Tuesday, May 8, 2012 | By: Brianna

Advice from Authors

When I was younger, I used to write letters to authors of the books that I read, asking for advice for beginning writers.  Sometimes I got responses back.  These are some of the responses I got:

Jane Yolen (author of Sword of the Rightful King) says, "I have three pieces of advice for young writers.  One: read, read, read!  You must read every day, and try to read a wide range of books.  Two: write, write, write!  Keep a journal, write letters, anything to keep the "writing muscles" in shape.  Three: don't let anyone stop you from writing.  Be persistent no matter what "naysayers" or critical editors have to say about your writing."

Dyan Sheldon (author of Planet Janet) says, "Okay, I've got two pieces of advice for a writer just starting out: 1. Read everything you can; 2. Write.  Even if all you write is fragments (I used to write stories that were about a paragraph long--certainly no more than a page.  I did that for years, until they started getting longer and longer.  Finally they got so long that I thought I might try writing a novel), it doesn't matter.  I've known lots of people who said they wanted to write, but never wrote anything."

Ann Brashares (author of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants) says, "As far as your writing, take your time.  When you feel ready you can try and fit some of those story fragments together to make a whole story.  Have someone, like a trusted teacher, take a look at it and help you with the editing.  Then if you feel like it, you can submit it for publication in a magazine or journal.  You'll probably find many resources at your library about places to submit the type of story that you have written."

Kirsten Miller (author of Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City) says, "Well the best piece of advice I can offer is...rely on your butt power.  Don't laugh!  The secret is sitting still long enough to have great thoughts--and get them down on paper."

Lynne Rae Perkins (author of Criss Cross) says, "I think story fragments are a really good place to start.  I think it takes a long time for stories to gestate--at least it does for me.  Just keep coming back to them.  Set them aside, then come back and look at them with fresh eyes.  Over and over.  Also, have fun with them, and don't forget to live your (real) life."

Garth Nix (author of Mister Monday) says, "My only real writing advice is to just keep going and force yourself to finish."

Michael Hoeye (author of Time Stops for No Mouse) says, "As for advice about your writing, the best counsel I can offer is patience.  Most stories are very elusive creatures.  They don't like to make themselves known right away.  So enjoy exploring your story fragments.  At some point one of those stories will demand more of your attention.  And when it does, then my advice is to pay very, very close attention indeed.  Follow it where it leads and don't let go.  In the meantime you might try to keep this in mind: to write well one must be able to work and to play at the same time.  That is no mean trick.  So while you're pursuing the work of learning the craft of writing, don't forget to play.  That includes all sorts of time-wasting activities like reading, daydreaming, and just plain old wasting time."

Michael O. Tunnell (author of Wishing Moon) says, "Sometimes a story isn't ready to be finished, as you say, until you've been through several drafts.  It's easy to be impatient with the process of writing, but one has to realize that first drafts are usually weak for most authors.  Everything improves as your rework the story over and over again.  This is the price you pay for something good eventually surfacing."

Holly Black (author of Valiant and Tithe) says, "The best advice I can give to a fellow writer is to make sure to write down all of your ideas as soon as they come to you--there's nothing worse than remembering that you had an idea but not being able to remember the idea itself."

L.A. Meyer (author of Bloody Jack) says, "All I can say is listen to your teachers--I was a high school teacher for seven years and sent two sons through public schools and never once met up with a bad English teacher--and write about what you know.  Keep a journal and put down the boring, everyday stuff as well as the exciting.  When you're reading a book you like, try to notice how the author gets from scene to scene, how he or she handles the dialogue, the descriptions, the speed and pace of the thing.  Above all, keep at it, but take it easy--you have a world of time before you...give yourself that time."

Cornelia Funke (author of The Thief Lord and Inkheart) says, "Read--and be curious.  And if somebody says to you "Things are this way.  You can't change it."--don't believe a word."

Eva Ibbotson (author of Island of the Aunts) says, "Just keep doing it--it's all about practice, getting better and sometimes even getting it right.  How you do it is individual to every writer in the world, but I wish you lots of luck."

Diana Wynne Jones (author of The Dark Lord of Derkholm) says, "Endings--yes, I know the feeling.  I always have trouble with endings too.  (But it is very important to know that you can finish a book you're writing.)  What our ending has to do is to collect everyone important together and explain exactly why the things in the rest of the book happened.  It helps if this is done in an exciting way, but it doesn't have to be wild.  And there are all sorts of ways to do this, from somebody getting there and explaining, the baddie threatening to plunge the main character in boiling oil--and telling him/her why he/she is doing this as our hero is lowered in (you need a rescue at this point of course)."

Gary Blackwood (author of Shakespeare Stealer) says, "I guess the best advice I can give you as a novice writer is spend lots of time planning your stories before you start writing.  Keep a notebook handy and jot down all your thoughts about the characters and what the story's about and where it's going and when you can't possibly bear to put it off any longer, then start writing.  I think you'll find that the story will go more smoothly and won't fizzle out somewhere in the middle.  Hope that helps."

It's really neat to look at the collection of letters that I've got because some of them are even handwritten notes on little cards.  I really appreciate the effort that these authors went to in writing back to me because I know how busy writers can be with their writing and re-writing and researching and the like.  Knowing that these authors made time to write back to me makes me want to do the same if I ever get letters or e-mails from people who admire my work.


Post a Comment