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You Wrote It

How I wrote and published three books before age sixteen

It's *officially* National Novel Writing Month, which means that authors around the world are setting out to write a book in one month. Have *you* ever wanted to write a book but don't know where to start? Less than four years ago, I felt the *very* same way, when I began my first book The Wishner's Curse. Although I was unsure of myself while writing, I decided that I would push through my fear and finish the first draft. Guess what? If I didn't force myself to *actually* finish an imperfect first draft, I would never have been able to share my writing with children and teens around the world. 


Author (and Girls' Life intern!) Camille with her book.

Most authors, including your all-time favorites, doubted themselves and their stories at some point. But their books are out in the world because they continued writing and pursued publication. So, if you're ready to write —and finish—your story, there's no time like now to get started. Here's the process of how to become a teen author!

Create the *perfect* writing atmosphere

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What would your writing zone be like? Would it have a moodboard covered with your fave inspo collages, or would it have a vintage desktop with stacks of notepads? Find a place where you can get creative and surround yourself with cool visuals, inspirational quotes, music and reference books for world building research! Also, set some no internet browsing rules (you'll thank me later!)

Make your game plan

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Yep, it's officially time to find your strategy for writing the book. Even if you don't want to plan *everything* that happens, it's still helpful to know *who* your characters are, what world they live in and what *happens* in the story. So, open up a Google doc or a blank page in your notebook and start writing down *everything* that comes to your head. Ask yourself, As a reader, what would make me spend all night turning pages? 

*Starting* the novel 

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OK, the time has come. You're ready to sit down and...start. Remember, that doesn't mean you actually have to write the very beginning of the book. If one scene comes to your mind first, write it! Now is the time to let the story flow—editing comes later so allow yourself to write "badly." As Jodi Picoult once said, "You can always edit a bad page. You can't edit a blank page." Right now, it's time to write this book for *you.* Write plot twists that make *you* gasp, create characters *you* want to know and imagine places *you* want to go. This story is yours, after all, so have some fun with it! 

Writer's block? Here's how to deal

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So, midway through your book, you're loving the story and then—you're stuck. Ugh, the feeling of writer's block can the the worst, but don't stress. The trick is to take a break from writing and do, well, anything else (take a walk, dance it out, talk to a friend), then come back and force yourself to begin again. Is there a scene you're even a little excited to write? Start it. Even journaling about something off-topic can get your juices flowing. Writer's block is temporary. The only cure? Writing.

I'm done! How do I edit the book?

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So, you finished the first draft of your novel—yay! Create a celebratory playlist, binge watch your fave show, reread books you love and, most of all, rest. After the break, it's time to return to your story with new eyes and start the editing process. So, print the pages out, get a warm mug of tea and pretend that you're a totally different person reading it for the *first* time. 

Getting other people's feedback

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This is the *most* important part of editing. After you edit your story to the best of your ability, you need help from others—and, yes, constructive criticism (every book needs it!) Ask your family to read through the book, join a writers' critique group (online programs or at school) and reach out to some trusted literary friends. For professional advice, you can think about hiring a freelance editor or entering Pitch Wars, which is a contest that can pair you up with an established publishing professional and gives you a special opportunity to find an agent.

My publishing decision

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After reading success stories of self publishing, I felt like that was the right option for my book The Wishner's Curse. So, my mom and I founded Time Together Publishing, and we started the process of publishing my work. The first step was contacting a professional illustrator and cover designer, Kelley McMorris. I gave a detailed description of what I wanted for the cover and that's when she worked her magic to create these stunning looks:


For the Teen's Guide to Fun Social Distancing During Covid-19, I used the online graphic design program Canva to design my cover, which was quick and affordable. Since I wanted to get the book out within a month to help other teens adjust to their lives during the pandemic, I decided that using Canva would be the fastest option. 

This option is *great* if you can't spend much money on the cover and want to DIY it. You can either change a pre-made template or use a blank book cover to add a stock photo and cool text fonts for the title and your name. Look at your favorite book covers for inspo!

Final Stages of Self-Publishing

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After many rounds of editing and proofreading, I contacted a formatting service Ebook Launch, which formatted my manuscript into a print and ebook file. All that was left was uploading the book on Amazon and Smashwords. I wrote my book's description, added in categories, purchased ISBNs, imputed pricing and uploaded the book cover file. Then, I ordered my proof copy and made sure that the cover and pages were *perfect.* The feeling of holding my very own book copy for the *first* time was amazing! 

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After approving everything, I published my book. Within a few days, my book was available on Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, Kobo and many other major online retailers. Later on, I contacted local bookstores and libraries to stock my books. 

Promotion

After publishing your book, it's time to find readers who will *love* your work! My promotion tactic started with school events, library visits and local bookstore involvement.
Camille presents her story to an audience (pre-pandemic, of course!)

However, with social distancing, digital marketing is a great way to reach readers at home. A few of my favorite promotional methods are creating Amazon advertisements, joining book discount services, entering book awards, hosting a Goodreads Giveaway and requesting press coverage from news stations.

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With the help of TV and magazine interviews, I had the opportunity to reach a wider audience and share my message of how teens can follow their dreams. To get media coverage, write up a press release and contact your local news stations. The key to marketing is persistence. You can do this! 

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Are *you* hoping to write a novel? Let us know on Twitter @girlslifemag. 

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by Camille Campbell | 11/1/2020
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