Being a high school student requires a lot of things from students, but above all else, it asks for a lot of their time. Classes, homework, studying, and clubs can easily fill up every hour of every day, leaving a student’s personal hobbies behind as collateral damage. This is especially true for student writers who, without school, might otherwise spend their whole days writing and editing their work.
Personally, I would constantly find myself writing in between classes and in any spare moment I could steal. Balancing your writing life and your scholarly responsibilities can be a particularly difficult challenge, and even if you can achieve the perfect balance, being a writer requires more than just a schedule. As a young writer, you’ll be unpublished and inexperienced. It can be hard to know where to start and daunting to actually get started.
So, how do you become a writer in high school?
First off, it’s important to pay attention in English class. Unlike other interests, writing has a direct link to school, making it possible for students to work on their craft daily. This won’t mean you’ll be putting out thousand-word short stories during your AP Language classes, but your interaction with writing terms, sentence and paragraph structures, and literature can all serve as inspiration for when you do write. Along with this, English teachers are notorious for encouraging creative writing outside the classroom. If you feel comfortable enough, you can always ask your teachers for feedback or advice.
Next, make sure to join a writing group. No writer is an island, and being able to receive feedback is an essential part of writing. Some schools may offer creative writing clubs, but if yours doesn’t, local writing communities are everywhere. Check your local paper or online sources like Meetup to find groups in your area.
Start by understanding that life won’t be perfect. Expect to miss a few writing days or not meet the number of words you set for yourself. Writing isn’t always easy, and school can be unpredictable.
Find which days work best for you and then what time of day. Morning or night? Three hours straight or small sessions throughout the day? Make goals. Some writers work by setting a daily word count, others base it on chapters or poems completed. Again, it comes down to what works best for you. Your schedule shouldn’t stress you out.
Switch it up
Now that you have your writing schedule down, it’s important to not always write the same thing. For example, novelists will be tempted to spend all their time putting out chapter after chapter, but it’s ultimately to their benefit to invest some hours in writing poetry. The reasoning for this is that different genres require different things: novel writing will place more emphasis on character arcs, sentence variations, and being able to fill up a page, but the skill of making a point in as few words as possible—which is essential to poetry—is also critical in writing. Working in different genres allows you to improve as a whole.
Submit your writing
Writers—even young ones—need to submit their work. This is daunting for new writers and asks them to do things they’ve never done before, like create a cover letter and personal biography—but it's the only way writers can become established. NewPages.com offers a whole list of magazines and competitions geared for teenaged writers. Along with this, the Scholastic Art and Writing and YoungArts competitions are great places for emerging writers to start.
Be patient with yourself
When it comes to writers, our minds often go to authors like William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, or Victor Hugo—people who are considered the greats and whose books we study vigorously in our high school classes. We typically fail to remember that they all started somewhere small; they were once young writers, unsure and inexperienced. They started where all young writers find themselves today.
Being a high school writer isn’t easy, but if you put in the time and commit yourself to your craft, anything is possible.
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