Wednesday, November 27, 2013

This Thanksgiving, We're Thankful for Authors and their Advice

This Thanksgiving, we are giving thanks to all the authors out there, especially the ones who have been kind enough to stop by the blog and give us interviews. We're so happy to learn about the secrets behind the books they've created. And, we're thankful for the inspiring words they have for our teen writers. As we finish out National Novel Writing Month, take a look at their answers to the question, "What advice do you have for teen writers?"

Write. A lot.

And read even more.

Try different types of writing – I was a journalist and an ad copywriter – and try to write on deadline. Deadlines keep you moving forward and writing more. Writing absolutely gets better with practice.

Lastly, read everything you write out loud. You’ll hear what you need to fix.

Read a ton (and not just in the genre you plan to write) and write a ton (the first book I published was the third one I wrote, and that was after dozens of short stories and hundreds of magazine articles). Both will make you better, and there’s no such thing as too good.  

John Corey Whaley
Read a lot.  Watch a lot of movies (good movies).  And become obsessed with telling a story you HAVE to tell.  Those are things that worked for me.  Plus, what's more fun that reading, watching movies, and obsessing over weird stuff?  Nothing.  Also, never give up.  You're going to write some really bad stories, but then you'll write some really awesome ones if that's what you're meant to do.  Don't be afraid to laugh off the sucky ones and be proud of the great ones. 

Keep a journal—you never know when your own life experiences will inspire a story. Share your work with others, learn from constructive criticism and learn, from a reader's perspective, what works and what doesn't. Finally, read—it's brain candy!

Find a friend you can share your writing with, preferably someone who also writes. I’ve found that I do my best work when I know someone is waiting to read it, and the feeling of someone reading and talking about your work is indescribable. After you’ve done that, just keep going, keep writing, and always write things that interest you personally. Don’t worry about whether or not they’ll interest other people because, if you do it right, they will.

You get better by writing, so put your focus there. And please let yourself be terrible at it. There’s so much focus in our culture on being a success that it’s hard to grow as an artist.  You grow by writing, by getting fascinated by your stories, by seeing what works and what doesn’t. If you don’t let yourself write badly, you’ll never learn to write well.

Antony John
I’m asked this question a lot. If you’re looking at it as a CAREER—rather than, say, a hobby—then you’ll ultimately need to approach it with the same seriousness and dedication that professional musicians or athletes approach their craft. In other words, you need to practice, do research, and pursue every opportunity you can.

But in a more general sense, I’d also implore writers to remember something that it took me a while to learn. The plot belongs to the characters, not the other way around. A really incredible narrative won’t cut it if we don’t much care for the characters. By contrast, I’ll happily read about someone watching paint dry if I care about them enough. How do you write great characters? EMPATHY. It’s one of the hallmarks of good writing—the ability of the author to get inside the head of a character in such a way that the reader sees the world through their eyes.

Read a lot, write a lot, and don't give up. This last one is the hardest. You have to give up a lot of things to be a writing. You know, things like free time, better-paying jobs, that kind of stuff. When the submission rejections are coming in and you're giving so much up, it's easy to just quit. But every day you don't quit is another day you get better as a writer. And the better you get, the more likely it is that someone will want to pay you for it.

Sarah Lewis Holmes
Improv has a rule called “yes, and…” which means that you always say yes (accept) what the other actor is adding to the scene, instead of ignoring or blocking it. But then you also have to add some new detail to the story---which is why "yes" is followed by "and"!

"Yes, and…" helps my writing because when I’m drafting or revising, it reminds me to acknowledge what I already have on the page while striving to add something fresh. Never block yourself. Instead, be kind and look for the one hook that you can use to propel yourself and the scene forward. It’s there. Reach for it.

L.K. Madigan
There’s a quote in Flash Burnout from photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson: “Your first ten thousand photographs are your worst.” In writing, we translate that to, “Your first million words are your worst.”

Read as much as possible. Read wonderful books that make you sigh with amazement, or cry from heartbreak, or wish that they wouldn’t end. Read mediocre books that leave no lasting impression. Read “guilty pleasure” books that are more style than substance, because they’re fun and delicious, like M&Ms. Read even bad books that make you say, “I write better than that!” Then start writing. Begin your million words. Find your voice.

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