Anne Rice (born in 1941) is the bestselling author of The Vampire Chronicles, including Interview with the Vampire and Queen of the Damned.
Here are four wonderful quotes she’s shared with us about writing.
1. To write something, you have to risk making a fool of yourself.
Every single thing you put down on paper is a risk at the end of the day. You risk making a fool of yourself, and you risk rejection, and you risk failure. These are all reasons why so many writers refuse to ever send out their work and instead prefer to revise, revise, revise, to the point where all they’re doing is switching around words here and there.
I mean, I get it — it feels good to sit with your latest story when nobody’s ever read it. There’s no one to put you down. There’s no one to criticize you. Every time I send out a new short story to literary magazines, I have this ridiculous notion that all of the editors will say yes this time. But then the first no comes in, and then the second no, and then the third. And then a year later you’ve collected twenty rejections and you’re back at work revising the piece in the hopes you can make it better and soon get published elsewhere. When you haven’t sent the work out yet? That’s the magic time. That’s when you can feel free to believe you’ve created the most incredible story of all time, since there’s no person out there yet to tell you differently.
Of course at some point, though, you have to submit the work to editors, and you have to be prepared to make a fool of yourself. It’s totally fine to make a fool of yourself. In fact if you’re writing something too structured and safe, you might fall on your face at some point anyway — because your latest piece won’t end up selling anywhere. So be ambitious, and take chances. You’ll have a better shot at success if you do.
2. Go where the pain is.
This piece of advice sounds almost cruel in a sense, but it’s absolutely true if you want to write compelling stories. You want your reader to flip through the pages and stick around until the end, and the thing is they won’t make it to the end if you write a story that has little pain in it. Conflict is essential in a great story, and so is pain. A story without any suffering in it, whether it’s physical or emotional, might after awhile read like tiresome description.
Of course specific genres like mystery and thriller and horror are going to have lots of pain, and if you write content like that, finding the pain and anguish inside your story and characters is something you’re probably used to by now. But even if you write happier stories for the middle grade and young adult age markets, even if you write adult romance books with happy endings, it’s still important you find at least some aspects of pain in your story.
I have little time for stories where everybody is happy from beginning to end and don’t change at all. Go where the pain is, and your stories will flourish.
3. Obsession led me to write. It’s been that way with every book I’ve ever written. I become completely consumed by a theme, by characters, by a desire to meet a challenge.
The word obsession is typically used as a negative, but it never should be when it comes to writing. Obsession in your writing life is a good thing (well, as long as you remember to take a shower and change your clothes and eat some food throughout your day). There’s nothing that will make your story die on the page quite like apathy. You truly do want to be obsessed, at least a little bit, with your latest project.
This is especially true of writing novels. There have been many I’ve written that I thought about almost daily for years. My MFA thesis novel, which I wrote in 2017 and revised up until early 2020, was something I’d been thinking about doing all the way back to 2005. And the idea for the book I wrote last year, a young adult thriller, I had been thinking about since 2003. That’s a long time for ideas to be simmering in your mind, and my obsession with them finally led me to getting those stories down.
Don’t write something new if it doesn’t obsess you in some way. You should be fascinated by the concept, by the characters, by the theme. You should be interested in doing something you haven’t done before. Don’t repeat yourself. As soon as you find yourself writing the same book you wrote five years ago, it might be time to move on. And if you’re not in love with an idea? Go to your next idea.
There’s nothing worse than being 100 pages into a novel recognizing you don’t really care about the characters or the outcome. Remember, apathy is death to a writer. You want to be obsessed, at least some of the time.
4. The only thing between you and realizing your dreams as a writer is yourself.
Some aspects of the writing life are out of your hands. Want to be the world’s wealthiest author? You can do everything you can. You can write compelling books in popular genres and write to your heart’s content for ten years straight… and still not be wealthy, let alone be published. You can lay on your bed, close your eyes, and visualize millions of dollars dropping from the ceiling… and still not make much money as a writer as the years pass.
But can you find at least some success as a writer if you work really hard year after year? Absolutely! I’ve written twenty books in ten years, and I still have found little success with any of them. And I’m okay with that. Because I love the process, and I believe in my talent, and I know if I continue working hard and keep growing, the dream life of being a successful published author will happen one of these days. The easiest way to fail as a writer is to give up and stop writing. If you keep writing, there’s always going to be that possibility of something happening to you that might even be life-changing.
It’s all up to you. If you want to put in the work for as long as it takes, success can happen. If you don’t want to put in the work, you should probably think about changing careers. There are no guarantees in the publishing world, and you have to be prepared for lots of rejection and failure. You have to be prepared to be told no a thousand times. Keep going anyway. Ignore the haters. Write something out of the box. Learn something new every day.
And you’ll get there eventually.
Are you ready to write your novel this year? I’m excited to announce my new book, Write Your Novel Now! 100 Tips & Strategies to Help You Draft, Revise, and Publish Your Book, currently FREE on Amazon through Memorial Day. Pick up your free copy now, and please leave me a review if you can!