Robert Jordan (1948–2007) was the highly acclaimed author of the bestselling fantasy series, The Wheel of Time.
Here are three tremendous quotes from Mr. Jordan to inspire your writing!
1. You have to have talent to some extent — I certainly hope I have talent — but you have to have luck as well. Once you get that first shot, that will get you noticed for the rest of your books and that will give the rest of your books a better chance.
We all like to think that as long as we work hard at our writing and have at least some talent (if not a whole lot of talent), we’ll eventually find success in our craft. That’s true, for the most part. I’m living proof that you can work really, really hard at writing and definitely get to some places after ten years you never thought were possible.
In ten years I’ve written twenty novels, dozens of short stories, five feature-length screenplays, and more than 1,000 articles and essays. I’ve received an MFA in Creative Writing and an MA in English. I’ve worked with a literary agent. I’ve made actual money from my writing endeavors. If you stick with writing long enough and keep doing everything you can to get better, you’ll find success at some point.
But Mr. Jordan was absolutely right in that you simply do need to have a little bit of luck, too. Luck is where I’ve fallen short. Luck is something that hasn’t been on my side much the past few years no matter how hard I work on my writing every day. Luck is something that either falls in your lap or it doesn’t. And if you’re ever in a position where luck finds you in your writing life, grab onto it and never let it go!
2. Fantasy is an area where it is possible to talk about right and wrong, good and evil, with a straight face. In mainstream fiction and even in a good deal of mystery, these things are presented as simply two sides of the same coin. Never really more than a matter of where you happen to be standing.
I’ve always loved the genres of fiction and science fiction and even some horror to an extent because you can do things you can’t get away with as much in other forms of writing, certainly more realistic kinds of literary writing. Robert Jordan chose fantasy as his realm to explore the human condition, and what incredible commentary he allowed himself to give to it.
He was right in that fantasy is an area where you can talk about right and wrong, good and evil, with a straight face. Without having to choose a side. Without having to necessarily root for one side or the other. You’re allowed to get more complex in your thinking and how you present multi-dimensional characters to the reader.
And instead of keeping things short and sweet, in the fantasy world you get to go really, really long with your storytelling, too, which allows an intensely immersive experience for the reader that often can’t be achieved in other genres that have stricter word count guidelines. I’ve never attempted a novel in either fantasy or science fiction yet, but I’m certainly intrigued in the next few years to attempt one if an awesome idea strikes me.
3. Surprising what you can dig out of books if you read long enough, isn’t it?
People ask me all the time what’s something that can help their fiction writing. I tell them they should write every day, even if just for ten minutes. I tell them they should write the kind of material they’re super passionate about, because it will keep the writing fun and will get them to want to come back. As soon as writing starts to feel like work, your productivity level is as good as dead. You want there to be a sense of play every time.
But the other thing I tell writers? To read as much as, if not more so, than you write. Reading books of all genres is the one easy and certainly pleasurable way we have to learn how to write well. I find it so much fun to pick up a book I know little about by an author I’ve never heard of… and just dig in. I’m often surprised by something, whether it has to do with character or genre or the style of the writing itself. There’s no limit to what you can learn about writing as long as you keep reading.
Because when you approach reading both as a reader and a writer, Jordan was right: it’s surprising what you can dig out of books if you read long enough. You can find inspiration for your own work at the same time you’re enjoying the hell out of a great story. You can improve your skills at the same time you’re being delighted by an incredible twist in a story.
So keep reading, won’t you? And keep writing, too. To become a better writer, it’s absolutely essential you do a little bit of both every single day.
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