Advice To Aspiring Young Writers

Noted Science Fiction/Fantasy author, and educational television host, Jeffrey A.Carver offers tips to the aspiring young writer

"Truth is a matter of the imagination." –Ursula K. LeGuin

"I only write when I am inspired. Fortunately I am inspired at 9 o'clock every morning." –William Faulkner

By Jeffrey A.Carver


Many people have emailed me asking what advice I might offer to an aspiring writer.

Here are a few thoughts. A lot more could be said, obviously, but I hope you'll find the following useful:

Read, read, read. Read widely and voraciously. If you have an interest in science fiction or fantasy (SF/F), seek out the best in the field. (Look for my recommended reading list at — but only as a start; it doesn't even pretend to be exhaustive.). Read the classics, both SF and other. I wish I'd read more of the non-SF classics when I was in school.

Practice, practice, practice writing. Writing is a craft that requires both talent and acquired skills. You learn by doing, by making mistakes and then seeing where you went wrong. Short stories are a good training ground and an easier market to break into.

If you're wondering about a course to pursue in college, and you think you want a career in writing, choose the school that you think will give you the best all-around experience. Much of what I learned in college I learned outside the classroom. Study what interests you (though it doesn't hurt to get some training for work that pays a salary!). What do you feel passionate about? Pursue it! You don't need a certificate to write; you do need self-discipline and inner fire.

Write from the soul, not from some notion about what you think the marketplace wants. The market is fickle; the soul is eternal.

Seek out constructive feedback on your work. Take suggestions seriously, and learn from them. Not all criticisms will be on the mark, but even those that aren't can help you spot problems that need attention. You must decide for yourself which suggestions to take, and which to leave. Writing workshops can be invaluable–not just to the aspiring writer but also to the working professional. I have belonged to a local writing group for over fifteen years, and they critique every piece of work I do before it goes to a publisher. My writing is far better for it. There are numerous online workshops available, both on the Internet and on the big commercial services.

Seek out good sources of information. There are many fine books on writing, some of them specifically oriented toward writing SF/F. The SFFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) web page has links to numerous writer-friendly resources on the net. There's a link to the SFFWA page at the bottom of my home page.

Be determined, and be thick-skinned. I collected rejection slips for 6 years before I finally sold my first short story. Why did I keep going? Was I crazy? Probably. I was convinced I could do it, and I refused to take no for an answer.

Once you decide you're ready to begin submitting to publishers, I suggest the following rule:

Always have the next market in mind. If your story comes back with a rejection note, don't take it personally or stew about it. GET IT IN THE MAIL TO ANOTHER MARKET THAT SAME DAY. (Then you can go back to whatever it is you were doing, preferably writing the next story.)

(000596) About The Author

Novelist Carver has begun his second season as host of an educational television series on science fiction and fantasy writing, beamed–appropriately enough–via space-age satellite to junior high schools from Cambridge to California.

The series aims to hook young teenagers on literature by loosing their talent to concoct tales.

Carver, 46, is the author of 13 science fiction novels, including Neptune Crossing (1994) and Strange Attractors (1995), the first two volumes of a planned six-volume series, The Chaos Chronicles, published in paperback by Tor Books, New York.

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