Rick Yancey (born in 1962) is the bestselling author of The 5th Wave young adult book series.
Here are four of his wonderful quotes about writing!
1. It’s been a while since I’ve written a novel aimed at the adult market, but I never sit down and say to myself, ‘Okay, now I’m going to write something for us old folks.’ I get gripped by an idea, and I go where the idea takes me.
Everything starts with the idea, my friend. No matter what kind of genre you prefer to write in, and no matter what age market you typically write books for, it all comes down to an idea that grips you and never let go. And if you’re used to writing books for, say, the young adult market, and then suddenly you get some amazing idea for an adult novel, does that mean you should just ignore that idea until the end of time? Of course not. If you come up with an idea, you have to write it!
Now, sure, if you have some success writing for a particular age market, it might be difficult to convince your agent and/or editor to jump ship to the world of adult fiction. Many readers like to know what they’re getting with each new novel of an author they adore, and if they’re used to the author writing children’s fiction, that leap into another age market might surprise and confuse some. But Roald Dahl did it. Judy Blume has done it. And so has R.L. Stine and Daniel Handler and Anthony Horowitz.
Sometimes a pseudonym is required at the end of the day, but if there’s a project you’re passionate about, you must do it no matter what.
2. I always feel trepidation at the beginning of every project. I worry about so many things. Time to get it right, the skill to do it justice, the will to finish. I also worry about more mundane things, like what if my computer crashes and I’ve forgotten to back up the manuscript?
You know what kind of writer you are when you feel trepidation at the beginning of a new project? A normal one. If you’re feeling super confident in the days before starting a new short story or novel and you have zero fears or worries about anything, I would question if you’re truly ready. Because as energized and care-free that you might be at the beginning, trust me, writing a novel especially always gets hard after awhile, and you have to be prepared at some point for self-doubt. There’s no such thing as writing something new without at least a little self-doubt.
Worrying about things like having the time to get the manuscript right and the skill to do it justice and the will to finish it is totally normal. Finding time every day to work on your latest piece of fiction can be hard at times, especially when you have a full-time job and kids at home and pets and responsibilities. Your skills in writing might need more fine-tuning, and that’s okay. And the will to finish can elude you when you hit those chapters in the middle that aren’t working and that might be leading you down the wrong path. This is all normal and fine. You have to push through anyway no matter what. The goal is to finish that first draft, always.
But one thing you shouldn’t have to worry about? Don’t worry about your computer crashing and taking your new manuscript along with it. Just do what I do, to be totally on the safe side — e-mail the manuscript to yourself at least once a week, preferably twice a week. That way you have your latest version with you at all times just in case something wonky goes down with your computer!
3. I really kill myself on titles, although The 5th Wave seems like an obvious title, doesn’t it? You don’t know how long that took me.
Don’t beat yourself up about your titles. Don’t waste too much time thinking of the perfect one. Just find something that suits your story and suites your genre, and then start writing. You don’t even need a title before you start writing (although I always like to have something, even if I decide to change it later). Sure, at some point you’ll need to send out your work to a literary magazine or an agent or an editor, and you’ll need a title that hooks them. Often your title is in the subject line of the e-mail, so don’t pick something absurd or confusing or overly long.
But keep this in mind, too — if you want your novel to be traditionally published, your title might at some point be changed before your publication date, and there’s nothing you can do about it. A pal of mine got a publishing deal for a novel with a title she adored, and then later the title was changed no matter how often she championed the title she had come up with. So don’t panic too much about your titles. Just pick something that fits, that’s somewhat unique, and then worry much more about writing the best story possible.
It’s the quality of the writing that will get you places, remember that. Not the quality of your title.
4. The 5th Wave is sci-fi, but I tried very hard to ground the story in very human terms and in those universal themes that transcend genre. How do we define ourselves? What, exactly, does it mean to be human? What remains after everything we trust, everything we believe in and rely upon, has been stripped away?
Rick Yancey is most known for writing his 5th Wave trilogy, which was a monumental success in the world of young adult fiction a few years back, and part of the reason for the massive success was how much he grounded the stories in human terms and in universal themes that transcend genre. Sure, there’s a lot of science fiction in that trilogy, but what makes those books work is the human element and what people do when everything they’ve relied on has been stripped away.
You have to remember the human element in your fiction, especially when you’re writing fantasy or science fiction or horror. You can’t let the rules of the genre dictate the progression of the story. You can’t feel most compelled to serve fans of your genre over anything else. You have to pay attention to your characters and develop them throughout the narrative and infuse your story with fascinating, surprising, complicated relationships. No matter how far you take some of the genre elements, you’ll have more success at the end of the day if you concentrate the most on the human terms.
When that human element is lacking, you might lose many of your potential readers, but if there are characters and relationships we can identify with, you will have hooked countless more readers than you ever could have imagined!