Start a Successful Writing Career - Whilst Still at School:
Advice From Teen Author Beth Reekles
You're a young teen doing your A-levels at school.
- And you've just been given a three-book contract from the major book publisher Random House (one of your books could possibly be turned into a film in fact),
- You're due to appear on national TV (oh hey there Channel 4 and NBC)
- And you've been placed on the Times Most Influential Teens 2013 list (along with the Beebs *Justin Bieber that is* and Malia Obama).
- Not that this affects your school performance though, because you still got 12 A*'s at GCSE.
It's all in your dreams right? This stuff doesn't really happen to ordinary teens.
OH BUT FELLOW STUDENTS. WE ARE SO WRONG.
This is where Beth Reekles comes in, who experienced just this.
And it all started 19 millions views ago, on her self-published book The Kissing Booth, created using the free writing service Wattpad.
She realised that there was a gap in the market for teen novels that didn't include vampires and werewolves, and began writing stories online that she wanted to read instead.
She soon amassed a huge fan base on Wattpad, and got offered the chance to publish her novels by Random House.
Recently she also published her second book, Rolling Dice, and is working on her next novel (Out of Tune) whilst at Exeter University.
So here's advice from Beth on how we can all create explosive success in the writing and publishing industry as teens:
So you used Wattpad to self publish your books initially. Would you recommend the site for budding writers?
If so, what advice would you give to new Wattpad users?
Definitely! The community on there is so supportive and it gave me a huge confidence boost when I first started posting to see that people were even bothering to read my work, because I always thought I was rubbish at writing.
I’d advise any new Wattpad writers to make sure that whenever they post something, make sure it has a cover and a good blurb to get readers hooked and encourage them to read it.
How did you build up such a large following for your books?
It was quite gradual – I posted chapters regularly, every five days or so, so that my readers didn’t lose interest.
I built up my readership over the course of a couple of months.
I remember posting a chapter with a horrible cliffhanger one night, and woke up the next morning to about three or four hundred comments on the chapter – that was when I realised just how popular my book was.
Tell us the story of getting published with Random House, what happened?
In October 2012, I received a message on Wattpad from an editor at Random House, Lauren.
She introduced herself and explained that she was interested in publishing my book, and gave me an email address to contact her on.
Once I calmed down and my parents had read the message, we got in touch.
After a few emails and phone calls, my dad and I went to visit the Random House offices in London about a week after Lauren had first got in touch – and they offered me a three-book contract there and then!
Briefly from beginning to end, what kind of process did you go through to create your books?
I come up with the characters first, usually, and then their story tends to follow.
I don’t plan my stories out – I’ve never been able to follow a plan when I write! – I just see where the story goes.
It usually takes me a couple of months to write a book, but then I have to step away for another few months before going back to self-edit it with a fresh mind.
When writing your books Rolling Dice or The Kissing Booth, approximately how long were you writing for each day?
Sometimes I could sit down and write for hours on end without stopping, but other times I didn’t write for weeks, either if I was too busy with school or just hit a block with the story and had to step away for a while before going back to it.
I don’t set aside time specifically every day to write – it’s a hobby, so I do it when I want to and when I have the time.
What 3 things do you think are essential to a well crafted, successful book?
1. Relatable and believable characters are a big thing for me.
I love character-driven plots, so in those cases the portrayal of the characters is everything!
2. It’s also important to set the scene properly: sometimes when I’ve read books online, like on places like Wattpad, the scenes jump from one to the other with no transition, making it hard to follow what’s going on.
3. The third thing I’d say is that a book should have compelling and realistic dialogue – something that doesn’t feel forced and flat, but that makes the reader feel involved. Dialogue is a great opportunity to portray characters, and to inject some humour into the book as well.
Do you have any tips on how to get over writers block?
I love putting on soundtracks – Pirates of the Caribbean, Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, Doctor Who - since they don’t have any lyrics, it’s easy to get inspired by them and make the song apply to my characters however I want to.
But sometimes, I have to just step away from the story I’m stuck on for a while and go back to it a week or so later with a clear head.
So you're currently at University studying Physics, how do you balance your time so that you can write?
As I mentioned before, writing is a hobby for me, so it’s something I do to relax and de-stress, so I do it as and when I can and want to.
I have a string of to-do lists everywhere to make sure I keep track of everything I need to do – interviews, maintaining social networks, writing up lecture notes, doing homeworks…
It means that I don’t get a lot of time to chill out and do nothing, but I’m managing to find time to write at least!
Did you face any major challenges when writing the books, or getting them ready for publication with Random House? If so, how did you overcome them?
I write primarily for myself, writing the kind of book I want to read, because that makes me more passionate about the book I’m writing.
I didn’t find that there were many challenges when editing the books for Random House, as my editor Lauren has been fantastic in helping me with it.
The biggest challenge I’ve probably faced with it is time management!
For other students who would love to write their own book, what 2 tips would you recommend they do to get started?
1. I’d recommend checking out writing platforms and posting work online, because it’s a great way to get constructive feedback, and it’s also very encouraging to see that people enjoy your work.
2. The second thing I’d recommend is to maybe join a creative writing group – most universities seem to have a creative writing society, and that’s another way to get feedback and improve your writing skills amongst like-minded people.
Oh hey, Beth!
Here's where Beth hangs out online:
Her Wattpad account (where you can read her latest work)
Her Tumblr (where you can ask her questions yourself if you fancy it)
Now I'd love to hear what you think (in the comments below):
- What books are you fangirling at the moment?
- If you're a budding writer too, what advice are you hoping to take away from Beth today?
Ps. the images are courtesy of Carin Olsson and BBC.
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