Blog The Value of Boredom and Perseverance with Oscar Lawson
I had heard that you could get published as an author at any age… but I never believed it myself until I tried. In the three years since I put my mind to writing and publishing my very own book for charity, I have learnt life skills like perseverance through rejection, and that you should never feel your age is a barrier to your goals.
In the middle of lockdown 2020 I, like many other 15-year-olds, was bored. We’re often scared of boredom, hiding from it with endless videos and games, but psychologists think boredom is essential for creativity. With nothing much that was meaningful to do for a long summer, I decided to pick up my pen and fulfil my dream of writing a book. My friends and family had enjoyed reading short stories I had written in the past and now I had the time and creativity, I felt bold enough to tackle a full book.
I planned the ‘bare-bones’ (as my English teacher would say) structure chapter-by-chapter before starting so my writing had a direction, but this was subject to huge changes as I fleshed out the story. I forced myself to write every single day to combat writer’s block, since even a bad half-page of nonsense I could go back and improve later was better than nothing. Slowly but surely, my book came together, and after 3 months, I had a pretty complete manuscript. I didn’t even come up with the title until after I had finished writing. 'TIGER: The secret intelligence group looking for a brilliant mind' follows Archie, a 13-year-old genius coder who solves puzzles to get recruited by a top-secret organisation. There, he meets incredible people and tries to use his abilities to outwit criminals. It’s a fast-paced, high-octane story with adventure, secrecy, and action.
It took another few weeks to edit, with the kind help of my friends and family as proof-readers, during which time I changed the structure of the story to include a flashback to start the book in a more engaging way. Then, just as we could go back to school in September, I started sending the book off to literary agents and publishers. I must have received 20-30 responses varying from the polite “we’re sorry this book isn’t for us” to the less polite, before Austin Macauley Publishers responded that they loved the book and wanted to publish it for me! My determination had paid off as I had my own contract, and could start working with professional publishers on cover art and perfecting the story. It was a long process from signing the contract to publishing but by November 2022, aged only 17, I held my very own published book in my hands.
I published TIGER in aid of the Honeypot Children’s Charity, which support young carers aged 5-12 as they look after ill parents or relatives. Some of the proceeds from the sale of every book goes to helping some of the most vulnerable children in the UK.
Since then, it’s been an incredible few months with visiting schools to talk about being a writer, holding events to sell copies, and promoting the book online!
Now I truly do believe that you can be a published author at any age, and I would strongly encourage anyone who is interested to give it a go!
Here are my top tips for aspiring young writers:
Start small – write short stories and get honest feedback from your friends, family, and teachers. It’s the best way to improve.
Read lots – see which styles you like or don’t like, and get a feeling for the sort of books your audience might like. I went for a genre that I knew because I had read lots of – the series like Alex Rider, Cherub, and The Mysterious Benedict Society you might be familiar with.
Write every day – it’s better to write something bad that you can improve then to not write at all.
Plan – whether it’s a one-page short story or a whole book, think about the outline of the plot so you’re writing with purpose, but don’t be afraid to change it later.
Be open to feedback – it was hard to hear that my book’s opening chapter wasn’t particularly engaging but I’m so glad my friends and family were honest. I was happy to change the structure and rewrite sections before approaching publishers rather than afterwards to give myself the best chance.
Be bold and persevere – when you’re as happy as you can be, send copies of your story into the world to agents and publishers (you can find contact details online), and see what they say. Some young authors prefer not to say what age they are until they get feedback, while others are up-front, but if it’s a good story it shouldn’t matter – fingers crossed someone will pick it up and love it as much as you do! Try not to be too disheartened by rejections – keep sending copies to more people and see what happens. It only takes one to believe in you to get published.
Once you’re published, tell everyone you know and get them to buy copies, and crucially leave reviews online too!
Have fun with it – whether you’re just writing for your friends or a bestselling author, enjoy every minute of storytelling because it’s fantastic!