome. I just recently found some pages of it in my room. They were painful to read. The characters had no personality or emotion, the plot was repetitive and was just a mishmash of all sorts of random bovine fecal matter.

    But I thought it was awesome. Now in another 2-3 years, I’ll be writing something else (or redoing this), and I’ll look back on this draft and think it sucked. That is how teenage writers get better.

    P.S. I linked to you on my fiction writing wiki.

  91. Max, think of how far you’ve come since writing the pages you once thought were awesome!

  92. I found this article to be one of the most useful and inspiring works directed at people my age. I realize that my writing sucks right now, and so does every other teenager’s. But I take pride in the fact that my writing sucks less than other teenagers’ when it wins contests and awards only for teens. I look forward to experimenting with my writing and know that not everything I write is good, but at least I wrote it. Now is my time to learn and to grow, and this article made that clear to me. People who find this article discouraging aren’t getting the message. Teenage writers have futures in writing. We have time on our side, and however unpatient we may be to be fantastic writers, we just have to deal with what we have now. Teenagers today will be the next Stephen Kings and C. S. Lewis’s, but not for a while. So quit whining and accept the fact that it takes time to be good. Use that information to inspire and drive you.

  93. I disagree with you on one crucial point: teens today do not have ‘stronger thumbs’. We’re just setting ourselves up for arthritis…

  94. Well… I knew my writing sucked before I read this article and it’s companion. But I found them to be very helpful, especially the bit about having a “day job” in the previous article. I love writing, and I’d like to continue the hobby in college. I’m just afraid that I won’t have time, considering my busy schedule. I’m going to a technological institute that has about … Three English classes. I just hope that the lack of creative courses won’t discourage my own creativity.
    Also, I believe that Christopher Paolini’s writing sucks. I’m extremely envious of his situation (being published) and I wish such circumstances were possible for me. Alas, they’re not. But thanks again for your articles. And if I were you, I’d ignore all of my angry peers (teenagers). We’re usually full of hot air and will jump down the throats of our critics.

  95. Haha, I am really enjoying reading this. Before I begin saying why I agree (despite my existence as a teen writer), I must say that you remind me of House MD.

    I have been writing since sixth grade, and I am now a sophomore. Lately I have been looking back at my writing as a seventh grader, eighth grader, and even freshman. The thing about my writing being suckish is entirely true. I also paint, draw, and compose. Often times, I can’t go two weeks without deciding a piece sucks and hiding it in a place where it will never see the light of day again (or the light of the lamp on my desk that stays on long after midnight for homework and writing.) Anyway, I just want to thank you for posting this and the related article. It really is great to have someone saying, “Hey! You suck! Get over it!” instead of the English teacher who must be deranged saying, “Oh, dear, it’s just wonderful! Have you read Harry Potter?” with a twitching smile. Also, as I am sure you have discovered, we teens are a breed of pigheaded gossipy mutants who usually have nothing better to do than stab jugulars because we are avoiding homework at all costs.


  96. I love what you wrote. I’m sorry, but I just wanted to address something to all the people that replied to this:

    Yes, I agree with some of the people who have written comments to this. But it frustrates me when many of the people writing back write long comments filled with lengthy words to make their point seem overly mature and beyond their age. Yes, I get the fact that many of the teenagers reading this are offended. But come on guys, get over it. You’re going to have to hear it from someone sometime soon. Seriously, please stop responding with all these super smart-sounding remarks to make it seem like you’re better than the rest of us. I know I’m probably sounding rude, but I’m sick of seeing people getting all defensive.

    That’s all I wanted to say.

  97. That’s actually really accurate. Most of the stuff that I’ve read by my fellow classmates sucks. Most of the stuff that I’ve written probably sucks!

    But, so far in my short twelve years of life, I have wanted to publish something that I’ve written and revised hundreds of times published and this feels a little depressing. Yes, I realize that it is the truth!

    A lot of the other people may say that I’m a “kiss-up” for saying this (not that I really care!), but I totally believe this. Every teenage writer’s pieces suck. Yes, I notice that I’m technically not a teen, but once again, Do I care? No.

    Thanks for letting me know the cold truth!

  98. wow, there are a lot of LONG comments out there.. here is mine:

    i’m a teenage writer. i think my writing’s ok, but you’re right. ‘okay’ doesn’t qualify as non-sucking writing.

    you’re right, head to toe about this article.

  99. Saying that teenagers are bad writers is a generalization. A teenager who has been writing for five years is most likely much better than a forty-seven year old who has never written in their life. Really, you say that all teenagers suck at writing, but how much have you read that has actually been written by teenagers? You can’t possibley have read every single thing written by a teenager. Okay, I admit it. Not many teenagers suck at writing. But neither do many adults. But you don’t have to go around anouncing it to the world and rubbing it in our faces.

  100. Hi, Mr. Scalzi.

    I’ve been writing for a while, and let me tell you, my early work… SUCKS. But I kept reading and writing over time, even submitting articles to newspapers, I know it might not seem much to you, but one time when I submitted an article to the regular place I submit them to, I won a Playstation 3 in the newspaper blog’s competition. To you, that’s probably a worthless hunk of junk that will distract me to no end… but to me, it was like your experience of winning the Hugo on a micro-level.

    I don’t know much about your work, but somebody sent me your original blog entry this is a reply to. Thinking about how I got rejection letters for both my application for a freelance writing job AND from a publisher in regards to a novel I was working on, I know my writing must suck on some level.

    Because of the nature of the condition I was born with, I’ve had a very deep running inferiority complex to people who aren’t on the (diagnosed) autistic spectrum who didn’t really give me a chance when I was younger, only to regret it much later when I reminded them of the crap they put me through in the 1990s. Because of this inferiority complex which makes me hate myself on some level as a human being, it’s hard to separate “Your teenage writing sucks” from “You suck as a human being, what is your MAJOR MALFUNCTION?”.

    Maybe I’m just depressed. Not in the phoney emo way either. I mean REALLY depressed. To the extent I question my place in humanity, not over whether my iPod is broken or whether or not my parents will “take me to prom in a limo” as you Americans call it (we call it the Year 12 Formal in Australia). I’ve had to endure the final year of high school two years longer than everyone else just to cope with the workload, it’s worse than High School Musical, because it feels like high school will never end even though I’m nearly completely done with it.

    Maybe I shouldn’t have read Welcome to the N.H.K. again so soon after I was recovering from a very deep and unwanted sinking into an abyss. I use cliches like that because I’m a crappy teenage writer. Maybe I’ll write well after I leave high school, because high school sure hasn’t helped me grow as a human being one bit. No wonder I identify with Changelings as fantasy creatures so much.

  101. [Pointlessly inflammatory intro snark deleted — JS]

    Firstly, the fact that you’re all getting so pissed about irrelevant things that a couple of old guys behind computer screens are typing at you shows that you aren’t patient and level-headed enough to be a writer. I think everyone that’s reading this right now doesn’t give a crap about whether teenage writers suck or adults understand teenagers or whatever – they give a crap about whether they suck or not, and everyone else can go to hell. Don’t be selfish. If you have to constantly convince other people that you don’t suck, you indeed do.

    Secondly, what he’s trying to say is that teenagers don’t have the EXPERIENCE to be good writers – just, you know, make their plot both interesting and realistic enough to be good. Not that you don’t know your grammar. Tbh, if writing was all about knowing your grammar, people would be skipping math class, not english.

  102. I’m a teen writer myself, and I wanted to tell you how brutally, immensely honest this was because it helped me a hell of a lot. Of course I know my writing sucks. Teen writing does suck to some extent. I have the ability to fake experience and wisdom quite well, thank you, but I’m waiting to get that wisdom. Anyway…thank you for letting teenagers know that they’re writing isn’t that great, and that, in retrospect, they will realize this. Most people aren’t as honest as you are – isn’t honesty really the best policy sometimes?

  103. Pingback: catvacuuming, i am :) « the love of a lifetime

  104. Jacob Martin, pretty well-written reply at any rate. Keep on writing, and here’s one Yank at least who’s hoping that things start going better for you.

    I had a sucky HS life too, and I have a nephew with Asperger syndrome (though he’s lucky enough to have an older sister who stands ready to Beat People Up for him if need be).

    Best wishes and bright blessings, and I hope to see your writing in print someday!

  105. Huh, interesting. I respect you’re idea’s, and true to form I do believe that most teenage writing isn’t at it’s best…Truthfully, I was reading through my old stuff and some of my friends stuff and I was bored out of my mind. But that doesn’t mean all teenage writing sucks. I understand what you’re saying, and I respect what you’re saying, but there was a kid in my old days that wrote such amazing stuff, I swear she was a protege. Anyways, that doesn’t really matter. Thank you for you’re time in writing this. The one thing I didn’t understand is, well, why on earth would it matter if someone didn’t understand what it was like to be a teenager? What does THAT have to do with writing? Oh well, I suppose. And to all you teen writers out there, keep on writing.

  106. Excuse me! I’m obviously quite late to this article, but I’d like to point out that the crude remark about teenagers ‘sucking’ at writing is a complete sterotype. And I don’t believe that you are famous in any way,therefore you can’t be that great of a writer either. I’m 15, and my current 3 page novel-in-progress is better than those waste of time paragraphs you wrote when you were 17. If you haven’t read every single tennagers’ writing, then you’re wrong about that generalization, and even if you have (which is clearly untrue at this point) your article is just another useless opinion.
    Have a nice day. :)

  107. I got an e-mail with Cori’s comment and I actually thought he was kidding. Cori, please go back and read some of your older stuff–and if you don’t have stuff from even just a few months ago, then clearly you haven’t developed enough as a writer–and see how much you’ve improved since then. You truly will laugh at yourself and realize that you’re constantly improving, and will improve much more before you get published (if that ever happens).

    Also, Mr. Scalzi addressed all of your issues almost verbatim in his article so my guess is you didn’t even read it. Have fun trying to become a writer without accepting constructive criticism.


  108. I find it alarming that Mr. Scalzi immediately responds to people whose points are rebutted in the article but does not respond to legitimate queries.

  109. Oh, man, it so is. I drink some tea and it’s awe-inspiring. I go to work and it’s earth-shattering. I do tai chi and it’s excruciating. I read the internet and I have to lie down for a while.

  110. Just for a bit of perspective…

    Have you ever wandered by the band room at lunch or after school and heard a few of the band geeks practicing with their rock band?

    They think they are seriously awesome. Or at least that they’re pretty good. Some of them are kind of good, but would you ever actually buy their music over whatever new single you’ve been waiting, like, months for? Yeah right. You might go listen to them play a show somewhere, but that would more likely be to support your friends and have fun than because they are amazing.

    Even the really talented people have years of practice to put in before they reach the next level, and those that seem to be at that level as a teenager…well, I hate to break it to ya, but they’ve probably already put in those years.

    Yes – I used to think I was pretty damn good in my high school jam sessions. 10 years later and I am only now able to quit my “other job” because I make enough to live off music.

    Music and writing are crafts. They take PRACTICE. It doesn’t mean teenagers don’t have great ideas – frequently they do. It means they have to WORK to learn the tools they need to express them.

    Is that so offensive? Better to find out you suck now and take steps to learn more than think you’re great and not actually try to get any better…

  111. John Scalzi, Why is it that everytime someone makes a good point against your article, you say the same thing with different variations…”Actually read the article before commenting” or “Clearly you didn’t read the article if you dont understand the point” And you saying ALL teens suck at writing is ridiculous. I’m 13 years old, and my writing is far beyond the garbage you wrote at 17.

  112. Kevin:

    “John Scalzi, Why is it that everytime someone makes a good point against your article, you say the same thing with different variations…’Actually read the article before commenting'”

    Because if they had read the article, they would know the point they were griping about is already addressed in the article. Like, for example, yours about your writing not sucking.

    It’s really not too much to ask people to read the article. And to actually read it, rather than to race through it in a cursory fashion before trampling down to the comments to declare how their writing doesn’t suck, or whatever.

  113. I swear, Scalzi! Are you sitting here on 24-hour alert waiting to spring on any teenaged fool who dares trespass with their stupid declarations?

  114. Well, you know. I try to read the comments when I can.

    That said, I do find it, well, tragic that the vast majority of my responses here are “read the entry, please.” It really would be easier for everyone just to read the entry. And certainly easier for me.

  115. But apparently not so thoroughly that you got to the parts directly on point to the objection you’ve raised, Kevin.

    Please go back and try again. Reading comprehension is your friend, and will help you to be a better writer, now and later.

  116. hmmm… I commented on here two days ago. But today I looked back on here but couldn’t find my post. In fact the date of the last post was about ten days before mine. Good article though. I would write out what I said before but it’s almost one of the longest comments on here! Although you could have phrased “Teenage writing sucks!” a little more delicately – then you wouldn’t get so much hate mail!
    he he he

  117. Oh, gods. Now that I read one and posted one sentence ending in “thread, Fred” I have “Tie Me Kangaroo Down” running through my head. Fred.

    AAAAAArrrrrrrggggh! *flees*

  118. it’s not a bad thing to be honest with teenagers about this stuff. They might not listen (I probably wouldn’t have),

    A question might be could you have written this article any different so that your teenage-self would have listened?

    10. There’s no objective way of saying whether writing is good or not, anyway.

    I’d actually agree with that one. “Suck” is subjective and also perjorative. On the other hand “professionally published at 5 cents a word or more” is purely objective and neutral.

    Do you think the article is more effective in convincing teens that their writing is not at a level of professional publication by saying it “sucks”?

  119. I both agree and disagree.

    I understand what you are saying. Of course, if I look back on the short stories and poetry I did when I was younger, a lot of them were a load of rubbish. But they were before I matured. Before I came to terms with the simple fact that I have a dream to get published, to have people smile after reading my book and to know that I have made people happy through reading my work. Before I gained better writing skills and a true love of literature.

    I am no expert, of course I know that. I have so much time to improve my writing; my entire life in fact. I am young. But the way you have approached this topic does not bring across your point very well. Contrary to what you may believe, I read the whole of your previous article. I am not the type to read one sentence and then immediately start flaming. Yet I doubt that many of the people actually did that as you have suggested…

    People, especially teenagers, will obviously find it offensive that you wrote ‘sucks.’ I’m sure that you would have been severely disgruntled when you were a teenager to read an article like that. In fact, you even mentioned that you would not have taken such advice as a young person.

    Maybe next time you should approach an article like that with a little more sensitivity to peoples’ feelings?

    If you do that, then people are much more likely to listen to your opinions instead of get riled up. Try not to be so judgemental. Just because we are teenagers, does not make us hormonal, hissy fighters who get kicks from writing crap all day and calling it a novel.

    Most people who truly love writing, teenager or not, form a piece of work that reflects them, and it is not in your place to judge whether they can write well or not. It is a simple matter of opinion.

    Thank you for reading,

    P.S This is not in any way intended to be a flame. I was just offering some critisism, the same way you did.

  120. “Maybe next time you should approach an article like that with a little more sensitivity to peoples’ feelings?”

    No. If reading this is too tough for a teenager, they’re in for a real shock when the rejection slips start coming in. The publishing world is not notably filled with “sensitivity to people’s feelings,” either on the art or the commerce side.

    Beyond this, based on comments, lots of teenagers are able to handle it just fine. You might not like it, but that’s okay. I don’t pretend my style is going to work well for everyone.

  121. I’ve recommended this site to my writing group. I laugh at the teenagers above who are defending their own work. I’m fifteen, and I looked into some of my work from last year (which I thought was amazing at the time) and just from a year, I’m looking at it, and I’m seeing what all I should have done or could have fixed; and it amazes me how much I’m advancing. Most likely, I’ll look back at my current work in a few years and I’ll think it sucks, too.

  122. All I’m going to say is; I wish someone had told me these things (both this article and the “10 things” article) when I was a teenager. I would be a better writer now because of it!

    Oh well. Better late than never I suppose…

  123. Mr. Scalzi:

    To be honest, the more I read this article, the more I get the feeling we’re making too big a deal out of an issue so trivial. I would think the fact that any amateur starting out in any field has a long way to go before becoming skilled enough to be taken seriously on a professional level is something that’s already obvious.

    I don’t know, maybe the problem is everyone being hung up on the word “sucks.” I myself probably wouldn’t use it. I would say, and this is just me, that there’s a difference between writing that needs to mature and writing that is flat-out bad. Maybe the wording makes this distinction unclear. Maybe you don’t believe there to be a distinction at all. Who knows? Well, I suppose you do.

    In any case, I’d say that for any writer of any age, the need to mature and develop is at least half the point of writing in the first place. That, and it’s fun. I hear it can get you laid as well, although I’ve yet to test this assertion. In any case, it gives you something to do when you’re not getting laid. But yeah, developing = good.

    Alright, I think that’s it. Happy New Year? Yeah, why not…

  124. I agree that teen writing ‘sucks’. I’m 14 and I write fanfiction, and while my writing is much better than some of my peers, it’s really not that good. I haven’t been writing for a long time, I don’t have enough life experiences to make my stories that good, and my style needs improvement. I appreciate this, and I plan on practicing a lot.

  125. you guys are obviously really *into* this discussion, but i mean, dude- let it goooo.
    don’t stresss!
    so, personally when i read the statement about teenage writing sucks, i agreed. But that was when it came to MY writing- not everyone else’s. I know for a fact that we probably have hundreds of talented teen writers among us- but i don’t know. I would make a comment on the hundred thousands of writers that AREN’T teens that are amazing too- but that would give my argument the aspect of ‘teens vs adult writing’ and that is by far not where i am coming from.
    sure, i can kid myself that my story is OK, but i wont let a simple self-help article crush my confidence in writing! i just gotta give it time- i totally get that. :)

  126. Well i am not bothering to read all comments that come before mine because i am a tad busy now so i am going to make this short and sweet. First of all Thank you guy who made this whole thing in general! I would have to agree being a teen myself and a writer I acknowledge that my writing isnt up to par with what it could be in say 20 years and i am ok with that. And as they say learning how to do something over the course of a long time correctly is better then accomplishing something in a short amount of time poorly. At least it wass something to that effect. Anyways I am just saying thank you for this blog it was and still is very very helpful!

  127. Thanks for posting this. I realise that as a young bidding author I have a long way to go regarding writing and I’m sorry you had to put up with all these people complaining about how you’re wrong etc. I hope we all do well in the future!

  128. I sincerely apologize if this particular issue has already been discussed, but I haven’t got the time to read through every single comment.

    Anyway, I realize YOU may have been a…well, for all intents and purposes, suckish writer at age seventeen, but when did you START writing? Or, for that matter, READING? I’m fourteen right now–and nearly a year older than most people in my grade, having a late birthday–but I’ve been reading since I was at least three or four–just little books and whatnot at the time. Ten years of reading. And I read for hours upon hours a day. In response to the post you were referring to, I’ve been doing all the things you suggest for years; I always watch and observe my peers, and–frankly–I find it makes me hate them even more, though I certainly understand them.

    My point is, you can’t deem any teenager’s writing bad unless you’ve read it. What about those of us who’ve won countless writing awards for school–I got an article published in SC Wildlife magazine in seventh grade! You just can’t throw a blanket claim over an issue and consider it truth. I’ve read the classics–Catcher in the Rye, Song of Myself, et cetera–and I’ve read the writing of teenagers I know (people older than me, usually.) On occasion, I can’t tell much difference besides a bit of poor grammar and punctuation. (My seventeen-year-old brother is awful on these fronts, but he has beautiful, eloquent thoughts that he tries his best to put down coherently. In truth, we both consider my work better than his…)

  129. Reagan:

    It doesn’t appear that you actually read the column to which this comment thread is attached, which addresses most of the points you raise. Please do so.

  130. Where do these kids come from? I swear your blog is just an obnoxious teenager magnet of some sort, Mr. Scalzi. Soooo entertaining to see them squeal. This one was almost unbelievably pretentious.
    Although, it must say, you’re awfully responsive to the little whiners. In fact, one might even say you’re baiting them with your harsh words… Was this perhaps your intent?

  131. Julia:

    “Where do these kids come from?”

    This page shows up pretty high in Google searches regarding teen writing tips and is otherwise widely linked.

    And most of them aren’t actually obnoxious. Those that are I treat like I treat any obnoxious commenter.

  132. Hey John, I’ve read both of these helpful articles. I’m quite willing to admit that my teenage writing currently sucks. But if you’ve got a moment to spare for a bad writer, I’d love some advice.

    There’s a screenplay for a TV series that I’ve been wanting to write for a couple of months now which won’t leave my head. I know that I wouldn’t be able to write it really well yet, but I really want to write it at some point because I’m so in love with the idea of it.

    At the moment I’ve decided to keep slowly building up the characters and storylines for a while and practise my writing elsewhere until I’m ready to do it properly.

    Would you advise me to carry on like that, or do you think that maybe it would be more beneficial to write it now and come back to rewrite it in a couple of years?

    Please reply, I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts :)

  133. Write it now because seeing it in front of you will remind you what you want to fix when your skills improve. Then rewrite it later, if you are so inclined.

  134. haha this whole thing made me laugh :) not the article, blog entry or whatever you wanna call it… but the comments, they are HILLARIOUS! people starting taking out their dictionnairies DANG! that’s when you know things are about to get ugly… lol
    but to John Scalzi: Thanks! I still haven’t finished reading the “10 Things Teenage Writers Should Know About Writing” cause I clicked on the link to this other entry… but so far, it was kind of helpful… most people found it discouraging, but it had the opposite effect on me, I thought it was ONLY ME who sucked! So thanks for letting me know it was just part of the process… :)
    and just advice to teenagers AND grown-ups who wanna start another feud on the whole teen-suckiness “you don’t get me” – “yeah i do” crap… SLEEP ON IT, DON’T SWEAT IT! It’s just a blog… ok?:) BE HAPPY FEEL THE LOVE GO GET A COKE AND CHILL…:) hahaha Go listen to the RENT song…Seasons of Love and sing along booyaaaaaaaaaahh hahahahhaa

  135. Hello, Mr. Scalzi. I’d just like to say that I read both your articles about writing tips and this one I’m commenting on now, and I found them very helpful and amusing (in a good way). Yes, I am a young fourteen-year-old writer, and I hope to one day be on the New York Time’s Best Selling List. Odds of this ever happening, very low. But I refuse to die until that day comes, which may mean that I’ll have to break a world-record for oldest human alive. I don’t really care.

    I actually find blogs like this more helpful than ones that sugar-coat it for us teens. I feel like they’re not telling us something when they say that “if we just believe, we’ll become better writers than Jane Austen” (Pfft! As if!). So thank you, Mr. Scalzi, for pouring a greatly needed large bucket filled with ice cold reality on our heads.


  136. Two great articles you’ve written here. As a teenage writer I really took a lot from them, though a few things I had already figured out for myself. It’s funny how I can start something up and think it’s genius, then look at it a day, or a week later and just say, “Wow, what was I thinking?” I also believe it would be a good idea to suggest taking a psychology course, for the sake of learning how to analyze people and gain a rational grasp on their behavior. I took one in my sophomore year, and it really helped me in terms of empathy.

    Possibly one of the most frustrating things is mimicking another author. That’s probably why I end up scrapping so many stories. I start off sounding all professional and sophisticated, and then my real writing habits leak through and everything ends up being inconsistent.

    I think I’m learning though, and I’m going to take your advice into consideration. According to my peers I’ve already done a decent job of developing my voice as a writer, so hopefully I’ve got some of the battle already won, but of course I must now fight the rest of the suckiness! To war!

  137. Hey,

    So, I would just like to say that I seriously appreciate this article. I know it’s been around for a while but I only just discovered it.

    I’m 21 years old. Looking back at my writing from when I was 19, I’m left cold. There’s no emotion in it at all. Looking back at my writing from when I was 14, my stomach turns. The plots are barely even there and the characters are flat and cliched. And even now, looking at what I wrote yesterday sometimes makes me wince. But I get better. Each day that you write and each day that you live life, your writing gets better. But by the time you’re 16, 17, or yes, even 21 years old, your writing is still not “good.” Just better than it used to be (as long as you’ve practiced, of course!).

    Teenagers…yes, your writing does suck. And you can’t tell me I don’t know what it’s like to be a teenage writer, because two years ago I was one. John Scalzi is right and you are wrong and if you can’t accept that then you’re in for a harsh reality check when you get your first rejection letter. When I was a teenager, I thought my writing was brilliant and wonderful and that it was only a matter of time before I was published and wealthy and traveling the country on book tours and signing a movie deal. Now, I wouldn’t force that stuff on my worst enemy.

    Too many adults are so desperate to encourage writing in teens that they tell them only how wonderful they are, and teen writers get a big head from that. Thank you, Scalzi, for telling it like it is.


  138. yo… i don’t care what all these other kids are saying. no homo, but i envy you. i’ve tried to find people that are straight forward about everything and i hope to god you read this. i’m going to add the beginning of my new story to this. i’m 18 and i’ve been writing since god knows when. all my friends tell me my stories are good and they want me to continue them, but that just makes me feel like they either didnt read it, or they are just trying to make me feel good. after the next few enters is the beginning to my new story. be as harsh as you can on it!

    [Story deleted because this is not a site for posting one’s work or receiving criticism. There are lots of other places online and otherwise to receive story feedback — JS]

  139. Dear Mr. (whoever wrote the article)
    I can personally agree with you. My writting (when I was younger) stunk like a skunk who’s being shot with one of those ridiculously over powerful AirSoft Guns.
    However, my grammar was excellent (that’s about it), and my spelling was pretty good. I’m better now (or, rather, at least, that’s what I’m told).
    Just thought you needed some encouragement. There are a lot of negative reviews. Not sure if you’ll see this.

    Jimmy (Hee, hee)

  140. Teenage writers who read this blog post need to calm down about the word “sucks.” If your feelings are hurt by this, tough cookies. But coming from a fellow journalist, Mr. Scalzi, I think you used that specific word word in this article as an attention grabber. Well, not *just* for that purpose, but certainly to get people reading. You’re just a blunt person who knows what people will not hesitate to read: what offends them.

    I also agree it’s fair that obnoxious comments on this thread can be deserving of obnoxious answers, but you do realize in some posts you end up lashing out at 14 year olds who don’t know any better? You’re right to point out possible flaws in their arguments, but they’re kids, and you’re not.

    Truly enjoyed the article though. I’m 20 and my writing is awful but that’s my own fault. I haven’t written in two years so no chance of improvement, right?

    Anyway, after reading this, I hope to add one of your books to my reading list.

  141. You are just a stuck up, washed up writer who likes to put others down. To apply a word to this, that would be: BULLY. You are generalizing teenage writers and their work, which make what you are saying untrue. This may apply to some or most teenage writers but certainly not ALL teenage writers. You sure have a lot of nerve, Mister, writing things like this. You have no idea whether my writing or other teenage writers work “sucks” or not. Therefore, i would like to say: SO, THERE! :P You are permanately damaging the teenagers who read this because at this age we are sensitive and you are making us feel inferior, which we most certainly are not. We want ADVICE not CRITICISM. You would probably respond to this by saying: “good advice IS cricsism” or, “you need criticism” or something dumb like that. But, you are wrong, Mister. You probably have scared teenage writers off who were going to be the next William Shakespere. Way to go, dude. You know what? I really just want to throw up all over you. Watch your back.

  142. I never read any of your books before, in fact, I never heard of you before but I think you really make a graet point. As soon as I can, I will make up for this and start reading your books.
    I’m 19 and I’ve been writing for a few years. I do think my writing sucks but is getting better with each new story I write. Sometimes I despair that it will never get any better. It’s nice to know that eventually my writing will stop sucking and be actually good.

    Thanks for the articles, I really enjoyed them both.

  143. Though you may be correct that teenage writing can always be improved, it does not mean that our writing sucks. I have been practicing and improving my writing for years. I do not think I am the best writer on the planet, I know that i have to improve, but that doesn’t give you the right to be rude. I do not agree with the comments made about you being a jerk and being insecure but you do come off that way. What you made was a gerneralization, and you know as well as I do that those are not always correct. What you are doing in making such statments is turning teens off from writing and making them feel bad. You may think you are inspiring and motivating them but you aren’t. Please respond and do not be offended by this or any other comments, you are a good writer and only have our interest at heart.

  144. Lauren, noyb:

    Your complaints are addressed in the entry the comment thread is attached to, and also elsewhere in the comment thread.

  145. Hi Mr. Scalzi,

    I completely agree that the vast majority of teenage writing leaves something to be desired. I’m nearly 14, and though I’m pretty sure that I’m good for an eighth grader, I don’t think I’m nearly good enough to make it in the adult world. However, I believe that, as you’ve said, its important to write a lot as a teenager, not only to develop skills in, say, grammar, but to develop the necessary mental discipline to actually sit down and write a book.

    I have a lot of friends who write as well, and we share our work with each other. I’ve noticed a lot of issues in their writing (as I am a relatively critical reader). One of my friends has amazing ideas that sound great out loud, but come across pretty one-dimensional on paper- not to mention her rather poor grammar. Another of my friends has great conflicts for her characters, but has a tendency to write about college students in situations that she has no idea about- and it’s very obvious in her writing that she has no idea what it’s like to be drunk, for one. Yet another one of my friends develops beautifully layered characters but can’t grasp her plot that well. I’d like to think that I left my days of horrible stories behind when I turned thirteen, but I still cringe when I read over stuff I wrote just a few months ago.

    I’ve already submitted my first novel to a few agents, and received all rejections- obviously- but I’m okay with it. I won’t deny that I feel a pang of disappointment upon reading them, but I’d rather be told that I need to improve than be allowed to believe I’m perfect. And, to be frank, unlike a lot of the people who commented here, I realize that there’s a difference between being good for my age and being a good writer.

    All in all, I think one of the big problems with teenage writers is that we take ourselves too seriously. Thanks for the article- I may forward the link to my friends, but I think they’d get offended- they’re very proud, to say the least.

  146. Mr. Scalzi –

    Thank you for these two articles, and especially for telling us that our writing sucks. Maybe I’m a bit of a masochist, but I prefer it when people criticize my writing (I always tell them to “rip it apart”, lol). I know I don’t have any great skill – at least not yet – so it’s frustrating to hear teachers, professors, and other adults sing my praises, for whatever reason. I’m not going to get better if I don’t hear it straight. I think it’s sad that so many commenters seem unable to swallow your medicine, but from those of us who crave criticism (and maybe a touch of humble pie), thank you!

    I don’t know if you’ve done any more articles targeted specifically toward teens, but I’d definitely love to see more (even if I am rapidly exiting teenage-hood!)


  147. Every once in a while I see there’s a new comment on this thread and I go read it and almost inevitably I have the exact same thought:

    What exactly is the -benefit- of telling aspiring writers as a group (deliniated by age or not) that their writing sucks?

    I think that I can safely say that statistically speaking, if you take a random sampling of yet-unpublished, aspiring writers that most of them do in fact write at a quality below a “professional” level. Because they’re not professional writers.

    Do teenage aspiring writers -need- to be told that, hey, you haven’t been published professionally yet, so your writing is unprofessional?

    That it is a fact or a statistical truth doesn’t mean it is neccessary advice or even useful advice.

    It sort of reminds me of Simon on American Idol, dealing with really bad singers who don’t know they’re really bad. A lot of people may find it entertaining to watch Simon hand out a smackdown to some crappy singer, but the effectiveness and utility of a smackdown in an article that is presented as general advice to help would-be writers remains unclear to me.

    As someone who does some coaching now and then to help others learn a skill, I just don’t get it.

  148. Before I post my comment, I’d just like to say that you make a lot of good points. There’s just a few things I’d like to say.
    My writing is no where near as good as it could be. I know that. I’m only 15! But, at the same time, it used to suck A LOT more. I wrote my first “novel” (it was a 400-some-odd page story) when I was 10. And it is TERRIBLE. I’ve learned to grow from my writing, though, which leads me to believe that, although it may still “suck”, it at the very least sucks less than it did. I know my writing isn’t great, and I don’t aim to be published until I’m well into my 20s, or possibly my 30s, just because I’ve been improving so much.
    I’d also like to ask when you began reading and writing. I started reading when I was 3, and wrote my first story (which you can find here: http://nikkissippi121.deviantart.com/art/Stories-From-My-Childhood-145988284) when I was 5. So, I’ve had a lot of time to improve. I’ve been writing stories almost constantly since then, and so I’ve improved a lot. I think that the earlier you start, the better you’ll be later. So, some teenagers are significantly better than others. I’m not a great writer, but I know I’m better than some out there (and worse than a lot more!)
    I’m not trying to be rude in any way, I’m just trying to express my thoughts. I like any advice I can get from professional writers, and you make lots of good points, without being overly rude about it. You’re just stating the facts, and I respect you for that (though I may not totally agree with you).

  149. Thank you. Thank you for telling me all of the things my teachers will never inform me of. most teachers I’ve had say somethign along the lines of, “For your age your writing is brilliant.” Otherwise I hear, “I’ve never taught this excellent of a writer before, and I’ve taught for over thirty years.” I’m only in the eighth grade, but those words have fallen upon my ears since I was four when I first learned to write. You are perfectly precise in saying that my writing sucks because, yes, it does. However, there is one place where I am struck with a bolt of confusion.
    By saying, “Work on your Zen”, does that mean that we need to be level-headed, or do you mean that we need to stay “cool as cucumber” all of the time? Zen is usually associated with people who are constantly angry, and need to find healthy ways to use that energy. I have found that I enjoy writing more, and more likely to write well, when I have an emotional fuel to run on. Shouldn’t people use some of there experiences, or experiences of others that they witness, to create their own, original masterpieces? If I am incorrect, please inform me of this, and explain why. The one thing that I have to deal with time and time again is I recieve back a paper I wrote, and it has a grade that I am very much displeased by. The teacher, however, did not write any comments, or explain to me why my grade is so low. Do you know why teachers do this?

  150. Dear Mr. Scalzi,

    I’ve been writing ever since I was ten years old. Now, I am sixteen, and I have to agree with you, my writing sucks. Even after six years of practice, I’ve got a long way to go.

    Honestly, I’m a self-depreciating artist/writer, so I already tend to view my works critically. But I know that sometimes the best way to improve is to be frank with yourself. My drawing skills have improved consistently over time because I look at my work at see what has to be worked upon. The same applies with my writing.

    I’ve looked at other teenage writers around me, and can see that they need a lot of work as well. Too many either write small and choppy sentences or force themselves to write “eloquently and beautifully, gliding pen over paper as a ballet dancer would across a stage.” Not to mention that their plotlines are extremely narrow. I cannot count how many teenagers write about the “girlfriend abused by the boyfriend” plot, or write poems about how horrible their life is. It’s getting tiring hearing the same old plotlines over and over again.

    I remember I used to be quite arrogant about my creative works when I was younger, in both my art and my writing. While other kids were writing about their pets, I went off to write about grand travels across distant lands. With all the teachers praising me, it gave me a greatly inflated ego. Looking back now, though, I feel like bashing my head in against a wall. Reading over old works is both painful and hilarious. Still, it’s a satisfying thought that over time, with practice, I’ll improve.

    Also, I think it’s necessary to be harsh and critical sometimes. If we just keep letting our younger writers let slide mistakes and such with a simple, “Oh, just fix that,” or “it’s only a small mess-up,” the message will never get slammed into our brains. My dad has had to yell at me until I was near the point of crying so I learned something. Even though it was unpleasant then, I appreciate what he did now, because it helped me to become better in the process. So to those who say that being harsh is unnecessary, I say, as one who has been subject to harshness, that such action is sometimes necessary.

    I find that those who berate you, saying that you just want to bring us teen writers down, are wrong. From what I see it, they don’t want to admit their works need improvement. I just hope that they learn how to start viewing themselves critically before the rest of the world has to.

    All in all, from the viewpoint of a teenager, most teens just don’t have the life experience and knowledge to write very comprehensive works. Even I, who is right now working on an epic fantasy with his brother, know that in its current form, the characters are all wooden and flat, and the plot is as weak as balsa wood. However, I do know that as we get older, and we learn more about ourselves and life, the story will improve. Hopefully, it will improve to something people would like to read about.

    I enjoyed your article, Mr. Scalzi. I hope more teens read this article and get their egos deflated. That way, they can really start going on the road to improvement.

  151. I don’t see why all these people cannot take this Mr. Scalzi’s advice. I mean you are obviously looking for some solid writing advice if you have come across this article, and with his experience you really shouldn’t just blow-off the things he has learned over the years.

    He said he thought he was good too, and now he would beg to differ.

    I hope in ten years I am still writing and I will look back on the pieces I think are decent now and realize how much I have improved.

    Thanks for the advice,


  152. John, Thank you, thank you, thankyouthankyouthankyou…oh, and thanks. As a college prof of writing, I am SO sick of being the first person to tell teens that their writing is not good.

    It’s not. It’s unfocused, derivative, full of cliches, and has no clear purpose or audience 90% of the time.

    I try to tell them, “Hey, that’s ok. You have to start with SOMETHING before you can revise and make it better. Writing is a process…blah blah blah,” and every year, I get some equivalent of “My mom/HS teacher/friend/significant other/random “contest” said I’m good.”

    Next term, we are going to start by reading your “10 Things” and “On Teens,…” at least to get the conversation started.

  153. Let me start off with saying, I totally agree. I remember writing as a teen, and while it wasn’t all that bad (I kept all my stories), it lacked a LOT. Like focus.
    I think one of the biggest reasons teen writers aren’t that great, is because they haven’t been around long enough to read enough fiction and understand what actually works. What makes a story great. Plus, I remember being a teen. I was so damn caught up in my own life, I wasn’t able to observe what was going on in other people’s lives. I didn’t notice the difference in people. So I didn’t know what quirks were needed to make my characters real.
    I’ve read a couple of books published by teens lately, and to say I was disappointed would be a vast understatement. I was down right appalled that 4 out of the 5 different books were even published (and by reputable publishers too!)
    Teens need to just continue to practice. Continue to write. Practice, get better, and work towards it.

  154. Zen is usually associated with people who are constantly angry,

    Er, what sort of exposure do have to real people who actually practice zen? Or are you talking about some stereotype?

    having read Scalzi’s bit about zen, I won’t answer for him, but I will tell you a koan I think is applicable.

    A monk went up to a master and asked “what is satori (enlightenment)?”

    The master looked at him and said “wash your bowl.”

    working on your zen as it regards writing would be to wash your bowl. or, specifically, keep writing.

    Enlightenment exists in every act, even one as mundane as washing your bowl. But the master suspected the monk was looking at satori as some place to “get to”, rather than some place to be. You can be enlightened right now, typing at your keyboard.

    If you want to be a writer, then write. If you want to write in order to “get to” some place else, then you’re not being a writer, you’re writing as a means to an end, to get published, for noteriety, whaetver.

    If you want to be a writer, work on your zen, wash your bowls, and write.

    I don’t know if that’s what Scalzi means by it, but knowing a bit about Zen, that’s how I would explain it.

  155. I am a teenage writer and I found all of the things you have said to be true- yes, even the part about my writing sucking. Just recently, I wrote a literary analysis for English class that I imagined to be a definite ‘A’. However, the results I found were not what I expected. Although my teacher praised the connections I made, the creative thoughts and effort I put it, she gave me a lousy 85 % on the basis that my paper lacked clarity and an organization method. Alright, so an 85 % is no ‘D’, but what ticked me off the most was the fact that a girl in our class with no ability to think creativy and philosophically received an 84 % on the same assignment. For a day or two, I did not know how to live past this. By this time, your probably asking yourself, so what? How in the world does this pertain to my blog post? I just wanted to say that, your absolutely right about teenagers not willing to accept that our writing really does outright suck. Quite frankly, I’d rather hear if from you than damage my almost perfect 96 % average. Next time, before I begin writing my term paper, I will look at my writing objectively and remember reality for what it is, not as I perceive it.
    Thanks for the helpful, and at the same time humorous advice!

  156. Hello there.

    As you might have guessed I am a teen writer (shocker I know) and I just wanted to say that I found your blog really helpful. I think it’s cool how you’re being honest with us, an it’s true. I will happily tell you right now that I think my writing sucks. I reckon I have good ideas for some stories but i struggle to express myself well. It’s like a movie playing in my head that’s awesome, but how do you explain it to someone who’s completely different? I keep as much of what I write as i can and sometimes I read over some of it. I think you’re right how you grow better with time. I shudder reading some of that stuff it’s so embarrassing. :)

    I read through some of the comments and I think they’re just funny. I feel sorry for you though, having to read through so many negative ones. Thank you for writing this. I feel better knowing now that all/most writers go through my probs. And starting tomorrow in school, i am going to study some specimens. ;) it should be interesting.

    Thanks again!!

  157. I’m a 14 year old teen writer. Unlike many teen writers, I’ve actually been published – articles, poetry, essays and non-fiction. My Lexile is higher than most college graduates and I’ve got an IQ of 139.
    Although I enjoyed reading your opinion, I found it extremely humorous that you used the word “suck” to describe teen writing. Since you are apparently an amazing writer yourself, I would expect you to use a more advanced vocabulary. ;)
    For the most part I found your article very cute and clever. Your wisdom is apparent – teen writing usually isn’t awe-inspiring. Your insight is also invaluable.
    I do have a spoonful of criticism for you. And before you shout out that “I didn’t read your article” I did. And I want to let you know that I disagree with the idea that teens lack perspective. Teens actually have extraordinary perspective. While they may not have wisdom, they do have a unique and intriguing insight.
    – Mary :)

  158. I’m a teen writer and have been writing for myself for about two years, and I wrote fanfiction two years before that. While I admittedly bristled at the thought that my writing might ‘suck’, I am aware that some of it truly does. The fact that I cringe as I reread the novel I’m working on right now is evidence enough for me. I see your list of tips as a challenge that I will gladly undertake as I ‘desuck-ify’ my novel.

    While this may sound unintelligent, I am proud of myself that I’m able to think about what you have written in a reasonable manner rather than the overemotional, moody person I tend to be. My thick skin is slowing developing :)

    It’s a little sad that many writers my age (and slightly younger) can’t see the value in your advice for us. In my opinion, the inability to accept what you have written shows that the naysayers lack the maturity to understand your advice. The tone of the article clearly suggested that you were not trying to ‘talk down’ to us, rather that you want to help by giving what advice you can. I applaud you for taking the time to write the original article and this follow-up.

    Now I shall hide under my desk in case any of the people I have insulted (unintentionally, I swear) feel like turning on me. Bravo, Aisling, for seeing what others cannot. I’m sure there are other keyboard-wielding crusaders (*chuckles*) hidden amongst the sea of comments, but I really should get back to my writing :)

  159. Argh, dangnabit. I thought I’d removed all the typos from my comment.

    My thick skin is not ‘slowing developing’. On the contrary, it is ‘slowly developing’. Oh, deary me.

  160. I’m a student in secondary school and I am thirteen years old. As far as drama goes, I’m not in the middle of it, though to be fair, every now and again, I see something happen. Gawd… I have no idea where I’m going with this…

    Anyway, I’ve been working on one story for over a year now; anyone in my secondary school who sees me regularly knows that I’m almost always on my computer or have a notebook in hand so that I can write. And I know that I suck.

    People tell me that I’m really good, that I should be a writer but those people are generally my age and don’t know what they’re talking about. Sure – I won the Sheila Houston Award for 2009 in Year 7. But my writing still sucks. And it gets even suckier.

    I hate that people tell me my writing is really good when I know full well it isn’t. I would much rather be hurt by the truth than protected by a lie. And hey, the truth might help my writing, right? Because at least then, they could offer some constructive criticism :)

  161. I’m a teenager and I’d like to write full-length novels someday, and I even practice. However, as much as I’d hate to admit this, my writing purposes are vanity-driven and I only want my name to be in large print on every book that I hopefully will someday publish.

    Your insight is rather useful actually, and I agree with you 99.999999999999 %


    Explain writers that can’t write for crap, writers who aren’t teens at all, and have strangely achieved success in ways inexplicable to me.

    You know,

    Writers that lack a true voice, writers that write ridiculous characters that sparkle in sunlight… How can such bad writing gain such acclaim? My writing does not suck half as much as the writer described does. Hell, if she can get away with it, can’t I?

  162. It really is one of the eternal mysteries, actually. Although published writers like that are often a great motivator, as in “Geez, I can write better than this,” and off the young writer goes.

  163. I have been told by my peers and teachers that I am an exceedingly gifted writer and that it is my god-given talent (I know there are and always will be better authors than me). Most teens just write because they want to out of enjoyment and what they write is just plain stupid, (once upon a time, Bob went to the market where he bought a majic lanp, but a geenie was inside and gave him three wishes bla bla bla sucks), but I write much differently than most fourteen year olds. (I don’t mean to sound arrogant, I am trying to be as humble as possible) To me, these tips are mainly for the portion of the teen writing population who aren’t very good at what they are trying to do, but I have been told by my parents, my English teacher, the head of the University of Nebraska Lincoln, and most of my peers. I have also been published several times (short stories and essays)
    Just as a tip, maybe you should try to step down a notch and try to be more humble yourself. And also, I am not offended, people have freedom of speech, and who am I to judge your beliefs? I would also advise you to give some tips more on the positive side. :)

  164. Jacob:

    You have marked yourself as yet another person who didn’t actually read the article this comment thread is attached to (or didn’t read it carefully in a rush to comment), as a number of your comments are directly addressed in it. As a pro tip, good writing skills start with good reading skills.

    Beyond that, yes, you are being arrogant, which is not an entirely bad thing (which is not to say it’s an entirely good thing, mind you), and no, the tips aren’t just for those of your fellow teen writers you seem to believe don’t write as well as you do. However, whether you get any value out of the piece is up to you, not me.

  165. Are you trying to start an argument with me?

    And, how do you know I didn’t read the article? guess what! As a matter of fact I did! Ha

    You are most likely a better writer than me 99/1 (one being me) but I am not one of those kids who write fanfictions….I am a kid that DOES NOTHING BUT WRITING 24/7! I don’t play video games, I rarely watch TV, and what do I get in return, some guy I have never heard of trying to put us young aspiring writers down and build yourself up! It is a cowardly way to gain yourself more publicity. I may not be Christopher Paloni, but I am telling you, you need a better job! It is not up to you to judge us young writers, good or bad, it is up to the publishers to decide whether we are to be published, but just because they may deny us, that does not mean they hate our writing!

    I know you are going to say a lot of lies or maybe even some proof to back all this up, but you haven’t heard the last of me! Not by a long-shot!

    And also, you seriously need to read the Bible or whatever holy book you use, it should say in their that you shouldn’t judge others just because they aren’t as good as you.

  166. “And, how do you know I didn’t read the article? guess what! As a matter of fact I did!”

    Then you read it poorly, as this comment confirms, as once again you’re bringing up points addressed in the article (including “I’ve never heard of you”). Go back and read it again, and read it with an eye toward paying attention to what’s being written rather than zooming through it cursorily in order to come back and comment again.

    Also, if you’re doing nothing but writing 24/7, you’re not going to end up being a good writer. Good writers have life experience to draw upon. Set down your keyboard occasionally and go out into the world.

  167. Ok, I was kinda exaggerating when I said 24/7, but I try to write as much as I can every day.

    And next what are you going to say? “My son is a better writer than you are just because he is my son and I love him?”

    And, it seems in your last reply, you only answered my poorly written statements because you probably know that some of my points are true.

  168. I don’t have a son. I have a daughter. And it’s irrelevant whether she can write better or more poorly than you do. It’s not a zero-sum game.

    Beyond that, I’m not obliged to have the conversation with you that you think I should. That said, to be clear, it appears to me that every point of contention you have is in fact addressed in the entry, which is why I suggest you read it again, more carefully, and pay attention to it rather than thinking of the next thing to say to me down here.

  169. What you wrote about could have gone unsaid. I dont think it was nessesary to post that, even if you thought it was for the better for us to know. Here’s a little advice for next time: If you have something to say about other peoples writing before you read it, keep your mouth shut.
    Thats all I needed to say. Have a nice life.

  170. Yay me. I just got a job WRITING for Barnes and freakin’ NOBLE. I am sooooo excited. Whoops, did I mention, I’m a TEEN? Hahaha sir, guess you were wrong.

  171. I am so embarrassed to be posting here because I am fairly terrible at grammar and I found the comments from teenagers wildly exclaiming their talents, all the while spelling writing with two t’s, rather amusing – but I may have done the same thing if I was younger.

    I am always looking up the simplest of things, like whether the period goes inside or outside of the bracket in a certain situation, so I am sure I will make a few errors in this post, but hopefully nobody will judge me too harshly. We didn’t have an English lit class or English composition class or even a student-run school newspaper in my school in Australia. It was just “English” and we were mostly told to, “copy down the projected text on the board and be quiet!” So, I’ve been struggling ever since to catch up. I’m really not trying to make excuses for myself though.

    I wanted to say how perfect it is that so many adults were moved by this article. I think it’s so good for one to know that sucking is okay and you can always improve, it helps you look back on past work with a laugh, instead of with shame.

    I’m only 21 and my mother was a librarian, so I read a lot as a child. I started writing scripts and only-the-beginning’s of novels and then plays and then blogs (and then I stopped reading or only read Harry Potter), and after a while of not reading anything and only jotting down ideas and notes in the Notepad app on my iPhone, I decided enough was enough.

    Now, luckily, I had John Green and Maureen Johnson to let me know that sucking is okay (and they led me here), and being published was less of a deal for me than actually finishing a story. I just love writing and feel like I’ve left all these lost children behind in their “suckage”.

    I want to complete these adventures, while remembering my own, and so I am reading more and writing and reviewing anything I read, see or listen to, so that I can somehow appreciate what I encounter in my life more. Then hopefully next year I’ll apply for college (I felt too immature for further education before) and continue my travels and really just live my life, without worrying about being published and “noted”.

    Err… inside or outside… Argh, the pressure!

    Anyway, that was a bit whimsical, but I enjoyed your blog so very much, and still feel quite young and ignorant, but also quite calm and patient, so your blog only helped my patience grow.


  172. Writing is one of the weirdest endeavours. You’ve got to have enough pride to think you have a story someone else would want to read. But you’ve got to have enough humility to see the flaws in your writing so you can either (1) rewrite its flaws or (2) be willing to chuck it if its unfixable.

    There’s a Hebrew proverb: “Pride is the mask we make of our faults”

    I can’t find the link, but Scalzi had a post a while back about some editor who had recently passed away whom Scalzi had worked for when Scalzi was a budding writer. What I remember of the post was Scalzi saying how the editor kept trying to give him advice to improve his writing and, at the time, Scalzi didn’t think he needed it.

    But the post was written many years after Scalzi resisted the advice, and over the years, Scalzi realized that his writing did indeed have plenty of room for improvement.

    It would seem that the “Your writing sucks” is, on some level, a letter to his younger self to not be blinded by pride. And on another level, its advice to young writers who might be in the same place as he was when he was a young, budding writer.

    Teens who have replied on this thread that Scalzi was right and thanks for the advice, generally acknowledge that they had a blind spot about their writing, they couldn’t see its flaws, and now they can.

    And to those writers, there’s value in hearing someone say to them “Your writing sucks”. Maybe they need someone to really grab their attention and look them in the eye and point at their pride that makes them blind to the flaws in their own writing. Loudly proclaiming “you’re writing sucks” is a good way to tear down someone’s blind pride.

    I think the issue is that not every budding writer is like Scalzi-Budding-Writer. Not every budding writer is blind with pride. And for them the “Your writing sucks” occurs as completely missing the mark.

    And since writing seems to be this weird balance of pride and humility, writers might be anywhere in that spectrum. Pro writers who’ve gotten a lot of works published have probably found a good balance between pride and humility. Budding writers might start out too proud, too humble, or maybe are just lucky enough to start out in a balanced position.

    And while the pride-tearing-down aspect of the advice that is “you’re writing sucks” is useful to the too-proud writer who won’t admit the flaws in his writing, it would be unhelpful to the already-balanced-but-budding writer, and it could be devastating to the too-humble writer who doesn’t have enough self-confidence to ever show someone their work, or who gets one rejection letter and quits.

    And while I’m sure a bunch of people who are objecting to the “your writing sucks” advice are too proud to admit the flaws in their writing, I can’t believe everyone who objects would benefit from the advice.

    I can’t imagine Scalzi telling his daughter “your writing sucks” after she’s won six writing awards.

    He might give her feedback on her stories for improvement, but I highly doubt he is going to sit her down, look her in the eye, and say the words “Your writing sucks” verbatim to her face.

    At least, I can’t imagine him saying it to her as a general statement. I can imagine she might write a new story, hand it to him, and he might sit down and say “this story sucks” and then proceed to explain how she can fix it.

    But that’s not what this thread is. This thread isn’t responding to any particular story written by any particular teenager. It’s generic advice handed out to everyone in a certain age bracket.

    Which would be equivalent to looking his daughter in the eye and saying in general terms “Your writing sucks”.

    And maybe John says that to Athena every time she writes something. But I kind of doubt it, because I think John would at least see that his advice could land the wrong way for her, hurt her emotionally, and possibly even turn her away from trying to write ever again.

    But taken as “Scalzi’s advice to his younger self”, or to writers like he was when he didn’t think he needed any advice, it works.

    My writing personality oscillates wildly between having lots of confidence about my writing to wanting to give up completely because “I suck”.
    Telling me my writing sucks doesn’t help me much. When I’m feeling confident, I’m like “psh, whatever”. When I’m feeling sucky, getting a rejection letter on top of rejection letter in the mail can put me off writing for a long time.

    For me, the advice I tell myself is generally along the lines of I can’t write simply to get published, I’ve got to have a bigger reason than that to get me through the rejections. (which reminds me of the reason I’m writing, and can get me back to writing). And writing is a skill only learned by practicing it. It’s like Aikido. You can’t learn Aikido by reading about it or watching someone do it on TV. You have to practice it. And when you start out, you’re going to be a white belt who can’t even fall down correctly. But if you practice it, there really isn’t anything magical about Aikido, so most anyone can learn it, so long as they’re willing to practice it. Which reminds me that I’m just a white belt writer, but I can keep improving if I keep practicing.

    The first time I read this article (actually, the original article to which this thread is an extension of), I read it as someone struggling to get published who being told “your writing sucks” would either be useless advice or harmful advice.

    Since then, I can see that “your writing sucks” would be useful to some writers. Since then, I can see that not every writer has the same issues as me, not every writer needs teh same advice I need.

    But now I also get that generic writing advice to an entire group of people without reading their works is going to be tricky no matter what you say, since everyone is in different places.

    So, to those objecting to Scalzi’s “your writing sucks”, I’d say maybe you’d get some value from trying on his advice to see if it really does apply to your attitude to your own writing (do you see it’s flaws for what they are?). Or, maybe it’s just not the right advice for you.

  173. I’m sorry for jumping to conclusions and getting personal with you. I have a bad temper and react strongly to things I think I don’t like. The reason this reaction occurred was because I shared my ideas on a forum and they started saying some pretty mean things about what I wrote and then this one guy said to me “You should have fun with this guy” and gave me the link to your blog. Then I began to take my anger out. I learned my lesson and left the website. I read the article more closely word for word and found it rather amusing and helpful. I then reread some of my writings and found that even though the concepts of my stories may be amazing, my writing style……aint’ so good.
    Who knows, maybe you could help me improve my writing by making more articles or something. And again, I’m sorry about this whole misunderstanding and hope you will forgive me. I guess one should never judge a book by it’s cover.

  174. Ah, so, telling teenage strangers that their writing sucks might be landing for some of them as a failed attempt at being clever.

    I’ve been reading Whatever for a while, so when I read the “You’re writing sucks” threads, I just read it as regular snarky commentary. Almost everyone who has been offended by the “sucks” part of the thread are strangers who aren’t familiary with the general snarkiness of “Whatever”.

    It explains a lot.

    It reminds me of the “No, I will not read your f-ing manuscript” post. I’m pretty sure the guy was trying to be clever while giving some good advice, but it didn’t land as clever for everyone.

  175. I’m sure you’re right in thinking that 99.999% of teenage writing sucks. Because, to you, I’m sure it does. But then, you’re completely missing one of the most important things in writing: its intended audience.

    For example, I went back and looked over a book series that I loved as a small child: The Magic Tree House. As a child, I couldn’t get enough of those books, relishing every word. But now, I find them to be boring, and downright SUCKY. The plot flips from being just plain boring to making absolutely no sense at all. The characters are all one-dimensional, and even the beloved cover art I loved as a kid seems cheesy. But does that mean it sucks?

    No. I’m just not the audience for Magic Tree House anymore.

    The same applies to teen writing. I would think that most teens (me at least), write for one person: themselves. Maybe our friends too, but obviously, the audience for my work is as large as any published writers. And as long as I like my work, then who cares if it sucks to you?

    As for you, your novels go out to a much wider audience. Not everyone will like them, obviously, but those people probably are not the target audience for your books. As long the majority of people who are supposed to like your book like your book, then its good. Just like Magic Tree House is a good book for children or Twilight is a good book for romance-obsessed girls. My writing is to an audience of one, and if I think it’s good, then it has fulfilled its purpose. And thus, does not suck.

    I do think this article is well written, and buried deep within it, has a good message. But it’s too brutal for our age-group. As the old saying goes: “Hell has no wrath like a teenage-writer scorned”

  176. I think everyone here needs (or needed) a chill pill. When you’re right, you’re right, and I think we are all intelligent beings capable of coming to an understanding. This man wrote an article for teens about why their writing sucks. How many people do you know would take the time to give pointers and explanations to teenagers on a subject that may come as a blow to their creative egos? It’s hard enough as it is already to think he faced the bullet head on– that’s just plain commendable. Its common fact that teenagers don’t have what it takes to be truly successfully published because of lack of experience. Being a teenager myself, I have had to practice and practice just to get even slightly better and I know I have a long way to go.
    As far as understanding other age groups, I would have assumed that teenage years are the ones adults tend to remember best. Don’t assume that just because they are older they have forgotten what it’s like to be young.

  177. List of teenage and middle age authors who wrote novels that were published and became best-sellers:

    Christopher Paoloni author of Eragon

    Amelia Atwater Rhodes author of dozens of novels and series.

    Nancy Yi Fan author of Swordbird

    Riley Carney author of The Fire Stone

    Although I do agree with 99 % of this post, I must admit that I’ve read a great many number of unpublished work of teens that are far better than the stuff that is the writer’s market these days.

    I know that 4 isn’t a very great number but trust me when I say there will be MORE. Conformity is slowly being broken, peice by peice.

    Thanks for sharing with us!

  178. I just wanted to stop in and say that I love both this article and its parent article.

    I co-run a blog called Your Writing Sucks. It’s mostly for laughs, but within it, we break down just want sucks so much about certain writing styles, namely the FanFiction and Role Playing Game styles.

    We have both of your articles linked under our “So You Want To Suck Less?” tab on our site. ;)


  179. Ok I’m at least 98% sure my comment is going to drown in all the other comments and never get answered…but I’m having a particular promblem with my writing is all. And I’m just dying to get an honest answer to this.

    Whenever I write a story its always too short.

    This bugs me a lot, is this one of those things that’ll come with time or what? Is there a secret to being able to actually write longer works? Most of my friends are also into writing and they can easily write 20 pages in two weeks, and countinue it while it takes me nearly a month and a half to get 20 pages and my story will be over by then and their work will be much more descriptive and vivid, making mine look almost silly by comparison.
    Am I just not a good writer?
    I’ve been interested in writing way longer than them and its not fair :(
    on fanfiction.net I’ve written over 30 stories and most of my friends have written like 2 but they still get better reveiws than me..
    So I’m wondering what’s wrong with my writing?

  180. Sarah:

    “Whenever I write a story its always too short.”

    If the story works at the length you’ve written it, it is not too short. Nor is it too long. It’s the right length.

    Don’t worry about length or how or what anyone else is writing. Focus on writing to the best of your ability.

  181. Mr. Scalzi, you are definitely correct about teenagers and how their writing sucks. However, you must agree that writing can improve, whether it be dramatically or steadily.

    I began writing at 6, and I finished my first novel two years ago, when I was 13. After sending out queries to literary agents and a few publishers, one of them asked to see more, and I was so giddy that I nearly passed out from excitement.

    But when I reread my novel, I realized that it sucked so much that I didn’t reply back to the agent. Devestated, I decided to completely rewrite the entire thing until it was flawless and literally shining with perfection.

    Now I’m 15, and I have a book deal for my first novel, second novel, and we’re discussing my children’s series, but I’m pretty sure that’s a done deal right there.

    I’ve seen a lot of other teenagers’ writing at school, and I’ll be the first person to tell you that grammatical errors drive me nuts because I’m so used to my editor pointing out mine. But, although most teenagers’ writing sucks eggs, there are those extremely rare few, including Mary :) on comment 183 and I, who blossom out of their ‘suck’ shell and leave their teenage fingerprint in the writing world.

  182. I agree with most of what you say; actually, maybe all.

    As a teenage writer, I have actually been published in a magazine without it being centered around teen works. It had a 15% acception rate.

    And as a teen, do you other kids know how long it took me to get there?

    Over five hundred bad poems before they breached any level of quality. Hours upon hours of studying meter, flow, rhythm, the stress of each word, and replacing tiny things including simple words with the same meaning to make the poem sound better.

    And honestly, all I really see from teens besides a SELECT FEW are either what are called “emo” poems or love/heartbreak. I have never written on the first subject, and barely more of the latter listed. Try originality.

    Also, the rhyme schemes of many are forced and not good.

    I am not saying I am good, either. Heck…no. My family and friends say I’m amazing–GOOD. FOR. THEM. They have to; do you really think you who have normal parents would tell you “YOU’RE BAD!” as a writer? I HIGHLY doubt it. It doesn’t help with the fact that most likely, very few of your parents know exactly how to critique and edit poetry in itself.

    I highly doubt most teenagers have studied the flow, the syllables, the difference the sound in one word can make. I doubt most teenages will spend hours scrutinizing a sole poem they wrote in a small amount of time.

    To those under the miraculous age of 18 who really HAVE the mature talent–kudos. To the other ones; don’t expect miracles.

  183. Thank you so much for this. I’m thirteen, and (of course) I want to be published RIGHT NOW. (I don’t have a lot of patience — I’m working on it!) This helped me a ton. My friends always say my writing is “great”, but really, who can trust them?

    So I’ll do what you say and see where it takes me.

  184. If you start writing at, say, 7, when you’re 17 can you be experienced enough to write something that doesn’t suck?

  185. I was referring to the observation that 10 years is about the time it usually takes for anyone to get good in what they do. In my case, my grammar and vocabulary are good (English is not my first language, mind you), but I’m aware that my little life experience is a drawback. I’ve been writing since I was 6 or 7, so I’m not completely new to it, but I would like to know if the ten years of experience I’ve acquired since then count at all as the ten-year period you mentioned.
    As a child I obviously didn’t have the same notions I have now or any rigour in observing what I wrote (I wrote for fun), but I really wrote a lot, sometimes long stories, and have never stopped. So I’m well acquainted with writing, but it wasn’t clear to me in reading your article if the necessary experience you mentioned must be in certain phases of life (through adulthood) and always attempting to perfection what one writes, or if the experience we need is sheer contact with writing.
    It’s hard for anyone to judge his own work (which you must know, since you used to think you wrote well when you were a teen), so I would like to know if I can aspire to write well at the moment. I think I can write well, but I’m worried by the thought that the reader’s perception will be different, and the thought that I might be wasting my story writing it now when I could write it in a future where I’m more talented. At the same time, I’ve always dreamed of publishing a book before being an adult. Since you’re surprisingly taking time to answer your readers, I would appreciate it very much if you could help me with my anguish.

  186. Mr. John Scalzi, I am not trying to offend you or attack you as some are, but it seems to me that your blog post comes off as rather arrogant. Yes, you said some teens writing doesn’t suck, and yes, you said that it’s okay when teen writing sucks. You even admitted that yours did long ago. But when you keep saying how you’ve become such a good writer now, it looks like you’re talking down to us teenagers. No matter how much you say “I know what it’s like to be a teen,” the way you point out your credibility on writing sends the credibility to *talk to teenagers* come crashing down. In most cases, teens don’t want to be spoken DOWN to (imagine a tall person towering over a short one); they want to be spoken TO (imagine that tall person kneeling down, so that his or her face is even with the short one’s). I got the impression of arrogance mostly in #8, as well as bits and pieces thrown in among your other points. Perhaps instead of showing off your credibility, it would be more productive to write a post of tips on actual writing, like a list of ‘common mistakes people make while writing and how to correct them?’ Or is it easier to be a condescending professional than it is to actually sit down as an educated friend and give the help you claim to give?
    And, speaking as a teenage writer myself, I think that perhaps instead of saying “hey teens, your writing sucks and it’s a fact of life,” you may have reached out to more people by saying something more like: “Do you ever feel that your writing is never going to be perfect? Well, most people go through this at some point in life, and I’m here to tell you that you can get better.”

    Another thing that really bothered me was the way you put #4a. When saying “that’s how they’re supposed to be,” it seems to me that you’re putting kids down. It looks kind of like it translates into: “Don’t take compliments; your family and close friends are just saying it to be nice.” I understand that people need to examine their writing and realize it needs work, but if you don’t accept a few compliments here and there, the despair of how terrible the writing seems will spiral down even further, and likely send it to the trash can, never to be fully blossomed. To me, compliments are encouragement. They put a feeling in me to strive for excellence until I know that those compliments don’t even have a sliver of doubt.

    Saying all of this, I admit, my writing is not perfect and it NEEDS work. I have completed a 95,000 word novel and am stepping into the revising stage. Some of my friends tell me it’s perfect, but I know it’s not. I realize that if I want my “baby” looking at its best, I need to get it into shape.
    When you tell someone their writing “sucks,” they’re not going to have the desire to improve. The word “sucks” makes it sound as if it is a hopeless cause. Writing takes effort, time, and love, and the one who gives it those things will be willing to give it MORE, in order to make it better, the best they can. But to say that ALL teen writing sucks will put those people down. Please don’t do that.

    Now, sir, I hope that this didn’t offend you. I only wanted to share my opinion, because I absolutely LOVE my writing, but I fully know it needs work. However, I do not want to be told by someone making a largely judgmental thought that it “sucks.” How is this motivating me in my revising? Is this supposed to inform me that the story I’m working on now will never be good enough, just because I wrote the first draft as a teenager? I think I’ve said enough now, and I apologize for being somewhat presumptuous in places and repeating myself over and over. But as a teen writer, I needed to say that this is likely putting many teens down and making them want to throw away their work, instead of raising them up and helping their writing flower into something beautiful.

  187. I don’t want to come off as a little teacher’s pet, but I really appreciate that you’ve taken the time to write this article (and the one before it). I am an aspiring writer myself and I wanted to have some tips and some advice, and I’m actually happy to know that my writing sucks right now, but supposedly it should get better. This reassures me, but I still hope that my writing doesn’t suck too much, though I know that’s mostly false. But I just wanted to post this as a thank you, I needed some help.

  188. Exuse me, not to be rude. (I’m honestly not the rude type) but theres this site called inkpop.com made just for teen writers. Teens vote and “pick” who’s the best so that at then end of each month their book can be read by harpercollins publishing for the chance at a contract.
    What I’m getting at is I’ve read a lot of those books, they really don’t suck. Like most of them know that it’s more than just the dioluge flowing, but structre, plot, character devlopment as well. Take a look if you like, more power to ya.
    I also don’t believe my stories and books suck. I’ve acomplished writing my first book when I was seven or so…(You wanna talk about sucking…with epicness) But anyway I worked hard and I know I got my writing to be good, then even better. Not all teen writing sucks. Take a look at inkpop it pretty much proves our point.

  189. I read this and I was actually not offended. Go figure. Maybe it’s because I’m already looking back on my work from when I was fourteen and thinking that it’s horrible?

    Anyway, being totally new here, I was maybe wondering if you had any other writing tips? I used to write a lot when I was fourteen-ish (and horrible, yes) but then a slew of essays for a bunch of honors, AP, and DE classes utterly killed writing for me. How can I get over this?

    Links or directions to other articles are fine.

  190. Thank you. I’m a teenager, whose writing sucks, and your article deflated my over sized ego, which prevented me from working hard.

  191. I’ve read both this post and the original. I will give you this: there is a lot of good advice in both posts. However, none of it is going to reach teen writers because they can’t see past the “teen writing sucks”. Upon reading the first post, I said, “Okay, this guy has good advice, he just doesn’t know how to talk to teens.” But after reading the second post, I feel like you don’t have much understanding about teen writers at all. You offended many young writers with your first post, and instead of apologizing for your disrespectful wording, you basically shot down all the kids who stood up for themselves and portrayed them as whiny and ignorant.

    Want to give teenagers advice? You should know something about teenagers first: They’re fragile. They’re just starting out writing their first novels, and then they read your post and they’re told “Your writing SUCKS”? I agree that hardly any teen writing is publishable, and that most teenage writers have much to learn about style, grammar, and originality. However, being inexperienced is much different from “sucking”. That’s like telling some little kid on a tricycle “You suck at riding a bicycle!” Do you think that kid will want to keep practicing riding his tricycle, or is he going to feel HURT and DISCOURAGED? Getting the message? If you want to help kids write, you’ve got to make them understand: they’re not perfect, but they have potential. That does not, by any means, mean that they suck.

    That said––yes, I am a teenager. I turned 18 yesterday, and I’ve been writing since I was about 9. I’ve achieved a lot as a teen writer. Earlier this year, for example, I competed against thousands of adults in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest and made the semifinals––top 100 out of 10,000 entries. Since then I’ve been trying to land a literary agent, and although none have offered representation yet, some have expressed interest. Maybe I’m one of those “freaks of nature” you’re talking about, Mr. Scalzi, but to all you teen writers: You have enormous potential. After all, we’re the next generation of the world’s authors!

    If you want some good teen-to-teen writing advice check out my blog (www.mylifeasateenagenovelist.com)

    Hope this comment is useful to everyone ;)

    – Brigid

  192. Brigid Gorry-Hines:

    “That does not, by any means, mean that they suck.”

    Such a long post to reveal you didn’t actually read the follow-up post.

    “You should know something about teenagers first: They’re fragile.”

    Perhaps some are, and perhaps you are. Others are not. I certainly wasn’t as a teen writer. If anything I was overly confident of my abilities, which is rather the opposite of fragile. In my experience, teen writers come in many shapes, sizes and have many approaches to their writing.

    In any event, no one elected you General Representative of Teen Writers Everywhere. Speak for yourself; let others speak for themselves, as indeed many other teen writers have in these comment threads. Some have found this advice useful, some have not. As I’ve noted before, if the advice here works for you, great. If it doesn’t then that’s fine too.

    Also, Ms. Gorry-Hines: popping up in a comment thread to criticize and lecture the author and then promote one’s own writing advice, complete with URL, is a bit tacky.

  193. I did in fact read both posts. And I know that what you are trying to say is that teen writers have potential. However you worded it in a way that makes it difficult for teenagers to understand the message you are trying to get across.

    I don’t consider myself a fragile writer; at this point I’ve developed a thick skin and receiving criticism has helped me polish my style a lot. But as someone who gives a lot of feedback to other teenage writers, I know that they tend to be sensitive and that you have to word your criticisms very carefully––you want to help them of course, but if right off the bat you say “This sucks”, a majority of them will not listen.

    I’m not saying that I represent all teens, and I’ve read from the comments that yes, many people were able to find the good advice in it but a lot of others were offended because they didn’t understand what you were trying to say. Your advice IS useful, I’m just saying that the way you worded probably made it difficult for a lot of teens to understand.

    I’m sorry, just wanted to offer some help to others. But I’ll delete that part.

  194. Brigid Gorry-Hines:

    “I’m just saying that the way you worded probably made it difficult for a lot of teens to understand.”

    Or not, since a lot of teens appear to understand it perfectly well, and these pages have been visited hundreds of thousands of times over the years. I have more than a small amount of evidence to suggest a rather large number of teens have found the advice useful. I don’t particularly see the need to change it.

    I agree it might not be some teenagers’ cup of tea, but that doesn’t surprise me since in a general sense not everyone likes what I write or how I write it. Others like it fine.

    There are other places for teens to go if my advice strikes them as too harsh, and I encourage them to find advice which works for them. I don’t claim to be the definitive advice giver for teens on the matter of writing.

  195. I think the thing that is offending most writers is that you are only saying teenage writing sucks. Actually most amateur writing sucks, mine included, but that is because it is amateur writing, not because it is teenage writing. The fact that most teenagers are amateurs is why their writing sucks, it has nothing to do with their age. If a child started seriously writing at 12, and finished a novel at 19 that would would be better than the novel finished by a 49 year old who had started out a week ago. Frankenstein and The Outsiders are both way better than Twilight, a book written by a middle aged woman. Mary Shelley had experience writing, having lived around writers her entire life, and was no longer and amateur. Stephanie Meyer wrote for her sister and decided to publish without being edited.

    I understand the title of this article, but perhaps to offend less teens you should re-title it, Amateur writing sucks, because most adults are horrible writers as well. Time spent honing your craft is more important than time spent on the planet. My opinion anyway. Love the title of your blog.

  196. thebloodfiend:

    “I think the thing that is offending most writers is that you are only saying teenage writing sucks.”

    It’s an article for and about teenagers and their writing. It doesn’t concern other sorts of newer writers, so bringing up whether other sorts of newer writers also have writing which sucks isn’t relevant. Nor would it be useful to call this advice for newer writers in general, because it’s not; it’s specifically for teens.

    I don’t suspect most teenagers actually have a hard time grasping that other new writers produce sucky writing too, even if I don’t address it here.

  197. I’m late to the party, but I wanted to second Michael’s opinion that Christopher Paolini’s writing just isn’t that good. After reading “Eragon”, and again after reading “Eldest”, I thought to myself: “Not only has all this been done before, but it’s all been done much better, and I’m pretty sure I can say exactly who did what and when they did it.” It traces back nicely your original point about teen writers being besotted by their influences.

  198. I’m ashamed to be called a teen writer if this is how some of you are going to act. Have some respect for your seniors, despite what you may think, they DO have more experience than us and might know just a bit more about writing than someone twenty years younger than them. We should be grateful that he’s trying to help us get published by giving us writing advice. He’s not exactly obliged to. So, thanks. The advice helped alot.

  199. I do have to admit that the original first “You Suck” hit me hard. I here that at school and laugh, nobody ever says that seriously. But that is beyond the point. Seeing the “You suck” and knowing you were serious just made me gulp and nod. I am unexpierenced, that is why I decided to start young (I wrote my first picture book at age 6 and, wrote part of a “movie script” for the 3rd Shrek before it came out because kids at daycare thought it would be fun when I was 7 also at 7 I wrote my alternate beganning to a book I liked, at 8 I decided I wanted to be an author and started a novel. At 9 I did start a “struggling writer” novel. By 10 I noted the first 10 chapters (or however much I had wrote sucked) and could practically pop out a book idea a day.) But that whole thing is hardly the point, I’ve only been a “teenage writer” for about 9 months but I’ve known I’m a writer for the past 5 years and unknowingly for the past 7.
    Still not the point, I don’t get why everybody is getting their panties all up in a bunch. He’s saying “Look, everything takes practice, you probably suck now, so do most people your age, the good news is, you are practicing, you are getting better, just keep moving forward”
    Though that was at first “How is this going to help me?” but it did. It made me better understand the article. He’s been writing for longer then I have been alive. I’ve been writing for 7 years at the most. If I had to choose a person to listen to, it would be him. The rest of the article was also very helpful.

  200. I must say (at risk of being kicked out of the teen comunity) that it was refreshing to hear an adult tell the truth about our amature writing “it sucks”. This coming from a 17 year old (ASPIRING) writer the was raised by one of those freaks of nature you mentioned earlier. I really read and loved your advice. Thats why we clicked on the link right…?! Also I must add that those above (yes all you up there defending your title as best tortured artist of the year) are full of crap…more so than the average human being. All of us doubt our work unless you have a bad case of NPD of course. Even those adult writers with years and years of practice. Its how one improves. So before you take the time to write a long rant about how great YOUR youth writing really is. STOP and think about that poem you wrote for your grandma in the 3rd grade that she still keeps framed on her wall. Its makes you kringe dosent it? Everytime you see it you wonder how many other people have seen it hanging there too, maybe you even wonder wether anyone would notice if it suddenly just (disapeared). In order to be good at somthing you must fist be bad at it… unless of course we are talking about my mother *snickering*

  201. I think that this article is saying that at the time your writing isnt at the fullest potnetional. I am a teenageer who has the passion for writing myself, and it might be great for my age but it doesnt compare to what i still need to learn and grow from in my future years as a writer. So I actually get what your talking about.

  202. So how do we tell exactly what does suck about our writing so that we can work on making it better and, hopefully, someday write literature that does not “suck”? I would be very interested in more on this topic as I have reread many of my best chapters and said, “This part really sucks” only to rewrite it and find another portion wrong with it. Being published is my goal; writing a book that makes the bestseller list is my dream. I’m working towards both of these with the help from people like you who have been in my place and succeed. :) Thanks for writing this.

  203. hey, John
    okay, firstly i must admit that although i only partially read the previous post, and more than partially read this one, so dont bite my head off, okay?

    I, myself, am a teen writer. I’ve been writing (storywise not abilitywise) since i was about 4.
    Yeah, 14 years of writing cant fully compare to the number of years most great authors have been writing, but its pretty much my whole life.
    In fact, im literally writing something as we speak. I’ve learned (more recently actually) the difference that proper research can make on a fictional piece, even though it is fictional.
    For example, researching times and dates of things you mention, details and depth of characters like names culturally and knowing the meanings and symbolism of the names you choose (eg. one of my characters is a hebrew boy called Tiyah which comes from the hebrew version of matthew, namely Matatiyah, which means something along the line of ‘god’s gift’. This also happens to add to the story line because his parents are very religeous)
    Another thing i learned a while back, is not saying things directly or as they are. i’m known for my attention to detail and my ability to be secritive in my writing and thus forcing the reader to think things through by themselves and not give too much away. The same character, Tiyah, has Aspergers Syndrome (an autism spectrum disorder) but i dont mention that anywhere. instead i show it through his actions and traits, which aren’t noticable at first, but as someone who actually has Aspergers (and of course if i hadn’t written it myself) I would most likely pick up the traits and put two and two together after a short while of reading.
    However, i must also admit that i tend to go off track every so often and it does get kind of annoying trying to rid myself of the habit.
    I fully agree with the fact that time cures (in most cases) and i know that i do have a long way to go in my writing to be considered for anything at all. i dont let many people read my work, but those who do say that what i write is pretty good.

    I must also thank you for starting this whole thing and for posting the advice and for speaking your mind quite freely :)
    Sorry for the long comment and all…
    if you have any advice regaurding anything i’ve said, please dont hesitate to comment or criticise

  204. Hi,

    As many of the people who have replied to you I am a teenage writer. I’ve been writing for about 10 years. I am fully aware that my writing is not very good (I won’t say that is sucks though). But then again there’s always room for improvement for everyone.

    I’ve read many posts concerning “tips for teenage writers” and one of the subjects authors talk about is publishing. So, should I just ignore my inner voice that’s screaming that I’m a presumptuous idiot whose work will never even be read and try out (and possibly fail) or wait in the corner until I improve? Because even though I know that what I have written isn’t perfect I still want to be heard and let people meet my characters (cheesy, yes).

    Thanks for the advice.

  205. I juat wanted to say, as a young aspiring writer of sixteen, thank you for writing one of the most informative, helpful articles I could think of. I know a lot of young writers have read this article and instantly became defensive about the things you said about the majority of teenage writing sucking, but I think that simply shows why exactly they are not ready for publishing or the world of writing for a living. I, on the other hand, have writing abilities sufficient enough to get published now, because I am an amazing teen writer and I was born this way.

    …er…joking. Promise.

    I was thinking about publishing some of my work the other day, and I worried to myself, ‘Well, what if it’s not good enough, even if it does get published? In the words of John Green, “Let me remind you, Hank… Lauren Conrad writes books”‘. No disrespect to Lauren conrad. The fact is, yes, my writing does suck, and I’m proud of that! I’m proud of myself for knowing that my writing sucks right now, because I keep writing anyway. And I suck less and less every day- so, therefore, if my writing sucks less than most teenage writing right now (and I do like to think it does… is that egotistical, or realistic, do you think?), what could it be in a few years?

    I do firmly believe that a lot of teenage writers have a lot of skills needed to write a novel, whether it might be a good knowledge of plot or description or even characterization (which is, in my opinion, one of the hardest parts of writing. Hope that gets easier), but I also believe that they just don’t know enough. Most teens haven’t lived enough to have enough experience for writing, and I don’t even mean experience with words. I mean experience with life and people, which is, I think, a lot of what writing is about, the interactions between people and how people react when placed in certain situations. It’s that makes a story believeable and relateable- human emotion. Understanding of that vital element of a believeable story isn’t likely to have been acheived by your teenage years. You can fake it, mostly- but do you want to publish a story that’s mostly near-believeable? I think I’m rambling.

    To be honest, I just want to say thank you. I’m going to stop worrying about publishing right now, because, well, I have my whole life. I want to focus on writing because I love to write right now, not because I want to be some hotshot writer with my name on every bestseller list known to mankind. I have time to make mistakes and write awful, angsty prose- that’s the beauty of being a suckish teenage writer! Adult novelists with publishing deals are usually expected to be good. So I want to throw a leprechaun character with every cliche trait on the list, call him Stew and let him have no real backstory whatsoever to explain his ferocious attitude. I can do that! You know why?

    Because I’m a teen writer, I suck, and I have time to grow.

  206. @Anya, #221

    I am not a publishing expert. Far from. But I wanted to offer my advice, because I think it’s reasonable. Just…don’t worry about publishing right now. Stop worrying about whether or not you’re good enough for it. You’re only a teenager, you have the rest of your life. Just enjoy the teenage years while you have them, don’t fuss about stuff like that now.

    As for wanting critique and people to tell you how your story’s doing, try an online service? I suggest fictionpress[dot]com, for example. It’s not quite the same feeling as getting taken on by a publisher, but hey, your work is out there, and a lot of people give really helpful reviews after you begin posting.

  207. Kids, you can’t get better without sucking in the beginning. It’s as simple as that. You learn from your mistakes, you get wiser and more experienced. You find your voice as you grow older. It’s just how it works. So for the love of god, please stop complaining!

  208. My name is Isabel Lardner. I am twelve years old. My writing does not suck. These are facts. I happen to be competing in a nationally recognized writing competition called Power of the Pen. It is difficult enough to get on the team that just getting a spot looks good on college applications. I have been personally informed by various Language Arts and English teachers that I have one of the strongest voices they have come across, and am certainly one of the best writers in the classroom. I am not saying that my writing is up to the standards of internationally acclaimed best-sellers such as Cassandra Clare, Christopher Paolini, Mark Twain,or Anna Seawell. I am saying that my writing does not suck, and on this, the state of Ohio agrees with me. I recently took an MAP Ohio Benchmark test in Language Arts. These tests are designed to measure your Lexile level, namely, how well you can read, write and comprehend what you are reading and or writing. The typical eighth grade level is 850. I am in seventh grade. I scored a 1,418 ++ which is the equivalent of a Masters/Phd. I am reading, comprehending, and writing eight years ahead of my time. My writing does not suck.

  209. This is my second comment. I realize I came off as very rude in my last comment, and I do know that my writing sucks occasionally, and that I will be working for a long time before I am up to publishing standards, but overall, my writing doesn’t suck

  210. Isabel:

    You appear to be another one of those who is in such a rush to tell me how your writing doesn’t suck that you don’t actually stop to read the article to which this comment thread is attached, which addresses several of your comments. Please go back and read it.

    Beyond that, I assure you that when I was your age, my own raft of writing test scores and rapturous teachers was equal to your own. They’re very nice to have, and congratulations. It didn’t mean I didn’t have quite a distance to go before I was anything other than “a good writer for my age.”

    Allow me to suggest to you that you spend less time trotting out your test scores to “prove” your writing doesn’t suck, and more time actually working on your writing to help it get better. You’re likely to find as you go along that very few people will care what the State of Ohio says about your writing level; they’re going to care (or not) depending on whether your words entertain and move them.

    I know whereof I speak — I have a commendation from the State Senate of Ohio congratulating me for my skill and achievement as a writer. It’s nice to have, but, save for some friendly congratulations at the time, no one who reads my work cares in the slightest bit about it. What they want is a good story.

  211. you are actually awesome and completely right, in my opinion. I’m 16 and have been writing for as long as i can remember and i pretty much agree with everything you’ve said. fairly sure the teens here who are in denial of their sucky writing are the ones who actually really do suck.

  212. I don’t see what’s the big deal with being told my writing sucks. I wrote a short story for a competition a year ago, read it once, and I could already tell it sucked by any proper standards. I still came second in the competition though, because belive it or not, the other entries sucked too.
    I realize that I can get better, though I still enjoy what I write now. Simple as that.
    (I’m 15)

  213. Also… grades and scores really don’t mean anything people. My english teachers have never told me anything about creative writing other than ‘use lots of emotive language’ I can easliy satisfy that expectation, but that doesn’t make me a good writer.
    Plus take famous novelist and sceenwriter ‘William Goldman’ He mentioned in his book ‘adventures in the screen trade’ that he came bottom of the class in his creative writing course. Look where he is now. The english education system is good, but it imposes a lot of rules on writing. It’s easy to do well under their guidlines and get good results, but it doesn’t prove anything much.

  214. Well, I agree with this article and the one that came before it. The problem with the people who don’t agree (please don’t be offended by this, it is merely my own opinion), is that they don’t want to be criticized because they are used to people saying that their writing is good. Which it very well may be. However, there is another topic that comes up a lot in these comments: Fanfiction. While I am a proud Fanfiction writer of about twenty stories, I think that there is a problem with discussing it here. It isn’t yours. On every story, you even have to put a disclaimer that says it’s not yours. So, try to focus on your own works, please. Speaking of which, as a girl in middle school, I have a few other comments to make. So, here are my comments:

    1. I understand that my writing sucks right now, and I’m okay with that because I know that it is almost certain that it will get better. I think that this article proves a good point.

    2. Another problem with teenage authors is dedication. All of the people I know are capable of putting a pen to paper and forming a word. But, fifty thousand? One hundred thousand? Maybe not. My solution for this: NaNoWriMo.

    3. To all of the people commenting on this article (including myself): Stop spending your time here arguing about your writing. Don’t tell us all about it, show us (a classic author’s saying). So close this window and go write.

    Thank you for reading this.

  215. Hey, listen, I love to write, and even though I am young it is my life. Me and a lot of other kids belong to a website that let’s us post our stories.. Sure we are not perfect, but instead of saying “You suck,” we help and tell them how they can improve. We are always improving. And this article put a damper on my spirits. I know my writing isn’t perfect, its far from it. But we are kids that like to write, so chances are, we right better then the average kid. To have someone make teens as “young” and “sucky writers” makes me mad. I know a girl who at only 13 is working feverishly on an amazing story, with 100’s of pages. I searched for writing tips, on how to help my stories grow. This was no help, all this was, was you saying.. “I think your writing sucks.” It puts a damper on many teens spirits. By saying from your standards. We teens “suck” you could of just made a teen stop writing, and stop living there dream.. Think about that, and maybe next time, post some real writing tips..

  216. Kathryn:

    If this article put a damper on your spirits, wait until you start getting rejections.

    Likewise, if a teen stops writing because an article on the Internet informs them that their writing probably sucks at the moment, then I would suggest that teenager probably isn’t really all that invested in becoming a writer. Especially when the article immediately goes on to explain why it’s okay that their writing sucks at the moment, just like everybody else’s, and that they should see it as an opportunity to experiment and grow.

    Critical reading skills including reading and processing every part of a piece of writing, not just the parts that annoy you. And critical reading skills are useful in becoming a better writer.

  217. I didn’t waste my time reading the whole damn thing, nor did I read 10 Things Teenage Writers Should Know About Writing, I think it’s rather stupid of you to say that teenagers’ writing sucks. Yes most do, but some teenagers are pretty mature for their age, and therefore their writing doesn’t “suck”. It all depends on the teenager.

  218. I always find it amusing when people wander in, proudly proclaim they don’t actually have any knowledge of the discussion at hand, and then appear to assume that anyone will find their opinion, steeped in willful ignorance as it is, worth any consideration at all.

  219. I pop in here every so often, and the poorly written comments arguing that the writer’s writing doesn’t suck always amuses me. If anything, the fact that writing may someday improve seems an encouraging idea, but whatever. (Note that was “may” improve, sadly most adult writing sucks too.) :D

  220. From my personal experience as a writer from the age of 13 (I’m 17, but I’ve still written longer than some) teaches me many things and I agree with you in all ways (I have no right to diagree) but particually I agree with:

    1. You’re right. Teenagers do suck at writing and making something unique, for the most part anyway. Especially their incluences in which they drown their works in (including those such as Stephenie Meyer and that chick who wrote The Immortals Series). Reality says their style sucks and any teenager who aspires to be them, well shouldn’t but sadly there have been 1001+ copy cats that have become best sellers recently.

    2. As a continuing on to number one, my biggest concern is the cliques. I, personally hate them and although I’ve not had much experience as a writer I may not have the right to say this but cliques do run out. Teenagers group together and turn to friends for support and encouragement (nothing wrong with that), my deal is that it creates these things that become the air that we breate. Whether we like it or not, these groups grow and connect and they consume us (Justin Beiber, Twilight… just to name a few). I hate people who say “but mines different, its not about a girl who falls in love with a vampire its about a boy who does…”. Same shit different tools, different generation, different words. Not very unique. I’m 17 years old and I know that I’m stiving for perfection with what I write and I know that I have a long way to go (it shouldn’t surprise you that I hate conformity, therefore I tend to go with the whole -create a new style- approach, to me it’s easier).

    3. Same crap, same people – different tools, different methods of attaining goals, different year. The richer the rich get the poorer the poor get, that was said many years ago and is still in effect. Had the teenagers of your time had the tools we have, well they’d be the teenagers of today… I hate it when people say otherwise.

    4. People need to grow a pair. Political correctness has tuned some people into pansies. Life offends, which is something you basically said but they obviously didn’t read to.

    I have some questions glued together below. You said ask questions, may you please answer these?
    Do the reasons to write matter? Do they make a difference in the work? I have a friend who wrote from an idea, where-as I wrote for a sensation. Fear. I grew into me writing to vent while my friend still writes from an idea. My idols are geniuses (Kahlil Gibran, Markus Zusak’s The book Thief and Brian Caswell to name a few), vs my friends which include the likes of Stephenie Meyer and that chick from the Immortals Series, which are the worst of her tastes. Do idols matter? Does a purpose matter -such as, Zombie attack on an alien planet, vs writing to teach people about the fear that exists in society and using the example of a pit bull attack to show them?

  221. Holy crap.

    I really can’t believe how many self-centered people are out here.

    …okay, so maybe I’m self-centered too XD But to get to the point where it seems like they took advantage of mostly being anonymous on the internet to throw crap at the author (who has OBVIOUSLY worked damned hard) and say things like, “I’m only 13 and my writing is better than that pile of trash you wrote when you were 17!”?! Really? With bad grammar/spelling, too, to boot.

    To get back to the article, I definitely agree somewhat with the main point of the article (at least, it seems to be the main point): teenagers’ writing is horrible, unfortunately. Maybe you won’t believe me, but oh well~ I have been a teenager for less than a year, and I’m looking back at some of the things I wrote when I was little (which I thought were miracles back then XD) and now I’m going all “…HOLY ****.”

    I’m not going to try to get into arguments I really wanted to get into (which are now well over a year old, haha); however, I WILL counter a recently-posted post.
    #234 Alyssa:
    “Yes most do, but some teenagers are pretty mature for their age, and therefore their writing doesn’t “suck”.”
    People often tell me I’m mature for my age. Does that mean I’m a good writer? Hell no! And it’s not because I want my writing to be bad, either. I normally try too hard for myself–this often means I wake up with a SEVERE as **** headache the next day. And I still think my writing’s bad. (My personal writing strength is nonfiction and the like; I’m no good at fiction. Even so, my nonfiction pieces seem BLEH.)
    If you had said the way they talked and acted didn’t suck, I would’ve agreed with you.

    #231 Hannah:
    That’s exactly the kind of comment Mr. Scalzi needs a whole lot more of right now! :3

    John Scalzi (author):
    You need more support and positive feelings for SURE because of all these negative comments. Some negativity is to be expected, and maybe even needed; however, I’m seeing WAY too much in here. Enough to pretty much let almost, if not all of the positive comments go unheard. I’m sending some positive feelings your way right now!

  222. I forgot to mention:
    #228 fobe and #229 Taha:
    You’re comments are also positive :3 several positive comments, one after another in that case XD I’m glad I found more positivity!

    -prepares to be flamed for her last post-

  223. Thank you a ton. I was 14 when I wrote my first novel. How you described that writing sucks and why completely described my novel. Im now 15 and I’ve sent the query letter for it out and you’ve prepared me for all the rejection that will come.I do intend to keep writing. Cause the suck isnt for nothing. I think 14 is a good start.

  224. I’m sixteen – seventeen in a few days, actually, which is vaguely terrifying – and I’m well aware of the fact that my writing sucks. I know that what I write is alright for a sixteen year old. Actually, some of it turns out pretty well. I can say that I’m proud of a lot of the things that I’ve written. However, I know that I’ll look back six months from now and laugh. Or, alternatively, I’ll cringe. Or maybe even both. That doesn’t matter to me though. In fact, it’s a good thing. It means I’m progressing.

    Even now, I look back at things I’ve written in the past and man, some of them are absolutely dreadful. The worst part of reading those old stories is remembering how great I thought they were. The plotlines were contrived (if they even existed) and angst bombs were being thrown around left, right and center. But the fact that I wrote things like that isn’t bad in and of itself. Yeah, what I wrote sucked, but it’s all a learning process. It was all practice. It all still is.

    The same general concept applies to the songs I write (I’m primarily a songwriter). The first ones that I wrote can make me want to hide my face in embarrassment, but if I’d never started with them, I would’ve never progressed to songs that I actually like.

    So I guess what I’m trying to say is that you’re right. This article and its much-flamed predecessor are awesome and you should feel awesome.

    On a related note, don’t you think the riled-up teens trying to defend their lack of suckiness should at least check their grammar and spelling? For people whose writing supposedly does not suck, they sure do radiate suckiness.

  225. I’m 15 and I would just like to, on the behalf of the percentage of teens who understands their writing sucks now but will someday get better, apoligize for the snotty creeps on here. Yeah. I was reading down the list and marveling at the fact that some people my age actually think they write well enough to be published now. We’re what, 16? 17? Most of us aren’t even finished with our eduation yet. How the heck are we supposed to know?

    I mean, I hope to get published some day, but I’ve known ever since I was 13 that it’s going to take a while to really get to that stage. I’ve improved – oh God my writing sucked so badly when I first started it’s painful – but I’ve improved.

  226. Reading this exceedingly large (and growing) list of comments has left me with a fresh outlook on the seed of the next generation: my, oh my. This is why Twilight is popular. I whole-heartedly believe that all of the teens here who vehemently proclaim their next-bestseller status need to be knocked down a peg. Or two. Or, in fact, perhaps the entire metaphorical pegboard. While the rate of literacy is pleasing, for the most part, the content is…. not. Most of these people have been given so much positive reinforcement that they don’t know how to handle the negative, bless their overfunded little hearts. I understand the general dislike of being berated, but it seems most can’t see through the haze of blind fury to comprehend that yes, this article is correct. I’ve never claimed to be great. Good, certainly, I’m a most arrogant little girl, but never great. Others here profess the same, and then go on to pour out every reason they’re the diamond. News flash, SOS: your parents are good people. That means that they will undoubtedly blaspheme and promise you you’re going to be the next Stephen King. So will some of your friends and teachers. Amigos, it’s simply untrue. I never trust a word any of the above say. Only YOU can actually judge accurately whether or not your ‘writing’ is excellent, and you generally choose to wear the blindfold of I’m-awesome-thanx-plz. I’ve never seen such a group of haughty little brats who can’t take constructive criticism like the young adults they say they are. Good grief. I don’t usually get this exasperated (I just told a huge lie), but this is ridiculous. The entire next generation needs a branch to the behind.
    Take me for example. I have every right to be snotty, but I’m not (much. Didn’t say I wasn’t arrogant at all). I’ve been this ‘prodigious-epic-writer-since-I-waz-liek-a-wee-babe’ for most of my life. My head was too big to fit through the door. But, thank God and Cheeznips, I met a truly gifted, talented writer (note I don’t say author) who was kind and patient enough to look at my work. It was mediocre at best, feeble as the old lady next door, and had a foundation like Haiti. She looked at me and said, “You have a LONG way to go.” Needless to say, this was a shock to my world. Me, not the greatest writer to ever put a pen to paper? What? But once I swallowed that pill and got over myself, I improved so much more. I’m still not fantastic, but I’m a touch better than the run-of-the-mill. At least, I think so. And that tough love helped me get there. Wrapping up THAT unneccessary tale, if the kiddos here would realize they aren’t the Da Vincis of the writing world yet and strive to improve by LISTENING AND NOT ARGUING, they might learn. Phew. I’m going to close this window and get an icepack for my fingers.
    Auf Wiedersehen. >8(

  227. You can have experiences at a young age that qualify you yo talk about a subject better than an adult. Some experiences make young people ‘old souls.’ Also, regardless of youth and ‘lack of maturity’, kids and teenagers still have voices. Adults aren’t all there is to the world. Moreover, some experiences are limited to childhood.Sometimes it’s required that you overlook youth to extract the meaning that can be applied to anyone who will accept. I’m saying that if I am a teen and I write about sorrow, maybe I don’t capture all there is to sorrow in my writing, but sorrow is sorrow. Human is human. It shouldn’t be that you have to be a certain age to make a connection you were born with.

  228. : 1.Grrrr… Argh…. | kt literary
    : 2.catvacuuming, i am :) « the love of a lifetime

    Anyone else seeing this text up there
    but not in a comment???
    Very odd.

  229. oh. Sorry. I’m used to things like that having a heading and being enclosed in some kind of graphical widget or something. I guess that’s how the kids are doing it these days. Man I feel old all of a sudden.

  230. Kristen @245:

    No-one is saying that your experience isn’t valuable, or doesn’t count, or you shouldn’t speak about it. This thread, and the one before it, and the post that inspired them both, is about the CRAFT of writing. I don’t care how old your soul is, or how strong your empathic connections, writing things down, and fiction in particular, is something you get better at only by practicing. A lot. And along the way, you produce things that are better as learning experiences than as folio pieces.

    And when you haven’t had a lot of practice, you write things which you look back on with embarrassment. You wouldn’t expect to play the piano well without years of off notes and dodgy timing and mucked up fingering to learn from; writing is no different.

    John isn’t saying “Teen writing sucks, so teens should shut up.” He’s saying “Teens writing sucks because, frankly, they are still learning their craft.” Take heart – no matter how good you think you are now, in a decade you’ll be better. And you’ll have acquired the skills to recognise it.

  231. I laughed reading this because it’s very true.

    I really don’t understand why some of these teenagers and not-teenagers are arguing with you.

    I’m a teenager, and all I want is for someone to tell me that yes, my writing does suck, so I can understand where and what part to improve on.

    Seriously, people, just understand that no matter how GOOD you are, or how good SOME teenagers can be, there will always be something about the writing that someone will not like and it will never be perfect. There’s always room for improvement.

    That’s the message I get from it — work harder to become the best you can be, because right now, you’re not as good as you think you are.

    Thank you, John Scalzi. :-)

  232. Thanks, Mr. Scalzi. Both of your articles have helped me; the first has been sitting on my Favorites list, and I’ve been rereading it every few months for around two years now. Contrary to a lot of the other teenagers who are voicing their opinions, I look at it whenever I’m feeling down; feeling like I’m improving my writing (by internalizing more of your advice) helps me feel productive, and I’m sure that releases some sort of happy chemical from my brain.

    Thanks again!

  233. …I can’t believe this person spent so long crafting this defense. Talk about having way too much time on your hands. At any rate, I think this kind of arrogance can only be achieved if you’re a household name. Maybe Steinbeck or J.K. Rowling could get away with it. Not this nonentity.

  234. hello there, even though i know my reply is pretty late, i saw the link of your article from MCMB (meg cabot message board) *i’m a huge fan of her*, anyway, i found your piece very very helpful and i don’t believe that those people who said your writing the “your-writing-sucks” part, even read the article through. yes, it’s true and like the first comment (sorry the comments are too long and too wordy to read :D i got bored reading the arguments), i too write in fictionpress and loved the therapeutic way making stories and sharing your creativity to the world gives me (although i’m not really hoping for my stories to be liked, but wanting to get reviews to improve myself). i’m kind of shy and i could say i’m a closet writer for my parents also think that writing is not a life-supporting job. you get published and loved by the general public then your a lucky person. but to those who didn’t make it, well it’s pitiful. anyway, i just want to thank you for this helpful piece and now i know to overcome my fear of rejection and try joining in my school’s paper club , and also try my luck with the local newspaper company… wish me luck! :)

  235. Thank you for this. I’m happy to know that some adult out there is willing to tell us the truth before we face it in harsher ways, and give us tips to success. After reading this, I went back to my stories, and took an hour editing what I had early thought was genius work.

  236. Thankyou! Luckily there is SOME honesty in my life. I read the 10 Things Teenage Writers Should Know About Writing, and it was most helpful! :) I will make adjustments to my work, thanks to you. Hopefully I can become a great writer like you :3

  237. So I read through your “10 Things Teenage Writers Should Know About Writing” and this response to comments, and I must say that any teenager who is getting defensive, or offended over it needs a bit of a reality check.

    I’m 18. I know my writing is far from good, let alone the best. The article you wrote was very informative, and matter-of-fact. We need more things like this. It was not discouraging, it was in fact encouraging. It lets us teens know that it is okay to have crappy writing, and it will improve over time.

    If a writer is going to get so defensive over a simple general statement about their work, then how exactly do they intend to handle the detailed criticism of their work by editors in the future?

    And the childish comments about “Who are you to judge my writing anyway?”, are completely immature. It’s a fact that teenagers generally don’t have as much life experience as an adult, and experience makes great writing. To get defensive, and start putting down an already successful adult who’s trying to HELP, is wrong. It’s immature, arrogant attitudes like this that make me excited to leave my teen years so I no longer have to be associated with such behaviour.

    To get to the point: I greatly enjoyed your entries, and I look forward to reading more of your posts in the future. Thank you very much for taking the time to offer advice and answer questions.

  238. Ok so I’m 13 (14 this year) and I’m not trying to write professionally. Only stories for my friends. But hardly anyone knows I write. Most people in my class think that you’re only cool if you want to be a “singer” or “actress” or something like that and I’ve been called a “geek” several times.

    Then I come here and realise that I’m not alone. In my lifetime I’ve probably been surrounded by so much immaturity that I only acted that way to seem “normal” to others my age. But I thought that writing wasn’t a teenage thing and the sad thing is that many people have said to me that writing is just an excuse for not having a life :(

    One thing though, maybe I’m not in the right frame of mind to be a writer, I mean, yeah most of the time I have trouble taking critism (though I don’t show it) and if I’m not extremely big headed about my writing then I’m very disheartened. It annoys me that I’m like that too because all I want to do is write but I get discouraged as soon as someone makes a tiny comment. Seriously, I might grow out of it but what if I don’t?

  239. I’ll be honest here: I’ve never heard of you. I stumbled across this article whilst google-ing: “aspiring young writers.” I would happily launch into my life story and tell you that I’m sixteen years old, and currently REwriting my 120, 000 word novel for the fifth time – but obviously you don’t want to hear that; which is, of course, understandable.

    I would just like to say, that this article helped A-LOT. And, of course, you know what you’re doing – even though I’ve never heard of you. It’s obvious that (as my wise old English teacher told me): Writers Ramble. It’s what we do. We take pleasure in giving long, detailed, descriptions of our opinion – and immediately assume that other people are hanging off our every word. The truth is: They’re not. The facts are, that very few people will be interested in actually reading my opinion (and maybe even yours as well) – because, by the time they scroll down to the ‘comment here’ section, they will be too busy thinking up their own witty response to this article.

    To put it simply, I think this article really helped me. Unlike many other commenters experiences, my peers and family are more than willing to tell me how much my writing sucks at the moment – but each one of them is equally as quick to tell me that I have a good story, and original concept on my hands. Maybe one day I’ll be in your shoes, writing blogs to young writers. Most likely, I’ll be saying something quite similar to you.

    So, thank you: for showing me that I suck, yet still managing to inspire me to continue writing(:

  240. I have read the both of your posts, (all the way through might I add) and despite the large sum of people that are disinterested/offended, I find that you’re speaking nothing but the truth. Furthermore, I find everything you’ve said extremely helpful. Teenage writing has much to be desired, it is far from perfect, but it’s a good starting point. I am a teen, and my writing sucks.
    Thank you, and good day.

  241. i read your article and myself being a teen appreciated it. it reminded me of constructive criticism. i dont think what you wrote was mean or bellow the bealt. i thought it was honest. i think some people took it too much to heart. and if they can get out of that kind of thinking and actually understand (not read because reading and understanding are two very different things) what your message is then they would get it.

  242. Mr. John Scalzi,

    My initial reaction to this article was anger, but that quickly dissolved into irritation. After that I showed signs of self-doubt and there were even traces of “woe is me” drifting in the back of my mind. Eventually that gave way to the persistence of one of my core traits: stubbornness. I weaved arguments in my mind, spinning a case for the average teen writer. I had myself convinced that there was no merit in your assertion. The problem with this, of course, is that a strong argument (even when it does cross the borderline of a sweeping generalization) is not easily dismantled. Yet I was ever resolute in my theory.

    It is, therefore, ironic that I returned to my story and found it in very a sorry state. Months passed and I finally recognized that I would have to rethink things. Characters were developed, plots were crumpled and tossed into the trash then retrieved again, and extreme outlining methods were put into practice. I started reading dusty tomes of poetry and mythology. For my ‘Christmas book’ (a family tradition) I requested Beowulf. I started to teach myself the basic Latin and Greek roots, which has already made an impact on the way I think about words.

    My writing has improved. (I do not know to what extent, but it seems that in this craft even a minute increment in quality is something to be proud of.) Chances are that I will never be a published author. Let chances be damned. I am not worried about it. I am going to work hard, and if something comes of it, great. If not, I am sure God has other plans for my life.

    It seems there is little else to say but thank you. So thank you, John Scalzi. Thank you.


    A fourteen-year-old who really needed a slap in the face.

  243. Thank you so much John Scalzi for not being afraid to tell it like it is. I was formerly a member of a grassroots social networking site for unpublished writers which was ruined by a mass influx of terrible teenage faux-poets. They write this horrible emotive drabble and then scream at you when you give them a bad review. IMO their hormones can’t take constructive criticism yet and they’ll still write as good/bad as they do now in a few years when they are actually mature enough to be able to take criticism.

    In my experience, most people put something of themselves into their writing, but teenagers put ALL of themselves into it, hence when you are critiquing their writing, you’re actually critiquing THEM, as a person. If you don’t blow sunshine up their asses they jump up yours. This is a shame because it destroyed the constructive criticism system in my writing community, suddenly bad reviews got hate mail and teenager writers got all their “little friends” to troll writers who told it like it was, so to say. The original talent of older and 20+ writers were basically driven out of the community where it was subsequently taken over by teenager emo-poets. I was the last to leave.

    I was once a teenager writer too, but what I consider a good teenage writer is someone who routinely scores perfectly on the standard five-paragraph essay. Those book reports, narrative essays, research papers, summaries, ie HOMEWORK, paying attention to my English teacher all built the groundwork for my writing career later in life. At this state, all teenager fiction is going to suck, but I’d classify a good teenage writer as someone who can first ace the five-paragraph essay. Most can’t, hence most SUCK. Case and point.

    Thank you again John Scalzi, and yes, I do believe I have heard of you.

  244. Well since our school does essays 24/7 I don’t think I need to worry but at first I thought “What the hell is the point in this, it’s retarded!” But then I started to figure out how to write essays and I realised how much it actually helps!

  245. Ugggh. I’ve read a few of the comments to this article. And they bug me more than the actual article (I actually think that most of the things you said are quite true–I just don’t think that you should say they suck. And I KNOW that you think that you should say that and I KNOW that you outline WHY you said it in the article. Don’t reply to this defensively, if you ever do. Because you seem like a very defensive person.) Many of you have said that your current-writing is better than what John wrote when he was 17! HOW could you know that?! And many of you have also said, in the same comment, that, because he hasn’t read your writing, he can’t know if it sucks or not. Doesn’t that completely contradict what you said about his writing being bad when he was 17? Unless, of course, you’ve read it. Then, by all means, feel free to say that.

  246. Lessons to be learned from this blog post:
    1. Trolling gets blog views.
    2. Trolling KIDS gets lots of blog views.
    3. Being right and trolling at the same time gets a ton of blog views.
    4. Teenagers rage a lot.
    5. This guy’s good at what he does.

    There’s a reason this guy’s blog is in the 100k ranks on Alexa, and why he is published. He knows what gets views, and knows when he finds something that has potential to generate MORE views. Remember guys, this guy is your competitor as much as your colleague. Never show fear. The next generation is always better than the last.

    And to you, John Scalzi: Thanks for the blogging tips.

  247. I wish I didn’t know how right you are. I wish I could be as arrogant as so many of my peers and say, “You’re wrong! I’m special! You just don’t understand!” Because I know that if I really let this sink in, let the idea that so many novels I’ve poured so much of myself into will rot in my hard drive forever sink in, I would never pick up a pen again. It’s agonizing to look back at an entire journal I filled with character and plot notes on a project which has since been abandoned, and I can imagine it will only be more so to look back at the 65,000-word rough draft of my first finished novel when I inevitably have lost interest years later. But sometimes the idea that my life’s work will soon be on the shelf at Borders is all that keeps me going, so I have to convince myself that my writing is decent. In fact, I think I’ll go drown myself in encouragement so that by tomorrow morning I’ll believe it again.

  248. Nicole @263 – can’t agree with you on the five-paragraph essay. That’s like saying that a good teenage poet is one who can write in a standard fourteen-line sonnet.

  249. I’m a teenage writer… And I wish you weren’t right… I suppose it’s like when you write a story when you are 8 years old or something and you get a gold star. You think that you could never write anything better than that piece of work, but you look back on it years later and realise how bad it was… I think I’ll just keep writing and hope that one day (in several years) I’ll be able to write something good enough to get it published…

  250. I don’t think this is completely fair. I’ve heard a lot of great writing from teenagers. Okay, I understand that we lack experience as adults like to repeat to us, but I know when a book is good or not or when a poem effects me or not. And some teenagers HAVE gone through a lot. I’m not saying I’m one of them, because I’m not. But, I appreciate you helping us become better at it. (Really, though. Thank you. I really am going to try to do some of the things you suggested, like working on my zen). I’m just saying you should give some teenagers more credit.

  251. Oh, by the way. I think it’s stupid to put down your own writing. The phrase “I know my writing sucks” seriously pisses me off. I used to be like that, but now I’m confident enough to share it and that makes me happy. AND I WILL NEVER SAY THAT MY WRITING SUCKS EVER AGAIN. But, it makes me even angrier that someone else is putting down my writing. I don’t appreciate people hurting the confidence (call it pride if you want, I don’t care) I just gained. But, whatever. You don’t even have to read this. I’m just writing to make myself feel better. And, all you teenage writers out there, if you went into my creative writing class (well, I don’t have that class anymore, but that’s beside the point) and said your writing sucked, everyone in there would get mad and you can expect plenty of yelling. Anyways, I’m just saying. I’m done ranting now.

  252. Joe Duncko: The next generation is always better than the last.

    This fallacy is called the Progress Theory of History, and it’s quite popular currently, but no truer for that. Easy counterexample: George HW Bush and George W Bush.

    Most statements containing the word ‘always’ are either tautologies or untrue. Be cautious using them.

  253. Shhh:


    Which will not be helpful to you when, in fact, your writing sucks. Having accurate self-assessment is useful for any writer. And sometimes, no matter how good of a writer one might be, one’s writing will suck. This includes writing from folks who have been doing it for years, not just teenagers (although, for the reasons noted in the articles above, teens’ writing probably sucks more often).

    Beyond this, if you won’t make the effort to recognize when your writing sucks, you will leave it to others to do it for you. They will not be so shy about it as you intend to be. And you will still have to deal with it, especially if you ever intend to write professionally.

  254. I intend to write for a long time and I’m sure that when I’m older I will look back on my writing now and think it’s not too good, but that’s later and I want to leave it for later. And if someone wants to help me improve, telling me I suck is NOT the right way to start. There’s something called constructive criticism. I hope when people read my writing, they keep in mind that this is something I worked hard on and something that I’ve shared from inside me. It’s a part of me. And so, if you want to tell me what I should improve on, tell me specifically. Tell me I’m not that good AFTER you’ve read it and tell me on what I need to work on. That is how you help people improve their writing. I like your article and your tips, but I really don’t like how you started it.

    And, in all honesty, I couldn’t care less that the majority of teenagers aren’t good writers or how hard it’s going to be to get my stuff published. The statistics don’t matter to me. I believe I can achieve something and so, I will.

    It’s the same way I get good grades in school.

  255. Shhh:

    If you had bothered to have read the article to which your comments are attached, you would see my response to the suggestion that I am telling you that you suck, as well as other particulars. Won’t you please read the article, or at least read it more carefully? That’s what it’s there for.

  256. The information presented is accurate, but I have one question. What exactly does it bring to the table, and what greater purpose does it serve? Most teenagers, including me, are aware of the fact that we need improvement in our writing. And yes, we aren’t going to do as well as we will, say, ten years from now. But why do we need to be told this, least of all in a discouraging manner? Writers are going to improve through practice whether they think they are skilled in the field or not. So what is the point of being told we’re not?

  257. Kevin:

    “But why do we need to be told this, least of all in a discouraging manner?”

    One, not everyone finds it discouraging.

    Two, some people need to be told.

  258. Thank you very much for both articles. I know that this is aimed at teenagers, but a lot of people are inclined to be defensive and narrow minded about criticism (and religion and a lot of other things). But this was very constructive, and very helpful. So thank you very much.

  259. I know I’m pretty late to the party here, but I came to say that both of your articles were spot-on.

    Also, for the majority of the teens criticizing John Scalzi for saying that their writing sucks because they think that their writing is so good:

    Getting big in your britches is only going to hurt you as a writer, especially at this young age. Teenagers suck at writing, and that’s all it comes down to. If you think you’re the next S.E. Hinton, look at all of the other people who commented on this thread who feel the same way. Note that their comment is structured and written almost exactly the same way as yours. And for goodness sake, run your comments through Microsoft Word. Take a look at all of those festive green and red squiggly lines underneath your precious words.
    Still think you don’t need to improve?

    And to those teens who are spouting off their wonderful credentials to show the world that they most certainly are the next S.E. Hinton:

    I used to think so too.
    I’m sixteen. English teachers called me a prodigy, my uncle (a writer and college professor) told me that I showed “amazing skill” in the novel I wrote, I got a 35 on the ACT English and a 36 on the ACT Reading, and a short play I wrote was performed at my school a month ago. (/bragging)
    Well, let me tell you that none of that means JACK CRAP.
    Just because you’re a better writer than other teens doesn’t mean that you’re a good writer.
    All teenagers suck. Right now you just suck less. I suck too. Look at the first verse of this poem I wrote a year ago:
    “What are you thinking about, sir?
    You’re all alone,
    away from the pack.
    Did someone leave you?
    Sculpt you in the dirt
    and walk away?”

    When I wrote that, I thought I was the next freaking Charles Simic! And don’t even let me get into my Ginsberg-inspired poems.
    But honestly, that poem IS better than a lot of the teenage stuff out there. It isn’t about cutting myself, or my ex-boyfriend, and it doesn’t use the adjective “crimson”. But you bet it is a load of crap. And I know that I can and will do much better than that one day. But not right now, because I’m not prepared enough. I still have a lot to learn.

    And so do you, despite your arguing.
    Remember: You can’t improve unless you first admit that there’s something that needs to be improved upon.

  260. Thanks for both these articles, and the comments sections. I’m in my early twenties and studying medicine, so not likely to get back to writing for pleasure seriously any time soon, but I do want to tell the teenagers struggling with the point of this article: listen. He knows what he’s talking about. Even though I’ve only just left my teens, my exposure to the world at large (and especially academia) has left me in no doubt that the teenage me had a lot of potential but had yet to realise how much she still had to go.

    I’ve been there: everyone tells you you’re a great writer when you’re a teenager, and it’s true, for a teenager you may be quite awesome. Adolescence is as wonderful as it is frightening: you feel invincible and clever, every new reference you discover the meaning to, every little debate you get involved in, you’ve learned so much since you were a kid and you feel very grown-up because in many ways you are. The world is at your feet and you are just starting to make your dreams a possibility. It’s an exciting time because we have only had to compete with other teenagers, we haven’t yet realised that as an adult we will be compared to people with many times our age, experience, knowledge and skills. When we’re young, we don’t contemplate how much time everyone else has had to perfect what we have yet to – perhaps it doesn’t even occur to us that there’s anything left to perfect! It’s only when you leave school and properly set out from that path that you realise how much out there you still have to learn: it can be a frightening as well as inspiring realisation that you’re really just a beginner in a world full of professionals. But that’s true whatever field you’re in – if you would think a medical student cocky for presuming to know better than the specialist teaching them, or would find a law student who constantly tries to correct or argue with their lecturers irritating, then you would realise that writing can’t be that different from any other field involving skill, experience, an understanding of people. Just because it’s an art doesn’t mean anyone can instantly be good at it.

    That’s OK – in fact, it’s great! You have your entire life to savour the beautiful journey and to hone yourself into the kind of person you want to be. And you know that no matter how good you are now, you will get a lot better. Forget what talent shows tell us: our talent doesn’t actually peak in our teens nor to people generally rise to instant genius stardom: it’s best when it’s hard-earned and our stamina tested. I’d find it much more depressing if I actually WAS perfect as a teenager – where the hell would I go from there?

    I’m sure there are a lot of excellent future writers among your readers and commenters. Don’t be put off by realising you’re not perfect yet: let it remove the limitations of complacency and spur you to new heights.

  261. I wrote the first draft of my 60 000 word novel last year, and you are right, looking back at it, my novel sucks. That is why I am editing it, and once I am done editing it, an adult friend can edit it, and if the process of revisions does not work, then I can start from scratch. My writing is always changing and improving, and I hope I can publish my novel soon. The dream of being published is what makes 60 000 words happen, but I am mature enough to know that even if my novel does “suck” I am 60 000 words better. Teen writing should be encouraged, and remember, lots of adults writing sucks, and that is about 1000 times worse then “sucky” teen writing.
    In reponse to the amount of teen writing, I made a website/blog to encourage teen writers called, theyoungnovelist.weebly.com please visit if you are interested.

  262. Hello, I finished reading this article (and the one based on this one) and, contrary to apparently the vast majority of aspiring teen writers my age, I’m not going to bash you. Actually, I agree with you one hundred percent. I get the fact that at this point of time our writing does most likely suck (unless we’re writing superstars) so I just wanted to thank you for writing this to tell us. Even though we write to the best of our abilities at the present time it’s most likely not good enough to get published. If anything, this blog just encouraged me to try to improve my writing into something worth publishing. I try to write everyday so I had a quick question for you: I write stories on two writing websites, where the stories are most often written my teens so I was wondering if that would be enough to try to improve writing technique? Please respond to this as soon as you can, I’ll be waiting!

  263. 1. It’s not nice/helpful to tell teenagers they suck.

    I’m not telling teenagers that they suck, I’m telling them that their writing does. There’s a difference.

    When I read that I just laughed. :D I agree, there is a big difference. It’s weird though because I would think that most people commenting back would be grateful for your advice and criticism. Apparently not. ….Anyway, thank you for the advice. It was helpful and I will definitely keep it in mind.

  264. I think that, just as 8a says, our opinion is just as good as yours. My opinion, is that your opinion is wrong. I read your short story, “The Statue”, and my writing, I’m sorry to tell you, is better. But that’s my opinion. Me and my friend are working on a book, and it is actually quite good. We’re 13. I don’t care what you think, and I say that a lot of teen writing does not suck. My other opinion, is that you are, (no offense) kind of rude. You have no right to say that nearly all teen writing sucks if you haven’t read it. Just because your teen writing, and maybe some of your friend’s sucked, doesn’t mean ours does.

  265. Actually, 8a explains why your opinion isn’t as good as mine, which you would know if you had actually bothered to read the entry. Which apparently you did not, as at least a couple of other things in your comment are also addressed.

    Guys, you may think you don’t need to bother with the entry before you comment, but you really do. If nothing else it will keep you from posting comments which make it obvious you’re not reading the entry.

  266. Oh god.
    First, I’d like to point out I’m 12.
    Some people here need to shut up. I’ve got to say, half of the writing done by teens and children sucks. A lot. Its mind-bleedingly terrible and it hurts physically to read a lot of it. I’ll go on the Share Your Writing parts of forums, and there will be absolutely terrible things in there, asking questions like “Shuld I get dis pubilshed?” that makes me want to kill everyone in my generation and then curl up in the corner and sob.
    They’re so cliche, unfunny, uninteresting, not researched, it kills me. Nobody goes unconscious of blood loss because they broke their ankle! Its completely cliche and uninteresting for the book to begin with your bland Mary-Sue character waking up! And for the love of God, do not even TRY to use vampires or werewolves as your characters, they’ve been done way too many times, I’m sick of them! Also, is it so hard to attempt proper spelling?

    I do agree that a lot of teens and preteens have absolutely no perspective and their various misspelled bundles of words suck.

    However, I do think that it depends on the person and their experiences as well. I’ve had a rather distinctly bad childhood (not bringing this up to spread my sob story or whatnot), which had a lot of drugs and abuse in it, and I think it effects my writing and puts more emotion and thought into it. I have more maturity than many others, if only because I’ve been forced to get it so quickly. This maturity is what makes my writing less bleh and more meh.

    That also leads me to think about another terribly irritating subject, all the teens whining about how terrible their life is, when to be truthful, its not.

    But back on topic, some people need to stop taking things too personally anyway. Because they can’t see that, it just shows how shallow and immature they are. Which, if it wasn’t obvious, is bad, when writing.

    And yet another point: I look back at my writing from fifth grade, and I nearly vomit from the drek I somehow thought was good at the time. I look at what I’ve written a month ago: Its not great, but its a helluva lot better, especially since I’ve been researching writing techniques and going to writers workshops. I’ve been learning how to introduce believable tension, and make dialogue that doesn’t sound contrived. I’ve been growing, which I think should be the goal of everyone.

    I can now acknowledge when what I’m writing is a piece of crap and needs to be tossed out a window and forgotten. But I can also tell when what I’m writing is good, though needs a lot of editing and polishing and all that good stuff. Which is why I hope to diverge from the expected and create something of literary worth.

    And a word for the teens that still feel wounded about being lumped together with the illiterates: Haters gonna hate ;)

    Any thoughts on that Mr. Scalzi?

  267. Alright, let me just get this out.

    We do suck.

    I know I can’t speak for every single teenaged author, but we do, we suck. I spend many restless weeks writing my books, editing, reading other books, editing my friend’s stories. But in all truth, we do suck. Face the music ladies and gentlemen. I am a fifteen year old writer and have realized this, why can’t other’s? On another point, this doesn’t nessecarily crush our spirits adults. Actually, it makes me want to keep writing and write more. Although I do admit, many cliche topics that teenagers use are quite dull. Some aren’t and they could possibly be books some day. Now what he said above and before was true. Get over it, move on and shake it off. Cause hun, rejection is the name of the game.

  268. Your lack of faith in the younger generation is heartbreaking, Scalzi. This is not writing advice; this is arrogant nonsense. You could just as easily have written a piece on “10 clichés of teen writing” or “What young people should look out for when embarking on a writing career”, but instead you’ve chosen to be petty and arrogant.

    Your writing may have sucked with you were fifteen; but that’s you. The individual is the individual, and you insult that by not only referring to teens as if they are a subordinate race, but by shooting them down and actually deterring them from writing. Apathy is huge among young people today – there’s a lot of “if I can’t do it, I won’t try” and you sadly feed this by lording your own writing own their heads and being generally rude. Please climb down off that pedestal and stop beating your chest.

    Have a little respect for your fellow human being, and try to understand that some teens have been though incredible life experiences and can, believe it or not, wind their puny prom-obsessed little minds around good prose. Have you emigrated? Have you experienced domestic abuse? Have you pieced back together your broken family? Have you witnessed mental illness? Have you ever been so inspired that you simply had to put finger to key and write something with raw talent that you know you have?

    Maybe you have. Maybe many teens have, too. Maybe there are teens out there that have already experienced things some adults never will, and are not as brain-dead as you think they are. There are some that can draw from these experiences, learn from them, and channel that into writing.

    Oy vie. There is too much to say on this, I guess. I know you’re probably going to ignore this post, and write me off as a brat whose opinion doesn’t matter, because her writing sucks anyway. I’m just a silly little whiner who only reads People magazine and whose idea of Hell is being grounded.

    Whatever. I’ll see you at Comic Con.

  269. Kira:

    “Your lack of faith in the younger generation is heartbreaking, Scalzi.”

    The article is about the complete opposite of lack of faith in the younger generation, in point of fact. You don’t appear to like it, however. To which my response is: Oh, well. It won’t work for everyone.

  270. Scalzi-

    If you really do feel the urge to look at teen writing in it’s finest or not so finest. Go to websites like Figment.com or Wattpad.com. A lot of there users are teens. I am included in that list of users. But I agree with most of that above like I said. But you really can not over exaggerate there. There are books by teens that are definitely more well written then some published authors. Ever heard of Stephanie Meyer? Her writing is one of them that I am speaking of when I say “published author.”

  271. For the record, yes, I read the whole article. Very carefully.

    I was going to say what Kira said, but then I got to the bottom of the page and saw that she already said it. I know you’re trying to help other writers, but you’re only hurting them with that by just going out and making the generalization that LUL DEY ALL SUKK BECUZ THERE TEENAGERZ. You did not have to put it so bluntly is all I’m saying. I definitely don’t think you’re trying to keep everyone down, but you are keeping them down. Down as in the bottom of the Laurentian Abyss. I actually cried in depression after reading this. Cried. So much so that I closed out the play I was editing without even saving it. I can’t imagine how many more had the same reaction. You think that’s going to help them get better as writers? All it’s helping them do is lose their faith in their own natural talent and say “I don’t think I’ll ever write again.” Is that really what you wanted to accomplish with this?

  272. I am still crying now, by the way. I hope you’re happy. I really do. And don’t even dare tell me I’m not cut out to be a writer if I cry about stuff like this. People have emotions. I don’t know if you ever understood that.

  273. Hey, Vinny, let me tell you about a few people. One with whom I’m acquainted, one a cousin knew from the Army, and one who, as far as I know, I have no connection.

    The first as a kid had some pretty hard knocks, including having his father drop dead of a heart attack in front of him during an argument when the kid was a loud-mouthed teenager and who, after a few years of nowhere jobs, took a stab at college because he wanted to be a writer. After submitting a few stories for writing class, the professor made the kid the brunt of an object lesson in front of the entire lecture hall, by saying that on the basis of the submitted stories’ collective lack of quality the kid would never, ever be published as a writer, and to go back driving a truck.

    The second — my cousin’s friend — did pretty well academically, through high school, before going into the service. The only subject he failed was music. Which was a shame because he wanted to be a musician. Like my acquaintance, he was singled out by his high school music teacher in front of his class and humiliatingly informed that he would succeed as a musician.

    Finally, as a young girl in primary school, the third individual was likewise held up as someone who “sang like a goat”. Which is tragic. [Which students of Greek Classical theatre will understand.]

    Each of those individuals would later describe those occasions as emotionally devastating — they each became depressed and angry.

    Not one of them retorted, “Don’t dare tell me that!” All of them reported, in their own words, the reaction, “Oh, yeah? Well, I show you!”

    They are, respectively, Harlan Ellison, my late cousin Wayne Boulden’s friend from his army days in Germany Elvis Presley, and Shakira.

    [Some of Wayne’s prize possessions were his photos with Elvis.]

    In the history of human achievement, one common element of motivation of many high-achievers is being told by someone in a position of authority that they weren’t good enough to attain their goals.

    You don’t like what Mr. Scalzi wrote as it applies to you?

    Then prove him wrong. Giving up only lends credence to his assertion.


  274. Vinny:

    “And don’t even dare tell me I’m not cut out to be a writer if I cry about stuff like this.”

    Crying isn’t your problem — jumping to self-defeating behavior as a writer in the the face of what you sense as discouragement, however, is. If finding uncongenial advice on the Internet drives you to thoughtlessly destroy your own work, I fear what the general submission process, with its high rate of failure and discouragement, will make you do.

    You should probably make an effort to find healthy and constructive ways to deal with discouragement. The world is not going to bend itself to your nature, and people will often present information in ways you don’t like or approve of. You can’t change others. You can decide for yourself how others affect you. As suggestion, using them as an excuse to destroy your own work probably isn’t the way to go.

  275. Hey! I read your article and this one, and being a teeage writer I didn’t really find it that offensive. Obviously I understand why, and i think it is because you didn’t word it right. You should have said something like, “Compared to what your writing could someday be, it sucks right now.” Because your audience (teens) automatically shut down when we feel like someone is belittling us. I’m not saying that is a good thing, I’m just saying that is how most of us work. So next time be more positive, because If you are trying to help us, it isn’t working cause most teens are stopping after the first point.

  276. It doesn’t appear that most teens are stopping after the first point, actually; only some. And given the hundreds of thousands of hits the piece has gotten over the years, it appears effective enough in its purpose. Other people can be more generically positive when they give teens advice, if they like. I’m happy with how I do it.

  277. [Deleted because people advising others not to act like assholes should probably not act like assholes themselves. William, rest assured that when I feel you are qualified to offer me advice, I will ask you for it. You may refrain until then — JS]

  278. I am, technically, a teenage writer (fourteen) and found this article pretty interesting – I read both this and its predecessor.

    Even at my age, I’d agree with you… mostly (there are those out there with gifts). There will be a day when I look back at my writing and grimace. Teenagers grow up fast – I now wince at a number of, at the time, “deep, emotional and human”, writings from when I was twelve, so logic follows that, when I’m sixteen, I will find my present writings hideous.

    I still write in the hope of eventually getting something published – despite the fact that I will probably want to laugh at my work and/or put it in a well-hidden drawer soon enough – because I enjoy it, and practice makes perfect. In short, I write because I hope to improve, and I don’t want my writing to suck a decade from now.

    Well-written and considered article – thank you.

  279. I think that you’re completely right. Most teens DO suck at writing. I know mine sucks (even though my friends/family and my boyfriend say it doesn’t). I also know that maybe we’re not completely terrible, and that’s why those people say it’s good. But we’re no where near ready to be published. Besides, most teenage writers I knpw (including myslef) can’t even finish a story so how can we even expect to get published right now? Even if we don’t completely suck, theres more than likely someone out there with more experience who will get chosen long before we will. If we have the talent, then eventually we’ll get published. If we don’t, then we won’t. So everyone complaining… really. Just think about it. How many ADULT writers do you even know? Let alone teen ones. I enjoyed your article. Thank you for writing it. (:

  280. I just read your short story and poems, and I have to hand it to you: you did, in fact, suck. Your dialogue was as flat as paper, your imagery was as boring as “See Jane. See Jane run,” and the half of the story I read had no plot whatsoever. Who cares why there is a nude statue in an average guy’s front yard? Who cares if random people keep popping out of this air to see and question it? To be honest, I didn’t read the whole thing to find out. Your poetry sounded forced, and the meter was off. So, that statement I will hand to you. When you were seventeen years old, you were no Shakespeare.

    However, that doesn’t mean that every teenager was just like you. Ah, yes, you do have the experience of being a teenager. Congratulations. That gives you personal experience in only one teenage life in billions. I wouldn’t be commenting at all if you weren’t so general in your statements. I have read the comments, and I know that you have acknowledged that there are teenage writers that have been published, yadda yadda yadda, so I won’t go there. However, you still seem to carry around the idea that most every teenager is alike, in writing and life. Not every teenager is ‘just starting out’. Not every teenager believes that their writing is pure gold. We all have different experiences, otherwise, all of our writing would be the same.

    Ignore that statement if you are fully aware of this, and this article was only to be directed at the teenagers that simply pick up a pen and think the scribbles that come forth are worth millions. In that case, say so. ‘Teenagers’ is such a general term. Teenager does not equal newb writer. Get that through your head, please. Perhaps if you simply targeted the exact audience that needs this advice, people would not get offended and you wouldn’t have to spend so much of your precious time reading over angry, repedetive comments.

    As a writer, it is your responsibility to keep in mind how an audience will react to certain statements, so if you didn’t want to recieve repedetive feedback . . . well, you have three choices there. Alter your writing so it doesn’t feul the posts, don’t write the blog at all, or acknowledge that by writing a blog you are putting yourself into the unavoidable situation of reading hundreds of comments. Once again, I would not point this out if your terms weren’t so general; saying, “Teenagers, before you leave a comment ranting about how you writing does not suck *paraphrase*,” is what is feuling these comments. Remarks such as that come off as condenscending, to the wrong group. It is not just the teenagers that skip to the punchline; it’s people in general. My goodness. You come off to me as the type of person that walks around complaining about the youth of the world, but in reality, you yourself are not in the right. Blaming just one group of people is scapegoating.

    As I’ve said, not every teenager is like you were. As a matter of fact, I know a few thirteen year olds that write much better than what you could at seventeen, judging by the writing samples you posted. Perhaps you are simply flawed in where you are pointing this blog.

  281. Jacklynn:

    “Perhaps you are simply flawed in where you are pointing this blog.”

    Not really. Even if one were to go only by the comments here, there’s a good mix of teens who have found the advice useful, and were able to take the advice without immediately going into defensive mode. The advice is clear enough; the variance has to do with the individual teens and their specific response to the advice. Which is not in the least surprising to me. You may recall that I noted right in the second paragraph that the advice may strike some as “abrupt and condescending.” I thought giving that forewarning was actually fairly considerate. In the real world, such forewarning is infrequent at best; I suggest that teenage writers should get used to the idea that everyone else in the world isn’t going to take their feelings into account.

    Beyond this, yet again, much of the specific complaints you have here are addressed in the entry this article is attached to, so I suggest you read (or read it more carefully if you have already read it). I will, however, address one assertion you have made:

    “Not every teenager is ‘just starting out’.”

    Actually, yes, almost every single teenager who writes is just starting out. They are starting out in life and experiencing most things worth communicating in writing for the very first time. They are starting out as competent writers because most of the skills and techniques they will need if they want to pursue a life in writing were both too complex and too subtle to be learned earlier, and will need time to develop. They are starting out as businesspeople (because writing is a business as much as an art) and will need to learn the field. If you don’t accept the fact that you are at the beginning of a journey rather than in the thick of it, the only person who is going to be hurt by it is you.

    I suspect part of the problem is that you feel that my pointing out that you have far to go is belittling to you and to other teen writers. It’s really not. Everyone has to begin. I want teen writers to succeed, both because as a reader I want new, cool work from a new generation of writers, and because as a writer I would be desperately sad to think no one else was coming up in the field. You’re at an exciting time in your career, where you get to play with your work in ways you won’t be able to later. You should be trying new and different things and as I noted not worrying whether the result sucks now. It will probably suck, just like anyone trying anything new will suck at it. But the point of telling you it sucks now is to reassure you it won’t forever if you keep working at it. So keep at it.


    …compared to my classmates. Now the real question lies in whether the reason for that is because I’m really that good, or if they are just really that bad. Honestly, I’ve never been told, once, in my life that my writing sucked. (Except by you of course, but I’ll disregard that for now.) The reason for this is quite clear;

    a) My teachers: They are marking me in correspondence to my age and peers. And for my age and peers, I am a very good writer.

    b) My parents and friends: There seems to be some unwritten rule that they are only allowed to say good and nothing bad.

    c) Reviewers from online writing sharing sites: … the majority of users there are annoying, brainless teenagers who only know how to say, “Good job! Can’t wait for the next chapter!”

    So yes, I do believe my writing is “good”. What else am I to think? I have never been told otherwise. I have never been honestly criticized either. But that does not mean I do not believe there is the chance that my writing “sucks”. At the moment, logic and reason says that it can be both. That there is a slim chance I fall under your preternaturally talented category; but there is an even larger chance that I don’t. Unfortunately, there is no immediate way for me to find out which one is true.

    I’d love to get an honest review for my work (which mostly consists of poems because I have a terrible attention span- something I really should work on.) and at the moment the only one whom I think can offer me this is, well you, sir. But you being a busy professional writer and me being some random teenager (who happens to be of fifteen years…I might as well mention that) that comes off as obnoxious, pretentious and annoying, will result in that never happening. So I will let that matter rest for now, unless you say so other wise. (Oh dear, I sound obnoxious, pretentious and annoying again. I wonder how I can change that…)

    Instead I will carry on to my next point and complaint: work on my empathy? Really? Do I have too? The majority of humanity is brainless! And stupid! And idiotic! I mean; just look at your comments. Those teenagers are idiots! (Albeit, amusing idiots.) Who in there right mind thinks that criticism isn’t advice? Or that teenagers are fragile? (Emotionally fragile, that is. I am incredibly physically fragile. I hate physical pain. I detest it. And I am getting off topic.) Having to be surrounded by these idjits at school is bad enough, and now you’re telling me that I have to empathize with them? Damn it. (Even though I completely understand and agree with your reasoning.) Damn it, again.

  283. I’m a sixteen year old girl, and I started writing when I was seven. And I thought I was amazing, but as I got older, I realized how much those first songs and stories actually did suck. After nine years, I am still not at a level where I feel comfortable with being professionally published. However, I no longer suck. I have grown in my writing substantially since I started out. I completely agree with what you said about it taking around ten years to truly reach professional level as a writer.

  284. ok, so, english idn’t my first language, so I’m sorry if I have a couple of grammar mistakes, but I have to agree with you, but partly.
    Teenage’s writing usually sucks. I read a couple of essay that my friends wrote and I was amazed to see how the way they write is so so so so close to the way they speak. because I never thought you can write “and I was like” so many times in one sentence, even I (that english isn’t my first language) can recognize such an amateur english writing.
    Now, my writing defintally suck, because I pretty much forgot big-big grammar parts of my first language, and I just CAN’T talk english rightly sometimes. and sometimes I forget words.
    but my writing (that’s what everybody says) IS good, for a teenage, even though I have mistakes I’m managing to show SOMETHING my english teacher, and my friends liked, because now they MAKE me write, even though I don’t feel like it.
    Now I’m being clever, kind of, or trying to, but hey! you did it all the time! (and I did it again) and I don’t really plan on a writing career, maybe as a hobby.
    So my writing, at least, is good, but it still sucks. But I have to say, yours sucks more. And you were 3 years older than me even then, so you were just a normal teenage. I actually have clever, an wise things to say, I promise you.

  285. There is so much hate on this post! But I guess I will share my opinion just like the rest of you. I do believe I write well. That I will admit. HOWEVER, I will also say that this opinion is most likely going to change, just as you, Mr Scalzi, said. Now, though, I am going to read the rest of the post! Thank you, Mr Scalzi, for providing an opinion even though you knew the responses it would bring.

  286. Mr. Scalzi,
    I want to say I thank you for the these pieces of writing (I stumbled onto it trying to find a writing site ). I am aware that most teen writers have a lot to learn its true and people who can’t see this are just ignorant. Although you are very blunt about it I don’t think this is discouraging at all. Teens like myself need to understand none of us can stand up to a good writer on their worst day. I also know that no matter how bad anyone writes if you love it over time you can and will get better over time. I have never even heard of you before a few hours ago but I believe that this was very helpfull to anyone who can read and understand that you are giving your own personal view on something. You make me want to go out and start writing, you have inspired me to want to get better, so I must thank you for that.

  287. Four years late to comment on the article but here we go: First of all, thanks for writing these articles. I’m a seventeen year old (like pretty much every other poster here), and I’m not going to bash your articles or write a ridiculously long post on every little nuance of your piece. That’s because they were great. Kids nowadays (myself included) just can’t seem to take any criticism and turn it into a positive, but I really took something from these articles. It’s refreshing to hear someone speak so forthrightly about a topic like this and not to coddle the self-esteem of us teenagers. Thanks, I wish more people spoke as honestly as you did.

  288. Thanks for this article.

    No really. I reckon I first read it two or three years ago, when I was 15/16? And I hated you for it back then. But looking over it, yes, it stings a little, but over the years I think this advice- and all the advice like it- has stuck with me. I’m still writing, not well, but still writing and enjoying it, but at the same time I’m a med student and living life to the fullest, like you suggested. I love writing and I always will. I don’t think that I’ll ever NOT suck. But even looking back on things I read a year ago. Sometimes I’ll grin to myself and think that that was a cleverly turned phrase, but most of the time I cringe. And that’s all part of maturing as both a person and a writer, right?

    So thank you. I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to say it.

  289. So, I was searching the internet trying to find a good blog to help me with my writing and sure enough, I found your’s. Now, I’m a seventeen year old wanna writer so I am very inexperienced. However, I want to say thank you for posting these tips up. Every one of them was spot on. And now thanks to you I’m going to make sure that I am writing everyday and I’m going to consider other majors in college next fall because, like you said, an English degree can only go so far. Well, thanks again for all the help you’ve put out there for teen writers.

  290. Hello Mr. Scalzi,
    I am a young writer also and I agree with you on certain aspects. Yes, most teenagers do need constructive critisism. I do not, however, agree that their wrighting nessisarily sucks. There are many teens in the world who have writen essays, novels, short stories, and so on that are the sort of things many adults could not compose and have just never publish them. And I take offence, if only slightly, to your saying out writing “sucks”. And there are also many teens who DO have the life experiences to write a novel. Not every teenager has a life that revolves around the clothes they ar going to where, or how they are going to do their hair and/or nails. There are quite a few, actually, who have had to grow into adults because of events that simply do not allow them to be a child anymore. At fifteen I have experienced a great deal of these sort of events and to be frank, I think maybe you should rethink the things you have written. Though I may not be an expert, I AM a young voice who can write a decent chapter and I can promise you that it will not “suck”.

    Thank you
    Sherry Brown

  291. “I do not, however, agree that their wrighting nessisarily sucks.”

    I’m pretty sure I’ve noted before the irony of comments defending the writing skills of teenagers, filled with unforced grammatical errors. Although this does bring home the point that writing well isn’t just about mastering one aspect of writing, it’s about mastering many aspects of it. Which takes time. One of the great things about being a teenager is that it’s a good time to get started on all of them.

  292. This article is so great. I laughed so much and agreed with everything. As someone who very recently said goodbye to my teenaged years. All my life, people told me that I was an AMAZING writer and that I should get published. After awhile, I began to believe all of them.

    Yes. I WAS amazing, wasn’t I? I SHOULD get published, shouldn’t I?

    However, when I recently re-read my writing (some of which was published in school papers and such), I realized… it’s readable. But publishable by a legitimate read-by-grownups publisher? No. And, yes, at first I felt kind of sad.

    Reading your article reminded me of something very important, though. It’s encouraging to see that my writing has improved over time. That writing CAN and DOES improve over time, if you put in some hard work and life experiences and critiques and knowledge.

    So, what can I do to continue learning and growing and improving? What else can I do to get that much closer to possibly producing something worth being read by the other people? You said it in your first blog post, didn’t you? Read and write.

    I think I’ll do just that.

    Thank you again for your wise, candid blog post. :)

  293. I for one, as a young writer, appreciate your pieces on the subject of teenage writing (both this one and the original).

    I recall reading the original several years ago, when I was a teen myself. I’m 22 now. I was aware my writing sucked, at least in the grand scheme of things. I was always a good writer for my age, I think. But being good for a 15-year-old and being a fully matured writer that appeals to a general audience are two vastly different things.

    I was always, and still am, trying to push people to tell me what they really thought, damn it! It’s easy to say “It’s good,” or “You’re good for your age,” and that may or may not have been true for a given piece, but that’s not helpful to me. I write because it’s what I love. It’s all I’ve ever done, and I’ve been doing it for 15 years. If I weren’t good for my age, I probably should have just quit because if I couldn’t at least do that with all the effort I put into it, that would have meant I just can’t write. But telling me “it’s good” doesn’t help me.

    At 22, I am only *just* beginning to see myself turning into a good writer – or at least a more consistent one. In my teens I’d have fleeting moments of “good,” buried in a sea of crap. My muse – and her vacillating moods – ruled my writing life. When I had writer’s block, nothing even half-way readable came out. These days I am proficient enough that I can always churn out something decent. But decent and truly good aren’t the same thing. Sometimes I’m good, sometimes I’m just decent. I work for my college paper now (and I was on my high school paper too). I took a few years off to travel before I went back to school. And there is more certainly a dramatic difference between my writing on my high school paper, and my writing in my college paper. It’s even more dramatic than the difference in my creative writing.

    Developing a voice is like developing a whole ‘nother dimension to your personality. It’s not easy or simple. My voice still feels fractured to me, though elements of it are pulling together. Learning how to wield your words without wasting all your energy on clumsy maneuvers or letting your enthusiasm bog down your clarity requires a tremendous amount of control. That’s not easy or simple either.

    I was never ashamed of being a crappy teen writer. And I’m not ashamed of being a hit-or-miss young adult writer. This is a craft that takes work. This is the practice of taking an chaotic human impulse – creativity – and whittling it down into a fine point without stabbing yourself in the face in the process. It’s *hard.* If I can do it well even for my age, and do it very well even for fleeting moments, then I am really accomplishing something. I’m so, so young, and that is a great accomplishment to be able to say that I never write stuff that completely sucks anymore. I worked my ass off for that.

    A few days ago, something happened (which actually prompted me back to this piece). I wrote the first thing I’ve ever written that is actually true good. Better than good. It’s important. I’ve shown it sparingly – like most writing that truly matters it’s uncomfortable and challenging. But the reaction I’ve received from others matches the reaction I had to writing it. At 22, after 15 years, I finally broke the barrier and wrote something truly amazing – even if it’s only a couple pages long.

    You were absolutely right when you said, in your original piece: “If you keep working on it it’ll very likely get better… and then comes the day that you write something that really doesn’t suck. You’ll know it when it happens and then you’ll get why all that time banging out stuff that sucked was worth it: because it’s made you a writer who doesn’t suck anymore.”

    I could not duplicate that at will if my life depended on it. I’m not good enough to call upon that. I’m not a fully matured writer. But now I know for sure that I am capable.

    It’s been worth 10 years of sucking, and 5 years of mediocrity, to know that I am capable of truly good writing. Even if I can’t control it quite yet. And I want, more than ever, to be offered criticism now. Any writer who cares about what they do should. Yes, it’s uncomfortable. Yes, it can be depressing. Yes, when you put so much into your work it can feel like a personal insult.

    But it’s worth it to reach that moment when you cross that Rubicon and see what you’re really capable of.

    – A young writer

  294. Honestly, what you wrote in that article was harsh and super offensive. I don’t deny that teen’s writing probably won’t be as good as an adult’s, but that doesn’t mean it SUCKS. I bet some of the softer-hearted people might have become extremely discouraged by this, even if you said it’s okay that it sucks. You should have put it more mildly, then you wouldn’t have all these people protesting and you wouldn’t have come off as an insensitive pig.
    I KNOW I’m a teen and my writing probably isn’t as good as some major authors, but that doesn’t mean it SUCKS, it just means I have a lot of ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT. If you had bothered to word it this way, you wouldn’t have had to waste your time and energy writing this.
    Who do you think you are? Just because you’ve got a fancy degree in writing doesn’t mean it’s alright for you to go ahead and tell all the teenagers who read this there writing sucks and put them down.
    Although, granted, the rest was pretty good advice.

  295. Lillymill:

    “Who do you think you are? Just because you’ve got a fancy degree in writing”

    My degree is in philosophy, actually. As for who I think I am, I’m pretty sure I’m John Scalzi, but I’ll have to check the name tag in my underwear to be sure. Hold on.


    Yup, I’m me.

    Most of your substantive complaints are addressed in the article to which this comment thread is attached. Please read it.

    As for being disgusting to you: Oh, well. It happens. I will try to continue on anyhow.

  296. I read these and even though I’m a teenager, I agree. Because COME ON PEOPLE teenagers have an empathy for other teenagers that adults don’t have. But adults have more practice so not only do they write well, they have practice. But it doesn’t mean that teen writing can’t be good, it just won’t be AS GOOD as an adult with years of practice under their belts.

  297. Lolz. I read the Ten Things one you wrote before and this one just for the heck of it. I agree with the ideas you have. I mean its true we need to learn more and get better. This one is funny cause of how people got so angry and left those comments. I hope to make a good novel one day and your blog was extremely useful and I’m going to take your advice. Thanks a bunch!

  298. O.O People actually complained? I’m a bit shocked.

    I read that post, and as a teenager, I found it really helpful. I know my writing isn’t great, but hey, I’d rather it suck now and improve so by the time I’m 22, I’ll have 10 years experience, but a 22 year old with no experience will probably suck like a teenager etc. They’ve all probably started out relatively recently.

    I’ve only started writing (seriously, but first wrote when I was 7 and that was an on-off thing) for 2 years and I know I’m absolutely … well no other way to say it, but crap. When I wrote the first chapter of my first novel and the end chapter of it 8 months later, I could tell the difference. I could tell the difference between the beginning and the end of the second clearly.

    ‘Course, I don’t suck as much as I used to, but still suck to some degree XD

    Thanks a lot for that post anyway. It’s nice to get an article like that from someone who’s been in my shoes once and who’s there now and has some authority on the subject :)


  299. The way some of them act shame me and the rest of us teens as well. I could tell you were trying to be blunt, but I found that really humorous .

  300. Okay, well me start out by saying a few things and then I will explain them.

    1. I absolutely love you.
    2. Thank you.

    So now for the explaining. 1. I don’t love you because of your books, I can’t because I’ve never read anything at all by you. I love you because you put a smack down to a bunch of snobby loser teenagers’ complaints. Teenagers who are desperately trying to prove to the world that they are cool. *Sorry fellow teenies. The sooner you recognize that we are ridiculously moronic in all ways of life, the less time it will take you to get out of this grave we somehow continuously dig for ourselves as a group.* I was laughing my head off at some of the comments of the previous blog and was SO happy when I realized that you’d actually responded to them. So I love you for smacking down my fellow teenagers who’s heads are taking up more space than they should reasonably be allowed to. :D

    2, Thank you VERY much for your advice, brutal as it may have been it was perfectly what I needed. I loved the short story you made when you were seventeen *The Statue* or something along those lines. I read the first sentence and thought, he’s right, his writing did suck. But I pushed myself and by the time I was a quarter way through I was laughing (partly from the humor you intended and partly from the fact that it was INSANELY obvious that it was written by a 17 year old boy. I especially loved Chuck or Charlie….anyway the butler of the rich guy who was meant to receive the statue), so I’m glad I read it. It also helped me to see what you meant by the difference between clever and good. While the short story wasn’t particularly good, in fact it was actually really bad, it WAS clever. And funny. So all around thanks for sharing it.

    I’m 15, so rather low on the teenage totem pole, I attempt to write novels but mostly write beginnings to novels because I never can seem to finish one. I always get bored right around where the beginning ends or my plot line gets so unbelievably crazy I have to read it again, have a good laugh, and throw it away to begin again on an either improved version of the last one or (and most times this is what actually happens) a completely different one. Mostly I write fantasy but sometimes I dabble in other stuff too.

    I wholeheartedly agree that MOST (like 99%) teenagers’ writing sucks, including mine. So I just wanted to tell my fellow teenies, don’t flip out, calm down and if you don’t like what he says, DON’T READ IT. It seems rather simple to me. (But PLEASE, for the sake of all the other teenagers’ who’s egos aren’t the size of Saturn and DON’T mind and actually appreciate criticism, leave a nasty comment, I doubt it bothers Scalzi but you’re giving a bad name to teenagers everywhere.) Anyways, just wanted to say that.

    Rock on Scalzi!

    And Mac, Mizaja, and Emma who I see agree with me along with all the other not-consumed-by-attempted-coolness teenagers. (And yes I realize I have a terrible opinion of my own age group, but in reality toddlers probably have more sense than us.)

    P.S. Your reply to Lillymill was PRICELESS!

  301. I simply have to add (before I obtain a trillion internet haters) that a lot of the teenagers who bothered to comment actually did not have an ego the size of Saturn and did not post nasty messages to Scalzi. To you ppl I apologize for the generalization. :D

    (and yes I’m fully aware that by generalizing and insulting I am coming across as the very thing that I’m accusing them of being. But the fact that I realize it counts for something…doesn’t it? I wouldn’t know. I’m just a 15 year old girl. ;D)

    *haha, my winkey face has a double chin!

  302. I myself, am a teenage writer. I have been writing stories since I could hold a pencil and form words. Your comment “your writing sucks”, in my personal opinion was extremley insulting especially since you don’t know me or my writing. I’m 15 years old and in the process of editing the novel I have recently finished. I know for a fact that there are more intelligent people out there who can argue this much better, but by you telling us that our writing sucks made me feel like I was being punched in the gut. To hear your friends/family/teachers tell you your stories are well written and then to hear someone you don’t even know say that your writing sucks is heartbreaking. No, I don’t believe that everything I’ve written is perfect and destined to be published- in fact, most of it will end up in a crumpled ball somewhere in my cloest. But I do think it’s unfair for you to make the accusation that out writing sucks when YOU HAVE NO IDEA. And let me say completely honestly that I thought this link would provide some encouraging advice as to what exactly you meant by “your writing sucks”, when in fact it left me feeling like a piece of crap (please excuse the crudeness of my words).
    Despite this, I will say that one good thing has come out of this. I am an extremly competitive person and your snide comment about teenage writing has challenged me to get that book published and let everyone know. And if that happens, scratch that, WHEN that happens, it’ll be a challenge to every other teenage writer that has read your so-called “advice” and crawled away heartbroken.

  303. After reading more of the comments left here, I’d just like to say Scalzi that most of the people leaving comments HAVE read your stupid articles- myself included. We are merely pointing out what we disagree with in your articles. And I’ll say it again- I can’t wait to see my book on a shelf in Barnes&Noble. Because this is what I was born to do and it’ll happen. To hell with your stupid advice…

  304. ‘stronger thumbs thanks to all the text messaging’

    I found this funny because I’m a teen and I don’t own a phone, nor do I care.

  305. Tori:

    “I’d just like to say Scalzi that most of the people leaving comments HAVE read your stupid articles- myself included.”

    I’m not sure how you can make this assertion, Tori, unless you can show you’ve taken a statistically relevant sample of all the people who have responded to the posts over the last several years. And if you have, I’ll be delighted to see the data. I thank you in advance for that. Otherwise, please own the fact that you’re expressing an opinion that’s yours and yours alone. You seem like someone who would want to be able to stand on your own, without having to rely on specious assertions to bolster your position.

    When I direct people to read the articles, it’s often because their comments don’t suggest they have. For example, your point “you don’t know me or my writing,” is addressed directly in point nine of the entry above. Likewise your point about friends/family, addressed in point 4a. You assert you’ve read the entry, which is fine, but I’d suggest you go back and read it a little more closely, and possibly when you’re not feeling so confrontational that it impedes your reading. If you read it and you still disagree, well, then of course that’s fine. See point four. Elsewise, I encourage you to find advice that’s more to your liking.

    That said, this is a fine time to learn that in the world, and particularly in the world of publishing, you will often be confronted by people with opinions that you think are mean/not nice/unfair/whatever, whether or not they themselves have intended it to be so. The world, and the people within it, are not required to have any special regard for your feelings. What publishers and editors will be interested in is your writing, and whether it is good enough and fits their needs. Almost all teenage writers are not yet at that stage. This is not a bad thing, for reasons I’ve noted. If they keep at it, one day, and possibly sooner than later, they will be.

  306. When I was a teenager I knew my writing sucked. When the teacher of my senior class made me submit a piece I’d just written to a magazine as part of an assignment I had a hard time with that–I didn’t want anyone to see my sucky writing. (Even then I knew that just written stuff is bound to suck. I was brave enough to even tell the teacher straight that I didn’t think it was a good idea.) I didn’t submit again until I was 20, but I knew the story wasn’t mainstream enough.

    But I think it’s true that no matter what age you are, your writing will suck. It will suck less the more you do it and the more you experience, but there is always something that is making the ship leak (Otherwise we wouldn’t need critiquers). But teenage writing–at least mine–really, really was horrible. At least at the time, I knew it.

    BTW, didn’t Christopher Paolini gets criticized heavily for his book having lots of errors and accused of well, being like teenage writing? At the time he was published other teenage writers were on his case for horses, armor, copying ideas from Star Wars, Pern and Tolkien. (Also for the promotion through his parents thing).

  307. [Deleted for pointless obnoxiousness. Gist: poster disagrees with me. What follows below is left because it’s not childishly pissy — JS]

    PS. I love Robert Smith too!
    He totally let himself go though,
    but I still love him. <3

  308. Heal, reading comprehension is good practice for writing well. Telling young writers to fuck off? That’s like reading Romeo and Juliet as being a polemic on how every kid should have a dog.

    Also, I predict that someday you will look at what you’ve written here and turn bright red, cover your face, and moan. Some years later you will use it as your favorite example of how far you’ve come since your callow youth.

    That’s especially if you do continue to write, as I and John (in this article! really, read it again) both sincerely encourage you to do.

  309. Honestly John, I agree with you on most of these.
    I’m a teenage writer myself, and my writing is BAD compared to most of the published work that I’ve read. Most- maybe not all, but a vast majority- teenagers don’t have the knowledge, wisdom, or life experience that it takes to be a successful published writer.

  310. I predict that someday you will look at what you’ve written here and turn bright red, cover your face, and moan. Some years later you will use it as your favorite example of how far you’ve come since your callow youth.

    Well, not now. :-)

  311. I am slightly embarrassed for teenagers everywhere. I’m a teenager and I completely agree with your blog. I know my writing sucks so I found it reassuring to know that it’s necessary. Thank you for the great advice!

  312. I must really say that your writing as a teen did actually suck. There are a lot of people out there who took offense to what you said, because in comparison, their writing doesn’t suck like that shit you posted. The details, story-line, etc were absolutely whack. Not to say that majority of teen writing doesn’t suck, but you cannot really generalize an entire group of writers, based on your own personal experiences. That is like saying, because YOU got robbed while walking down the street at night, I will too. (bad example, but I am too lazy to come up with a better example.) Anyway, there is always room for improvement, even for you. No one will ever become a perfect writer, or perfect at anything. You just get better with more experience, which is what you were trying to say.

    Anyway, I actually did find this article quite entertaining, and true to a certain extent.I did think it was harsh to some people who are barely teenagers i.e the thirteen year olds who are typing “MY WRITING DOES NOT SUCK MY MOM/TEACHER/FRIENDS/GRANDMA etc.

    Thank you for your advice though.

  313. To all the commenters:

    I agree with the author of the post here. I’m only thirteen, but even *I* understand that people in our age demographic right now don’t understand ourselves better than adults do, since they’ve already lived through it.

    I’m a dedicated fanfiction writer (check out my blog if you want.) who wants to take it further, but I want to wait until I have better experience before I publish. I know I’m not the best writer, no matter how much people compliment me. (I *still* think that I look over some of my drafts from two, three years ago, and they sucked so badly to me I deleted them. Compare that to back then, when I thought it was my best work.

    As for listening to adults, my mom’s a great help to me; she was editor-in-chief during HS, is writing her own novel, and gives accurate and blunt reviews on both her tumblr and on Goodreads. She gives me great advice about my writing. (Though a lot of it goes like: “Stop reading so many fanfictions.” “Write your original work.” But I digress.) I’m just saying that listening to adults isn’t a bad idea.

    Even so, some adult writers don’t have the best work either. (Look at the mess that is Breaking Dawn. I can’t even read it yet and I know it sucks. SM should’ve just stopped at Twilight.) No one is perfect, not even you.

    If you haven’t read the first post that the author wrote all the way through, just do it and think about what’s there. May your writing improve.

    Peace out,

  314. And my actual comment:

    I agree with everything here. I this is the second time I’m reading these articles, and I still agree, even though I was still 12.

    And since I forgot to link my blog, here:


  315. “Shhh:


    Which will not be helpful to you when, in fact, your writing sucks. Having accurate self-assessment is useful for any writer.”

    I know that’s from a comment that was posted a while ago, but I still laughed a bit when I read that. You seem like someone with a great mind and a fantastic ability to make logical points, but I don’t feel that that was one of your better examples (excuse my brashness).

    I completely agree that teen writers have a long way to go. I have a long way to go – boy, do I know it. However, saying that my writing sucks is something I’d never say, and something I’d not appreciate at all from anyone else who happened to do so, simply on the grounds that I want to build myself up. Therefore I think that you could have attempted to build teens up with your advice rather than insult their writing. Saying there is a hell of a lot of room for improvement is one thing, saying their writing sucks is another.

    Which brings me back to that comment I quoted. Shhh has a confidence in building his/her self up. While they understand that they have a long way to go, they are not going to tear themselves down in acknowledging that. And when you said, “Having accurate self-assessment is useful for any writer,” that particularly cracked me up. Because knowing where and how there is room for improvement is a much more accurate self-assessment than saying your writing sucks. So, really, you’re contradicting yourself, and Shhh does, in fact, have a better idea of accurate self-assessment.

  316. Nick:

    “Therefore I think that you could have attempted to build teens up with your advice rather than insult their writing.”

    It’s not an insult if it’s true. If it’s true, then it’s indeed an accurate assessment. And I think teens, as much as anyone and perhaps even more so, deserve (and should themselves employ) an accurate assessment of their current skills and writing. Your problem seems to be that you don’t think it’s nice, but I’m not 100% convinced of the value of nice in this context, nor do I think it’s particularly nice to soft-pedal something that needs improvement. You are of course free to disagree and find other, more congenial advice. But I think this general idea that teenagers need to be patted on the head and murmured to only in soft, encouraging tones is a bit silly; likewise that they shouldn’t be perfectly honest with themselves about the current state of their own writing.

    It may be instructive to know that most of the working writers I know are perfectly happy to admit to themselves when their writing sucks, up to and including using the phrase “wow, this sucks,” and I include myself in that group. In this regard, teenagers may be heartened in knowing that I’m treating their writing as I treat my own, and that I believe that they should be as critical of their own writing as I am of my own.

  317. I agree with the majority of the points you made, though I disagree that teen writing sucks. I’ll admit that most of it is bad, and, at the very least, no where near the point of being published. In my personal opinion, if a story doesn’t have excessive plot holes, uses proper spelling and grammar, and has a general plot, it probably doesn’t suck. Nonetheless, most teenage writing is fairly bad.

  318. I think, looking back, adults would be able to describe the experiences, feelings, etc. that they felt as teens, but they would not agree with some of the viewpoints and values. They would consider it silly that, as a teenager once, they felt so strongly about the silliest subjects. Yes, it is true that adults may remember what it was like to be a teen; however, to actually adapt the same mindset as they had before would be impossible.

  319. At first I was hesitant to rely to this post at all seeing as it seems a war zone has been made out of the comments section. I get it. Sometimes people just need to argue.

    But when I stumbled on this post, I thought “Well yeah my writing sucks”. I’m not so ignorant as to ignore that fact. However, I realized I did have something to say, whether my voice is going to be lost amidst all of these screaming comments or not.

    Whether you are a teenager or an adult, your writing is never going to be good enough. By readers standards, yes — people might buy it, and read it, and enjoy it. But by your standards as the author? You recognize there is always room for improvement. So, Mr. Scalzi, with respect to your many achievements, I’m sure that even your published writing “sucks”. Just because someone reaches that milestone of publication, doesn’t mean they stop improving, right?

    Maybe “sucks” was to strong of a word for some people but I know, at least for me, none of my writing is ever satsifactory. If you can look back at your manuscript and tell me it’s perfect and there is nothing you could have done better, then you can say your writing is good. The only reason an author could say their writing is good is if they are thinking of the world’s standards. It is the person who holds themselves to standards they’ll never reach that can truly produce excellent writing.

    So yeah, my writing sucks. And I’m proud of that.

    You guys should be too. :) Regardless of your age.

  320. Look,I can see why everybody is getting upset about it all,but I do feel,that while there are a lot of very good teenage writers,there are also very bad ones,who most likely,will never be very good writers.Not saying that improvement is not possible,just that sometimes while you may think your work “sucks” it doesn’t,so don’t be too hasty to judge.I know that a teenager may b more capable of writing a good story about how it feels to be a teenager.No one of those “when I was younger I did this and that ” but rather how it feels to be one.In my experience,being a teenager is not being an alien of some type or misunderstood,but rather,like somebody with decisions to make. So while I don’t believe my work “sucks”,I do believe it can be improved,but I also believe that if I work hard,I can have a novel published by the time I am 18. And not any novel,a good one.

    John: Thanks for helping,but next time,think from a different perspective,ours.I understand what you mean,truly,I do.Add without saying that I am the exception,I have to remind yo that there really are some very good teenage writers out there.Just like there are very good grown-up writers out there. This is not about age,it is about experience.While many adults may have more experience,keep in mind that SOME teenagers might have seen and done some things some adults can’t dream of. All I am trying to do,is to remind you of the exception.And the fact that sometimes,writing doesn’t improve.
    You either have talent or you don’t…It is what you do with it.So thanks,but next time,remember being a teenager is also being a human,with lesser experience about being a full grown human,but good writers can turn even small experience into art.So again,it is not how many experiences you have (they sure may help tough),but what you do with them.

    Ps. My mother does tell me I am good,but that doesn’t mean I am good,It just means she thinks I am good.Being good,is all up to me. (nobody else has seen my work,so I can’t name a whole list,but hopefully,I will.Not when my writing becomes better,but when I feel emotionally ready to show my work)

    To all the teenage writers: I understand some of you may be offended.If you are,you are probably good or think you are good.If you are offended,just ignore this whole article (or just take certain pieces of it) or MAKE it the fire in you that wants to prove poor old John wrong.

    Viva all teenage writers!

  321. JustME, one thing that will improve your writing right off the bat: always put a space after a comma or period. After a comma there are no exceptions. After a period the only exception is when you’re ending a paragraph there (or it’s actually a decimal point rather than a period…same mark, different meaning). This isn’t a legit style variation; it’s really necessary. In fact, I know some blog comment systems that filter “comma-followed-by-any-nonspace-character” as spam (it’s common for spammers not to use commas properly).

    There are some finer points of punctuation you might want to study as well. I recommend two things: first, Karen Elizabeth Gordon’s excellent The Well-Tempered Sentence; second, read a LOT of professionally-published writing, which a) means no self-published stuff, which hasn’t been past a professional copyeditor and could still be full of errors, and b) will help you absorb proper punctuation while barely noticing the process.

    Finally, I can’t think of a single instance of a good novel published before the author was 18, or even written before the author was 18. Say Eragon and I will laugh at you.

  322. I found this entry to be quite helpful, thanks! I’m a teenager (15) who has been interested in and been writing for several years now. I started when I was four (picture book stories about how I found some magic cookie or something…), and my love for it has only grown. I know I am in no way excellent at it, but it was nice to read that my bad qualities will hopefully pass. Also, I now know that writing every day will help.
    So, thank you! c:
    P.S. to the people who thought teenagers would not read it all, I did.

  323. I disagree with this. It’s not up to you to come to the conclusion that all teen writing “sucks”. Sure, people can improve, but to flat out say that somebody’s writing “sucks” merely because of the fact that they’re a teen is ridiculous in my opinion.

  324. honestly, i found your advice useful and encouraging. i also found your post ‘no, actually, your teenage writing does suck’ hilarious!! please ignore the imature and pathetic response of the other teenage writers of the world, because really; your words make complete sense, they just take offence because of jealousy of your career (well done on your achievements!) and because they obviously have too sad a life to think about anything but their suckish writings. keep writing x

  325. This is hilarious. You’re an idiot if you are so uncritical that you don’t think your writing sucks. But I see it every day. People are uncritical and they are idiots. It’s commonplace. Oh well.

  326. I thought BOTH articles were really helpful! they helped me put everything into perspective. I’m a fifteen year old writer and am on page 236! Thank YOU!

  327. Oh my gosh. My peers are so dreadfully daft.

    As a teenager, I fully recognize that my writing sucks now. So what….? Does that mean I should stop? No! It just means I should be more realistic.

    And now, for something slightly different.

    Here’s some self-promotion and a chance for criticism. The following is an excerpt from my book:

    They once told me of a woman living in a dark house on the top of Parnassus Hill. My peers thought she was a witch, but I knew otherwise. There was an ambiguous sweetness about her, like she had been rejected a thousand times over. Parnassus Hill, where a graveyard used to be, laid on the outskirts of town, off the way, on some beaten path. Sad churches and dead trees dotted the way to it. As you walked the path, each church whispered “help me” or “save me.” I didn’t want to enter the churches. Dead and weeping gravediggers must have lived in them, for they could not find any other shelter. The ancient soul in the dark house on top of Parnassus Hill wouldn’t let them enter. Old Book, the handsome gravedigger, ran away from home when he died and, as it rained, he searched the horizon frantically with his eyes, as if someone had been chasing him. He looked from side to side, but only saw churches.
    He didn’t want to go in them, just like me. And the gate to the dark house was guarded by a gruff and spitty torn dog.
    I ran away from home one day, the confusion which caused this was so unfounded, and I found myself, by chance, on that road. I stopped at its beginning, which started low down in the valley and went on forever. I couldn’t go in there.
    But, I had to. I moved from side to side, restless by the haunting of Scylla and Charybdis. I greatly desired to climb from beyond that moment, ahead of time and beyond which I would be safe in comfort. But the stream led me towards the dark house on top of Parnassus Hill. I clashed on the rocks and the pain tore my clothes. The blood spilled from the white shirt full of holes. I could no longer feel the bottom.
    The house, standing tall above the earth, came closer to me and it’s door opened wide up, like a mouth. I screamed. I did not want to be let in. The dog barked at me and snarled its stiff bone. The chains rattled.
    And then I saw her. The woman standing in the doorway. She begged me to come in, but that smile begged the question.
    Who was she? Why did her house lay at the end of this stream? I couldn’t let go of the water and it clung to my clothes, like dust. I tried to jump out of it, but it grabbed up for me.
    I made it to the doorway, up the stairs and onto the deck and, three feet from the hunched over woman in black doilies, she turned her back to me.
    I had been thrown in by the road, or the dog, and into the dark house no one dared to come to. Her appearance betrayed some sort of sickly old woman, but she seemed quite lively. I tried to talk to her, but she couldn’t talk. She just smiled. She had spiderwebs for hair and it got all over her black dress.
    She covered her arms with part of her dress and walked over to a record player.
    I looked at her, confused. She pointed at it, nodded at me, then at it.
    The music began to play. I wanted to go. This was uncomfortable. This woman was very weird and I didn’t have high hopes for what she intended to do with me. From the record player to me, she opened up her arms wide and ran to me. I stood still, paralyzed, as if I had been enchanted, and she came to give me a hug. She had a face of genuine pleasure. Was it me that made her so happy?
    I could not hug her back, for I had not warmed up to her as quickly as she had to me.
    What? Oh, she tried to grab my hands. You want to dance?
    It didn’t seem like dancing music, but I danced with her, anyways. She melted into me with care and warmth. Her old cheek morphed into my shoulder. I guess I should have been happy, too.
    She was no witch. How could anyone have labeled her as one? As we danced, it turned into a waltz, and so did the music, and an orchestra gathered near the record player. She became so beautiful. She became something else! I watched as the rain turned into snow. People from all the different eras of time danced around, mirroring our movements. We swayed and we got all sweaty.
    I stared at a girl my age, slightly younger, with eyes of the deep blue ocean.
    The dancers danced above us and around us, in a constant and perpetual waltz. I am glad I came to that place.
    We danced until even the ghosts got too tired to keep up. We danced to the passage where the darkness meets the light. The stars bled into dawn. The dancing ended somewhere. She walked over to the record player and, with smiles all over our faces, I prepared to say goodbye. You see, I had to get back home. I intended to think about Adrasta that night. I had not at all while I was there. Somehow, this woman was able to make me escape thinking about her.
    She had changed back to the state of an old hag, but she seemed even more attractive then Adrasta.
    I set down my coat, like I could come and go as I wished.
    She wasn’t preparing a meal, but she had something planned.
    Behind the record player, she resurrected a long dead harp.
    I was shocked. I had never seen a larger instrument.
    She begged me to go sit down on the three legged piano bench. The piano bench had all of its legs. Come to think of it, all of the furniture in that house was in perfect condition, like she never had any guests.
    My presence clearly delighted her.
    She sat down on the Victorian green couch. She closed her eyes.
    As her fingers pricked each string, I felt each tear water from my eyes. The stream exploded onto the floors, but she didn’t seem to notice.
    As she played with the harp strings, dawn limped up over the horizon. She called it and lulled the darkness back to sleep. The window near the couch flooded light on her gleaming face.
    She was so pleased that she could finally play her music for someone. She had mastered the harp. My tears flowed throughout the entire house, covering everything with a thin layer of film, like salt had precipitated out of the wood floors.
    I don’t know how long her song went on. But it sounded so ethereal, like she could play the song of the ages, or had been to each one. Like she was there in the beginning. I must have been there for an eternity.
    The place, not the time, kept me. I listened to an ancient and ignored soul play its song of victory.

    -Criticisms about confusion aren’t really beneficial. Keep in mind that I am, in no way, copying any other writer and am also using heavy symbolism. All of the above is actually an entire summary of my novel.

    Valete omnes.

  328. Um, obviously adults must have some grasp of what it’s like to be a teen, cuz you’re all up there fighting like them! Literally! You’re like the kids I go to school with!

  329. Mr. Scalzi,

    Just because someone disagrees with your article doesn’t mean they have not read it. I hate to break it to you but just because you posted your opinion, that doesn’t make it law. I just wanted to ask if maybe you could stop asking people to re-read the article and instead allow other people to express their opinion even if it is contradictory to your own.

    Thank yu.

  330. A Teenager:

    “Just because someone disagrees with your article doesn’t mean they have not read it.”

    No, but raising points of objection that are explicitly addressed in the article does suggest they have not. Which is why I suggest they read the article, or at least read more carefully.

    Likewise, asking me to allow people to express their opinion is silly, because quite obviously they have been doing so all through the thread. If I had been keeping people from doing so, you would not see disagreement at all. If you go through the thread, you will see both several places where teens have said they disagree, and me saying that they are of course entirely free to disagree.

    Which leads to the irony of me suggesting to you that you actually read the comment thread (or at least read it more carefully) before making statements about it, because it’s apparent you have not before you made your request. If you had, you’d understand why your request is pointless.

    Finally, when I want your suggestions on how to run my own site, I will be sure to let you know. Otherwise, please look at the site disclaimer regarding my opinion of unsolicited suggestions for site operation.

  331. Also I think you may be confused with the definition of the word “insult”. According to Mirriam Webster an insult is equivalent to indignity, “an act that offends against a person’s dignity or self-respect”. It has nothing to do with whether it is true, as you seem convinced. You don’t need to look beyond the above comments to see that your article was in fact an insult to many, seeing the number of offended people.

  332. A teenager:

    One clue that you actually are a teenager is that you appear to think a dictionary definition is prescriptive rather than descriptive.

    That said, if people feel insulted, oh well. Life is not designed to make them feel comfortable.

  333. [Aaaand deleted because “A Teenager” has turned the corner from having a disagreement to being obnoxious. Thanks for sharing, A Teenager. Your time here is done — JS]

  334. Hi there, all writers!
    I find it very interesting to see that while many older authors think this is a very well written article, teenagers do not agree. While I don’t agree that all teenagers suck, there is a very good chance that many need some work, I am not excluded. But I do believe that I am past the phase of totally sucking, as my writing has indeed improved with the passing of years and hard work, as a writer. I am being homeschooled, and will be finished with school by the time I am sixteen, and I can’t help to wonder if it helps me or pushes me in the right direction…NOT saying teenagers going to a regular school have a disadvantage, because I went to a regular school until recently. But since leaving the school I was at ( a very good school, mind you!) I have found more time to be creative. I also recorded a lot of improvement in a very limited time…Paolini might have been very smart, after all!

  335. Hello!!! I’ve been writing, and I’m a teenager. I just started posting my writing online about 3 years ago, the only person in real life who has read it was my English teacher this year. When I first read what you said, “Right now, your writing sucks,” I was thinking to myself no it doesn’t. I check this one, and read on some comments and arguments you had, and realized that you are right. I had just posted on this website that I put my writing on saying, ” I’m thinking about not writing anymore,” I have 23 followers, and have been on for 3 years, while there are people out there who have been writing for less than a year, and have 100+ followers. They also take good writing and change the names and add some events claiming it’s theirs, while I write original, with nothing to do with the normal stories on the site. I just got a review an hour ago, saying I have potential, but I need more emotion to my stories, he could tell it was there, but couldn’t feel it. I just don’t know how. I don’t know how to put emotion in, or paragraphs. I know about ” ” and how that works, but I don’t understand why you have to make more paragraphs when you change the scene or what have you. I know I suck. So, I thank you. I don’t know what to do with my writing, so I’m giving up, with posting it online and trying to be the best. I’d never get there anyway. So, thank you for helping me realize this.

  336. Hello, I’ve read both of these articles. I’m a teenager (15) and – though a couple of English Teachers have told me I have a “voice” at least – I am the first to admit that my writing is horrendous. But I also know that this doesn’t put me in a minority and I found the advice that sucking is normal and to just continue and improve helpful not insulting, as I have the possibly naive hope not to suck for eternity. I came and read the second article because I wasn’t sure what it was people would find so objectionable about the first. And I have chemistry revision to do so am whole-heartedly procrastinating.
    Now, I haven’t read all of the comments but it seems like a lot of them are questioning adult’s ability to comprehend the mind of a teenager… Even if you ignore the fact that, as John says, adults were once teenagers too, who do you think writes Young Adult fiction? Because, to my knowledge, the majority of authors writing within this category, the popular ones in particular(J K Rowling, S Collins, John Green, Cassandra Clare, Maureen Johnson etc.), tend to not only be past their teenage years but often well past thirty (seemingly fossils by popular teenage opinion). If these authors are /so/ ignorant as to the inner workings of the teenage mind, then it’s rather stunning that they managed to become so popular with books whose main characters are in fact teenagers, no?
    Just a thought,

  337. For someone who so readily gives advice on writing, you don’t show a particularly stellar mastery of the art yourself. Perhaps you are toning down your amazing talent as to not make us feel ashamed; you noble man, you! But in all seriousness, after reading your attempts at writing from the time you were 17 years old, it’s easy to see why your writing lacked that special “something” at that age; the proverbial “experience” that you were quick to mention was nonexistent. Unfortunately, and I mean that with all of my heart, I have experienced a great deal more in my 16 years than I would have liked to in all the years of my coming lifetime. The process of creating is my religion, whether the creation is literature, art, or music, I create, and I do it wonderfully. When I began my various creative endeavors, my confidence was enigmatic and inconsistent. Confidence, and occasionally arrogance, is the key to creation. Furthermore, as evidenced by every bit of Holy scripture, creation is the key to God-hood. When I create I become God, and really, who would be so blasphemous as to imagine confidence enigmatic to God himself? You were lucky, or unlucky, enough to have lacked the experience that grants confidence at the tender age of 17, and because of that, you are projecting your past inadequacies onto those of similar age. What began as an attempt to constructively critique young writers, this article became, albeit unintentionally, an embarrassing admittance of your past lacking of emotional and mental fortitude.

  338. Many complaints I and some others seem to have stem from the inaccuracy of your title. Teen writing doesn’t suck; rather, the writing one produces as a teenager can’t compare to what that same person might write in their older years. Yes, your writing as a 17-year-old sucked, no offense, but mine as a 15-year-old is much better. Still, your point is valid, in that my writing is in no way perfect, and thus can only get better; it’s just your title that’s misleading and somewhat of a magnet for angry, defensive comments. Also, I’m not trying to be cocky here, I’m just pointing out some things. Even if this comment annoys you, I’m here checking out your site, so you win in the end, eh? ;)

    I doubt you’ll ever see this, though.

  339. I would just like to thank you, i stumbled upon this website when i was feeling lost with my writing, wondering whether being a writer was an unrealistic goal as many people around me seemed to think. i have realised after reading your article i have become infatuated with the material of writers i idolise; following their writing style instead of my own. To all the negative comments about this article being patronising and incorrect are completely wrong, as i myself am a 17 year old girl confused about my writing style and still inexperienced as i havent had chance to live and experience life.Writing is my dream, i feel like english coursework is not a chore or task but an experience to create my stories, is university; doing a creative course worthwhile?

  340. Wow what a dream crusher, spirit breaker, etc. This is absolutely positively despicable article. I’m a teenager and I feel very insulted by this article. Teenager writing in fact does not suck. There now is a sophisticated little website call wattpad.com where you can hear the many voices of teenagers like me. In here’s the thing, my opinion is that not all teenagers suck at writing. In fact, I love teenagers writing because they have a lot of experiences they share. Writing is something they we love because we love people hearing our voice and not ignoring it like other kids do in school. Sorry if i just insulted you, but this is what i believe just as you believe teenage writing is truly terrible.

  341. Im a teenager and i disagree majorly. My friend can write amazingly, and my girlfriend and I are not horrible at it either. Me and my friend read twenty pages of the dictionary each night to expand our vocabulary, refuse to use filler words and write ten pages or more in a book per day. Were all three in creative writting classes and English honors.I belive its unfair and plain pernicious to say “your writting sucks” when you have never read it. Yes I realize you desputed that already but i still find it unjust. Its impossible to group all teen writters together because we are all very different. Thank you for crushing young teenagers dreams I look forword to proving you wrong. – love one assiduous teen writter

  342. I’m all down with generalization as much as the next person, but do you think this really a matter of age? I’m 19 and will soon be out of the teen years, but existing in this bizarre child/adult limbo of sorts, I’m finding myself a little conflicted here. I’ve been writing since I was 9 and certainly thought I was THE POOP with magical stories about magical people in a magical world who magically save the day, but I was 9; of course I was the poop. I’m aware my writing has improved significantly, and that can be entirely contributed to experience which can be entirely contributed to being alive for 10 more years. Not my fault; that’s just nature, or science, or whatever. Sure, my writing at 25 will be better than it was when I was 15, but presumably my writing will be better at 35 than it will be at 25. I don’t know why this whole “teenager” thing is a big deal. Mmhmm, we’re inexperienced, but we’re not incompetent. Those who are serious about writing will keep writing, keep improving, and inevitably realize they have improved since their teen years because science. It’s kind of like how I’m taller than I was at 9 years old. Science.

    And at risk of sounding real snippy, it was at least a pretty cute article. I love when adults talk to teenagers a special way, with a special lingo, and a special little “attitude” because everyone knows all teenagers have an attitude. I do, right now, but I’ve been provoked. There’s an awful lot of people who like to suck the art out of writing and try injecting it with all these cute articles and books and “strategies” that talk about writing, as though an individual could learn anything real about writing through something like that anyway. And this article is one of them but managed to exceed maximum irk-levels. I’m 19 and read Emerson and Eliot, put a sticker on my forehead and tell me how exceptional that is at my age because it will really make me feel better about myself because I’m a teenager, not an individual.

  343. Good points… +1, John.

    Writers of our age (and yes, OUR) are not quite where we need to be yet. Honestly, I was surprised when I saw this created a commotion. I think I’d already heard everything before rule 9, already. Maybe not as bluntly, but yes, if you’ve been at it for longer than a week or two, you’ve heard this stuff before. No really shocker, to be honest.

    And getting short stories and stuff published (unless you’re getting paid) really isn’t that hard at first. I had two shorts published with a small “non-paying” pub almost right after I got started. I think the best thing for starters to have is concepts. The prose will lack, but the concepts will so, so be there! That’s my problem now. I’ve ran out of ideas… D:

    So, I find myself studying myths and legends, trying to eventually make a “clever” spin on them. Not a bad idea, eh? Gives me something to write about, even though I’m almost burnt out. (I, for one, took what Stephen King said in “On Writing” as a challenge: 2000 words a day, every day. But I only did it for about 3 months..)

    I’ll be a lot better soon enough…

    And John, sorry about this lashing out from my fellow younglings.

  344. While I do accept that yes, my writing sucks, I don’t care. I write for me. I plan to become an actuary when I’m older. While you say that teen writing sucks, I think it would be better to say that as a teen writer, one can only write as themselves, a teen. Teens aren’t expected to have a view of the world, or the best phrasing. I think the sucky writing comes from teens who try to write as adults. They know nothing of the adult world, their writing is equivalent to dogs writing about what it’s like to be birds. It just doesn’t work. I accept this and none of my characters are much older than I am. While I personally think that your article was fine, I just think it would be better to not immediately piss off your readers. Save that for the ending.

  345. I’m 17 years old, and I DO think my writing sucks. I guess that puts me in the minority for people on this thread. I found this article very helpful in giving me the motivation to write despite sucking, so that eventually I might actually be somewhat good.

    I’ve found that if I say something like “I suck at writing” to my parents or friends, they tend to tell me that I shouldn’t be so hard on myself, and that if I think that way I will never improve.

    So thank you for this article, and thanks for helping me realize that awareness of the fact that I suck is a good thing, in the knowledge that eventually, I will suck less.

  346. As a 16 year old, I would have to agree. Come on, guys – can you honestly say that looking back on all the crap we wrote in elementary and middle school – that it’s actually good? Of course not. Did we think they were? Of course! Writing, for the most part, can only improve with practice. As many of us have only started writing, it makes sense that our writing relatively sucks as of now! But that’s good, because it means that tomorrow, our writing will suck slightly less. We can only go up from here!

  347. I read this article a while ago, as well as the previous one. On teenagers writing sucking: It’s all about perspective. To be honest, I could think that some teenager’s writing is great and yours is suckish. Now, their writing really could be good and not just me imagining it, although for the most part teen writing isn’t the best. I do agree that teens don’t have as much experience as adults, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have enough to write well. And adressing: “Don’t they deserve to know….” Sure, but in most cases(read: almost all) they DO know, even if they won’t admit it to themselves. You telling them their writing sucks and there’s nothing they can do to make in not suck except grow up is far from good advice. The articles and comments you’ve posted have made me see you as a jerk and a cynic. You may be an experienced, amazing author, but you have no people skills. Would it be that hard to write this in a pleasant way, without sugar coating anything?

    Also, I know you will reply to this and say something either indifferent or something that makes me sound stupid. I am well aware.

  348. Jac:

    “Would it be that hard to write this in a pleasant way, without sugar coating anything?”

    It’s written perfectly pleasantly. It also doesn’t sugar coat anything. You seem not to like it anyway. That’s fine. Go find other advice you like better.

  349. So the authority on writing has spoken! While I find it interesting that you can categorically dismiss all teen writing as unseasoned, I take one huge exception to your argument. Not all teens – but a skilled teen who, say is an honors student and loves reading books – perhaps more books in one year than an average reader may read in a decade, has one thing that you or any other adult professing to understand teens has. A current voice. A well written teen for teen fiction book speaks right to the target audience and not what an overanalyzing adult may think the target audience wants. So to all you skilled teen writers out there, stuff this pompous generalist and let your teen individuallity shine through. You can do it! You can do it now. As far as the grammer, just have a copywriter look it over and make the corrections that an adult bookworm will know how to make while keeping the voice and spirit of the piece by teens and for teens.

    Mr. Big Author, while your premise may be correct that a budding young writer may not have the chops to succeed on his first try out, that should not discourage young writers in the least bit as the only way to get good at something is to do it! And the only way to do it is to write and not think about writing or analyze about why you should not be writing. So everyone reading this,! Go on, Write!!!!

  350. Jon Parker:

    “Mr. Big Author, while your premise may be correct that a budding young writer may not have the chops to succeed on his first try out, that should not discourage young writers in the least bit as the only way to get good at something is to do it!”

    That fact that you appear to believe that you are refuting my premise by stating what is actually my premise suggests that you are more interested in getting on a soapbox than you are in reading what I wrote. Which is amusing.

    Also, this —

    “As far as the grammer, just have a copywriter look it over”

    — is spectacularly bad advice. Knowing the grammar of a language means you can do more with the language, not less, because you know the language’s structure and carrying capacity. Telling someone who wants to be a writer that they should have someone else sweat the grammar is akin to telling someone who wants to be a doctor that they don’t need to sweat learning the skeletal structure of a human body — they can just farm that out to an already qualified osteologist.

    Likewise, you wouldn’t give your text to a copy writer, you would give it to a copy editor. These two are different things entirely. There’s also the fact that a genuinely good copy editor isn’t cheap to hire, so suggesting to teens that they hire one suggests that either you don’t know what the going rate is for a competent, useful copy editor, or you assume teens are walking around with enough disposable income that they can spend it on support staff. There’s no doubt some teens might be able to do this, but I suspect most don’t.

    In the long run, it’s probably cheaper and more useful simply to learn good grammar; rumor has it that it’s one of the things one is supposed to be taught in the course of one’s high school education.

  351. Eh, a bit late here. Anyway:
    I’m thirteen. And I agree completely with this article. I know my writing sucks, Perhaps ‘horrible’ is a better word. Yes, I wrote essays that are nearly error free. Yes, I read many books. But that does not mean that my writing doesn’t suck. Just because you get A++++++++++++ on all your writing assignments, or read 100 books a day, or write 50 million words per hour does not make your writing awesome.
    I like writing, and I want to improve, but I can’t. You know why? Because I don’t practice. Practice makes perfect. I am also an artist (well, kinda). I look back at a drawing I did a year ago, and, to put it simply, it sucks. I look at today’s drawing and it’s better, but not the best. The same thing applies to writing. And it probably continues through out your life. So my advice is to practice. Multiplied by googolplex.
    Xoxo, HypnoPants
    P.S. The “IM BETR THN U EVN THO IM 13 N UR OPNYIN DSNT COUNT CUZ I GOT 1MILIN OUT F 1MILIN ON OLL F MAI TESTZ!!!!!!!!!!!111!11111” comments are hilarious.
    P.P.S. Muchas gracias. This was needed. We all needed a shower of freezing water mixed with 500 gallons of reality… =)

  352. All I can say is, I’m glad I didn’t have access to the internet when I was a teenager, or it would be considerably more clogged up with bad Star Wars fanfic than it already is.

    But y’know, I’m not sure about this list. It’s somewhere between well-meaning and mean-spirited. I don’t know about you, but I get so nostalgic for that happy, sheltered period of youthful Dunning-Kruger effect: when you’re just discovering great books for the first time, and everything that emerges from your own head is so fresh and wonderful to you and you just KNOW it must be to everyone else.

    I say let them enjoy it while it lasts. Their bubble will be burst in due course. Once you grow up and get serious about any creative pursuit, you’ll never be free of the self-doubt and self-criticism that’s necessary for improvement.

    (…And now I’ve re-read what I just typed, and I’m sure I’m far too young to be blathering on about this kind of thing. It’s all downhill from here, it’ll be mug of cocoa and bed by 9 before too long.)

  353. When I read this article, I started to laugh…because to be honst it’s the truth. This is probably the most truthfull and most usefull article I have ever read. I agree and believe that writing, like everything else, is not something that can be mastered over night. I have many favorite authors and I bet a hundred bucks that their writing “sucked” (hahaha, that still cracks me up :P) when they were sixteen. But look at them now!! They’ve sold over a million copies and will continue to sell them for a very long time. Thanks to your advise I have probably learned a ton about what being a teenage-dreamer-of-being-a-writier-one-day is all about and what to do to prepare as time goes by. So thanks for the tips!! I hope to be a writer one day too, and I hope that my writing will improve with time and experience so that it will not be so suckishish as it is now. :) Thanks again for your great (and funny) advise!

  354. i cant read all these comments my self. well i think i understand what you saying because i admit that sometimes we teenagers dont know what we are doing. but i guess thats just how things are. i support your write up.

  355. You have very good points…..you just don’t connect to teens very well. Here’s some tips:

    *Put the GOOD stuff first. Than, they’ll keep reading and GET to the bad stuff.

    *Don’t put everything so harshly! Bring it down a notch. Teens (not afraid to admit it) can sometimes be senstive and way overative.

    *Nobody’s writing is perfect although some is much better the others. Please, please, PLEASE stop complimenting yourself. You sound very full of yourself and it makes me want to be sick.

    *Stop sounding like an expert on teens; you’re not.

    Thanks for the helpful advice!

  356. Sarah Margaret:

    “you just don’t connect to teens very well.”

    By which you mean that I don’t connect with you very well. Which is not the same thing. Unless you’ve been appointed Speaker For All Teens, in which case I would like to see the nominating ballot, please. Otherwise, I suspect you should probably content yourself with speaking for yourself only. Speaking for one’s self is a perfectly valid thing, mind you, and should be encouraged.

    As I’ve noted numerous times before, this advice works well for some teens, less well for others, and I’m perfectly fine with that. Those who don’t like it will have other places to get advice.

  357. I don’t quite understand why everyone is making such an effort to out-do eachother on intelligence. Great, you want to get your very important point across and using words like ‘quizzical’ but really, no-one but yourself cares about what you write (apart from your Mother) so just enjoy it. Aghh I’ve been suckered into writing a comment now. Darn.

  358. Just because you were a bad writer when you were in high school doesn’t mean most students are as well. I know plenty of teenagers that are amazing writers and have been published. Your ideas are stereotypical and from your own (a wrong) perspective, because as you said, you sucked at writing. This is a new era and your opinion is now incorrect.

  359. I feel like some people have really missed the point of the article. Or maybe I interpreted it wrongly – but this is what I got out of it.
    John is not saying that you suck as a writer. He’s saying that at this point of time, you are not as good as you will be in 5 or 10 years. He’s saying that you can improve, and that you suck more now than you will do in the future. I, personally, find that comforting. You will not be stuck at this level of suck (whether it is terrible or awesome) for eternity. Your writing will get better, only if you see it realistically. Only if you make an effort to improve it, will it actually improve, because you know it sucks compared to what you can achieve.
    But maybe that’s not what it meant. Even so, he shouldn’t need to sugar coat the truth. No matter how many competitions you win, you should still be striving to suck less. There are published authors who suck, so why shouldn’t you?
    And for all you aspiring writers who were personally offended by this – good luck. I just hope you develop a thicker skin by the time you start sending out manuscripts.
    Sorry for sounding like a condescending prick, it just had to be said.

  360. Lol I love this and the earlier article!
    It’s really helpful actually. Yes, most teenagers are all ‘Urgh, this guy’s sooo mean!’ or something. But I think we need to hear it. I read my work back and I’m just like… there’s something missing… And I suppose it’s reassuring to know that HOPEFULLY it WILL get better.. I just wish it was 10 weeks away, not 10 years… Aaah well. Anyway, you’re kinda funny too, I’d love to read some of YOUR work. And I think I’ll do just that. Honestly, I found this while looking for character names and now I’m reconsidering…. maybe I should come up with the actual PLOT first before jumping headfirst into the story? Yeah…
    I’m tired… maybe i should go to sleerlp

  361. So, not quite sure what egged you on to write such a post? Maybe you are suffering some serious problems and wanted to unleash them by taking them out on others to make yourself feel better? That’s good for you.
    The way you phrase it, “Teenage writing sucks”, It’s kind of pathetic when you look at it that way. It doesn’t suck. Teenagers, are at a point in their life when they only began to learn to write, so how in the hell does this affect you in anyway? It doesn’t.
    You know what sucks? You actually taking the time to write about something so pathetic.

    How about you go write something worth reading, before you be judgmental.
    Because this post – ha, It’s not even worth reading. YOUR WRITING SUCKS.

  362. I just wanted to say thank you for the article. Everyday I push myself to write well, even though I know it can’t be all that good, but knowing that someday maybe it will be good is very encouraging. I think the only thing we can do as teen writers is just keep trying…someday we’ll get there. Thank you, Mr. Scalzi, for the great advice. I’ll try to take it to heart.

  363. My personal view is that it’s not that teenage writing sucks, it’s that writing by people who haven’t had much practice yet, haven’t honed their writing skills yet, haven’t had much feedback on their work yet, sucks.
    And yes, a lot of those inexperienced writers are teenagers, and a lot of teenage writers are inexperienced. So a lot of teenagers’ writing sucks. My own writing sucked when I was a teenager (I believe it’s improved at least a little now). But in my opinion, it’s correlation not causation.

  364. CarrieVS:

    “But in my opinion, it’s correlation not causation.”

    I would not generally disagree with this, although I would note that with teens the correlation here is close to 1:1 because being young almost means one is relatively inexperienced as a writer, as one is with most things which require training. It takes time for nearly everyone to develop competent writing skills, and that works to the disadvantage of being a very good writer, very young (which is different from being a good writer for one’s age).

    That said, being a teenager starting out as a writer is in many ways materially different than being an older person starting out as writer, in ways that are both positive and negative (although I think mostly positive). This is why these articles are pitched to teenagers, and not beginning writers in a general sense.

  365. My word, a war is taking place here.

    @Commenters: It hurts more because it’s true, doesn’t it?

    @Mr Scalzi: I agree with you entirely. I’m fourteen and my writing does suck. I think that, in a way, it always will. At any stage, you will have less experience than you will have at a later stage. If I look back at what I wrote three or four years ago, I cringe. In a few years, I’ll probably cringe at what I write now. That isn’t to say that I’ll always be horrible, just that there will always be room for improvement. To reach the “next level”, one must simply keep writing. Although it’s kind of discouraging to think of how horrible I am, it also inspires me to practice more. Thank you for that.

  366. I don’t understand why teens are so against the truth. As a being of thirteen, I think yeah, my writing is good for my age, but is far off the high publishing standards. It is better, especially for our generation, to understand now there is room for improvement, and plenty of it. So rather than reject the criticism, understand it, and use it to improve your work. Simple.

    Emily x

  367. I agree with John on this one. The vast majority of teenage writers do suck. But most of the time, at least in my case anyway, that’s when they’re just starting out. Of course they’re going to suck. I’m sure there are exceptions, but for the most part teenage writers suck compared to more practiced writers. I’m 23 years old and I still suck, though that’s usually pure laziness on my part. Maybe John, just to be a little more politically correct, you might consider changing the title to MOST teen writing sucks. That is all, for now…

  368. These two posts are pitch-perfect, John. As a 36-year-old graphic designer and web developer I’ve had to say much the same to younger/student designers–whether it’s for software skill level or design sense or dealing with time budgets or simply working in an office with other semi-sentient wet sacks of carbon. Positive feedback is nice, but the best motivation I ever had, as a younger creative, was when people (gently or otherwise) told me my stuff wasn’t any good. It made me want to create something new and better to supersede the suck.

    Thankfully I learned to deal with criticism when playing in college rock bands, where 90% of it is “you guys SUCK!” After a decade in the design biz, I’m now in the weird position of giving advice, too. Isn’t it bizarre that the kids actually care what we think, and sometimes even listen to and value what we say?

    Aside: I was introduced to your work and Whatever this year via Redshirts and the “my next band name is” blog. I’ve really enjoyed all of it. Thanks.

  369. Pingback: I Aspire to No “Like” Buttons | Miscellany

  370. After reading both your articles and most (if not all) your replies, I have developed a rather firm option of you. I like you. Something is snippety about you, in the most pleasant way possible of course. I’ve read through your posts and I can’t help but laugh.

    Now onto the article:

    I’m 15. This fact really isn’t relevant, but (going with the general public) I thought I’d add it anyway. I agree with your points. As I age, I find that I constantly get better. I can’t say this is true for everybody, except that I know that it’s true for everybody. However, an interesting thing is that the older and better I get, the more I recognize my suckiness. Yes, I’m aware that suckiness is not a word (at least according to most dictionaries), however considering the article I thought it was appropriate. This, in turn, makes me think (in a brief period of low self-confidence) that I’m getting worse. A quick look at my past writings assures me that this isn’t true.

    Sorry for the ramble, but I’ve read the replies and I think you’ve had worse.

  371. I think this is just putting young authors down and the writer is being a bit arrogant to us. Being a teen author myself i think my writing is OK, and it can only get better, and won’t improve if people keep putting it down. I know i have a long way to go but arrogance and people telling me i SUCK won’t help. Also the image he describes is a stereo type, not all of us are like that and write gooey “teen fiction”

  372. I have probably read both of these articles at least five times each and have gotten something different out of them each time. Being a writer of fourteen, I have come to know that my writing stinks. (Grammar as well) It would seem weird that every time I get discouraged about what I am writing, I come back and read these articles. They remind me that I will get better if I persevere. The first decade of my writing has been towards establishing the basic structure and understanding of a novel, and I hope the next decade goes towards developing a strong voice and three-dimensional stories. I thank you Mr. Scalzi for these articles, and even though I don’t know who you are, I feel inclined to look up what you have written. So again, I thank you.

  373. I’m a fourteen year old writer and i don’t think you should be so down on yourself no name (if that is indeed your real name) teenage writing does not stink, he’s just predjuiced because he believed he sucked as a teen, maybe if someone had encoraged him (unlike he is doing to us) he would not be writing this now. There’s constructive critism and theres just plain rude “does it make you feel cool to shatter peoples dreams?” critism – no guesses which one he is.

  374. Yes… some writing sucks. to be honest we all know that at some point in our lives when we write something and we look back on it that it isnt that good. but that is life and it is what we learn.
    however these are lessons to us. what you writes just puts us down and does nothing to encourage us to write anything!

  375. A snarky little comment here hidden way in the archives…

    I think Gordon Korman’s writing for kids was a heck of a lot better before he had kids. His teenage writing was edgy. Now, as an adult, it’s all Saturday Morning Special. Meh. Occasionally he’ll put out something like a Bruno and Boots that is almost as good as his earlier stuff, but never quite. (I don’t think this is a function of me having read his earlier stuff earlier, I think there are genuine differences, mainly in how adults are treated as characters.)

  376. Calling him an idiot would be an insult to all the stupid people
    hes mean and he’s arrogant
    and he’s dissing us
    He is the kind of a man that you would use as a blueprint to build an idiot, he needs to learn some people skills.
    how’d he even get here? did someone leave his cage open?

    [Two subsequent contentless posts from this fellow deleted — JS]

  377. [Deleted. Dude, your comments are being deleted at this point because you’re not saying anything, you’re just graffitiing the comment thread. We get you’re unhappy with the piece. Unless you have something substantive to add, move on – JS]

  378. When bosons are highly concentrated, do you get a bozo? WHERES suggests so, though “A TARQIN (sic) ALONE” is so OTT it suggests he may be kidding.

  379. Please, please, please read. I at least bothered to read yours, and if you’re nice and humane you’ll at least TRY to read this.

    Alright…..Alright. I’ve read EVERYTHING. And by everything, I mean your first one, all those freaking comments….Every single one, even though it really hurt my eyes and made me want to slap (no names yet, please keep reading) more than a few times…then I read this. And I just have to tell you first hand, Mr. Big Shot Successful Writer Who Think’s That He’s Cool But Wont Even Bother To Read Every COMMENT, you’re very vain.
    But That’s okay! You know why? Because you’re going through what is called: Writers Vanity. It’s just one common stage that every writer who finally gets people who like his or her book gets. It’ll go away with time, trust me.
    Now, if you’re still reading-which I doubt, grown men usually think themselves too good to read everything-you’ll hear me out.

    Everyone starts out differently. Obviously, you had issues as a child and was very unsure of yourself. The thing is though…most children write better than adults. In fact, most adults who have published GOOD stories-not the small stupid ones that you think are good, the classics and new classics which I’ll get into later-started them as children. Children just have a better understanding of the world, and they are innocent; innocence is something that most people just wish to have. The thing is, since you were a kid-a while ago, I suppose by the style of your writing which shows that you wish to be a child again by degrading them-grammar and arts have changed. Teachers will teach children how to read and write and they’ll try hard and write good things.

    As for poetry…most of the worlds greatest poets were children. Children between the ages of five and twenty-two, who died between those ages. And even some that didn’t die. The thing with poetry is….most good poets go unnoticed until the day they die. Emily Dickinson…Most of her poetry was written while she was a teenager, and then some more once she was older.

    Not everyone sucks at writing. They can suck at grammar, and they can suck at big words…but that doesn’t mean the book wont be good. Ever read, ‘How To Kill A Mockingbird’? Well, that has atrocious grammar of the South-which is where I live-and doesn’t really use big words, but it’s one of the best books in the world. It’s amazing, and it’s written by Harper Lee if you haven’t read it. Read it. It can tell you that even though something seems bad…it’s really good.
    When I was younger-last year, for we do age each year and we do get older, it’s not just you-I thought it would be bad because of how it starts. It just didn’t grab my attention. But now, after my teacher had us read it-it took me less than two hours, because I CAN read, and I’m the second best reader in the school counting the teachers(I was given an award for it, the first best is my best friend who happens to be my age also which I’ll tell you later in this just to show my point)-I can see that it’s amazing. If you get past the first chapter…you realize how amazing and beautifully written the story is. It’s told from a child’s point of view…and you can easily tell that she is smarter than you’d think a child could be. Just saying. Now, I’ve strayed too far from my point, and shall commence back to it.

    I know that you’ve not read all of this, nor will you most likely, for you’re just human and humans do tend to quit reading after a while. I don’t blame you, for I can only pity you for being so naive. I may be younger than you by a few generations, but I’m not stupid. Nor do I think anyone is. People can act stupid, and seem to be stupid, but that doesn’t mean they are stupid. And those people are just different from you. Not everyone can do the same thing as you can, and you can’t do the same stuff that others can. Your books will not be the same as someone more experienced than you, but that doesn’t mean yours aren’t as good. In fact, it only goes to prove that people who aren’t as good as you can write just as good as you because they will write something from their side, telling a story within words that can grasp at a readers heart and take hold of it.

    Now, you do in fact write good books. You do in fact know more stuff than I do. You do in fact happen to be more experienced than I am. But if you happened to read all this…I hope you got my point. At any age you can start to write, and you can start to understand the process of life. And not even you know what the process of life is. I don’t either, but I probably know just as much as you do about it. I wasn’t given a good life, and I don’t think I’ll have a better life in the future. But given chance and hope, and me trying my hardest to prove life to the lifeless, I shall succeed.

    Yes. You heard it. I shall succeed. I shall succeed in writing, and I shall get better and better and know more and more. I shall write and write, but I probably will only get better at using words, for the plots and characters I use now are two point three times more detailed as yours. Do you know every thing in your characters life? I think not, but I don’t know. I do though. I know my people inside and out, and my people don’t change within the book as I continue to write in it. The plots I make are complex and unique, but they are just as good as yours are. And one last thing I need to tell you…

    I am only two months away from being fifteen. But I’ve devoted every day of my life since I was seven to writing and reading, ever since I realized that I was useless in anything else. Ever since I got free of the home I was in, where I was beaten and abused and made to feel as if I was less than dirt. The person who did it is free, and will probably never go to jail for it…but I have forgiven them. I don’t hate them either, because I can’t hate anyone. I can only pity him. Just as I will pity you as long as you remain to think that the world revolves around you and your writing. For you aren’t the world, and your writing is far from the best. I’m sorry to say this, but it’s true for EVERYONE. For everyone in the world. I’m not saying I’m not bad, I’m sure that most of what I write is crap. Complete and udder crap. But not everything I write is. And one day, I’m sure I’ll be published and I’ll make sure to send you the book. I don’t want you to read it unless you want to, so do what you will with it.

    I just wanted you to know this, and I completely understand if you are annoyed with me and think that I’ve been sassing you, for I meant no harm in what I said. I will repeat, I have not meant to sass you in any way and I hope you found this helpful. I hope you have a very good day, and a very good life. I also hope that you figure out what it is that is bothering you, for you seem short tempered and mad…which I know I am sometimes also.

    Love, a small little almost fifteen year old girl who hopes to be as successful as you in the writing world one day who’s only offering some peace and assistance to your ‘helpful’ words to teenagers. :)

    P.S. I really do hope you resolve those issues you had as a child, and any psychiatrist will tell you that you obviously have them. (my ‘second’ mom is a social worker, and I’ve read several humongous psychology books) Good luck with fixing your issues, and continue writing! ‘The world is made of stories, and stories will world make.-anonymous.’

  380. My God! Thread necromancy is the devil! Also, after spending ten years training teenager and early twenty-somethings to do somtimes difficult and dangerous things: do you know WHY we recruit the young for the military? Because they are self-assured (stupid) enough to know (believe) in their own immortality (likelihood of fucking up and going to Landstuhl). Ladies and gentlemen, I believe Mr. Scalzi was making the point that most of what you do when you are young either sucks or is undeveloped. This isn’t bad. It’s SUPPOSED to be that way. One day you will grow up and become a beautiful butterfly or special snowflake or whatever…but first you get to be a stupid chrysalis, a mote of dirt in a cold cloud, or a developing writer.

  381. Kamari:

    “Ever read, ‘How To Kill A Mockingbird’? Well, that has atrocious grammar of the South-which is where I live-and doesn’t really use big words, but it’s one of the best books in the world. It’s amazing, and it’s written by Harper Lee if you haven’t read it.”

    However, Harper Lee does not have atrocious grammar — her grammar is exemplary, and she is in control of her writing instrument, a thing which came through years of work. This allows her to accurately and effectively use dialect when it suits her, and when it suits her story. You appear not to be aware of it, but Harper Lee is an argument for what I am trying to tell you, not what you are trying to tell me.

    “most of the worlds greatest poets were children”

    Well, all of us were children at one point. If you’re suggesting that the majority of great poets were children, I invite you to read more widely, as many of the greatest poets were at the peak of their powers long after they were children.

    Beyond that, your snipes about my need for therapy aside (when you are a more mature writer you will understand why that temptation to give into such passive-aggressive sniping undercuts your larger argument), you have, I’m afraid, missed a bit of the point here. This is advice is blunt but it is not adversarial; as noted many times before, I want younger writers to grow into better writers, and because I have taken them seriously I have offered them the courtesy of providing them advice in the same tone and manner I would provide advice to an adult.

    I certainly would agree that some teens don’t appreciate the tenor of the advice here. That’s fine; there are other places to get advice that they will like better. But then some teens do. Either way, however, I would see not being straight up with teenagers as condescending to them. And why would I want to do that?

  382. Alright, alright. I think I understand what you are trying to say here. And by atrocious, I didn’t mean it in a bad way. I meant it in a way that means it’s hard to read for people who have grown up using big words and reading from the Oxford Dictionary whenever they get bored-which means me.

    I was not trying to be snarky in any way, form, or fashion, and as I said earlier I was not trying to sass you. It is just obvious by the tone of voice your writing has that you had a bad childhood past, and you’re trying to atone for it by boasting yourself up with higher standards on your writing. It is very well done, I admit, but that doesn’t mean that you have the right to say it all sucks. After reading what I wrote, could you honestly tell me that my writing there sucked? You might. But think before you get all mad with me, please. I know you probably will get mad at me, and call me rather mean names and make me feel stupid about what I wrote-said. But guess what?

    Everyone does that to me. Including my family, who hasn’t ever told me that my writing is good. In fact, they point out everything that I do wrong which makes me happy because I know they don’t lie to me. They only make me better. I can see that your family wasn’t like that, and they probably told you that you were the best they had read of your age, which made you get better also. But I write about the same as you do. In fact, I read what you wrote at seventeen, that short story mentioned in your first thingy, and I wrote like that when I was eight. Some people mature faster or slower depending on how they happen to grow up. I grew up hard, and reality crashed down on me, so I forced myself to get better and learn faster.
    I understand that I do not know everything about it, and I know that I wont ever know everything about writing. But at least I make an effort to write my best, and I know that I will get better in it no matter how many people like you tell me that I suck before taking the time to read my writing.

    I get what you mean, but with people like me..it’s not much of a help. But to many, not all but more than a handful of people, it’s rather helpful. Good for you, because I couldn’t be as nice as you were if I told people what you did. I’d probably be at whole lot worse, and completely mean to them, but first I’d read all of what they have wrote. Just to be able to criticize them better. The thing is though…not everyone will find this helpful. Some of what you said was helpful, but a lot of it most people know because it’s just common since. But since a lot of stupid teenagers-like people I go to school with-don’t know common since, they might find this helpful…or they will get angry and call out on you for accusing them of writing badly.
    (Oh, and for what you put on your first blog about this, I am on a newspaper and plan to be for the rest of high school. It doesn’t make me a dork though, it just means that I happen to be smart enough to edit and write stories for the newspaper. And it has made be a whole lot better than I was.)

  383. I’m sorry if I had offended you in any way, sir…for I happen to be very bash and slightly rude in my writing. I’m pretty stupid when it comes to explaining what I’m trying to say to someone, because I’m an introvert, and talking to people I don’t know is very hard for me. Again, sorry if I offended you. You are a very good writer, and this was a well thought out article with many valid points, and you are really a good person.
    Forgive me if I have seemed to annoyed you with my comments, especially my ones about therapy..for I just happen to want everyone to be happy and realize what a great person they are inside. I just read too many books over any topic, so of course…I do happen to like to recommend people to talk to specialists about things like that whenever their writing or talking shows that they pretty much need to talk to someone about it.

  384. Rereading my first comment…I sound like a stuck up snobby brash and spoiled kid, don’t I? I’m sorry. In ‘How To Kill A Mockingbird’…well, quite frankly it’s now my favorite book! I’d read it any day, any time…I just meant that for people like me-stupid yet smart somehow people-it APPEARS to have atrocious grammar. While in fact though, it is very amazingly written and has the grammar of someone three million times her age, she is just that experienced. She is a wonderful writer, and I meant her no offense. All in all…I’m sorry for the way that came out. If I could reword what I wrote I would, but I cannot change the past and nor would I wish to ruin time by doing so. Thank you for actually taking the time to read what I have written here, and good luck on your writing life, you are very prosperous. :)
    Have a happy day, and a good life!

  385. Karami,

    Shakespeare, arguably the greatest poet in the English language, did not write poetry when he was a child.

    He was educated at the Grammar School in Stratford upon Avon; during the summer months he attended school from 6am to 5pm, and in winter from 7am to 4pm. He was, of course, required to spend many further hours studying in addition to the school hours since he was required to pass examinations every week.

    Oh, and he had to converse entirely in Latin in school, rather than his own language of English, since this fluency was required to enable him to read the great poetry and prose of of the classical era.

    He didn’t write poetry as a child because he was too busy acquiring the skills which would enable him to go on to be, arguably, the greatest poet ever in the English language….

  386. firstly, and please don’t delete me the minute you hear this- i’m a friend of tarquin (or WHERES)
    secondly, i come to say i too want to be an author
    and both me and WHERES can agree on this (thought we have are differances)
    we both love CONSTRUCTIVE critism
    but this is a step too far
    telling people they suck can only make them down on themselves more
    and surely you don’t wan’t teen authors to no longer exist?
    some people already lack confedence as it is
    without people telling them they suck, and it just makes you sound arrogant
    i don’t result to insults like WHERES
    and his umm… eariler comments were more than a tad rude
    but it seems everything he had to say that was meaningful was deleted
    (and though i’ll probably be deleted for being his friend)
    PS. kamari, i’m surprised he hasen’t blocked you yet, though i believe you i wouldent get to… pasionate… like WHERES or you’ll end up blocked too

  387. R.L.Stine started writing whenever he was nine…just saying. Yeah. And he’s really successful, and his writing is WAY better than most adults writing are, and that’s talking about his TEENAGE writing. I know several adults who write crap, and guess what? Most teenagers can write better than crap, but most people wont take anything but crappy writing from teens to undermine them and make adults feel superior. Just felt like sharing this bit of psychology with you all.

  388. And for Stevie, guess what? If he had JUST started writing whenever he was an adult, he would suck. But Shakespeare doesn’t suck, and he is, in fact, one of my favorite poets. (Favorite has to be Edgar Allen Poe, sorry Shakespeare) He probably did write as a child, just didn’t share it. I mean, a lot of people don’t share half of what they write at a young teenage age, because most teenagers are scared to show what they wrote to the world, so he probably thought about them but never expressed them to people
    A true poet doesn’t share every poem, but they learn from every rhyme. A true writer doesn’t boast about her-his writing, but gently shows the world and accepts what the world shows back. A true dream doesn’t consist of nothing, but consists of everything, for everything is in a dream and in that dream is everything, and in nothing is nothing is nothing.-Sarah Shaw. (good friend of mine, who happens to be a poet-writer-songwriter-TEENAGER)

  389. [ERROR: 2/10/2013 -Drama quota exceeded. Too many use of caps in the wrong places. Freedom of speech does not apply to personal blogs. -KEB]

  390. This. Is. A. List. Of. Published. Teen. Authors. With good books too. Most of them WAY better than what most books are. Yeah, I said it. There are more than this, but this is just the majority of ones I know who are very talented in the writing specialty.

    Amelia Atwater-Rhodes
    Anne Frank
    Lousia May Alcott
    S. E. Hinton
    Gordon Korman
    Nick McDonell
    David Pilkey
    Robyn Schneider
    Mary Shelley (hopefully you know who SHE is. If you don’t, tsk tsk)
    Ned Vizzini
    Matty Steponick
    Benjamin Lebert
    Curits Sittenfield
    Zach Hample
    Ned Vezzini
    Tupac Shakur (song writer, but you mentioned poetry a few times. He’s also an inspiration to many aspiring writer-poets, and he is one of the best rappers in the world. He started whenever he was nine also, and the first few songs he wrote were so amazing, most songs nowadays cannot hope to come close to being half as good as he was.)
    Walter Farley
    Dave Pikley
    Kenneth Oppel
    Catherine Webb
    Nancy Yi Fan
    Flavia Bujor
    Danielle Steel
    Kaza Kingsley
    Adora Svitak
    Pieretta Dawn
    Catherine Banner
    Gordan Korman
    Kody Keplinger
    Hannah Moskowitz
    Vahini Naidoo
    Rachel Coker
    Dan Elconin
    Alexandra Adornetto
    Isobelle Carmody
    Jack Heath
    Cayla Kluver
    Lindsay Cummings
    Stephanie Diaz
    Katherine Ewell
    Valerie Gribben
    Jessica Dunn
    Kathy Henderson
    Steph Bowe

  391. LOL Kamari. When you mature just a little, you will be so very ashamed of what you wrote here. Mortified, in fact. It will make you flush and sweat and cover your face with your hands. I’m empathic enough to be embarrassed now, on behalf of your future self. I’m so sorry.

  392. Oh…and Halftongue…I mentioned a whole lot MORE than Christopher Paolini. If I had only mentioned him, I wouldn’t be writing what I wrote. There are more than him, and he only wrote three. Most of the people in there wrote over fifteen NOVELS that were amazing before they were twenty. He’s not that great, he just happened to write beautifully and graduate from school early. That’s a rarity. But the rest of them write good; not a rarity. Duh. Writing good is easy. Finding the right people to read it is harder than finding a drop of fire inside of hell. (If you don’t get the metaphor, read some Dante.)

  393. @Kamari: You missed out Nellie McKay, Isaac Asimov and Rudyard Kipling in your List. Of. Teenage. Writers. (If you haven’t heard McKay’s album Get Away From Me, mostly written and performed at about age 16, go dig it up – nothing she’s done since quite compares. Kipling, however, was apparently pissed mightily at his parents for publishing a book of his teenage poems without his knowledge or consent.)

    On the flip side, some of the best (or at least best-selling) authors got started very late. Robert Heinlein (whom I assume you’ve heard of) was first published at the age of 32. Rex Stout, who routinely held a spot on the bestseller list with his Nero Wolfe mysteries from the late 1930s to the late 1960s, didn’t start writing for publication until his early 40s. (And was still obviously learning his craft at that age – his early pulp work is passable but occasionally painful, and it took him almost 10 years to get the Wolfe stories into their best form.)

    The point being, both ends of the spectrum can happen. I don’t wish or intend to be condescending, but I recognize a lot of the tone in your posts: it’s the same tone I had at age 16, in my community college Freshman Comp (Literature), when I self-righteously slapped the shit out of an assignment comparing a well-written but ultimately flimsy piece of fiction (“The Most Dangerous Game”) to something weightier (and I wish I could remember what it was – may have been Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery”, but I doubt it)…and got my essay back with a C-minus and a note from the prof: “Sorry, you seem to have missed the point.” He wasn’t wrong.

    There is a HUGE tendency to rail and rant against the prevailing wisdom – and Scalzi, for all that he’s hip and internet-literate and writes cool shit, is the prevailing wisdom in this case – but the prevailing wisdom is usually right.

    I said USUALLY. You think Scalzi’s full of it? Fine. Stop trying to argue with him and go prove him wrong. Write shit that sets the world afire. Be like Shelley, Hinton, Kipling, Asimov, or whoever it is on that list whom you admire…but go DO IT. Prove him wrong. Don’t tell us how good you are, SHOW us. But not here.

    Harlan Ellison, whom I admire greatly as a writer, was told during his brief time in college that his writing stank and was not worth serious consideration. For several decades, he sent the prof who’d told him that a copy of every positive review, every credit, every award he ever got – finishing up with a framed copy of his entry in WHO’S WHO IN LITERATURE. If it’d make you feel better, I suspect Scalzi wouldn’t mind a bit if you did the same.

    I like the phrase “Living well is the best revenge.” I’m still working my way there on the writing front. Go thou and do likewise.

  394. and by the way karmai you forgot J.K.Rowling!
    and J.R.R Toliken,
    and Bram stoker,
    thought i THANK YOU that you did not put stephine Meyer- who wrote twilight by ramming her face into the keyboard
    i mean, seriously, how do vamires sparkle?

  395. cool :) it posted, awesome
    now for my hightly substantial thing to say
    if were the next generation of possibly brillant authors,
    what are we doing flittering away are time on blogs you may ask?
    well i’m asking the same question
    we must have been really insulted about something were passionate about, don’t you think John Scalzi?
    can’t you just encorage us a little?
    I mean i’m all for CONSTRUCTIVE critism,
    but this just makes you sound mean and arrogant
    there just might be less young authors if you keep putting us down,
    unless your trying to PROVOKE us into being better authors (new possible theory?)
    all i’m saying is i want to be a fantasy/horror/action/mystery author
    and not many people imagine or dream of magic anymore
    or at least, not in my school (where chavs rein supreme)
    so why make even less of us
    proudly british,
    jelly bean addict
    peace out

  396. i think both WHERES and kamari are correct
    we should try are best to suceed in authoring
    but i dont think we should let theese people get us down
    (no offence Mr. Scalzi, but think some people take your comments really to heart *cough, WHERES, *cough*)
    Diana- Teenage girl author who still HATES twilight

    (sorry this is not related to the text but, must be CLEAR on this)

  398. I wouldn’t have put Stephanie Meyer. If I wanted to include something that mixes strippers with way to much glitter, and WRONGLY puts the undead in it I would have. It’s just plain stupid to include something like that whenever I’m proving that teenage writers can be good. And I have proved it to him, if he checks his email. I sent a piece of my book, along with a four page message. It would have been longer, but I only had an hour on the computer. If he doesn’t get it within a month..I’ll send it again.

    [Please do not send unsolicited manuscripts to John. He will not read them. He doesn’t have the time. Also – rest of the post is deleted. Kamari, you’ve been warned. Next post is IP ban. Move on, please. – KEB]

  399. This was almost two full buckets of popcorn. Thanks to Xopher, Don, and our guest moderator/whack-a-troll. Don’t worry, younger ones: when you get older, not only does your writing improve, but, as an added bonus, your skin thickens and your shoulders broaden.

  400. My mother once told me something. I’ll always remember it.

    “It’s not about style. It’s not about who’s better than who. It’s not about age, or experience-well, maybe a little. But the thing is…writing is about telling a story, and reaching a heart. Would you cut off someone from a heart? No, in fact you’d let them get the heart, and make it beat. Some people can start the heart, but if people put them down they will never finish it. No matter how slowly the heart beats, just remember that it’s beating. No matter how badly people say that your heart is doing, remember that you had the courage and talent to start the heart. Those people may claim to make good hearts, but those hearts aren’t actually good…because they have no soul.
    “A soul is nothing without a heart. A soul is never complete without love, and care, and the ability to create something other than yourself. And that’s why people write books. They don’t do it to get noticed. They don’t do it so that people will see them, and raise them on high. They make books so that they can tell a story, reach a heart, and show the world…something new.
    “Sometimes people will be scared of what’s new. So they hide it away, and make it look so ugly and stupid that people will hate it. But in fact…they secretly admire it. They wish that their heart was like that new heart, and they wish that their story was like that. A child can write a poem to their parent, as simple as: I love you today, tomorrow, and yesterday, but I love you still forever.
    Forever is my rose,
    You are my love,
    You are my parent,
    and we make a dove.
    “And that simple poem…tells a greater story than anything that Shakespeare wrote about love. For that child is expressing their undying love for their parents, and they even took the time to make it rhyme. Now, Shakespeare is the best, no doubt…but nothing compares to the simplicity of a child’s heart.
    “Many people nowadays think that writing is all grammar, and love-y dove-y stuff. But when I was a child, it was folk-lore and O. Henry. It was any child who wrote a story for their parent, and later grew up to be a lawyer or business-man or a editor. People think that it’s about writing ‘mature’ whenever they themselves can’t even encourage the next people. If they say that they sucked, but were told they were good and now they are…why would they give the next generation that advice? Why not let them figure out by themselves, letting them become better naturally? It’s all because they want to bee seen. Noticed. Stuff like that. The only thing they want now is to make their book into a movie, or to be world-known.
    “Those people…are not true authors. So whatever they tell you, I wouldn’t listen. I’d listen to those around you, those who know YOU, and have read what YOU wrote. Those who don’t judge on the past, but live for the future. Those who help you along, and let you figure out life yourself. Those are authors, and those are humans. All the others…they are just the sin and squalor that the devil put inside ’em. Now if god gave you a talent to write, why would you waste your time with them whenever you could be making new hearts, and spreading stories and words across the world? Become the Paper Thief already, and make your own heart.”

    Now…what she said there..is the best advice anyone could ever give anyone for writing. If you don’t agree, and you delete this, sir, then you know which side of ‘authors’ you come from. And I will be deeply ashamed of you, and will disregard you as a writer. [ <—– Rest of post deleted for that statement right there. Despite your second, long-winded and rather puerile arguments in your additional "anonymous" comment, I'm sure John will be heartbroken that you don't like his writing. Really. – KEB]

  401. [Now that was an awfully long-winded comment from someone who tells me in their name that they don’t give a shit, so I’m deleting it not only on principle, but also for a general failure in logical argument. -KEB (who is moderating on John’s behalf.)]

  402. i agree with kamari,
    we should be encoraged,
    even just a little,
    John Scalzi, as an author, surely you understand the need for reasurance
    and positive thinking
    overwise we’ll always think are writing sucks and never become authors
    and then they’ll be nothing new to read
    and that would be one bleak world
    Ps. loved your description of twilight Kamari, can’t stand it myself

  403. anyway, teen authors/authors for teens can be bad (COUGH Stephine Meyer COUGH)
    but so can anyone in anything
    there will always be one who ruins it for the rest
    but other authors (eg. J.K. Rowling- possibly one of the best authors of all time)
    pick us up again
    make us believe in ourselfs and in other authors
    maybe it’s just John Scalzi’s opinion that all teenage writing sucks
    maybe he belives that because he thinks his teenage writing sucks
    but maybe if someone had encoraged him
    he wouldent have wrote this
    or at least, he would have wrote it in a better light

  404. @truant and WHERES/Tarquin:

    If you could stick to topic, not feed the trolls (e.g. Kamari – who on her next post will be site banned) and try not to gush all over each other (although it’s lovely that you are in such a relationship), it would be greatly appreciated. The mallet is still sleepy, but will not hesitate to make a big mess if provoked.

    Don’t you teenagers have those new-fangled technology handheld devices with which to amuse and text each other giggly faces and such?

  405. I’m being banned? Thanks. That’s…really nice to hear. And to think that I sent him that email also, with my own proof….And If you didn’t delete the rest of Meh’s argument, you’d see that she does like his writing…she just doesn’t like him whenever he’s not playing fair. Please don’t ban me. I do have valid points…and I’m not trying to be mean or anything. It’s alright if you do though…a lot of people don’t like me because I challenge what they think. I guess I’m just a bad person like that..but I can’t help it. I try though..I really try to help it. But I just want to help people, and it’s hard whenever everyone thinks I’m trying to down on them…I just wish you could see through my brain, but you haven’t lived my life so far so I understand that you don’t think the same way I do. I guess I’m just that oddity..
    New-fangled technology? Did you just say that? Oh god..oh god…if you were in on me and my best friends inside joke, you yourself would be laughing. (It’s about this book series…one of the vampires in it is a million or so years old and he calls cell phones that.) Besides, you can’t be that old. My grandmother knows what cell phones are and she’s almost eighty. Then again, my grandma rocks and she’s just plain amazing and encourages people the way an adult should. Don’t get me wrong though, several adults encourage people the way they should.
    Yeah..I don’t have a cell phone either. They’re just stupid. I just got a facebook, but I don’t really use it. I’d rather talk to people face to face because I like in-depth conversations. Text lingo isn’t a conversation. While I’m on this subject…do you know what LMAFO means? Because I’m seriously going insane trying to figure it out. Acronyms aren’t really my thing..I’d rather figure out a new language then try to figure out whatever the hell text lingo is. It’s annoying, you know?
    But since this is my last time to say anything since I’m being blocked…I guess I better get back onto my topic and have my last say…Thanks again for letting me talk this long. Most people have me shut up after my first sentence, apparently I’m rather annoying…sorry for that. >.< I'm trying not to be so annoying, but I can easily understand that you're annoyed by me. I annoy myself more often than not.

    I guess I sort of understand why you made this article. Teenagers who aren't serious about writing can suck at writing…especially if they are new at writing. All I was trying to say though is that telling them they suck wont make them any better, in fact it isn't doing a thing other than telling them that they suck. If that's supposed to help anyone, it isn't. No offense, just leaving my two cents in since this box says: This is the place where you leave the things you think.
    It's a pretty cool box too. I'm rather fond of it.
    But I'm not just saying it isn't helping people..for it does let them know that they will get better. But that's all it lets them know. It doesn't show insight on how to get better, other than getting older and wiser. Of course, anyone gets better with experience. But that doesn't mean that they aren't good.
    Stephen King-a amazing author-started writing at the age of seven. That goes to show it's never to young to start writing. After reading my first short story from him when I was around six, I knew that I might be as good as that one day if I could learn. So I started to seriously write when I was seven. I knew I wasn't as good as him, or people older than me..but I also knew that I wasn't as bad as people my age commonly were. I was told by my grandma that writing is a gift from god, and that if I had it I'd know whenever I was good at writing. And today…I think I'm okay at writing. So do millions of other people who can write who are my age.
    It hurts to be told you suck. Especially by someone that a lot of younger writers look up to. Whenever you are looking for someone to give you advice, it really hurts to hear the first words out of their mouth: Right now, you suck at writing.
    The second point is better, slightly, but it still hurts. I mean, a famous guy once said to the world: If you put down the next generation before they start, you know that they will become better than you ever could try to be.

    I'm not saying that's not true, and I'm not saying it is. But seriously..think about that. Thanks again for banning me.

    Oh! Meh! I have to tell you something:
    Are you a dolphin? Because Dolphin's go Meh, and dolphin's rock. Also, they have that understanding of the world that you do. Thanks for your lovely comment, I hope that many people get something out of it. I'm sorry that KEB deleted it, but I'm sure that Scalizi might have gotten the chance to read it all…maybe. Hopefully.

    Bye all! I dearly love you and I shall continue to read new posts! Even though I know that I'm not wanted to comment anymore. :) Good day to all! It's been a real pleasure to talk to you all.

    KamariNew..hopeful writer who hopes to be as good as Scalizi one day.

  406. this is not being used as a social site i assure you
    i just think that we should be encoraged a little
    maybe put down a little to because it gets us ready for when we will be put down (eg. puplishing houses rejecting books, ect.)
    i really want to be an author
    i’m passionate about it
    and i’m not here to dis John Scalzi or use this as a giggly social site – truant is my FRIEND
    i’m just saying he could be a little less harsh on us
    and Kamari, unforunately you will get banned if you carry on like that, know from experiance.
    PS. smiley faces can convey emotion, there not all for the giggly chavy girly-girls who will all adore (sacastic tone)

  407. I don’t understand why everyone is so bent out of shape about this article and the original. I thank you for writing it, sir. Honestly, I’ve always thought that my writing was the best thing that ever graced a piece of paper. Then, I posted it online and asked the writing community to evaluate it. The feedback I received was less than amazing, but I got the gist of it. My writing sucked. At first, I was steamed and angry that someone had the audacity to tell me my writing sucked when they didn’t even understand what it was about. Then, I quickly realized that if 99% of the people reviewing my work hated it, I was doing something wrong. If I thought they didn’t understand it, I should have written it better to relate my meaning to the readers.
    In my opinion, any draft that someone submits for review sucks. There is always something that needs changed, corrected, or just plain deleted. If any of you have ever been published, which by reading your comments you couldn’t have possibly been, you would know that it is a process of elimination. Someone reviews it, edits it, and sends it back to you looking like road kill: full of junk and red bleeding off every page. To assume that just because you think you’re a professional writer, with words of wisdom and grace and yadda yadda yadda, is naive.
    And to argue with the creator of this article because he doesn’t understand being a teenager is just plain stupid. Everyone over the age of eighteen has been a teen. Any writer over the age of eighteen has written something so ugly and horrible that no one could look you in the face after reading. Its just simple logic. I completely agree. Teen writing sucks. Given the few exceptions (I, for one, wanted to be like Flavia Bujour who wrote her first book at the age of thirteen and published), no one is going to poop out a work of writing and get a Pulitzer. It just doesn’t happen. Practice makes perfect and no one’s first or second draft is good.
    Again, I want to thank you for writing the article, I needed to be reminded that I’m not a failure-per say-I just need to keep writing and keep trying.
    To everyone else, get over yourself and get back to the page.

  408. At Kamari.. I’m going to pretend you did NOT add Anne Frank to your list of Published Teen Writers. You need to grow up and realize that 1)Anne Frank did not publish her book, it was her diary that was found after she died… and 2)Your writing sucks. Including your posts here.. Just stop before you make a bigger fool out of yourself. Just go back to writing your “wonderful” pieces and leave the arguing to people capable of forming correct argument. Thank you.

  409. i don’t think we should be up ourselfs and say “my writing is awesome!”
    cause thats just plain arrogant
    maybe are writing sucks a little,
    but it won’t get any better if were told “your writing sucks” and given no encoragement on the side
    ps. yellowsun33 i woulden’t listen to all the spam you got when you posted a story or whatever on the internet, some people just live to bring people down

  410. “but it won’t get any better if were told ‘your writing sucks’ and given no encoragement on the side”

    You’re not making a convincing argument that you’ve read the article, or if you have, that you understood it particularly well after the first point.

    Incidentally, Wheres, if you go back to acting childish here in the comments, you will get back into the ban queue. Just as a head’s up.

  411. Hey,I’m over the childish thing
    also, i’m not saying you did’nt encorage us a little
    but have you seen other articles on this matter?
    they take a brighter tone
    and surely you can generalise all teens and say all there writing sucks?
    thats like saying all teen girls wear lodes of makeup and only talk about boys (a stereo typical image I have long since regreted believing at the hands of a tom-boy sister)
    now i’m not saying my writing is brillant
    in fact, when i read my favorite books sometimes I feel damn depressed because my stories seem to suck compared to them
    and i understand what your saying,
    it’s hard to get puplished, be accepted as an author, ECT.
    but how would you like to be told this as a kid?
    Some people are VERY sensitive
    and if you tell them they suck, they’ll just sit in their room, mope and do nothing with there lives
    or else think there gods gift with writing and moan.
    I accept your comments
    but on some of them, you could try and use a brighter tone
    just for those people
    hopefully a future author in the making

  412. Those folks who want a brighter tone are of course encouraged to go look at those other articles. This is the tone I use. It works very well for some, less well for others, and not at all for a third group. I don’t mind that and beyond that I encourage teens to read widely regarding advice. My article shouldn’t be the only one they read.

  413. I placed second in a writing contest in my teens. My writing sucked; it just sucked less than most of the other teens’ writing.

    Frankly, even at the time I didn’t think it was very good, even if I didn’t have an appreciation of the true magnitude of the suck.

  414. I’m fourteen, and I belive that: Wise are the ones who listen to the wise one so they to shall become wise. Wise are those who observe and practice the sayings of those who know, for you do not know. You only now a illusion of what you think you know. . I belive writing is an art, a passion. that begins faraway in locus of our mind.. We must wait to guide ourselves to find our voice as a artist a writer, a creator. So that we in consequence we shall be wise and be an amazing writer

  415. though i agree with you about the “wise” and “finding a voice” thing J.C who’s the wise one?
    Imagine adopting that title
    (sorry, bit off subject).
    Anyways, i’m fourteen too, I’m not even sure if that classifies as a teen,
    and think the more you read, the more you learn, so thats books, articles, blogs
    and though telling us are writing “sucks” isen’t the greatest ( john Scalzi could of honeyfided that a little)
    we should listen to any advice and acknowlege it (apart from stupid advice like “eat greens and hair will grow on your chest” and stuff)
    thought i disagree that all teen writing sucks, (and not because I think my own writings the greatest, that would just be damn arrogant) i guess sometimes were not at are best; but this law applies to adults too,
    and even if are writing sucks a little, I mean, we can only get better if we try hard, right?
    Future author
    devoted milkshake lover
    chaser of dreams (dramatic fade out)

  416. I argee with taquin or wheres. We need some encouragement, I mean seriously John scalzi would you me to tell you your writing sucks?
    Also you need to extend you vocabulary.
    i mean repeatedly writing the word ‘ sucks’ gets really boring.

  417. diogenes:

    “I mean seriously John scalzi would you me to tell you your writing sucks?”

    In fact some of the most useful advice I’ve gotten has come from people pointing out that a particular piece of writing of mine sucked, and why.

    Beyond this, the article is meant to be encouraging, as points out teen writing is likely to get better and offers several ideas how to improve it. If it was meant to be discouraging it would simply say “quit now.” I make the assumption that teens in general prefer to be spoken to like serious writers and not as people who only want a pat on the head. Serious writers, in my opinion, can handle being told negative things, because serious writers understand they can always improve their writing skills.

  418. “At Kamari.. I’m going to pretend you did NOT add Anne Frank to your list of Published Teen Writers. You need to grow up and realize that 1)Anne Frank did not publish her book, it was her diary that was found after she died… and 2)Your writing sucks. Including your posts here.. Just stop before you make a bigger fool out of yourself. Just go back to writing your “wonderful” pieces and leave the arguing to people capable of forming correct argument. Thank you.”

    Yellowsun33…..you do know something right. Telling Kamari her writing sucks(whenever her main points were well organized, and she used better grammar then you did in her paragraphs and you wrote only around three terrible sentences)was a wrong move. You’re lucky though, that she didn’t come back on you. In fact, she could have came back on any one here…as easily seen through her valid points and themes.
    She may be hot headed a few times in what she says, but if you think through it, you can understand that almost all of what she says is true. Plus, she seems to have stayed on topic more than most people do, and she was just trying to prove a point.
    And seriously. Thank you is thanking someone, not telling them to go back to writing crap (Yes, I can read in between the lines. Well…”wonderful” in your mind, must mean crap. It’s okay. You’re a “wonderful” person.) Forming a correct argument? What the hell? Can you read at all? Or did you just skip three fourths of what she wrote? Damn…I hate whenever people like you do that. I don’t hate you, but I severely hate what you people do. You raise yourself up, you raise the people you like up, then put any one else down like a freaking human. (Yes, Human is an insult. If you don’t get it, you don’t live on Earth.)

    “Just stop before you make a bigger fool out of yourself.” says the little girl who thinks that Anne Frank wasn’t a writer. She was. In fact, she wanted to be a journalist. Read her book, why don’t you.

    And remember darling, “Your writing sucks.”

    (Also, I’m okay if you delete this, KGB or Mr. Scalzi. If you do though…it goes to prove what Kamari was saying, and it also proves that you’ll let someone down on her, but not let her up. If you keep this here though, so the yellowsun girl can see it, I will deeply be grateful for you. And I do agree with most of what you say, but not every teenager sucks at writing. Just most. Thank you! Keep writing, sir, you’re wonderful at it! :)

  419. Hi
    Yes I did not follow up this article till after I commented.
    I agree with almost everything put down here. Yes our writing does suck. But what is your definition of “suck”? Is it merely bad grammar and vocabulary or does it deal with plots and writing style?
    Writing things such as fantasy requires a mixture of all of this. Most teenagers have pretty good grammar (at least aspiring writers) but of course a limited vocabulary. But I honestly think harder the words, better the book is wrong. If that’s what you mean. As long as one can put their thoughts across in a clear and concise manner they don’t need to garnish their writing with humongous words.
    The writing style of most teens out there is clichéd. I agree with that. But some teens have risen above that and have brought in their own style. That’s good right?
    The plot. I know so many kids, teens and young adults who have come up with ingenious plots. Much better than those overused plots out there.
    So which part according to you sucks? The grammar? Because that can be improved drastically within a short period of time. The Writing style? Maybe. Vocabulary? The plots?
    I think high order vocabulary in NOT necessary to write a book. That’s the conventional way of writing. A lot of authors who have embellished their writing with simple words and a magnificent plot have gotten around. Such as J.K Rowling herself. Of course her writing style is far superior than most teenagers, but teens who have been writing for years together themselves have decent skills of writing. Not exactly comparable but publishable if I may say so.
    Also I agree teenagers have nearly no experience as compared to adults. But many genres such as fantasy itself just requires imagination right?
    So yes I’ll ask again. What defines the word “suck” here?

  420. hey! J.K. Rowling is awesome! she’s one of my main inspirations!
    Thats the point with writing,
    the more you read, the better you get
    we teens can always improve,
    some internet tyrants (NOT john Scalzi) have nothing better to do then bring us down,
    bring everyone down, as a matter of fact,
    so I say to everyone here who thinks there writing sucks cause they posted it on the internet and people said it stinks,
    listen to the constructive critism by fellow authors or readers,
    don’t listen to chavs who have never read anything but “twilight” (shudder).
    To john scalzi i say what i always will say,
    just don’t make people think your the second catagory
    jelly bean lover,
    Twilight hater.

  421. Treading the Gift, Daring the Doubt
    by Hannah E. Reed

    I am a teenage writer, sixteen to be exact, and I have been writing ever since I first picked up the Pen. I have grown and bloomed upon the page: poetry, rambles, short stories, and even a completed novel have been mended, welded, created by my adolescent fingers alone. And at first I was offended by Mr. Scalzi’s comment that teenage writing sucks, and I was ready to implore, to argue, to fire, like Greek flames, roaring rhetoric in his direction; but then I realized that his words are true. Teenage, adolescent writing does suck. For it is the stage before maturity, before full growth, before the full bloom. It is the dead end winter before the spring beginning. And it is not until we reach this spring that we truly start the era of our destiny, the breaking point of our fate. It may take months, years, or even decades to reach the brink of this spring, all depending upon the supremacy of our individual Gift. The gift bestowed upon every writer by the Pen, the Muse, and the curious word sprites that whisper in our ears. Just as every story begins with its first chapter, every writer must first begin with their first scribble; their first mark upon the precious page. It is the journey of endless power, insight, and discovery; a journey that will continue as I grow and develop as both a writer and a woman in this world. The Universe and my soulful history have given me a gift and I dare not take it for granted.
    Although, Mr. Scalzi, I do disagree with your claims that a writer must find a path away from the path of the writer in order to gain experience and wisdom and knowledge to create deeper elements in one’s diction and drive. I disagree with this theory. For in the world of the writer, life will come to you. It will embrace you, scar you, and devour you. It is the curse we must face, the pain we must endure, and the truth we must convey. Heartbreak must be felt before it can be written; but the poet need not pry for love and loss to come. It will come as the words flow, as the world spins, and as the Universe casts down its trauma; burning the edges of pride and esteem and motivation. The true death of the young writer is not lack of experience. It is consumption by doubt.

  422. Oh, and by the way, Hannah E. Reed is me, PoeticallyPondering9, and I hope, no, I will see that same name on a New York Bestselling novel one day. It’s my dream and it will come true. And if it wouldn’t be too much to ask, Mr. Scalzi, I would really be beyond grateful to possibly have your opinion upon some of my writings especially my not yet completely typed up (the first draft was written in two journals) first novel: Key to the Secret Dreamers; the first book in the fantasy trilogy that it will become. My email is twinkieunicorn9@yahoo.com. I really hope that you would be willing to step down from your incredible, perpetual kingship authorhood to critique me, a little sixteen year old girl with a dream of waking slumber to be a famous writer.

  423. I strongly disagree with this article. I am a teenage girl who’s passion is writing. Writing is my escape, and it helps me with my personal issues that I am currently struggling with.
    You claim that teenagers’ writing “sucks” for many reasons, but are you familiar with the vast majority’s work? A teenager can range anywhere from 13-18 years old. To simply state this as “it sucks” is not only illogical, but also ridiculous in my opinion. Teenagers tend to be sensitive about their work, and sometimes it’s a little bit harsh putting them down like that. You’re a grown adult and we’re still young. We’re going to take this to heart in a negative way. Children and teenagers (including myself) want their work to be noticed in a positive way. Instead of saying our writing simply “sucks”, how about some good constructive critisism? Maybe things like “I like how you included this, but how about changing this part?” would be more rational.

    Also, you might understand what it is like being a teenager, but you can’t possibly say that things are so similar as they were back then. Things are changing in many ways besides the common belief that teenagers have stronger thumbs for texting, and nothing to offer. I myself am teenager, and even though you were one too, you cannot possibly understand the way my life is right now, simply because of the fact that you’re not ME. I am myself, and even though I am not an offical author with expirience, I’m still entitled to my opinion, and that does not change the fact that my opinion can be reasonable. I am a young writer, and I do not suck. I may not be publishing-worthy, but I don’t suck. My writing reflects who I am as a person and what emotions I feel. And you know what? I’m only going to continue to get better.

  424. Thanks Kayla, I’ve been meaning to thank John for these posts but I didn’t want to perform thread necromancy. The comment thread has been a source of much entertainment for me. There is also a great deal of great advice here.

    The thing is: telling someone their writing sucks isn’t telling them to stop, it’s telling them to write more. Can you imagine how depressing it would be to look back on a life of writing and saying the best thing you ever wrote was when you were a kid? Anyone who quits writing because some random internet guy who has no idea who they are (no matter how good his books are) categorically telling teenagers their writing sucks isn’t really a writer. They are just someone who thinks being a writer is an easy way to win fame and fortune.

    Writers don’t want a pat on the back and a magnet on the fridge, they want a response. They learn from responses. If someone didn’t like it they want to figure out why. Perhaps it’s something you should work on or perhaps it’s just that this someone isn’t in your audience. If someone did like it then you have to figure out what worked and keep doing that. Get the people around you to read your stuff and seek out honesty.

    Anyway, I’ve rambled too much, sorry. To the people who read this and say, “I don’t suck,”: prove him wrong by not sucking, not by arguing. Get past the word “suck” and actually read the advice he’s giving you. Sometimes people pay a lot of money to get advice like this.

    (Looking over this it might seem like a direct response to Kayla. It wasn’t intended that way, that’s just an accident of proximity. This is stuff I’ve been thinking about for a while.)

  425. Come on, people; get over yourselves and stop bleating that “you don’t understand teenagers” because adults have the terribly useful attribute called ‘hindsight’. Our writing does suck now, but you’re not writing because it’s amazing, are you? All the complaints answered in the blog simply make the original point about how you need more experience even more poignant, because to be able to improve your writing so it doesn’t suck, you need to be able to step back and admit that you need to learn a lot. Are you saying that you can’t improve? We’re in the trial stages of adulthood, and so if nothing else, we haven’t had enough time to learn enough to not suck.

    What Mr Scalzi is saying is merely that this is okay, because it’s going to get better! Don’t you want to not suck? He’s not telling you that you’re an unworthy writer, and you’re a terrible person, and nobody but other teens can understand you perfectly. Please stop giving teens a bad reputation by not listening to really great advice, and denying any faults, like a spoilt little kid.

  426. I’m a little late to get in on any real discussion, but I would like to ask a short question about something that you comment on here. You say that our families, friends, and teachers feel obligated to tell us (teenage writers, like myself) we don’t suck, which I agree with. So, I’d like to know where you’d suggest getting un-biased critiques from?

  427. Come on. Seriously. Calm down, fellow teens. Scalzi is not trying to put us teenagers down. He is not saying EVERY part of EVERY work you write as a teenager “sucks.” All he’s saying is that usually teenage writing, to one extent or another, is unformed, immature, technically (grammatically and structurally) weak, and we haven’t found our true voice yet.

  428. To be honest I’ve found myself smashing my keyboard because I realize that everything I’ve written up ’til now is probably good enough for garbage… but just in case Imma link my Wattpad account. ‘Kay thanks.

  429. As much as most teenage writers don’t want to admit it, this article is undeniably true. And ther article preceding it. If you’re gonna be a writer, you have to be able to take criticism. However, the sort of patience and maturity required to take cristisism well is not often found in many teenagers. Not that I mean to say that Mr. Scalzi’s article was meant to critize, but that seems like the way most of you are taking it.

  430. I am a teenager, and though I was not among the teenagers who left an angry comment in the other blog, I decided to read this article anyways. I love writing stories and really want them to be good, but I am often disappointed when they do not live up to my expectations. Sometimes I feel like I did a pretty decent job, but when I compare to published books I see it does not even come close. So, I have to say I think he is telling the truth even though it may hurt. I have read many teenage writings, and they were pretty bad. However, I know we have potential and if we keep trying one day our writing WILL be good. :)

  431. I’m a seventeen-year-old girl who wants to be a novelist, and this (the article this one is referring to; I read it first) was probably one of the most day-ruining things I’ve ever read. (Nothing against you–today sucked already beforehand) But it was also strangely encouraging. It made me want to try harder to improve my writing. And you really put it into perspective, the fact that I AM only seventeen and I have years to improve, years to get published. I’ve done a lot of research about the publishing industry, I write on a daily basis, and I plan to go to college for writing. (And double major, because of that whole “day job” thing…not that I’m entirely sure of what that other major will be yet) So thanks, I guess.

    You’re also a great writer, by the way.

  432. Okay, you clearly have a few flaws in this.

    First of all, not every teenager is a horrible writer. In fact some teenagers are a lot better at writing than adults. Reason being teenagers are still young. Now I know that you pointed such a trait as a reason why teenagers CAN’T write well, but hear me out. When you reach adulthood, you are usually very limited to reality. You have to pay taxes, go to work, take care of a family or a house. You don’t have time to pay a visit to the realm of imagination.

    Teenagers are still young. They don’t have to pay taxes or take care of a family or go to work. They aren’t restrained by the boundaries between reality and imagination. They have time and energy to come up with something cool to write about.

    Furthermore, your entries on the subject stereotype all teenagers by saying that every teenager who writes will suck at it. Now I’m a fifteen year old Sophomore. I started writing about halfway through the eighth grade, maybe earlier, and English is my best subject. Freshman year, I got an A in Advanced English first semester and an A- second semester. I’ve been in Advanced English since middle school and my writing is complimented on quite a bit. Don’t believe me? Take a gander at these pieces:

    [Links deleted. Folks, this isn’t the place to send people to your work, or to post your work. I’m pretty sure I’ve said this before -JS]

    This was my first story (with a bit of revision). I wrote this story when I was only thirteen.

    Not all teenage writers are terrible. In fact quite a few teenagers are pretty gifted writers. I respect your opinion, but please think about what you say before you decide to trash someone and their passion.

  433. A reminder to folks that posting comments that seem to indicate the person hasn’t read the post to which the comment thread is attached (and which addresses their comment rather saliently) is not a good way to make an argument.

  434. I didn’t think that it was offensive when you said, “Your writing sucks” In fact it brought a smile on my face when you said that your writing sucked too. Because i am always doubtful about my writings. I am 18 and i always feel that i should be able to write way better at this age. But when i read that story about ‘statue’ you wrote when you were 17 which you said sucks, i got encouraged to work harder and one fine day become successful like you. So the ones who say that it was offensive and that their writings don’t suck, i think they are being silly. :) Thank you for your amazing entries.. OK, now I’m gonna read the rest of the entries. :)

  435. I’m not a teenager (more precisely, I haven’t been one for several decades), and I am only a very occasional writer. Nonetheless, I’ve read through the whole comment thread, and find it entertaining to see the diversity of responses from teenagers. (Although many come across as frankly immature, and some clearly demonstrate that, yes, your writing does suck, some others are quite eloquent, and even polished. Keep on plugging!)

    The word “suck” is clearly a huge red flag. Of course, John means to be provocative by using it. (Clearly, he succeeds!) I think it’s a bit of an unfortunate choice: it’s inevitable that some will conflate “your writing sucks” with “you suck”. (Nobody wants to suck.) Perhaps it is even more inevitable that some adolescents will take it that way. Teens can be especially sensitive to criticism: I sure know I was. But it’s also clear that lots of readers can separate criticism from personal insult, and understand the article for the constructive advice it’s meant to be.

    Something to keep in mind: it is clear that in this post and its predecessor, “not sucking” is for John a pretty high standard. His standard is that of the published, professional writer that he is. When he says your writing “sucks”, it means something more like “not publishable”. John is saying that your writing at this time is very unlikely to be accepted by any paying outlet. (So, perhaps it’s even more accurate to say he means “not saleable”.) He is saying you have a long way to go before you’ll impress people enough to want to pay you to write. I think most of the commenters above would agree with that.

  436. Isn’t it funny how people seem to always bicker about things on the internet?

    Anyway, thank you so much! I’ll be eighteen soon and I’ve been writing since I was four (scarily, not a joke – my mother taught me to read when I was two). I’ve always been too good at using grammar, punctuation and spellings (so much so that it drives many of my teachers to distraction – I am quite the stickler).

    I wish to thank you for the constructive criticism so many have failed to give me. I agree that my writing “sucks” – but, unfortunately for others, that won’t stop me writing now, thanks to you. Again, thanks so much! It’s nice to have someone who is like me, as in the fact that you also seem to unintentionally offend people.

    Also I would like to point out a quote from the top of the page: “I’m going to talk to you about writing as straight as I can; there’s a possibility that some of what I say to you might come off as abrupt and condescending. I apologize in advance for that, but you should know that I sometimes come off as abrupt and condescending toward everyone, i.e., it’s not just you. ” Shouldn’t this cover you? You did apologize in advance after all… Well, I suppose people seem to pick up on what they want to – myself included. That’s all. Thank you, sir!

  437. I respectfully disagree. I think there are a lot of teenage writers who have great potential and ability but aren’t given the chance to publish their works because they are often underestimated in their abilities by adults. I’m not saying that all adults underestimate teens but, generally, we’re looked over and hardly taken seriously, which gets frustrating fast. I was lucky enough to find a publisher that was looking for younger authors and, as a teenage (13) novelist, I’ll be publishing my first book this October. I think that a lot of great writers start off as teenage writers. I believe that we should try to build each other up, not tear each other down when it comes to our writing and I believe that you do have encouragement in this article, as well as things that might sound ‘mean’ to some people my age. I think it’s good for us to realize that we aren’t the best writers in the whole world; that adults do have better experience and wisdom in the subject, generally speaking. I appreciate your opinions and ideas for myself and a lot of other people my age, and even older because I think being egotistic of your own writing can be an author’s greatest downfall because that would be when you start believing you can learn nothing more about your job when you have so much more out there for you.

    I understand that, apparently, the teenage writing you’ve seen isn’t very good but, normally, if you go to see some fan-fiction or something you can find at least a few good stories. No, there aren’t a lot of teens published but it isn’t because we’re all awful at writing. We lack just about everything a publishing company wants. A good group of fans to make money off of, experience, money ourselves to help fund the program, and we aren’t legally adults so for a long time we have to rely on our parents to sign papers and things like that. I think that teenagers do have work to do and experience to gain, but I also don’t think we can get that experience unless given a chance. Sorry if any of this came off as offensive to you, that isn’t what I intended to do (in fact I agree with you in some areas of the article) but I wanted to state my opinion. Thank you for taking the time to read this, if that’s what you decided to do. :)

  438. G.C.: If any publisher asks you for money to help fund the publishing of your work, run away. Yog’s Law: Money always flows TOWARDS the author. If money is flowing away from the author towards the publisher, than it’s almost always what’s technically called “a scam”. Watch out for scam artists like Publish America whose entire business model is squeezing as much money out of authors as possible. They don’t make money on the books, so why should they bother to actually publish or push them?

  439. Pingback: On Being a “Teen” (or just really-friggen-younger-than-everyone-else) Author/Writer | Pema Donyo

  440. I don’t necessarily disagree with you, I just you’re pretentious, and this was a particularly pretentious way of saying “all teen writing sucks”