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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Author Insight: Good Advice

Aspiring writers often hear, "Read what you want to write," "Hone your writing craft." and, above all else, "Be patient." What other advice would you give them?

"Two things: have nerves of steel and ditch jealousy. You need nerves of steel b/c you may (or may not, if you’re lucky) go through quite a bit to get where you want to be. You need, trust, belief, resolve, and possibly even detachment to get the job done. You also need to ditch jealousy right away. Other people are always going to get more, do more, be more. Worry about you and what you can and can’t control. Be happy for other people’s successes. The more success, the better!" - Tiffany Trent, author of the Hallowmere series.

"Read broadly and write daily. If you read only what you want to write all you'll do is regurgitate what's already been done." - Shannon Delany, author of 13 to Life: A Werewolf's Tale.

"Don't forget to love what you're doing. The rules and techniques of writing, the business of publication, none of it will be worth anything if you don't truly love your characters and stories, because a reader will be able to tell." - Denise Jaden, author of Losing Faith.

"Write through the suck. A very wise person (Courtney Summers) told me, 'The only way out is through.' You can't go around the work, you can't skip over it. You need to write through it." - Victoria Schwab, author of The Near Witch.

"Writing is a process of both the mind and the heart—learning the craft of writing as well as uncovering the story only you can tell. It takes both to create a compelling work. Reading, writing, living. Keeping your eyes and heart open. Listening for the voice of your story, and then taking the first step to tell it." - Holly Cupala, author of Tell Me a Secret.

"Toni Morrison says, 'Write the novel that only you can write.' If we all did that, the bookshelves would be filled with amazingly original stuff." - Amy Brecount White, author of Forget-Her-Nots.

"You don't need a Masters in English lit, a transcript full of writing classes, or fancy software to be a writer. The only thing you need to be a writer is a pen. I don't know if I'm qualified to be giving anyone advice, but here are a few things that have helped me:
- Finish. You have nothing to work with if you never finish anything. It's a draft -- you can throw it away later if you hate it, or you can revise it. Just finish.
- Don't follow trends. Write the story you want to tell. If no one else is telling that kind of story, even better. That's how the most original works of fiction are born.
- Read everything in your genre, not just contemporary or popular stuff. Then read everything else you can get your hands on. Personally, I find it helpful not to read in my genre while I'm actually writing, but that's different for every writer.
- The flip side of the previous suggestion is: Don't read crap. It will seep into your consciousness like poison. And it's a waste of time, unless you're conducting some kind of research that requires reading poorly written books.
- Don't be precious with your work. If you aren't willing to cut things or re-write them -- especially things you love -- you're going to miss opportunities to improve your work. This is another version of 'killing your darlings.'
- Find one or two people you trust to read your work. Preferably people who love the genre you're writing in, and who will be honest with you. Ten people reading is usually too much input. Stick with one or two.
- The best piece of actual advice I got was from Clive Barker (ABARAT, THE THIEF OF ALWAYS) who said, 'Read everything you write out loud.' You can really hear what feels forced or doesn't ring true." - Kami Garcia, co-author of Beautiful Creatures.

"It doesn't matter if other people say you can't do it and that you'll never make it. You're the only one who can know if that's true and you have to keep the confidence that it will happen if it's what you really want to do." - Alexandra Diaz, author of Of All the Stupid Things.

"I would also advise writers to 'Read what you don’t want to write'. For me, I didn’t know I wanted to write YA until I started reading it. I always thought I was going to be a horror writer. Take chances on books and genres that you wouldn’t typically read because you never know, it might help you figure out what kind of writer you really are. " - Kimberly Derting, author of The Body Finder.

"Write what makes you happy now. If you have an idea you want to write, don't save it for later because you're afraid of ruining it or wasting it because you're not very good yet. Don't try and only write books you don't care about to get better at writing, because it will stunt your growth. You'll learn much faster and have a lot more fun working on something you absolutely love. And if you put an idea aside for later, you might never get to write it. You might lose interest, or you might grow out of it. I know the types of ideas for books I had at different stages of writing skill were very different. A book I wrote five years ago would sound really stupid to me now, but that doesn't mean I didn't love it at the time." - Chelsea Campbell, author of The Rise of Renegade X.

"What you’re writing has to feel authentic. That will only happen if you’re writing the story you were meant to write. It has to come from the heart. (or in my case, the crazy characters living in my head) The dialogue, the inner and external conflict, they all have to flow from the characters. With Personal Demons, there were a few scenes that I wrote because I read that I needed bo coup conflict. I thought that’s what I had to have in order to get my manuscript read. In other words, I was writing for some mystery agent who might want to rep my book. Guess what? Those were the scenes that got hacked by my agent and editor. Moral of the story: Write for yourself and have fun doing it." - Lisa Desrochers, author of Personal Demons.

"Believe that what you’re writing is unadulterated genius. Otherwise it’s darn hard to get anything finished without your inner critic decimating it. Might make you kind of an insufferable dinner date though. Oh well. It’s a trade off I guess." - Rhonda Hayter, author of The Witchy Worries of Abbie Adams.

"Not to worry too much about publication at first. It's important to find your voice, join a critique group, polish your prose, and find joy in pure writing before plunging into the ego-crushing submissions game." - Leah Cypess, author of Mistwood.

"Wow, this is a tricky one! There are just so many elements that go into writing a story, and so many things to think about. Still, if I had to pick one piece of advice, it would be this: I've seen a lot of aspiring writers apologize for their stories and their ideas--for taking risks or being 'too weird,' and I think that for anyone who wants to write for publication, that's really counterproductive. So I would say, own your stories, own your subject matter. Don't apologize for what you write. You can understand that it's not perfect, that it needs revision, refining--that's great, you *should* be thinking about these things--but don't feel stupid for having ideas. Your ideas set you apart." - Brenna Yovanoff, author of The Replacement.

"Write boldly. Write bravely. Write every day that you can." - Swati Avashti, author of Split.

"Write every day! If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times, but trust me—you’ll thank me later." - Lauren Oliver, author of Before I Fall.

Stop by Thursday to find out what advice our other authors have for aspiring authors!
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