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5 Quotes by R.L. Stine to Make You a Better Writer

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R.L. Stine (born in 1943) is the bestselling author of the Goosebumps and Fear Street series.

Here are five of his fantastic quotes to inspire your writing!

1. If you want to be a writer, don’t worry so much about writing. Read as much as you can. Read as many different writers as you can. Soak up the styles.

If you want to be a writer, you need to find the time to read, it’s as simple as that. You’ll never get any better as a writer if you don’t read because then you won’t try new things, you won’t experiment with different styles. Especially in the beginning of your career, you won’t have a voice developed quite yet, and reading works by lots of different authors will help you find that voice.

Pick a time of day you can read for even ten to twenty minutes. This can be right after you wake up, this can be on your lunch break, this can be late at night as you’re soaking in the bathtub. Have a book close by at all times, and then dip in whenever you can. And don’t just read the same author and genre over and over. Try something out of the box at least once in awhile so that you can absorb different voices and styles.

2. When I write, I try to think back to what I was afraid of or what was scary to me and try to put those feelings into books.

Writing books as adults that are aimed at children can be tricky because so much time has passed since we were children. You’re so set in your ways as an adult now that you might need to reflect a bit harder to remember what being a kid was even like. But the great thing about being an author of children’s books is that you don’t necessarily need to remember what your day-to-day activities used to be long ago. What’s most important is that you remember what your emotions were. What made you happy? What did you dream about? What terrified you? What made you laugh?

Kids will go along with your books as long as you capture that authenticity of their emotions. And if you write horror books aimed at kids like R.L. Stine does, and like I do, it’s pivotal you take the time to remember what freaked you out the most when you were young. Was it something simple like a monster hiding in the closet, or was it something more disturbing, like waking up one day to find your parents have abandoned you? Those emotions that were real to you at the time can absolutely translate to a book you write today, even one written in contemporary times.

3. It’s hard for children’s authors to be accepted when they try to write adult books. J.K. Rowling is the exception because people are so eager to read anything by her, but it took Judy Blume three or four tries before she had a success.

R.L. Stine is of course world famous for his long-running Goosebumps series and Fear Street series, but did you know he has tried his hand at adult fiction throughout the years? His first adult novel Superstitious came out in 1995, and I remember being so excited as an eleven-year-old fan of his to read something he wrote not aimed at kids. And then more recently in 2012 he had another adult novel published called Red Rain, which I haven’t read. But try as he might, adult fiction hasn’t been the easiest crossover for Stine. His books for kids have taken off to such an extent that his name has become a brand for children’s horror, and there’s little at this point he can do about that.

Sure, some authors have managed to write for both children and adults, like J.K. Rowling, Judy Blume, and even Roald Dahl, whose adult books I’ve read and are amazing. But it can be hard no matter what kind of writer you are to find success in one age market and then find equal success later in a different age market. You can try different things when you’re starting out, but once you find success in a specific niche, many of your readers (not to mention, your literary agent and editor) will want you to produce more books like that one. And you have to be prepared for that.

If you get popular enough, you might be able to stretch a little and try different genres and/or age markets, but you have to be prepared for skepticism from readers and potential low sales when you stray too far from what’s expected of you. This is why, of course, you want to love the genre and age market you do write in. You want to get popular in something you could write with great enthusiasm for another 100 years.

4. People always ask, ‘How do you write so many books?’ And I say, I work a lot. I work six or seven days a week. And I set a goal for myself everyday when I write — 10 pages a day.

Some writers sit down and say they’re going to write 2,000 words a day, and some writers sit down and say they’re going to write ten pages. To each his own. Stine prefers to think of the day’s work as the number of pages reached, and if that works well for him, then great. Ten pages a day is an awesome goal, especially for children’s books when the page count is usually less than your average adult novel.

What’s most important to marvel at and absorb some inspiration from is Stine’s work ethic. I heard a story he told once where he said at the peak of his popularity in the 1990s he was writing a new Goosebumps book and a new Fear Street book every month. That’s right… two new books every single month. That meant he wrote a new novel every fourteen or fifteen days, which is absolutely insane. But he was making so much money at the time, and the demand from readers was so rabid, that he was able to do it, at least for a little while. And trust me, when you have lots of money and adoration from readers coming in on a daily for something you love to do and have worked toward for years, you’ll be capable of just about anything.

5. If you do enough planning before you start to write, there’s no way you can have writer’s block. I do a complete chapter by chapter outline.

So how exactly was Stine able to write two new books a month for awhile there in the 1990s? He planned his books so well there was never a moment he felt lost during the writing process. Before he wrote a single word of a new Goosebumps or Fear Street book, at least in that time period when he was pumping them out like popcorn, he did a complete chapter by chapter outline. He started writing each novel knowing every single thing that was going to happen in it.

This is certainly one way to write if it gives you structure and if it prevents you from ever having writer’s block. And if you’re on a wild deadline like having to write a novel every two weeks, then yes, you probably will need to come up with super strict outlines. But I do feel at a certain point outlines rob you of the joy of writing. Because discovery plays a large role in the writing life, too. You want to always have an idea of where your story is going next, and you want to have a pretty solid handle on what the ending is going to be, too, but a sense of discovery always makes the process much more fun, at least in my experience.

You can write a book any way you want, of course, as long as you do it as best you can, and as long as you finish it. R.L. Stine has written hundreds of books in his lifetime, and with his large amount of planning he’s been able to finish every one of them and pump out one bestseller after another. What you need to do is find the way that helps you the most in writing your novel, and then stick to that process every time you start something new.

No matter what, continue to look to the great R.L. Stine for inspiration from time to time, as I always do. His books got me obsessed with reading at a young age, and they influenced me more than any others when it came time for me to write my novels. His colorful characters. His fast-paced storytelling. His iconic chapter cliffhangers. Stine is one of the masters, and he’s the perfect author to turn to whenever you’re looking for some helpful writing advice… or just a really good scare.

PS Ready to be inspired? I’m excited to announce my third craft book about writing!

From Douglas Adams to Markus Zusak: Quotes by 100 Amazing Authors to Inspire Your Writing is now available on Amazon for just $4.99.

Posted in Writing

4 Quotes by John Steinbeck to Make You a Better Writer

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John Steinbeck (1902–1968) was one of the most celebrated authors of the twentieth century, his novels Of Mice and Men and East of Eden still read widely today by millions.

Here are four of his wonderful quotes about writing!

1. The writer must believe that what he is doing is the most important thing in the world. And he must hold to this illusion even when he knows it is not true.

This is one of the most important pieces of advice I’ve received from any author! This is so incredibly true. When you’re writing your latest story or novel, you’re in your own little bubble. There’s no telling if this newest project will be a success or even be published. But if you want to take it all the way, you have to believe it’s the most important thing in the world. You have to believe in it with your whole heart before anyone else will.

So many of the novels I’ve written in the last few years have gone nowhere, after years of writing and revising, after working with beta readers and literary agents on them. After years of work, now they’re just sitting in my drawer with no readers, no audience. And for many reasons these particular projects weren’t ready for prime-time, and that’s okay. While I was working on them, I believed they were important, and that mentality is the one thing that will get you to that eventual manuscript that is ready to make you a superstar in the publishing world.

2. It is a common experience that a problem difficult at night is resolved in the morning after the committee of sleep has worked on it.

Sleep is one of the most important things in your life (and it’s also a lot of fun, am I right?). Sleep is that reset button so many of us writers need at times. Because you can sit at your writing desk for hours, and for whatever reason you just can’t figure out how to get from A to B in a scene or how to solve the problem of that huge plot hole in chapter 15. At some point you have to step away and let the problems of your latest manuscript work themselves out on your own. A run around the neighborhood helps. Getting comfy on the couch and reading a book can give you the answers you need.

But one of the best tools of all is getting a good night’s sleep. Because often the next morning the idea of what you need to do hits you when you’re least expecting it. Sleep has the power to solve all kinds of problems. It’s good for your health. It make you more alert the next day. And, like I said, it’s kind of a re-set after a day when your writing didn’t go so well. If you had a terrible writing day yesterday? It doesn’t matter. Because today you’re going to do better. Today you’re going to write more, and you’re going to fix what went wrong. Sleep is essential for all of us, but it’s especially helpful for writers!

3. I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist and that there are as few as there are any other great artists. Teaching might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit.

Teachers have been my heroes for a long, long time. Teachers got me interested in what I love to do now, and they have been my source of great inspiration since I was a little kid. People are shocked to learn I remember the name of all my elementary school teachers, and I also remember the names of most of my middle school and high teachers, too. Especially the English teachers. They all gave me the tools and the love for storytelling that stay with me to this day.

I’ve been an English instructor at the college level for nearly a decade now, and I do find that much of the job in a way is being an artist. You’re putting on a kind of performance every day to get the students involved in the day’s lesson and activities, and you’re using empathy and compassion, and you’re discussing all things about the human mind and spirit. It’s a great job, and on the best of my teaching days, there’s nothing else like it. I’ve walked out of classes so happy I feel ready to take on the world. And to be able to change the lives of even just a few select people in your teaching life is a gift that keeps on giving.

4. You know how advice is. You only want it if it agrees with what you wanted to do anyway.

I thought it was finally time to address what it means for you to actually take advice from so many popular and bestselling authors. The idea is to find inspiration and take chances and try something new you might not have thought about trying before. What you don’t want to do is try to do everything that’s suggested to you because, yes, some of it won’t work for you. And that’s okay. Stephen King is my all-time favorite author, and even some of his advice I don’t necessarily put into practice every day.

But if there’s something you should do, it’s this — try not to only take the advice to heart you already agreed with. Inspiration can be helpful, sure, but reading quote after quote and just remembering the advice you already agreed with isn’t going to help you in the long run. You want to push yourself. You want to aim for something that might be different or scary and see where that road takes you. If you just keep doing the same old thing, little about your writing life will change.

But if you challenge yourself to take the occasional advice from other writers you don’t necessarily agree with and implement it in your work, then there’s no telling how much success you’ll be able to achieve!

PS I’m excited to announce my third craft book about writing!

From Douglas Adams to Markus Zusak: Quotes by 100 Amazing Authors to Inspire Your Writing is now available on Amazon for just $4.99.

Posted in Books, Writing

My New Quotes Book “From Douglas Adams to Markus Zusak” is Now Available on Amazon!

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Dear Friend,

Are you ready to be inspired by your favorite authors? My newest craft book is officially live on Amazon!

They say that reading books helps your writing, but you know what also helps? Reading inspirational quotes by 100 amazing authors who have infinite amounts of wisdom to share.

For more than a year I collected brilliant and insightful quotes from our most famous storytellers, and I’m excited to share them with all of you!

Some of the many beloved authors included in this book include…

  • Judy Blume

You can download From Douglas Adams to Markus Zusak: Quotes by 100 Amazing Authors to Inspire Your Writing right now on Amazon for just $4.99! This project has been a labor of love, and I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Thanks so much for your support, and I hope you enjoy the book!

Love,

Brian

Posted in Writing

4 Quotes by Danielle Steel to Make You a Better Writer

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Danielle Steel (born in 1947) is the bestselling author alive, with about 150 novels in the world.

Here are four of her wonderful quotes to inspire your writing!

1. A book begins with an image or character or situation that I care about deeply.

Novels are funny things in that all those characters, and all those scenes, and all those words, usually stem from a single image that pops in your head. An idea. A situation. Something about a person that intrigues you. A novel is like a million puzzle pieces that need to come together, but they all start with one thing. People ask me all the time how I come up with my novel ideas, and more often than not it’s an image. Something that bounces around my brain for awhile that intrigues me, and that I want to explore further.

If you want to write a novel, your ideas can come from anywhere you want, but at the end of the day, you need to care about those ideas deeply. You need to have passion for your story and for what you might be able to do with it. You never want to go into a novel project lightly, and instead you want to pursue something that excites you, that haunts you, that you find yourself thinking about every day for a long, long time. Those ideas that never fade? Go with those, always.

2. I’m astonished by my success. I wrote because I needed to and wanted to. It never occurred to me that I’d become famous.

Call it a guess, but I’d assume most authors who become super successful in their writing careers were all astonished when they reached a high level of fame and financial stability. Most authors get to that successful place not because they’re vain or overly ambitious but because they love to write, and they practice their craft throughout the years. They love storytelling, and they built their lives on it.

If you get into novel writing for no other reason than to make money, you’re already a failure in a sense, because your readers will have the ability to sniff out that lack of authenticity. They’ll see how you’re just copying what other better writers have done before and they won’t want to go on a second journey with you. Readers, on the other hand, can sniff out the stories that were written with love and hard work and lots of imagination. They know when an author knows what they’re doing, and those are the stories we look for all the time.

Did Danielle Steel get to where she is today because she got lucky? Of course not. She’s a workaholic who’s produced more than 200 bestselling novels and who hasn’t slowed down for decades. She loves to write, and her millions of adoring readers will always be there to pick up her next book. I can’t think of a more fulfilling life than that. To be able to do what I love… and then share that with people all around the world who actually want to read it? What a life that would be.

3. I wish I were brave, although I try. I work too hard and don’t play enough. Too much work ethic, not enough ‘fun’.

Yes, it’s important to work hard and produce a lot of words and try to make time every day to write at least a little bit. Nothing will make you a better writer than practice, practice, practice. Than trying something new and failing at it, and then picking yourself up the next day and trying something else. You’re not going to find success as a writer if you just do it here and there, when you feel inspired, when you feel like it. You have to think of writing as a job and do it every day.

But at the same time, there is such a thing as working too much. As writing so often day after day that you forget to have anything resembling an actual life. First of all, it’s good for your soul to have fun, see friends, travel, do something outside your dark writing room. And second, what the hell are you going to write about if all you do is sit in a room and write? You have to live, you have to love, you have to experience. Living your life is what gives you the ideas and inspiration. Write often, work hard, but also don’t forget to have fun, too.

4. Writing is a solitary endeavor, but not a lonely one. When you write, your world is populated by the characters you invent, and you feel those people filling your life.

Danielle Steel makes an excellent point here. She’s absolutely right in that there is a difference between a solitary endeavor and a lonely one. Yes, you spend most of your time alone when you write. Many, many hours of the day with the door closed and your fingernails hacking away at a keyboard. You’re isolated. You’re by yourself. But you’re not lonely. Because you’re spending part of your day with characters of your own invention, and how cool is that?

It’s weird to say this, but at times I feel lonelier when I’m around other people than when I’m alone in my office working hard on my latest story. When the writing is going really, really well, there is no loneliness, trust me, only the greatest joy. You get lost in the world of your own making, and your characters start to become so real their voices are practically spilling out onto the page. It’s a dream job, it really is, so if writing ever feels lonely to you, then it might not be the job for you. Writing should be fun and freeing and playful, always.

Steel’s career is proof that you can work really hard and write hundreds of bestselling books and enjoy yourself immensely throughout the process. If you want to be a writer, you’re going to need to give it a try. Danielle Steel wasn’t Danielle Steel in the beginning, after all. She earned her fame and fortune, and you know what? So can you. Give it everything you’ve got for as long as it takes… and then see what happens.

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PS I’m excited to announce my third craft book about writing that’s been a whole year in the making!

From Douglas Adams to Markus Zusak: Quotes by 100 Amazing Authors to Inspire Your Writing, coming to Amazon on Tuesday, June 30.

Feel free to pre-order your copy now!

Posted in Writing

4 Quotes by Nicholas Sparks to Make You a Better Writer

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Nicholas Sparks (born in 1965) is the bestselling author of The Notebook, A Walk to Remember, Message in a Bottle, and countless other beloved novels.

Here are four of his quotes to inspire your writing!

1. I read over a hundred books a year and have done so since I was fifteen years old, and every book I’ve read has taught me something.

Are you starting to see a trend by now? Are you seeing that one bestselling author after another talks about how important reading is to their writing success? Reading should be something we all want to do anyway, but it’s especially important in your writing life. You truly can learn something new with every book you read, whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, whether it’s in the genre you normally write in or a genre you’re mostly unfamiliar with.

I can’t say I necessarily read more than 100 books a year — I’d say I probably average about forty to fifty books a year— but trying to read 100 books in a single year is definitely a goal we should all aim for. My problem is that I’m a slow reader and if I tried to read two books a week, I would probably have to skim a lot of the time, especially in longer novels, and when I’m skimming I rarely retain much, which defies the purpose and importance of reading in the first place. But do your best to always have a book nearby, and dip into it as often as you can!

2. I write 2,000 words a day when I write. It sometimes takes three hours, it sometimes takes five hours.

In all the research I’ve done studying various writing processes of novel writers, it appears like 2,000 words a day is the average daily word count goal. Cassandra Clare writes 3,000 words or more every day she’s drafting, and John Grisham aims for 1,000 words a day as of late. But Stephen King and Nicholas Spark both try for 2,000 words, which I personally find to be the sweet spot. 2,000 words is a lot and it allows you to get the first draft of your latest novel completed within a few short weeks, and it’s also not so much that you’re stuck at the writing desk from 9am to 9pm every day.

2,000 words a day takes Sparks anywhere between three hours and five hours a day, and that sounds about right. I’ve been able to reach 2,000 words in two to three hours on a good day, but sometimes it takes longer than that. It’s so important to stop your writing every day right before a scene or a moment you know is coming so that the next day you’re able to start writing right away and not waste time trying to think of what to write next.

As I’ve said before, decide on a word count that works best for you and stick to it every day until you reach THE END. If you prefer 1,000 words or fewer, then that’s fine. And if you like to write even more than 2,000 words a day, like I sometimes do, especially late in the drafting process, that also works! The goal is to reach the end of the first draft. Do what you need to do to ensure that happens.

3. None of my characters are rich or famous, and the situations they find themselves in could happen to anyone.

Nicholas Sparks is one of the most popular authors around, one of those lucky chaps who has millions of loyal readers who will pick up pretty much anything he puts out that has his name in big, bold letters on the cover. I’ve read three of his books, and I even adapted his novel A Bend in the Road into a screenplay way back in 2007 (more as an exercise than anything else). He has a gift for coming up with compelling plots and tender romances and shocking twists, but one of the things he does best, of course, is develop likable characters that are the kind of everyday people you know and meet in your own life.

He doesn’t write about billionaires or celebrities; he writes about your neighbors and co-workers, and that element I feel has played a big role in his success throughout the years. He writes a similar kind of book each time out, which also helps a lot (just look at the posters for all the film adaptations of his novels and you’ll discover a running theme), but it’s his believable and identifiable characters that resonate greatly with readers. It’s something to think about in your own writing, the kind of people you create on the page.

4. Writing the last page of the first draft is the most enjoyable moment in writing. It’s one of the most enjoyable moments in life, period.

Agreed! There’s nothing like it. There’s no greater glory in life, I believe, than writing THE END on your very first novel. I reached that milestone at the end of May 2010, and it was a revelatory day for me. After years of thinking I might write a novel, I finally did it, and I actually completed it. That first draft of my first novel was a whopping 463 pages and an absolute mess, but I reached the last page, and that alone was a huge milestone.

But don’t ever think the joy goes away in any subsequent novel you write. I’ve written twenty novels in ten years, and every time I reach that last page I want to cry. Every time I write that last sentence I want to turn up the music and dance for hours. Writing a novel is like climbing the world’s tallest mountain, and when you reach the end of it, you truly feel like you’ve reached the highest peak. You feel invincible. You feel really, really good about yourself. And you feel like you can accomplish anything.

Better yet? You’ll find your confidence to write another book after that, and another one, and another one! Writing a book is difficult, and you’ll have tough days, but if you stick with it long enough, you will reach the end at some point. And you’ll get to feel that beautiful, joyous, cathartic moment, too. Hopefully more than once!

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PS I’m excited to announce my third craft book about writing, a year in the making!

From Douglas Adams to Markus Zusak: Quotes by 100 Amazing Authors to Inspire Your Writing, coming to Amazon on Tuesday, June 30.

Pre-order your copy now!

Posted in Writing

4 Quotes by Dr. Seuss to Make You a Better Writer

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Dr. Seuss, aka Theodore Seuss Geigel (1904–1991), was one of our most beloved children’s book authors.

Here are four of his quotes to inspire your writing!

1. The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.

Who doesn’t love Dr. Seuss? For many of us he’s our introduction to reading, after all! He’s the beginning of our life-long love of books and stories. He definitely was for me. When I was a kid I had an entire bookshelf dedicated to Dr. Seuss books, and on a recent visit to my parents’ house, I discovered my mom had kept all those books and had put them on a shelf in one of her closets for my own kids to read one day. How cool is that?

This is one of his most famous quotes, of course, and it’s one that works for all aspects of your life but definitely for your writing life. You can’t write well without reading. Filling your life with books and finding some time every day to read will allow you to learn more things and give you the tools you need to write richer material. You’ll be able to go to more places, both physically and emotionally. You’ll be able to grow as a writer and not feel stuck in the same place all the time.

2. Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.

If you don’t care an awful lot about your writing, it won’t ever get better, and it won’t ever get done. Never forget that your latest writing project is all on you. Nobody is looking over your shoulder. Nobody is watching you work. If you don’t finish that latest short story or novel, the world will keep spinning. If you have an idea and a vision you want to put into the world, it’s all on you. It’s like that line Annette Bening says in American Beauty: “You can not count on anyone except yourself.” Sure, there will be mentors and friends who help you along the way, but in the writing life, you’re in charge of your latest work of fiction, and it’s up to you to get it done.

This is why I never start a new writing project, particularly a novel, that I don’t have great passion for. It’s not enough to have an idea that sort of amuses you. It’s not enough to say to yourself, I have six pretty empty weeks ahead of me, let’s start writing a novel and see where it takes me! I’ve done that before, and those novels are easily the worst I’ve ever written. When you have an idea you care about, that you’ll be excited to stick with for months or possibly years, only then will you be able to write a novel of true quality you’ll want to make better and better.

3. You can get help from teachers, but you are going to have to learn a lot by yourself, sitting alone in a room.

It seems almost too simple to be true, but it is: the best way you learn how to write is to sit alone in a room and write. It’s not reading a dozen craft books. It’s not talking about writing with your friends. And it’s certainly not sitting through countless lectures from your teachers. Yes, you can learn a lot from your teachers, and the best of them will inspire you to do great work. I spent three years in an MFA in Creative Writing program, and I can’t tell you how often I was inspired in those seminars and lectures. I would often leave a class excited to get home and start writing. I would take all the wisdom from my gifted professors and try to write something new that would be my greatest accomplishment yet.

The problem is so many people think teachers will give you everything you need to be a good writer, but you know what? They can only do so much. They can teach you what has worked well for them. They can give you a hundred writing exercises in class. They can spend hours discussing the work of amazing authors. But at the end of the day, what really makes your writing improve is practice. Not in the classroom. Not under your teacher’s supervision. But by yourself, with the door closed, an intriguing new idea forming in your mind.

4. Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.

Writing a work of fiction, particularly a novel, takes a long, long time. You might spend six months or a year or even longer on a single project. I’ve spent as long as four years on one novel, and that manuscript was only about 40,000 words. Between 2015 and 2019 I went through almost twenty revisions of a middle grade horror novel called Monster Movie, more than half of those revisions I spent working with a literary agent. I took a book that was a 7 out of 10 and brought it to a solid 11. I improved so much as a writer during that time, and I had a hard time letting go in late 2019 when my relationship with that agent came to an end, which essentially meant that novel I’d put my heart and soul into for four years had come to an end, too. Outside of self publishing, I don’t know if that novel will ever see the light of day, and that does make me want to cry sometimes.

But Dr. Seuss was right in that instead of moping over a writing project that didn’t quite work out the way you hoped, you should smile… because it happened. You should smile because that experience made you a better writer. You should smile because you learned so much and can bring new skills to a different project that might be able to find a home. Especially in the writing world, you learn from every single failure. You understand what didn’t work last time so you can make something work at least a little bit better the next time.

Don’t cry when you reach the end of something. Smile because you did it, you accomplished it, and now you can start something new that will be even better. So keep going. Keep trying. Don’t dwell on the past. The future is yours!

Are you ready to write your novel this year? My brand 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!

Posted in Writing

4 Quotes by Louis Sachar to Make You a Better Writer

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Louis Sachar (born in 1954) is the bestselling author of Holes and Sideways Stories from Wayside School.

Here are four of his quotes to inspire your writing!

1. I never think of an entire book at once. I always just start with a very small idea.

I think a big reason a lot of people don’t ever start their novels is the terrifying notion of having to produce hundreds and hundreds of pages. It seems like too much. It seems like climbing the world’s tallest mountain. Sure, they might be able to write a few chapters, but an entire novel? It’s scary, so they feel the best choice is to never begin.

This is actually the main reason why I didn’t write a novel until I was twenty-five, but as soon as I learned to focus on one small idea at a time, one chapter at a time, one scene at a time, one word at a time, the writing of my first novel stopped being so terrifying. Sure, you should have an idea of where you’re going in the narrative, but as soon as you focus on one small thing at a time and just try to stay true to your original idea and vision, you’ll be able to finish your novel. And then write lots and lots of novels!

2. I didn’t become a good writer until I learned how to rewrite. And I don’t just mean fixing spelling and adding a comma. I rewrite each of my books five or six times, and each time I change huge portions of the story.

Revising your novels, and revising them well, is key to being a success in the publishing world. For so many years I wrote a first draft to the best of my ability and then essentially just did copyedit revisions where I fixed spelling errors and typos and added and deleted commas. I would cut things here and there, but I rarely did the hard work of adding new details and scenes that needed to be there.

Unless you’re a gifted writer and super lucky, the truth is you’re going to have to change portions of your story when you revise. I actually find the better writer I’ve become these past few years, the more I change huge portions of my latest story because I can easily sniff out the mediocrity and the parts that clearly don’t work. It’s not enough to just be good enough as a writer, especially if you want to be a successful novel writer. Good enough won’t cut it. The competition is too fierce, and the agents and editors need to love your book to say yes. They can’t say, well, it’s almost there, it’s a solid B+, but that’s okay, we’ll buy it anyway. That’s not how it works. You have one chance to make a first impression to agents and editors, and you want your writing to absolutely soar from the first page to the last.

3. I don’t listen to music when I write. I need silence.

This is an interesting perspective because I have tried to write in silence, and I struggle every time. There’s something almost sad about it. You’re already in isolation for hours every day as you write your latest short story or novel, and there’s something about having a little music playing that makes you feel a little less alone.

But that’s only part of it. I actually believe the right kind of music can actually improve the writing you’re doing for the day. If you’re trying to get lost in the world of your story, you shouldn’t necessarily put on Top 40 music. Instead you should put on music that creates a mood. I like to listen to film scores when I write fiction. I find the score that best suits the emotion of my latest story, and I let that score play from beginning to end as I write furiously. But if silence works for you, then awesome! Whatever gets words down is the writing setting and ambiance you want to maintain.

4. Every time I start a new novel, it seems like an impossible undertaking. If I tried to do too much too quickly, I would get lost and feel overwhelmed. I have to go slow, and give things a chance to take form and grow.

There are definite pros and cons to writing a novel fast, and there are of course pros and cons to writing it slowly. I’ve tried writing a novel both ways throughout the years, and lately I’ve been writing them faster and not slower because I very much believe the main point of a first draft is to get the story down, and get it finished. If you take too long on the first draft, you might get so lost in the weeds, so to speak, that your story goes off the rails after awhile, or worse, you never finish the manuscript. When you give yourself a few short weeks to write the novel, you’re in the zone for hours day after day until the story reaches its natural conclusion.

However, going slow has its perks, too. I wrote my MFA thesis novel slowly over the course of an entire summer a few years back, and I do find writing it slowly made the quality of the prose incredibly rich in that first draft. And when I started the second and third and fourth drafts I already had a great base to work from, instead of something rushed and thrown together that’s going to force you to work harder during revisions. And in a way there’s not as much pressure when you’re writing a novel slowly. If you don’t reach 2,000 words a day, you don’t feel disappointed in yourself. You can simply aim for 500 words a day and enjoy the process rather than feel rushed to get to the endpoint. Although, again, I do think writing a novel too slowly can set you up for failure in the long run, especially when you’re focusing too much time on the language and quality of the prose and not on the story itself.

So, yes, there are pros and cons to both, so I would suggest you write a novel both ways. Write one novel fast and write one novel slowly and see how each process makes you feel. Whichever one works better for you? Then keep doing it that way for many years to come.

Are you ready to write your novel this year? My brand 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!

Posted in Writing

A Dozen Quotes by J.K. Rowling to Help You Write Your Novel

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J.K. Rowling (born in 1965) is the author of the beloved Harry Potter series.

Here are a dozen of her wonderful quotes to help you write your novel!

1. I was convinced that the only thing I wanted to do ever — was write novels.

It takes longer for some of us to figure out what we want to do with our lives, what makes us happy, what we want to pursue year after year no matter how much failure we might face, but at some point you just feel it in your heart and in your gut — you want to be a writer.

You wake up every day inspired to write something new. Ideas come at you from every direction. You walk through a bookstore and yearn to see your name on the shelf. You want to be a writer, damn it! And nobody is going to stop you.

Once you’ve convinced yourself that you want to write, then the real work begins. You have to realize that success won’t come to you overnight. But if you pursue your passion and keep going despite all the rejections, the same way J.K. Rowling did, there’s no limit to the kinds of amazing things that might happen.

2. I just write what I wanted to write. I write what amuses me. It’s totally for myself. I never in my wildest dreams expected this popularity.

Honestly this kind of writing will bring you the most success. It sounds counterintuitive, it seems like you should focus on writing the kinds of stories readers are looking for and that sell the most copies. This is what I did in my early years of writing novels. I didn’t necessarily write the book I wanted to write but what I thought agents and readers were looking for. Something you learn pretty quickly is that this is not the way to become a successful writer.

Success will come to you when you focus instead on the kinds of stories that amuse you and that you’re excited to get up every day to write. Sure, you need to learn some publishing expectations, like word counts for genres and how to pitch your novel in a few sentences and things like that. Don’t go crazy writing something nobody in the world will ever want to read.

But for the most part, you have free reign to explore your imagination and write whatever makes you happiest. J.K. Rowling didn’t write the first Harry Potter book thinking it was going to make her a billionaire. She wrote it to amuse herself, because she enjoyed the story and the characters. Write the book that amuses you, and eventually you’ll discover all the readers (and the agents!) who want to read it.

3. And the idea of just wandering off to a cafe with a notebook and writing and seeing where that takes me for awhile is just bliss.

There’s this belief that every time you sit down at your desk you have to know exactly what you’re going to write for the day and understand every major and minor detail that you’ll be putting in the latest scene or series of scenes. Nothing could be further from the truth!

You should have an idea of what you want to write for the day, but never forget that the fun of writing is the exploration. You want there to be a sense of discovery when you’re putting a new scene on the page. Often you have an intention to do something specific in a scene, but then the scene goes in a different direction once you begin writing it. You should go where the scene takes you, and where the characters tell you to guide them.

Don’t force anything. Forcing stuff does you and your reader a disservice. Instead enjoy the wandering. Sometimes the wandering actually brings you to the most inspired moments of your entire novel!

4. I was set free because my greatest fear had been realized, and I still had a daughter who I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became a solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.

J.K. Rowling is such an inspiring success story because she truly came from nothing. When she started writing the first Harry Potter book, she was a single mother who was living a life nearly at the poverty level. Anyone who passed her by as she was scribbling down her sentences of the first Harry Potter book probably looked at her with sorrow and believed she was wasting her time.

Well, of course it turned out that writing saved Rowling’s life and brought her back from rock bottom. But at the same time what makes her story so amazing is that the rock bottom actually set her free. There was nowhere further south for her to go. She could have stopped believing in herself. She could have looked at her surroundings and made the decision not to write.

But she had a big idea she adored, and so she started writing. She didn’t write with dollar signs on the mind… but to amuse herself with a story that made her happy. So if you’re ever feeling rock bottom, remember that all it takes is a wonderful novel with an awesome concept and compelling writing that comes from a place of truth and inspiration that can turn everything around for you.

5. I love inventing names, but I also collect unusual names, so that I can look through my notebook and choose one that suits a new character.

Something I enjoy doing from time to time is jotting down a few unusual character names in my little red notebook. In a few of the early pages I have at least fifty names I’ve collected throughout the years, and it’s always the place I turn to first when I want to come up with some fresh names for my latest novel project.

When you’re writing a novel set in a fantasy world, like Rowling did, you have the ability to invent names of your own, just come up with some of the most unusual names imaginable, but even if you’re writing a book set in contemporary times in the real world, you have the freedom to get weird with your character names. Your protagonist doesn’t have to be named Mark. Your supporting characters don’t have to be Bill and Sarah and Nancy.

Your character names are some of the first things that register in your reader’s mind, so if you’re going to take months or even years to work on your latest novel, why not take a few minutes and pick out some names that make those characters memorable and unique?

6. Imagination is not only the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is not, and therefore the fount of all invention and innovation. In its arguably most transformative and revelatory capacity, it is the power to that enables us to empathize with humans whose experiences we have never shared.

What a beautiful quote this is. What an important element of storytelling we should all learn sooner or later. When we think of the word imagination, we often think of crazy made-up worlds filled with all kinds of crazy creatures. We think Star Wars. We think Lord of the Rings. And, yes, we think of Harry Potter. Three incredible imaginations were needed to create those worlds, that’s for sure.

But something else imagination can be used for is the power to empathize with other humans because often you’re writing stories told from the perspectives of humans whose experiences we have never shared. We’re seeing the world through the eyes of a different kind of person from ourselves. And that’s part of the magic of writing novels, is it not? To get away from yourself for a little bit every day and spend some time living through somebody else.

You don’t want to write stories about people who are just like you. Trust me, that gets boring after, oh, five minutes. If you want to write about yourself, write a memoir. If you want to write a novel, you’re going to need to explore other kinds of people, and when you have the ability to truly become other people, that empathy will spill out onto the page for readers all around the world.

7. I always have a basic plot outline, but I like to leave some things to be decided while I write.

I believe this is the best way to write a novel. Some people like to just dive in and see where the writing takes them. Others write a specific pages-long outline that goes chapter by chapter, never to be strayed from. I’ve written twenty novels and I’ve never written an outline that went beyond a few paragraphs, but one thing I usually do is write detailed biographies of all my characters. Since character in many ways is more important than plot, you’re best served to have a clear understanding of who your characters are and what they want and what’s keeping them from what they want.

It’s also important to have a basic plot outline, too, of course, but don’t ever feel like you have to map out every scene. Something I like to know before I start writing a new novel is what specifically happens at the beginning and what specifically happens at the end. If I know my ending clearly, along with my characters and their motivations, I can usually get started. Sometimes the ending changes later as I’m drafting, and that’s okay. But know your ending to the best of your ability. Having a destination in mind will help keep your writing on track.

However, when you have too much of the plot outlined, you might be stifling your own imagination and creativity. As I said earlier, the discovery is part of the fun when you’re writing. You’re supposed to have fun with this, and a lot of that fun is robbed if you’re mapping out every moment of your novel. So prepare yourself somewhat… but feel free to make split-second decisions with your story as you’re drafting, too.

8. In a novel you have to resist the urge to tell everything.

One of the biggest mistakes new writers make, especially when they’re attempting their first novel, is telling the reader anything and everything. It’s a novel, so they feel they can describe everything for eternity! A new character walks into a scene, and they feel it’s in the reader’s best interest to learn everything about that person. How tall they are, what they’re wearing, what their backstory is.

You might especially want to include all these details when you’ve previously written that character’s biography and know what all the details are, but no. You have to restrain yourself. You have to resist the urge to tell everything and understand that it’s always more effective to sprinkle details about your characters throughout the manuscript, not just right up front.

Please, please, please don’t give us five block paragraphs of information about your characters. We don’t care. Keep the story moving instead. Get us involved, and then only here and there should you be telling us things about the characters, about the setting. This is honestly one the best skills you can learn especially in the world of novel writing!

9. The most important thing is to read as much as you can, like I did. It will give you an understanding of what makes good writing and it will enlarge your vocabulary.

Oh, look, another bestselling author telling us to read as much as we can. And you know why? Because reading really does work! Reading gives us a foundation. It helps develop our vocabulary, and it shows us the difference between good writing and bad writing. You can learn something new with every book you pick up. It’s why I always try to get my hands on books by authors I’ve never read before.

There are all sorts of ways to learn the craft of writing, like taking classes, and getting an MFA in Creative Writing, and listening to authors talk about writing, and of course just writing yourself. But one of the best ways is to just read. When you are spending an hour of your day reading, you are developing your career as a writer, never forget that. You’re not wasting time getting lost in a story. You are teaching yourself new writing skills.

In the beginning you might find yourself emulating the authors you love the most, you might even find yourself sounding exactly like them, but keep reading works by new, diverse writers, and keep practicing your craft, and eventually your voice will come through on the page. Read enough and write enough and your work will really start to improve.

10. People ask me if there are going to be stories of Harry Potter as an adult. Frankly, if I wanted to, I could keep writing stories until Harry is a senior citizen, but I don’t know how many people would actually want to read about a 65 year old Harry still at Hogwarts playing bingo with Ron and Hermione.

I would actually love it if J.K. Rowling revisited Harry Potter’s story in novel form at some point — I think millions of readers would — but the question, obviously, is if she should. And the answer is likely no. Because the story of Harry Potter reached the finish line in book seven. The conflict came to an end, and the story had a moving and definitive resolution. And I do think it’s the mark of a great author to recognize when she’s done.

There are so many authors who in J.K. Rowling’s shoes would have kept going. Would have banged out another fifty Harry Potter books. And many of them would have delighted us, and many of them would have eventually been disappointments. Because at some point her ideas would have worn thin and we would have realized she was only writing them to put another few billion dollars in her bank account.

I do think it’s important to recognize when a story has reached its conclusion, especially for those of you who write series or want to write a series. I’ve written two trilogies, and I to this day feel like three books in each series was the right choice, not five books or ten books or whatever. Write as much in a series as you want, but recognize for yourself when it’s time to quit.

11. I would like to be remembered as someone who did the best she could with the talent she had.

I think J.K. Rowling will be known for a whole lot more than that, but it’s absolutely true that she’s the picture-perfect example of a person who had little means and had no guarantee of publishing success but who pushed on anyway due to her love of storytelling… and became an absolute phenomenon nobody in her position ever could have been prepared for.

Re-reading the Harry Potter novels again, I recognize just how much talent Rowling has. She’s not the most gifted writer at the prose level, sure, but it’s the detail she brings into her worlds and characters that shoot her straight to the top. I can’t imagine many authors would be able to keep straight everything she does over the course of those seven books. Practically every page has a new character, a new setting, a new potion. I would have needed to map out an entire book of notes just to help me get through the drafting stage!

This is her magic of course, and this is her number one talent. She’s an amazing storyteller, she has a gift for language and dialogue, but it’s the detail that makes her work so extraordinary.

12. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default.

This is one of J.K. Rowling’s most famous quotes, and it’s one I think about often. We all feel like failures at times in our lives, and such is especially the case for novel writers like you and me. It’s crushing to spend a year or longer on a new novel project… only to see it go nowhere. To put thousands of hours into something we deeply care about… only to see no literary agent agree to represent it and no editor at a publishing house give it the time of day. That kind of failure physically hurts, and I should know — I’ve been through it more than a dozen times.

But whenever you’re feeling down about yourself, whenever you feel like you’ll never amount to anything as a novel writer, remember J.K. Rowling’s success story, and keep her inspiring words in mind. It is impossible to live without failing at something, and you know what’s far worse than that kind of failure? The failure to ever try. So many people want to write a novel but never do. They’re afraid of failure, and so, in many ways, they fail by default for not even trying.

You know what? You’re trying. You’re putting your heart and soul on the page every day. You’re revising your work over and over to get it just right. You’re querying literary agents and pitching editors and doing everything you can to get your fiction into the world. Don’t fret if you fail. Write another book and try again. If you love writing, and you have stories to tell, don’t be afraid of failure. Be afraid of never trying.

Write your novel, just like J.K. Rowling did. And then see what happens.

Are you ready to write your novel this year? My brand 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!

Posted in Writing

6 Quotes by Nora Roberts to Make You a Better Writer

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Nora Roberts (born in 1950) is one of the most successful authors of all time, having written more than 225 romance books, along with tons of mystery books under the pseudonym J.D. Robb.

Here are six of her wonderful quotes about writing!

1. Action, reaction, motivation, emotion, all have to come from the characters.

I’ve been writing novels for a long, long time, and something that took me awhile to learn was that the best stories are born out of character and not plot. Think about the stories you love to read and the movies you love to watch. The story plays an important role, sure, but isn’t the characters you adore that keep you coming back time and time again? Would Harry Potter have been such a phenomenon if J.K. Rowling hadn’t taken the time to develop all those wonderful characters? Would Stephen King’s books resonate with so many people if the character on the page were ultra bland?

Absolutely not. It’s all about the characters, my friends. Sure, you need a compelling story, you need a concept that has some originality, you need a plot with plenty of conflict and where the stakes are constantly raised, but eventually your reader won’t care that much if they don’t connect emotionally with the main character. And how your characters react to things have to come from a real, authentic place. Don’t just tell us what the character is feeling, don’t say why they are motivated to do something. Show and not tell, and make your characters as three-dimensional and realistic as possible.

2. I generally write a first draft that’s pretty lean. Just get the story down.

Every writer has a different approach to the first draft, and really you’ll learn throughout the years what works best for you. Nora Roberts prefers to write a first draft that’s lean, that gets the story down so then she can get to work on shaping it when she revises. I totally get that. I’ve seen authors who write a short first draft and then build it up in drafts two and three, adding lots of detail and dialogue and even new scenes along the way.

I’m not like that. I like to write a lot in the first draft and then cut back as I revise. Many writers don’t like to cut, but I love it. I would find it difficult to reach a scene that doesn’t work in the second draft but feel compelled to keep it there just because my word count is down. When your word count is high and your novel could easily lose 10,000 to 20,000 words, you never have to think twice about cutting something that shouldn’t be there.

At the end of the day, what Roberts says is true, though, no matter how long your first draft may be: get the story down. Whether that means 50,000 words or 150,000 words. Do what you need to do. Get the story down… and then the real work begins.

3. I don’t think you can write — at least not well — if you don’t love stories, love the written word.

I’ve been obsessed with stories and the written word since I was a little kid, and something tells me so have you. Stories are what get me through everything, whether they’re fiction or non-fiction. And to this day, after how many millions of words of fiction I’ve written, I’m still tickled by the power of sentences and the written word. I love to look back over a new novel or short story I’ve written and find a sentence that blows my mind.

Because here’s the thing — when you get super involved in a scene and the sentences are flowing out of you and the characters are almost talking to you in a sense, some truly magical things can happen on the page. When you’re constantly thinking about your story and editing yourself as you write, the magic almost never comes. But if you calm your mind and let the world of your story take over for a couple of hours, you can end up writing some amazing prose that will show you just how much power you have a writer.

4. Every writer has to figure out what works best — and often has to select and discard different tools before they find the one that fits.

Practice is everything when you’re a writer. Practicing your skills will show you as the years pass what works well for you and what doesn’t. This goes for everything from the writing itself to coming up with your ideas to revising to publishing, and so on. You won’t know what works best in the beginning. All you’ll think about is starting, and hopefully finishing, that latest project. Finishing whatever you started is always a good thing to focus on at the start.

But once you write more stories and novels, you’ll pick up on some tools that work well for you, and you’ll throw away the tools that don’t. You’ll discover the best place for you to do your writing, and you’ll decide the atmosphere you do your best writing in (silence? loud noise? music?). Keep trying different things and see what sticks. Eventually your success will come when all the tools suddenly fit perfectly.

5. I don’t believe for one moment you can write well what you wouldn’t read for pleasure.

This is something important to remember as a writer. Something huge. Would you read your own story if you hadn’t written it? I’ve written lots of books throughout the years, and I can honestly say some of the novels I’ve written I probably wouldn’t seek out at the bookstore, and even if I happened to take it off the shelf and read the first few pages, I’m not sure I’d buy it. The books I feel this way about are the ones I wrote not because I loved the idea but because I thought I might be able to make some money from it or that it might easily get me a literary agent.

You want to always be writing books that you yourself would read for pleasure if you hadn’t written it. That’s the way I feel about the latest novels I’ve written. If you love to write for the young adult age market, like I do? Then read a young adult book here and there. If you write mysteries? Read a mystery from time to time, especially by an author you’ve never heard of. Seek out books to read for pleasure in the genres and age markets you write in and write for.

6. You don’t find time to write. You make time. It’s my job.

You have to always find time to write, simple as that. We all get super busy in our lives. Many of us have day jobs. Many of us have kids and pets and responsibilities. And even though a day has a lot of hours… it really doesn’t, am I right? You wake up in the morning and think you have all the time in the world, but then suddenly you’re making dinner and you’re exhausted and all you want to do is put on Netflix. Suddenly the idea of writing 1,000 words or more for the day seems almost impossible.

But if you want to be a writer, you need to find the time to write. Find the time that works best for you. If you’re a morning person, write after you get up. This works well because then you have the rest of your day to do everything else, and no matter how busy things get, you still got some writing done for the day. I used to like writing at night, but the problem with doing that is you’re more likely to put it off until the next day. When you do it first thing, it usually gets done.

What helps is treating writing like it’s a job. You don’t show up late for your job, do you? You don’t skip your real job for a day. Even if you’re not making a dime from your writing, the way to get it done every day is to show up and treat it like a job. You should feel that way about it, even though for the most part is should feel like play and not work.

So please, no excuses. No delaying. Show up every day to write like it’s your job… and the pages will stack up eventually.

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!

Posted in Writing

5 Quotes by Rick Riordan to Make You a Better Writer

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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.

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