Blast from the past: Writing advice from Sara aged 13

I was randomly browsing a couple of my old diaries last night, and came across a rather interesting entry from when I was 13. In it I angst profusely about how my stories are shit: my plots are shit because I don’t plan them in advance, my sentences sound terrible, I’ll never write anything decent! But at the very end of the entry I give some surprisingly sage advice to myself: just keep writing something even if it’s shit. Yes good, 13-year-old self!

Anyway, the entry includes some more writing advice from 13-year-old Sara, so I thought I’d share it with you for the lulz! It was originally written in Finnish – I used to write my diary more in Finnish; these days it’s almost entirely in English, interestingly – so this is a translation. But I’ve kept the original capitalisation and excessive punctuation for your reading pleasure. ;)

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SARA’S WRITING ADVICE, AGED 13:

If you don’t have a proper plot, you don’t have anything. And a proper plot won’t happen unless you have a proper main character and bad guy. The main character MUST NOT be blah and boring – but somehow special. And they DON’T NEED TO BE perfect or anything, but they have to have FLAWS AND BAD HABITS AND PREJUDICES!!!!! [drawing of three angry-looking skulls]

And the bad guy – they’re REALLY IMPORTANT. They have to be really merciless, but not stupid and PATHETIC! They have to feel REAL and sensible too!!

And the plot has to make at least some sort of sense and must be COMPLEX and above all INTERESTING!!!!! And especially the beginning needs to be good, otherwise the reader’s interest will stop right there…

AND THE TEXT HAS TO FEEL ALIVE!!!!! You have to carry the reader with you and the text has to sound GOOD…

So there’s the basic guidelines à la Sara.

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13-year-old me definitely loved her exclamation marks times five, huh? :D This is very much navel-gazing, but I think it’s fascinating that even when I was that young, I was analysing my own writing (even if from an angsty “IT’LL NEVER BE GOOD WAAAAH” perspective). And from the perspective of potential reader response, too! I also note in the same entry that inspiration needs to be fed for it to keep going, which is actually surprising, considering that when I was younger I basically believed in the magical sort of “strikes you like lightning” inspiration and not so much the “bum in chair, fingers on keyboard” practical approach.

My diaries also include some rather adorably effusive descriptions of how awesome writing is. This is from the entry quoted above:

“At its best writing is like a drug… a LOVELY drug you get addicted to… when you’re writing a SUPER GOOD story, you’re dancing on the clouds and go to amazing places and drink from the chalice of the gods…”

A purple-prose way of putting it, sure, but I still agree. At its best, writing is magic.

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About Sara Norja

I'm a bilingual writer of prose and poetry. Things I enjoy apart from writing include tea, reading voraciously, cycling on warm summer nights, medieval manuscripts, dancing, and the wind.
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