Jeff Kinney (born in 1971) is the bestselling author of the hugely popular Diary of a Wimpy Kid series.
Here are five excellent quotes about writing from Mr. Kinney that will inspire your creativity!
1. I never thought I was writing for kids at all. It really shocked and unsettled me to hear kids were buying the books. If I’d known I was writing for kids, I might actually have spelt things out a bit more, and that would probably have killed the appeal.
This quote was such a revelation to me. You look at the huge juggernaut of a franchise that is Diary of a Wimpy Kid and you assume Jeff Kinney started the whole thing wanting to make an impression in the children’s book market. The fact that he didn’t even necessarily know he was writing a children’s book at first is kind of remarkable, but it does explain why those books are so popular!
Because Kinney wasn’t writing those initial stories thinking about the potential kid readers and what he needed to include to appease them or entertain them. He just wrote stories that amused him, plain and simple, and then was later amazed to find the intense love of his work from children all around the world. Kinney is right: he might have changed the tone of the stories a bit more, might have spelt things out more, if he knew kids were going to be his prime audience. His lack of fixation on the market of his books actually helped him in the long run.
2. My advice to authors would be to try to do something original rather than to try to anticipate what the market is looking for.
You hear this from authors all the time, most especially the bestselling authors. It seems like counterintuitive advice to be a successful writer, doesn’t it? To write something original and interesting to you rather than something you believe the market at large is anticipating in the months or years to come? The truth is simply yes, you’ll have more success if you write what compels you and not what you think people want to read from you, not what you think will give you money or awards.
Now, this is not to say you should avoid thinking about the market at all. You should do your research. You should read a lot of books in your genre and outside your genre that were published in recent months by major publishing houses. Study what different writers do and how they achieve their stories. All of this will help you considerably, and likely inspire you, too. But don’t copy others. Don’t just do what other writers are doing. Be yourself, and tell a story that’s wholly you.
3. Routine can stifle creativity, so I try to jolt myself into new modes of thinking.
There are two kinds of routines to keep in mind, one that will help you with your writing and one that likely won’t. The first routine that will help you is finding time every day to sit down and write. Whether it’s in the morning or afternoon or late at night, it doesn’t matter. Find what works best for you. Try to stick to that routine of writing every day as much as possible. This kind of routine will help you tremendously in the future.
The second routine that won’t necessarily help your writing, however, is doing the exact same things day after day in the rest of your life. To go two weeks straight and not have a single day out of the ordinary. To go on no adventures. To never jolt yourself out of the familiar and do something scary and new and different. New experiences of all kinds will inspire your writing tremendously… and they will likely make you happier, too!
4. Most of my latest book was written longhand, in messy handwriting and violent strike-throughs. I’ve got whole pages where there are only two or three usable words. But I got the job done, and I made another deadline.
The truth is you should approach your writing in any way you want. Most of us write the first drafts of our short stories and novels on the computer. I find this way to be the easiest because I can immediately scroll up to a different page to read something if I need to. I can delete or add or change something within seconds. I’m not organized enough to write something by longhand, and I’m definitely too lazy to write longhand because then I would have to transfer all the words to the computer! Plus, I have horrible handwriting. My students make fun of it constantly.
But writing things longhand can help you in other ways as a writer. I like to write ideas in longhand always. I’ve tried writing ideas on a Word document, but it never feels right. I like to have a journal to jot things down whenever I feel like it.
Another way writing things longhand helps is during the revision process. I love to print out my work at least once and take revision notes. You truly do see mistakes and problems more easily on a printed page than you do on the computer. So don’t disregard longhand completely, even if you write most of your work on the computer like I do.
5. If there is any message in the ‘Wimpy Kid’ books, it is that reading can be and should be fun. As an adult reader, when I see an obvious moral lesson to be taught, I run in the other direction… Kids can sniff out an adult agenda from an early age. I’m writing for entertainment, not to impress literary judges.
You always want to write the best stories and novels and books you can. You want to always be improving. You want to always be growing. You don’t want to be an average writer. You want to be a great writer.
But never forget that a large part of what you do should be to entertain the reader. I don’t care what genre it is or what kind of story you’re looking to tell. There should be a level of entertainment value for the reader, and not an obvious moral lesson or an attempt to impress literary judges. If you try do either of those latter things, your readers will likely put your book down and run the other way.
Your focus should be on the story, plain and simple. You want to tell it the best way you can. And you want to make it propulsive, compelling reading that keeps people flipping through the pages. Tell your readers a damn good story… and you’ll never let them go!
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