I decided I wanted to write longer works when I was twelve, back when I wrote Harry Potter fanfiction. I looked around at fanfiction websites and found that most of them let almost anyone submit anything. I found one site that had specific guidelines and a rejection/acceptance system that worked for me. At this point in my life, I was a good speller but my grammar was atrocious. I was constantly rejected for this (and for making the characters behave out of character because I wasn’t intentionally writing them that way for comedic effect or as part of an alternate universe), particularly for my dreadful dialogue punctuation. Then one day one of the moderators actually decided to help me.
That’s how I learned to punctuate dialogue, pay more attention to character behaviour, structure paragraphs and create a smoother storyline that doesn’t involve jumping from viewpoint to viewpoint. My works started getting accepted while I was thirteen and for two years, until I turned fifteen almost to the day, I happily worked on a mammoth piece of fanfiction where I created Valora, the main love interest in the novel I’m currently working on, and a different magic system from the one in Harry Potter canon.
I never finished that story, but what I gained from it springboarded me into writing my own work. To this day I see many writers my age having trouble with the same things I did and I can’t help but be grateful for all the help I received when I was just starting out.
While it’s true that in professional writing, very few rejection letters come with advice, there’s a chance that the ones that do can really help your writing. I plan to finish and submit Coldfire to agents this year so I may have a chance to put my money where my mouth is. Fingers crossed that my perfectionism when it comes to my novel will pay off…