Rick Riordan (born in 1964) is the hugely popular author of the Percy Jackson series and the Heroes of Olympus series.
Here are five of his quotes about writing to inspire you!
1. There are days when I’ll write for 15 minutes and have to give up and move around, and I’ll write another paragraph and give up again. On other days I get intensely focused on the process, sit down at 8 A.M. and won’t get up until 8 P.M.
Doesn’t it make you feel good to know someone as popular as Rick Riordan occasionally has a bad writing day where he has to give up after fifteen minutes or after a paragraph? We get these images in our heads that to be a bestselling author you have to write thousands and thousands of words every single day from 8am to 6pm, but you know what? Nothing is farther from the truth. In fact every successful writer has a different approach to their work, and every successful writer has had days when they can’t get through a single sentence and when they feel like frauds.
Not every day of writing is going to go great, but the road to becoming a successful writer starts with showing up every day. See where the work takes you. Do your best. If you can only get down 500 good words for the day, that’s still a huge accomplishment. Don’t think it’s anything less. If you want to have the occasional inspired day where you work from 8am to 8pm like Riordan sometimes does? Then go for it! There’s no wrong way to write as long as you’re getting some new words down for the day.
2. For me, writing for kids is harder because they’re a more discriminating audience. While adults might stay with you, if you lose your pacing or if you have pages of extraneous description, a kid’s not going to do that. They will drop the book.
As a young adult author, I think about this all the time when I’m working on my latest novel, especially during the revision process. Although you should tell your story the way it needs to be told and not alter it necessarily to suit the needs of your audience, you should absolutely look for sections that might read slow and then ask yourself what needs to stay and what possibly can go.
It’s absolutely true that adults will stick with you longer than kids, but nobody will stick with your book if they find it to be boring. There are a lot of books out there, and your reader will only stick around if they believe you know what you’re doing as the author and they believe you’ve got an engrossing story to tell that won’t let them down. You have to bring it every time, whether you’re writing for kids or adults. You need to grip your reader from the beginning and never let them go.
3. All of my characters tend to be montages of different people I’ve met: little bits and pieces of their personalities put together.
I tend to create characters in this manner too, although sometimes I’ll create an original character out of thin air that really doesn’t feel like any person I’ve met before. Sometimes you want to challenge yourself to get creative with your characters, with how they see the world, with what they’re passionate about and want out of life. It gets dull to write the same kind of person over and over, and it can get tiresome to just think about people close to you in your life you can pick and choose details from.
However, if you’re stuck on what the characters might be like in your latest story, it doesn’t hurt to think about people you’ve met in recent months and see what traits you might be able to use for a story. Sometimes you’ll bump into a person who already feels like a character in a story, so you kind of have to put them into a fictional world. But use your imagination, too. Don’t just transplant somebody into your story using every specific detail about their appearance and physicality and voice and way of speaking. Be like Riordan and use a montage of various people you’ve met in your latest character creation. That will probably be of more use to you in the long run.
4. I’ve always found the second book in a series is the hardest to write.
Now let’s talk about writing series, which Riordan is of course used to, with his hugely successful Percy Jackson series, as well as some other series he’s penned in the last few years. The man pumps out one escapist book after another that kids and adults alike love to read, and one of the reasons they love to read Riordan’s work is that he often writes series. Instead of stand-alone novels, which can be satisfying in their own ways, series offer readers the opportunity to spend time with characters they love for long periods of time. Series, with occasional exceptions, are what truly sell in the world of books.
And for any of you looking to find success, there are worse ways to do so than to write a series. Keep in mind you have to be smart in your approach. You need to find a story that could potentially be a series of three or more books, and you want that story to be so compelling you’ll have the motivation and desire and interest to stick with it and with those characters for many books. I’ve written two trilogies in my life, and both were absolute blasts to write. I was, however, perfectly happy to conclude the stories in the third books, and I haven’t ever attempted a series that went beyond book three.
Having said that, Riordan is absolutely right in that the second book is often the hardest one to write. Book one is hard because you have to establish everybody and make the ending satisfying for the reader just in case they choose to not continue to another installment, but book two is extra hard because now you have to give the readers something they liked before but also take them someplace new. Even more difficult, you have to in many ways top what you did before and at the same time compel your reader by the end to go onto a third book, possibly a fourth or fifth book. When you’re writing a series, book one is important but in some ways book two is even more so because that’s really where you hook the reader to continue… or you don’t.
5. It’s always hard to wrap up a series. The longer I spend with the characters, the more they become like friends.
As I said, I enjoyed writing two young adult trilogies, and I especially had fun with those third books knowing they were the definitive end. But it can be hard to reach the end, as Riordan says, because you’ve spent more time in that world and with those characters. When you write a single stand-alone novel, those characters live with you for a long time, but when you write a series, those characters are with you for years, sometimes decades.
Many authors write in a series they love, and they never stop writing it until they die, only for someone else to pick up the mantle and continue writing more books in that world. I totally get that. If you love writing a series and after awhile those characters become real and almost family to you, and readers out there are loving the series and want you to produce more books, why not just keep going? If there are more stories to tell, and there’s not necessarily a clear endpoint, why not write thirty books in a series or more? That’s kind of the dream for me, really. Although I will always want to write the occasional stand-alone book, my dream is finding that perfect series I could write for decades that readers adore and want me to never stop.
Whatever place you are in your writing life, don’t be afraid of writing a series if you have an amazing idea for something that could exist long beyond a single title. Remember that in the world of traditional publishing, it’s best you only write the first book and try to sell that, rather than write five books in a row and then try to sell the entire series. In the world of self-publishing? All bets are off. Write ten books in a series if you want, and if they become successful, keep going. Whatever you do, don’t write a series only for the money, in a genre you think is popular but you don’t care for that much. Your readers will sniff that out right away.
Instead be passionate about what you write, whether it’s a stand-alone or a series, whether it’s a story written for kids or adults, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.
Are you ready to write your novel this year? My new craft book, Write Your Novel Now! 100 Tips & Strategies to Help You Draft, Revise, and Publish Your Book, will help you along the way!