In 2018, I got an ask over on Tumblr requesting advice for young writers, so here you go.
Read a lot, figure out what kind of stories you like, what styles you like, and what authors do a really good job at what you want to write.
Write a lot. Some of it will not be worth sharing, and that’s okay; you still learn from your failed stories, they still fulfill a need for experience.
Once you know what genre(s) you like to write, find a community of writers who are involved or interested in that genre. This actually matters because there are lots of conventions or practices that don’t transfer from one genre to the other, and there’s ugly genre bias. My community includes going to science fiction and fantasy conventions, being in a writers group, and meeting writers online. We talk shop. We commiserate. We celebrate each other’s successes. And we bounce ideas off each other.
Look for feedback from people who can actually tell you what’s wrong with your work (structurally and grammatically). Really listen to them, unless they’re tactless jerks who take joy in verbally beating you up (dump those folks immediately); no matter what feedback you get, in the end it’s your story and some advice won’t be useful for what you’re trying to do. Learn to give this same kind of feedback to others – it makes you a better self editor.
The traditional publishing world is harsh and ugly, so take heart in the fact that there are other options available now that weren’t available when I was starting out. You can do your own thing in your own way.
If something is too good to be true, step away from it. It’s a scam.
It’s okay to ask other, more seasoned writers for help figuring out terms of service and contracts (most of us can’t afford lawyers for this, so we learn how to read these).
Embrace rejection. It’s a part of being an artist, and it proves you’re doing what you can (writing and putting stuff out). You can’t always hit the right editor, with the right story, at the right time.
I’m not going to lie. This can be really hard at times, but there are also times when you’re going to be wickedly motivated to write stuff.
Writing what you want to, is the best way to stay engaged, especially if you’re not being paid to do it.
Explore new places for inspiration.
Try new things in your writing so you can learn more. This is fun and helps you grow. The first time I wrote something with the goal of making the reader cry, and I succeeded, I was so happy, because that was hard for me to evoke at the time. But understand that you won’t always succeed on your first try. I spent a year dumping experimental stories on my writers groups as I tried to get a better understanding of plot. Some were great. Others were really not.
Writers groups with deadlines can be great motivators. Or writing prompt challenges. Or blogs with regular updates.
Getting Your Writing Out There
There are a lot of ways to do this, some better than others. The key is that you want to make sure you keep your intellectual property rights. This means you need to read those terms of service if you’re participating in an online forum.
Submit stories to magazines that print your genre.
Submit stories to reputable contests (many contests are not reputable).
Post stories on your blog.
If you’re middle or high school aged, the New Voices Young Writers contest is highly recommended by a friend of mine. You may also find Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy useful if that’s a genre you enjoy.