The big piece of advice I give aspiring writers, young and old, is to write and write often. Write what comes naturally, write what takes effort, write what scares you and write what makes your heart full.
And never, ever delete a word.
It isn’t just about honing your craft, this is an exercise in preserving who you are and where you’ve come from.
In my early teens, I was consumed by one goal: to become an author. I wrote manuscript after manuscript. As a twenty-seven year old, I envy my former self’s ability to balance school with writing over 100,000 words in a year. As school became too much of a burden, I wrote less. And I wrote poetry. I freed myself of the burden of larger projects, dipping my toes into creative writing with a handful of free-verse lines when I could. My grip on language improved, and after years, I built a collection of poems that captured my teen years.
I recently revisited them in order. It was like tracing a line through my past. I watched myself grow and relived my life in all its shades. After the read-through, one stayed with me:
I roll my world into a ball –
my pride, my joys, my tasks and tortures –
with carefully chosen words that vaguely imply.
I can keep my secrets close for now, but
as the amphitheatre fills, the audience
will expect more. Details.
And then my skeletons will dance,
as I, the poet, whore extracts from my diary
for applause and quarters.
But you’ll remain unknown, unwritten,
behind the curtains I will never draw,
until attendance slows, my one-man show
is cancelled, and all I have
to show for it are coins, pages, and
you, my best kept secret.
I was seventeen. It was the first time I had risked writing about being attracted to guys. Reading it back, I’m proud of how far I’ve come. A younger me predicted a closeted, secretive life. Now, not only have I drawn on my gay teen experiences for my novel The Sidekicks, but I am out professionally. My pride is mixed with anger though. Ten years is not a particularly long time, but a seventeen-year-old me had been taught to hide himself, to be ashamed of his feelings, and to prepare for a life in the shadows.
And if ever I need a reason to represent diverse sexualities in my work, it’s that poem. No teen should ever feel as I did. We need to write, share and celebrate diverse experiences, so that our readers can envisage a future free from shame and secrets. Stories can change their world, and it’s our duty to write them.
His first novel, Loathing Lola, was released when he was just nineteen, and his second, The First Third, won the 2014 Gold Inky Award. It was also shortlisted for the Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year and Australian Prime Minister’s Literary awards.
The Sidekicks is his third novel for young adults.
As a high school student, Will won Sydney Morning Herald Young Writer of the Year for a collection of short stories.
For more information about Will and his books, please visit his website.