Lois Lowry (born in 1937) is the author of the beloved novel The Giver, along with its sequels and many other wonderful novels.
Here are five marvelous quotes from Ms. Lowry to help your writing life!
1. I prefer to surprise myself as I’m writing. I’m not interested in it if I already know where it’s going. So I have only the most general sense of what I’m doing when I start a story. I sometimes have a destination in mind, but how the story is going to go from Point A to Point Z is something I make up as I go along.
I know a lot of other authors write like this, including Stephen King, and I’m right there with them. Yes, I need to know a few things before I get started on my latest project, particularly a novel. I need to understand my characters well, and I need to have a clear vision of what the opening few chapters are all about and what the ending is going to be.
But I’ve never been interested in mapping out a novel from Point A to Point Z. Sure, it might be helpful to always know where exactly you’re going, but I feel that a strict outline prohibits creativity and makes you too focused on plot concerns rather than character. You don’t want to just wander through the middle of your book, but you should allow yourself a little freedom to explore the world of your story, too.
2. I’ve always been fascinated by memory and dreams because they are both completely our own. No one else has the same memories. No one has the same dreams.
Ain’t that the truth? It’s kind of incredible to think about the specificity of your dreams and memories and then realize nobody else in the world has anything remotely similar. Your journey has been yours and no one else’s, and that’s why I fully believe every person has a compelling story to tell. It’s why you should be putting down your story on paper now, not later.
Even if you come at a story idea you feel has already been done, remember that everything you’ve experienced in life has shaped you into a totally unique individual, and what you have to bring to a narrative that might sound similar to something else or even multiple projects will become wholly yours once you put your exciting spin on it.
3. I don’t for one second think about the possibility of censorship when I am writing a new book. I know I am a person who cares about kids and who cares about truth and I am guided by my own instincts, and trust them.
As a writer of mostly young adult novels, the idea of censorship sometimes floats through my head. I wonder if this YA thriller is too intense for teens, or if this choice I’ve made about a character might not pass the censors, and you know what? That kind of thinking will send you in the wrong direction. You have to be on the side of authenticity. You can’t censor yourself as you write your latest novel and do something that goes against what your character or characters might do.
Sure, you should think about the market for your book and the age of your potential audience, but don’t try to write your novel toward anyone, really. You should be telling whatever story you’ve chosen in a way that’s authentic and true to those characters and that narrative. Never censor yourself about anything, even if you’re writing a book for children. Let other people tell you later what can stay in the book and what might have to go.
4. The grand surprise has really been the fact that being an author, which to me had always implied being a private person, actually requires you to be a public person as well, and those are two separate entities to me.
It’s such an odd predicament, isn’t it? To have enough success with your writing that you might have to one day be a public person, when for so many years you’ve enjoyed the quiet time at your writing desk as a private person. A big reason I write is that I enjoy the quiet, the isolation, the long hours spent in dark rooms creating stories and characters on the page.
But if you do well enough, there will be that time when you have to take the next step. You’ll have to do readings. You’ll have to meet people. You’ll have to do everything you can to sell your book or books. And if you’re a super shy introvert (like me), that step might sound terrifying. But remember, as Lowry says, they’re two separate entities. And because you love what you’ll do, you’ll eventually find the courage to be both.
5. I think when you’ve had success, publishers and reviewers and readers are willing to let you try something new if you’ve already proven yourself. They’re excited about what you’re doing, you have people interested in it, and actually waiting for it. It’s empowering.
This final quote is definitely a welcome one to hear. So often I feel like when you’ve had success in one kind of genre, all that you’ll be expected to do is write the same book over and over. That kind of existence spells death to me. I love to tell stories, and I love to tell different kinds of stories. Sure, I’m happy to spend most of my time in the middle grade and young adult worlds, and I have a particular affection for writing books of suspense and horror.
The truth is your devoted readers will expect you to write something similar each time out — that simply can’t be denied — but if you have enough devoted readers who are excited about your writing style and storytelling abilities, many people will be interested in seeing you try something new. You can’t ever grow as a writer if you stay in the same box, after all. If you just keep doing the same thing over and over.
So whether you’re just starting out in your writing life or you’re discovering your first hint of success, remember to push yourself to try new things and go after the stories that haunt you, that compel you, that fascinate you to no end. Always.
Looking for something to read these next few days?
Check out my new book How to Find Success on Medium.com: 100 Tips & Strategies to Make a Profit with Your Writing, now available on Amazon!