Teenagers across the country participate in various hobbies, whether sports, playing a musical instrument or something else. It is remarkable, however, to come across a young person who has dedicated “years” to creating their first novel at only 17 years old.


It is important to support young people with their hobbies and interests, as a sometimes much-needed outlet from the stress of daily life, school and exams, and friendship struggles.


In an interview with Fen Collinson from West Sussex, they revealed that they were inspired to start writing their novel - ‘Jane Doe’ - after finishing “Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girls series, and [they] wanted to write a spy story with a female protagonist, similar to Gallagher Girls”.


Having experience in writing “a lot of poetry, a handful of short stories, and reams and reams of first chapters”, Collinson embarked on the journey to their first novel a few years ago.


Unsurprisingly, crafting such an impressive piece of writing was “like climbing a mountain”. Despite being “really hard work” amidst normal teenage struggles like “schoolwork and exams”, Collinson found joy as a young author, stating the main benefits came from the freedom of not having to worry about pressures such as “bills”.


Even so, Collinson detailed the process of writing a novel as comparable to a “marathon” and how sometimes you need to take a break - but that “doesn’t make you a bad writer”. Rather, it’s only a part of the process and “it won’t wreck your book”.


Similarly, Collinson urged other people thinking of starting on the journey of their first novels to “[r]ead around your genre” as the most important tip; “[t]he more you read quality writing, the better your writing style will be”.


Furthermore, Collinson suggested that it’s sometimes better to “[c]atalogue any ideas for [other] stories” whilst working on one project, to avoid getting distracted.


The novel itself, ‘Jane Doe’, is “quite complex”: it details a “mage” in a “futuristic urban fantasy”. Beginning as a “simple spy novel without any magic”, after finishing the ‘Gallager Girls’ series, Collinson was inspired to “write a spy story with a female protagonist” just like in ‘Gallagher Girls’.


It was useful for Collinson to be surrounded by “very supportive” people, including their “favourite authors” who they reached out to for advice. 


Even with “a lot of work that still needs to be done” such as proofreading, gaining constructive feedback and tweaking various minor aspects, Collinson looks forward to in “a few years” when they will be ready to “start looking for an agent.”


Ultimately, Collinson’s achievements, both getting their novel to this stage, but also their future achievements are a testament to the incredible potential of young people across the country. Collinson’s work is a reminder that no matter how old you are, you can pursue your aspirations.