The author of Zoe’s Tale, John Scalzi, wrote a column, “Ten Things Teenage Writers Should Know About Writing.”
He speaks to me, first:
“I hope you don’t mind if I don’t go out of my way to use current slang and such; there’s very little more pathetic than a 36-year-old man dropping slang to prove he’s hip to the kids.
What may be more pathetic is a grandmother doing the same. Some of the fictitious characters I write about do “drop slang”–or worse. Nate and Derek use words I won’t either speak or print myself, but I wouldn’t be fair to them if I cleaned up their language.
Knowing you’ve got years to grow and learn means you’ve got the time to take risks and explore and figure out what works for you and what doesn’t … It’s time to gain the life experience that will feed your writing. It’s time you need to write — and time you need to not write and to give your brain a break … And it’s the time you need to screw up, make mistakes, learn from them and move on.
I’m Not Going to Tell You to Get Good Grades, but, You Know, Try To Pay Attention. High school is often asinine and lame — I’m not telling you anything you don’t know here — but on the other hand it’s a place where you’re actually encouraged to do two things that are a writer’s bread and butter: to observe and to comment … and as a result, you might learn something, which is always a nice bonus for your day. School is a resource; use it.
(Also, for the love of all that is holy, please please please pay attention in your English composition class. You should know English language grammar for roughly the same reason you should know road rules before you go driving: It avoids nasty pile-ups later.)
Zoe’s Tale is part of the Old Man’s War series, but it’s a good read by itself, and was nominated for the Andre Norton Award for Best Young Adult Science Fiction/Fantasy. If you are a science fiction fan, you may want to check out John Scalzi’s “Whatever” site, especially the “Big Idea” category.