Posted in Writing

6 Quotes from Cassandra Clare to Make You a Better Writer

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Cassandra Clare (born in 1973) is a celebrated young adult author most famous for her Mortal Instruments series.

Here are six of her fantastic quotes that will help you in your writing life!

1. Creating characters is like throwing together ingredients for a recipe. I take characteristics I like and dislike in real people I know, or know of, and use them to embellish and define characters.

I didn’t even realize I often do this until I read this quote! Always remember how important it is to create well-defined characters in your fiction, and pulling from stereotypes of things you’ve already seen in other books and films and TV shows is never a good direction go in.

Instead, you should absolutely take things you like and don’t like about people you’ve met in your life and infuse your characters with these realistic and sometimes unusual traits. Your fiction will be the better for it!

2. I work on a word count basis, so I have to write three thousand words a day. I can write them in the morning, I can write them in the evening; as long as they get done.

3,000 words a day is super impressive! 3,000 words a day means 90,000 words in 30 days’ time. A fantastic length for a novel in a month, wow! I guess you can consider me on the lazy side when I say I aim for 2,000 words a day, which takes me anywhere between 2 and 4 hours. I’ve sometimes reached 3,000 words in a day when things are really rolling and I just can’t stop. But usually I feel I’ve done good work for the day when I reach 2,000 words.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: you do what works for you. If 3,000 words a day sounds too difficult (and it probably will for most writers), aim for 2,000 words a day, or maybe 1,000 words. My suggestion is to start at the shorter end of what you think you can do, and then you can write more than that each day if you feel the desire to!

3. Read everything! Don’t just read things that are in your comfort zone or things that you think you’re already going to like. Experiment; try new stuff and try new genres. If you read a lot of romance, then start reading mystery. If you read a lot of mystery, start reading fantasy.

A story is a story. It shouldn’t matter the genre at the end of the day, really. I mean, sure, there are genres we prefer more than others. I walk through my local library every three weeks, and I never go down the Romance aisle. But you know what I was thinking recently? I bet there’s a novel in that aisle I would absolutely love, and because of my disinterest in the genre I’ll never, ever have a chance to read it.

If you’re serious about being a fiction writer, it’s in your best interest to read every day, and to read in a mix of genres! Try a book in a genre you haven’t read in awhile. Read non-fiction. Read a book of poems. Think outside the box. Reading a bunch of different things will make you grow as both a reader and a writer.

4. I have specific playlists for different books and characters. So, I need to have those with me. It helps me get into the mindset of the book.

I love this idea. In the writing of twenty different novels, I’ve never actually made a playlist for one of my books or my characters. What I tend to do is find a score from a film and listen to it as I write to help get me into the mood of my story. If I’m writing horror, I listen to a horror soundtrack. If I’m writing something funnier, I listen to a bouncier soundtrack, although not necessarily from a comedy.

The soundtrack I’m most in love with as a writer is the score to David Fincher’s film version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The score is by Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor, and it’s the perfect music, I think, for writing a novel. The music somehow keeps me focused for the two-plus hours I’m writing each day. And it never gets old! It gets my highest recommendation if you want some music to listen to while you write.

5. I tend to write in coffee shops and restaurants with friends of mine because if I’m at home, I get distracted by the television or the cats or my husband, or… you know — all of those things that make it easy to procrastinate.

Now here’s one place I totally disagree with Clare on, but as my dad always says, different strokes for different folks! I’ve talked before about how I like to be at my home office when I write, with the door closed, with no interruptions, the only sound coming from the music playing on my computer. I get distracted really easily, and this environment allows me to stay concentrated on the task at hand.

I’ve tried writing in coffeehouses before, but I find it gets too noisy at times, and it’s also hard to slip over to the bathroom when you’re by yourself. And how in the world does she write in restaurants with friends? Any time I’ve tried to write with a friend, we end up just talking, and no writing gets done. Props to her for being able to get a sentence down in that kind of setting, let alone 3,000 words!

6. I think the main thing to remember when writing a novel is to stay true to the characters.

So simple and so true. It’s one of the elements of my fiction I’ve struggled with throughout the years, and it’s something I’m trying to pay more attention to in the latest novel I’m currently drafting. Conflict is important in a novel. So is suspense and action and surprises, and so on and so forth.

But the novel always has to stay true to the characters. You can’t push your characters aside to get to the next part of the plot. And you can’t make the plot lead the way; you need to allow the characters to do that. The more you stay true to the characters, the better shot you have at success in your fiction writing. Every. Single. Time.

2 thoughts on “6 Quotes from Cassandra Clare to Make You a Better Writer

  1. So much great advice in this post. Taking bits and pieces from real people is such a fun way to craft realistic characters.

    I’m probably in the minority, but I write with the television on. I write in front of the television. It doesn’t distract me, because I feel like it takes the pressure off.
    I’m usually not even watching it, but something about the noise and not feeling pressured to write helps me hit my writing goals.

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