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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.

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

4 Quotes by Anne Rice to Make You a Better Writer

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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!

Posted in Writing

4 Quotes by Anna Quindlen To Make You a Better Writer

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Anna Quindlen (born in 1953) is the bestselling author of One True Thing, Every Last One, and Still Life with Bread Crumbs, among many others.

Here are four lovely quotes of hers about the writing life!

1. There’s no greater happiness than doing something every day that you love, that you feel you do in a satisfactory fashion, and which both supports and gives you time to support your family. I felt so lucky to have all that.

People ask me from time to time what my perfect life looks like (my parents, usually), and there’s no better answer than what Anna Quindlen says here. To be able to get up every day and work on something you love to do, that you feel you’re at least somewhat good at, and which supports you and your family. That’s a joyful life for any of us, isn’t it? That’s having a job where you don’t have to ever work a single day.

Writing is that happy life for me, and I’m sure it’s also the happy life for many of you. I haven’t been successful enough at writing for it to support me completely, but it’s certainly something I love doing and that I feel I have some talent for. We all have a calling. We all have something we’re pretty good at and that we like to do. The important thing in life is to find that and work hard on it every day until that success ultimately comes. It might take a few years — hell, it might take a couple of decades — but if you believe in something enough and you love it, ignore the haters and any doubt you might hold in your mind and go for it.

2. Ideas are like pizza dough, made to be tossed around.

Ideas are not set in stone, especially when you’re starting to think about a new short story or novel project. You might come up with one really stellar idea, but don’t stop there. In my early days of writing fiction, I always stopped after getting that first idea. I thought that first idea was enough. But usually you need to dig deeper and find a second idea, a third idea, and then be open to tossing many of these ideas around like pizza dough for a few days, even weeks. You want to elaborate on your ideas and try to come up with something original and compelling that’s never really been done before. What can you deliver to readers that is something uniquely you?

The great thing about ideas is that you can always be thinking about them throughout your day. When you’re at your day job. When you’re eating lunch. When you’re watching a boring movie. When you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t go back to sleep. The first goal is to find one great idea. And then expand on that. What kinds of characters could be part of this particular story? What’s a genre that might give this story something unfamiliar and exciting? And what’s a second idea that can be blended with the first to create something spectacular?

Don’t just start writing once you get that first idea. Take the time to consider your ideas and toss them around for a bit until you’re able to develop a new short story or a novel that could potentially be amazing, not just good.

3. I’m sure not afraid of success and I’ve learned not to be afraid of failure. The only thing I’m afraid of now is of being someone I don’t like much.

We’re all going to have ups and downs in our writing career. It will take many of us a long time to find success. I’m in that weird middle ground where I’ve had a little success throughout the last ten years of my writing life — I signed with a literary agent, got an MFA in Creative Writing, finally made some good money as a freelancer — but I definitely haven’t been super successful yet, although I’m still trying, as I’m sure all of you are, too. The key, no matter where you are in your writing life, is not be afraid of either success or failure. You should instead be afraid of being someone you don’t like.

Anna Quindlen has a good point here. Once you become someone you don’t like very much — which might certainly be the case if you hit a lot of success in your writing life early, I suppose — you might lose that side of yourself that got into writing in the first place. You want to pursue success but also not be afraid to fail time and time again. You have to do the work, love the process, finish all your projects, and send them out to be successful. Don’t be afraid of success, because if you work hard and have talent, the success will come eventually. And you’ll deserve everything that comes to you. But don’t be afraid of failure either. Failure is where you learn and where you grow. And in the world of writing, the only real failure is giving up for good.

4. You cannot be really first-rate at your work if your work is all you are.

If you want to be a successful writer, it’s worth finding time every day to write. Even if it’s just an hour or two. Hell, even if it’s just ten minutes! The key to success in writing is practicing your craft seven days a week and taking the occasional risk and finishing everything you begin. You want to write a lot, and you want to enjoy the process. As soon as writing starts to feel like work, you’re in deep trouble. You want there to be a sense of play, always. You want to have fun.

At the same time, you can’t just write all day every day. You can’t sit in dark rooms forever and not interact with people, go on adventures, do new things, get away from your writing desk. There were a few years in the beginning of my novel writing life where the writing was all I did. I basically wrote and watched TV and movies. A lot of my ideas for characters and stories started to come from the content I was watching, so in a way I was basically regurgitating things that had already come before. That kind of lifestyle doesn’t lead to creative work. It leads to mediocrity.

So please, write often, write your heart out, but also don’t forget to live your life. That living part? It will actually make your writing all the richer.

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, now available on Amazon for just $3.49!

Posted in Writing

4 Quotes by Robert R. McCammon to Make You a Better Writer

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Robert R. McCammon (born in 1952) is the bestselling author of Swan Song, Gone South, and my all-time favorite novel, Boy’s Life, which changed my life at age fifteen.

Here are four of his wonderful quotes about the writing life!

1. Life itself does its best to take that memory of magic away from us. You don’t know it’s happening until one day you feel you’ve lost something but you’re not sure what it is. It’s like smiling at a pretty girl and she calls you ‘sir.’ It just happens.

This theme of losing that magic as you grow older is key to his beautiful, haunting, absolutely enchanting 1991 novel Boy’s Life, which I had to read for my sophomore year English class and which has been my favorite book ever since. This novel was my introduction to the work of Robert R. McCammon, and one that I’ve lent and recommended to countless friends and family members throughout the years. It’s long at more than 600 pages, and not a word of it is wasted. Whether you’re a boy or a girl, whether you’re young or old, if you love great stories, it’s worth checking out.

So much of his book resonated with me, particularly at the age of fifteen, because I was slowly transitioning into that phase of life where the magic has started to dissipate. When you realize much of life is going to be hard and filled with pain and rejection and failure. The novel made me cry and reflect, and I was so thrilled to revisit it for the first time in 2015, right after I turned thirty. I’ve decided I’m going to re-read the book every fifteen years because I very much believe I’ll get something new out of it every time. Reading it as an adult I paid more attention to the craft of it, but I was again overwhelmed with emotion. Something I will always take with me about Boy’s Life is the necessity of holding onto as much magic as you possibly can.

2. It seemed to me at an early age that all human communication — whether it’s TV, movies, or books — begins with somebody wanting to tell a story. That need to tell, to plug into a universal socket, is probably one of our grandest desires. And the need to hear stories, to live lives other than our own for even the briefest moment, is the key to the magic that was born in our bones.

You know what’s one way to hold onto as much magic as you can? It’s reading, hearing, watching, and telling stories, of course. So much of real life can be monotonous day to day, but there’s nothing monotonous about life once you slip into an entertaining story, whether someone else is telling it to you or you’re writing it yourself. I do believe the most magic comes when you yourself are writing a story. When you enter the zone as a writer and transport yourself to the world of your story or novel.

We all need stories now more than ever. They’re necessary, and they do have the ability to work their magic on you, whether the story is set in some faraway fantasy land or set right here on planet Earth. As director Steven Soderbergh said when he won the Best Director Oscar for Traffic in 2001, “this world would be unlivable without art,” and so much of great art starts with a compelling story. Living lives other than your own has the power to bring the magic back, even if it’s just for a little while. Find that magic however you can.

3. Many times you will fail. That is the nature of the world, and the truth of life. But when you find your horse again, will you go back or will you go forward?

Sometimes I wish we could all be confronted with the very real truth about failure when we’re younger. Not that we’re doomed to fail but just that failure is going to happen, and we have to be prepared for it. When I started writing my first novel in 2010 I was so confident it would get me a literary agent, would get me published. And I thought if it didn’t happen, my dreams would certainly come true on my second book. Oh, how beautifully naive I was back then. How little did I realize how much failure I would have to endure to reach the place I am today, where I have some significant success, a much better handle on the craft of writing, but still plenty of disappointing failures.

Failure will happen to you no matter what you end up doing, but failure is certainly something you’ll find yourself pushing up against time and time again as a writer. There’s no such thing as succeeding with every new short story and novel you write. There’s no such thing as magic pouring out on the page every single time. If you’re lucky you’ll find success early in your writing career, but even if you don’t, that doesn’t mean it will never happen for you. Because something I learned a few years into this is that the only definitive way you fail as a writer is quitting. Is giving up. As long as you keep going and improve in your craft and write another new project, there’s a chance all your dreams can come true.

4. Even the most worthless thing in the world can be beautiful. It just takes the right touch.

It’s so true that anything in life that appears to be ugly or frivolous or worthless on the surface can actually be startlingly beautiful. I think about this every time I go for a run around my neighborhood. I look at so many things that 99% of people would ignore or miss, but occasionally I stop for a few seconds to take in a gorgeous flower or a spectacular view or a stunning architectural structure I find to be breathtaking. Doing this even just once a day can bring a little light into your life… and it can bring the magic back, too.

Finding the beauty in the most worthless things is one of the duties of a writer, too. When you’re writing a new short story or a novel, you want to look for those specific details that most people miss. You want to explore ideas and characters and settings many people might find ugly and worthless, and you want to showcase what makes them so goddamned beautiful.

Robert R. McCammon did it in Boy’s Life, and he’s done it in dozens of other novels throughout his long career. If you want to find success as a writer, and if you want to bring the magic back over and over again, it’s in your best interest to do it, too!

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, now available on Amazon for just $3.49!

 

Posted in Writing

4 Quotes by Annie Proulx to Make You a Better Writer

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Annie Proulx (born in 1935) is the celebrated author of Brokeback Mountain, The Shipping News, and Barkskins, among others.

Here are four wonderful quotes she’s shared with us about the writing life.

1. I find it satisfying and intellectually stimulating to work with the intensity, brevity, balance and word play of the short story.

So many aspiring authors push the short story aside to focus on the big kahuna: the novel, of course. It’s the novel that can bring immense change to your writing life. It’s the novel that can bring you fame and fortune, not the short story. At best, that new short story you just finished might find a home in a prestigious literary magazine. Or maybe you’ll write enough stories to compile a short story collection at some point. But you’re never going to get rich writing short stories, and the sooner you learn that the better.

You know what, though? They’re still worth writing anyway. I firmly believe short fiction is where you grow as a writer. Because you’re free to take chances and try different things. When you’re writing a long novel you can take chances, too, but you also have to follow where that narrative leads you and stick to a structure that makes sense. Things don’t necessarily have to make sense in a short story. It doesn’t need a clean beginning, middle, and end. You can try writing it in the second person. You can write in a genre you’ve never attempted before. Writing a new short story is always satisfying regardless of what comes of it in the long run.

2. If you get the landscape right, the characters will step out of it, and they’ll be in the right place.

Setting is something you shouldn’t ignore in your fiction writing, whether it’s a five-page short story or a 400-page novel. A well-chosen setting won’t necessarily help you deliver a great narrative, but it will absolutely enhance the quality of your story in so many ways. Character comes first usually, along with your central concept. You want to think about the stakes of your story and the conflicts and the theme you want to play around with. But setting should be right up there with the initial elements of your latest piece you’re thinking deeply about. Where your story is set tells the reader so much right off the bat. And it helps you navigate the world of your story as the writer, too.

Annie Proulx loves to write about the west, and there’s no way to imagine her classic short story “Brokeback Mountain” set anywhere else but Wyoming. There’s an almost tangible quality to the places that Ennis and Jack roam. And putting those two characters somewhere vastly different in the world would probably hurt that story. So please, whenever possible, be specific about your setting choices. Don’t just throw your characters into Los Angeles or New York or Miami and call it good. Make your setting another character in the story, and your narratives will become richer always.

3. What I find to be very bad advice is the snappy little sentence, ‘Write what you know.’ It is the most tiresome and stupid advice that could possibly be given. If we write simply about what we know we never grow. We don’t develop any facility for languages, or an interest in others, or a desire to travel and explore and face experience head-on. We just coil tighter and tighter into our boring little selves. What one should write about is what interests one.

Agreed. When you start writing, you might want to start by writing what you know. It might be easier to picture something that’s actually happened to you and then translate that experience to the page. My first short stories were all based on things that happened to me, and I liked that element to my storytelling in the early days. I could rely on my memories to get certain characters and scenes on the page.

But the problem with only writing what you know is that eventually you don’t ever grow as a writer, as Proulx points out. You have to at least occasionally write a short story or novel that exists somewhere way outside the realm of what you know. If you fail, you fail. It’s okay to fail. Sometimes you are actually growing in a big way as a writer when you’re failing at something. Write what you’re passionate about and what interests you, and you can even write in the same genre over and over, but take substantial risks occasionally and give us something unexpected. Don’t just write the same characters over and over doing the same kinds of things in book after book. Write something well outside your own experience here and there, and then see what happens.

4. You should write because you love the shape of stories and sentences and the creation of different words on a page. Writing comes from reading, and reading is the finest teacher of how to write.

You might find a trend in the advice among many of our most beloved and successful authors, and it’s that being a good writer always starts with being a good reader. You can’t improve very much as a writer, and you’ll likely struggle finding your voice, if you don’t get your hand on all kinds of books and stories and read, read, read. You want to read things outside of the genre you normally write in. You want to read both fiction and non-fiction. You want to take a chance at times on an author you’ve never heard of, if for nothing else than to see how this particular person tells their tale.

I always learn something when I pick up book and read for even twenty or thirty minutes. You’ll notice a specific way an author uses description or dialogue. You’ll see how this person writes suspense or comedy or romance in a way that’s vastly different than that last author you read a few weeks ago. You don’t want to ever copy what somebody is doing on the page, but especially when you’re starting out, you want to try different things in your writing and see what sticks, see what feels right. You’ll always get some inspiration from those books and stories you’re reading as new ideas are slowly percolating in your mind.

So keep reading and keep writing. Fall in love with the shape of stories and sentences. Fall in love with creating, and you’ll have years of great joy in your writing life to come!

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, now available on Amazon for just $3.49!

Posted in Writing

5 Quotes by Jodi Picoult to Make You a Better Writer

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Jodi Picoult (born in 1966) is the bestselling author of more than twenty novels, including My Sister’s Keeper and A Spark of Light.

Here are five fantastic quotes she’s shared with us that will make you a better writer.

1. I have several writer friends, but I don’t involve them in my work process. I’m more likely to talk about the business of publishing with them.

I completely understand where Jodi Picoult is coming from here. I think it’s important to have writer friends when you spend so much of your days in the dark by yourself typing away on a computer. You can’t just spend forever by your lonesome working on your latest short story or novel. You need to interact with other people who do the same thing, and that’s why an MFA in Creative Writing, or even just having two or three good writer friends, can be so important. You want to feel less alone sometimes, and finding those other people who do what you do always brings lots of joy.

At the same time I agree with Picoult that it can be unnecessary to involve those close writer friends with your specific work process. You don’t need to talk about what you’re working on every time you meet with them and go in depth about your characters and what chapter 17 is like and so on. Talks about the business of publishing certainly has its place, sure, but I have found in the last few years that not talking about writing with my writing friends is usually the best thing of all. To just enjoy each other’s company and gossip and have fun and not feel obligated to talk for hours about the various writing projects we’re working on.

2. On a shelf above my computer are five letters that spell out W-R-I-T-E. Just in case I forget why I’m there. I also have ‘Wonder Woman’ paraphernalia from when I wrote five issues of the comic, and pictures of my husband and kids.

It’s so easy to sit down at your writing desk and do anything else but write. There are so many distractions in our lives that it’s almost a miracle these days when you’re able to sit down, focus, pull up Microsoft Word, and write your heart out. I struggle with it more and more each passing year. The desire to focus and write is always there, but it’s so easy to get distracted by one little thing and suddenly realize an hour has passed you by, and you haven’t written a single word. It’s always so frustrating! You wanted to write 2,000 words between 9am and 11am, and suddenly it’s 10:30 and all you’ve managed is a paragraph.

Some things that help are turning off your Wi-Fi, closing the door so nobody can bother you, and putting your phone in a different room. Another thing that is oh so simple? Putting a note on or near your screen that says W-R-I-T-E. Just seeing that little word will likely give you the motivation to at least get started. What I have found is that once you get started, usually you find the energy to keep going. Getting started on your writing for the day is always the hardest, so once you get past that initial step, the rewards soon follow.

3. You might not write well every day, but you can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.

This is one of the most important lessons you can learn as a writer. I’ve probably said it before, and I’ll say it again and again until it’s drained into your skull: writing a crappy first draft is a hell out of a lot more useful than writing five amazing chapters of a book you never finish. I can’t tell you how many awful first drafts I’ve written of both short stories and novels in the last decade that I was ultimately able to shape into rich and compelling narratives after a few months and a few more drafts.

A really bad page of writing can make you feel lousy, can cause you to think you have no talent, but never forget that a terrible page of writing at least gives you something to work with. It’s a start. You can edit it into something better or find the nugget of the scene that works the best and revise around that. Eventually you might have to cut that entire page completely, but at least the writing of it will have brought you one step closer to something that works as a whole. The blank page does nothing for you, and a bad page of writing will get you where you want to go!

4. I don’t believe in writer’s block. Think about it — when you were blocked in college and had to write a paper, didn’t it always manage to fix itself the night before the paper was due? Writer’s block is having too much time on your hands.

I don’t believe in writer’s block either. I never have. Sure, there have been days when I sat down at my writing desk not entirely sure what to write next, but it was usually a matter of not planning my writing day well enough rather than having no good ideas. Something I learned early on was to always stop your writing for the day at a place where you know exactly what the next scene or the next part of the scene is going to be. That way when you sit down the following day there’s no question of what you’re going to write.

Ideas will come and go. Sometimes it might take you awhile to come up with a really good idea to explore in your next writing project. But try not to ever use writer’s block as an excuse for not getting any work done today. You might think you’re blocked for whatever reason, but usually the reason is something different, most often a mix of distractions, laziness, and maybe not getting enough sleep the night before. We all have days where we struggle getting words down. And it’s okay when that happens. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Nobody’s looking over your shoulder. What’s important is that you try again the next day, and the day after that, and keep writing until you reach the end of your latest project.

5. Writing is total grunt work. A lot of people think it’s all about sitting and waiting for the muse. I don’t buy that. It’s a job. There are days when I really want to write, days when I don’t. Every day I sit down and write.

If you want to be a successful writer, do what Jodi Picoult does: sit down every day and write even when you don’t feel like it. You have to treat writing like a job, not like a hobby. As soon as you start writing only here and there, only when you feel like it, you’re never going to accomplish what you want. You won’t finish that latest project. Thinking about writing a novel? That’s great, but you can’t just think about it and talk about it forever. You actually have to sit down at some point and do it. Not just some days of the week. Every day of the week. You want to pretend like you’re getting paid for each hour you’re sitting there putting words on the page. You want to pretend like people actually are looking over your shoulder, even though you know there’s not.

Waiting for the muse is nice and all, but you need to realize there’s not always going to be a muse. You’re not always going to feel inspired. Sure, the absolute best writing days are the ones where you’re excited and motivated, and your imagination is flowing, and you find yourself writing 2,000 wonderful words in less than an hour. Those are the amazing days you hope for as a writer. But they don’t happen all the time. In fact they happen rarely, at least in my case.

So write when it’s easy, and write when it’s hard. Write through your distractions. Write at least a little bit every single day, and if you stick with the process long enough, amazing things will happen.

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, now available on Amazon for just $3.49!

Posted in Writing

6 Quotes by James Patterson to Make You a Successful Author

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James Patterson (born in 1947) is America’s most successful author, worth an estimated 560 million dollars.

Here are a few of his quotes about the writing life to inspire you.

1. It seemed to me that I could write commercial fiction. I wasn’t sure whether I could, or whether I wanted to write serious fiction at that point. So I said, ‘Let me try something else,’ and I wrote a mystery — but I didn’t know much about it.

There’s always that moment in a new writer’s life when it’s time to decide if you want to write serious fiction or commercial fiction. You want to stand out, you want people to take you seriously. So many new writers choose to go the serious route. The problem with that of course is that you’re not very good in the beginning (unless you’re some kind of genius), and so that serious fiction you’re attempting is typically crap. And there’s truly nothing worse to read than deadly serious and truly terrible literary fiction.

So many writers who feel they don’t have the talent and craftsmanship to pull off serious work turn to commercial books, which typically have super short, punchy sentences and lots dialogue and plenty of white space. There’s nothing wrong with this kind of fiction writing. In fact, as Patterson has shown for decades, many people prefer reading that kind of fiction. They’re busy and stressed and they just want an escape, and so commercial fiction is what they’ll often turn to rather than serious fiction.

What I tell writers is that you should write the kind of books you love, and then give them everything you’ve got. You don’t want to be lazy about your writing. You don’t want to write terribly just because you’re writing a mystery or a romance and so therefore you shouldn’t have to work as hard. Still bring all the skills you have as a writer. But write the thing you want to write every time, and the readers will follow.

2. I’m not a writer’s writer. I’m not a craftsman. I could be, and that would be a one-book-a-year operation.

Another thing about writing serious fiction and spending lots of time and energy dedicated to perfecting every last sentence in your latest manuscript? You won’t be able to produce as many stories and novels, it’s a fact. If you want to be a really, really good writer, there’s no way you can rush through the process and pump out three books a year. (Or a dozen or more, in the case of Patterson.)

And then on the other hand, if you want to be more successful and produce lots more books — because really, to be successful these days, especially if you’re on the self-publishing track, it’s essential you be prolific — you’re going to need to sacrifice some quality for the sake of mass output. And as long as your readers love your work and download everything you put into the world and the royalty checks keep on coming, you’ll probably be just fine.

Sure, there’s the occasional author like Donna Tartt who can publish one book a decade and still be a huge sensation. But if you want to make lots of money from your fiction writing, you have to learn to write every single day and write more words a day and keep producing, producing, producing.

3. I’m a very good storyteller; I have a lot of compassion for people. That’s very useful for a novelist. A lot of novelists are snots. They’re just mean people. I’m not a terribly skilled stylist, nor do I want to be. I want a lot of people to read one of my stories and go, ‘That was pretty cool.’

Again, most readers are just looking for a good story. They’ve had a hard day, and when they get in bed at night, they want the author to transport them somewhere else for a bit. Many of them don’t want lots of style. They don’t want fancy similes and metaphors filling up giant block paragraphs. They just want to be told a compelling story, and there’s nothing wrong with giving that to your readers.

Because what matters most in the end is if your readers liked the novel or not. Did it speak to them in some way? Did they enjoy the characters and the surprise twists? And here’s a big one — did they make it to the end? So many readers will give up a on a novel where every page is filled to the brim with beautiful language. Where the language itself is the star and not the story.

What’s most important in my mind is to write books that readers engage with all the way to the last page. If they’re committed to the end, and they react to your latest book with something like, “That was pretty cool,” then you not only succeeded as a writer; you’ve hooked that reader in for life.

4. In my office in Florida I have, I think, 30 manuscript piles around the room. Some are screenplays or comic books or graphic novels. Some are almost done. Some I’m rewriting. If I’m working with a co-writer, they’ll usually write the first draft. And then I write subsequent drafts.

OK, truth time — I’ve always been a bit baffled at exactly how Patterson is able to put out so many books a year. I don’t know the exact number, but isn’t it something like one book a month? And with each passing year it seems he dips his toes into every genre and age market. He’s most known for his adult mystery novels, but his name has been plastered on the cover of middle grade comic novels, westerns, romances. I even saw his name on a Christmas book once. I mean, this guy’s name can sell anything. Because readers have had good times with his books before and know his newest will probably give them some happiness, too.

And so at some point Patterson realized the way to make lots of money — like, hundreds of millions of dollars — was to hire other talented writers, have them write the first drafts of manuscripts that are similar in style to the books he used to write on his own, and then write subsequent drafts of the books himself that they’ve already penned. Revising can be hard, but it’s a whole lot easier than writing the first draft of something.

Of course you’re probably far off from having a small factory of writers giving you new novels to revise, but one thing you can take away from this quote is the need to have lots of different projects at any given time. I’m always writing one thing and revising another. Sometimes I have three or four projects happening at the same time, and I like that way of working. If you want to be successful, you should learn to love it, too. It helps keep you on track and propel your productivity to a high level every single day.

5. I guess I write four or five hours a day, but I do it seven days a week. It’s very disciplined, yes, but it’s joy for me.

Something I love to learn is how often the top bestselling authors write. Stephen King writes until he reaches 2,000 words a day, so on good days he might be done by 10am or 11am and have the rest of his day to do whatever. Dean Koontz writes like it’s a true day job, going eight hours or more every day and not necessarily paying attention to his word count.

With all the novels he produces in a given year, it seemed obvious that Patterson writes seven days a week, but in some ways four to five hours still doesn’t seem like enough considering how many books of his come out every year! If I’m having a really good writing day, I can write 2,000 words in two hours, and then, sure, maybe 4,000 words in four hours. But when you think about the writing process and revising and editing and promotion and everything that’s expected of him, four to five hours a day, even if all he’s doing during that time is revise and edit, still doesn’t seem like enough considering the near constant output under his name.

What you need to understand, though, is that four to five hours of writing a day seven days a week is a lot for pretty much anyone else. Writing that much might burn you out rather quickly, even if you do love to write. I can write non-stop for about three hours before I burn out and need a break. It might be less for you. The trick is to find time every day to write. Even one hour of writing a day seven days a week will amount to tons of words in a given year, and if you want to be successful, writing more will always win in the end.

6. I have a folder in my office with about 400 ideas in it. So it will take me another 40 years to get through those.

Can you even imagine? A folder with 400 story ideas. I always feel good when I have five good ideas for a story or a novel at any given time, and usually it’s a lot less than that. There was a period recently for a couple months where I had no good ideas for anything. I was revising my latest novel and thinking about potentially writing another one in the months down the road… but there was nothing. Not even the slightest hint of an awesome idea. And I started to panic a little bit. (Thankfully one came eventually. I find they always do eventually.)

Maybe it’s a smart thing to have a folder somewhere in your office or possibly an IDEAS document saved on your computer where you just plug in anything that comes to mind and then pull from it when you want to. My problem with that is my long-held belief that the best ideas stick with you. The bad ones usually drift away, never to return, and the good ones stay inside your brain almost to an obnoxious extent, where you need to write that story down at some point to keep from going insane. But it’s still helpful to have your ideas written down. Because sometimes a tiny nugget you’ve long forgotten will suddenly pop out at you again and possibly even inspire something radically different you hadn’t thought about before.

You don’t need a folder with 400 story ideas, but it is worth your time, especially if you want to produce a lot of novels like Patterson, to have a journal or a document on your computer where you write down good ideas when they come to you. It all starts with an idea, never forget that, and if you have lots of them, there’s no telling how much fiction you’ll be able to produce in the years to come. None of us is ever going to be as successful as James Patterson… but we can at least make a go of it!

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, now available on Amazon for just $3.49!

Posted in Books, Publishing, Writing

My New Book “Write Your Novel Now” is Available on Amazon!

WRITE NOVEL NOW_Digital Cover

Two years in the making, my new ebook about novel writing is officially live on Amazon!

For less than a cup of coffee you can learn 100 essential tips and strategies to help you draft, revise, and publish your novel.

Some of the tips and strategies include…

  • How to develop a killer work ethic as a writer
  • How to write your novel in a single month
  • How to choose the right word count, POV, and tense
  • Why revision is the key to being a successful writer
  • The words and phrases to look for when you’re editing
  • How to successfully query your novel to literary agents
  • What you need to know if you want to self publish
  • The pros and cons to MFA in Creative Writing programs
  • And lots, lots more!

So what are you waiting for? You can download Write Your Novel Now! 100 Tips & Strategies to Help You Draft, Revise, and Publish Your Book right now on Amazon for just $3.49. Yep, just $3.49.

Thanks for the support, and I look forward to your thoughts!

Posted in Writing

4 Quotes by Chuck Palahniuk to Make You a Better Writer

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Chuck Palahniuk (born in 1962) is the bestselling author of Fight Club, Choke, and Lullaby, among others.

Here are four wonderful quotes he’s shared about the writing life!

1. A good story should make you laugh, and a moment later break your heart.

This is a rule I’ve taken with me in my fiction writing since the beginning. It’s something I sort of learned instinctually throughout the years reading books and watching movies and TV shows, and I have found that the best stories I write have this effective model. It’s like how Alfred Hitchcock played the audience like a piano. And it’s also something Joss Whedon used often in my favorite TV show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

No matter what genre you’re writing in, you need conflicts and crises and a raising of the stakes, and one great way to do that is to swing your reader from one kind of emotion to another. When you get them feeling comfortable about your characters in one scene, making the reader smile or laugh and making them feel like everything will be fine, then you swing them into something else that will shock them or surprise them or even break their heart. You want your stories to be unpredictable, and you want to offer something every time that gives the reader a mix of emotions.

2. I try to forget about the expectation that’s out there and the audience listening for the next thing so that I’m not trying to please them. I’ve spent a huge amount of time not communicating with those folks and denying that they exist.

One of the few great things about being a new writer who hasn’t been published very much and doesn’t really have an audience expecting anything is that you’re able to do whatever the hell you want. If you don’t have an audience expecting something specific from you, you’re welcome to try a different genre or age market, something totally different than the last story or novel you wrote. There’s a freedom to keep taking chances and try new things because nobody knows who you are yet. And this time in your writing life is precious because it allows you to develop your voice.

Once you’re someone on the level of Chuck Palahniuk, however, there’s a certain expectation with the kind of book you’ll be getting each time out. He can tell different kinds of stories, but he can’t suddenly write a romance novel or a middle grade book without a few hundred eyebrows being raised. This is why you should write the kinds of things you love to write, not what you think might sell, not what you think will help get you a literary agent.

You might suddenly find yourself with a few successful books behind you and a large audience expecting more just like them. When that happens, as Palahniuk says, you sort of have to forget about those expectations and your potential audience and instead write the book your heart wants to write, while at the same time not completely alienating those readers that have been loyal to you for so long.

3. A short story is something that you can hold in your mind. You can really analyze how the entire thing works, like a machine.

I feel like there are pros to writing the short story and writing the novel, and for sure one of the big pros of writing the short story is to be able to hold the entire thing in your mind in the days leading up to you starting it. You can fully understand the characters, what their motivations are, and what the arc of the story is going to be from beginning to end. You can see all the scenes you want to write. A short story is like this beautiful self-contained unit where you can do most of the hard work in your head, unlike a novel where you need to write down your ideas and figure out at least a rough outline for what you want to do.

Another pro of writing a short story is that you have the freedom to do whatever the hell you want. You can experiment to your heart’s desire. You can tackle a genre you feel too scared to tackle in a novel. Because writing a short story doesn’t take as long as writing a novel. If you’re focused and have the time, you can write a fairly substantial short story in a single week’s time. You can write the first sentence on a Monday morning and have the first draft done by Friday. It’s great to be able to create something so quickly, as opposed to novels that often take months to get all the way down. My goal from now on is at least four new short stories a year, and I think that’s a goal you should try to make for yourself, too.

4. People say I make up wild stories. But all I have to do is write down stuff that really happens.

Whenever you’re stuck about what to write next, whenever you find your imagination not working to the extent you want it to, sometimes all you need to do is look at real life and write down the things that are already happening. Reality is often stranger than fiction, as many like to say, and I do think that’s mostly true, especially if you write contemporary literary fiction. If you prefer to write epic science fiction novels, then no, you’ll probably need to turn to your imagination for most of that, but even for a story set in a world unlike our own, you can still find things in your daily life that can work their way into the characters of the story. You can always use what’s around you.

The trick to being a good writer, and a successful writer, is to take the time every day to notice those things happening around you. It’s not enough to merely observe and then maybe remember a few specific details later. You don’t need to bring a journal with you everywhere you go, but I do think it’s important to really look and listen. Go on a hike and look at how the trees and bushes and trail appear under the dark clouds or the bright sun. Listen closely to an animated conversation happening in a nearby backyard and figure out what they’re talking about and how and why they’re saying what they are.

In the end you want to keep growing and succeeding in your fiction writing, and paying close attention to all the things happening around you is always a good place to start.

I’m excited to announce my brand new craft book, Write Your Novel Now! 100 Tips & Strategies to Help You Draft, Revise, and Publish Your Book, coming TOMORROW and now available for pre-order on Amazon.

This is a book two years in the making, and I can’t wait to share it with you next week. Click here to pre-order my book for just $3.49!

Posted in Writing

Writing is Getting Me Through

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It’s like a version of Groundhog Day every day, with no end in sight.

Yesterday is like today, and today is like tomorrow. Many of us wake up every day knowing we’re going to be staying put inside. Sure, there’s the occasional trip to the grocery store or the gas station, but all the mornings and afternoons and evenings are really starting to blend together, aren’t they?

Three things are getting me through. First of all, what a glorious streaming age to be living through, am I right? Just Netflix would be enough, but there’s also Amazon Prime and Hulu, and if you’re a movie buff like me, you might have Disney+ or Shudder or The Criterion Channel. There’s so much content to dig through I could probably stay indoors full time for another five years and not have watched ten percent of everything out there.

And then there’s going for a jog every day. With my gym closed, and no exercise equipment in my house, this is my way to work out a little and breathe in the air and get my heart racing for one hour a day. Outside of two days where I did a hike instead, I haven’t missed a single daily run since the beginning of March. I change up my routes here and there, but the whole idea of it is to step away from the house and get my blood pumping. I’m thankful to live in a neighborhood where I rarely bump into other runners or dog-walkers and so social distancing around here is pretty easy.

So yes, I have a few things. I love watching movies and television shows (I just finished Little Fires on Everywhere, highly recommended!), and I love going for long runs around my neighborhood.


But what’s getting me through this the most by far is writing.

I would be lost right now without writing. I would be in a dark, dark place these days if I didn’t have my writing projects, I really believe that. Writing has always been a necessary outlet for me my whole life, and now more than ever do I need it. Stepping into my latest short or novel even for just an hour a day transports me to another place, gets me away from all the fear and uncertainty of what’s going on in the world right now.

I’ve always been good about planning my weeks when it comes to my writing, and that’s been kicked into high gear these days. I developed that skill to always plan out my weeks well during my five years of graduate school, where if I didn’t do enough planning I’d get far behind writing papers for my classes or not getting that short story done before workshop on Monday. I had to plan to survive, and I’ve sort of translated that skill to my creative writing I currently do beyond the MA and MFA life.

In mid-March there was that feeling of hopelessness, like there was no possible way I could start a new writing project and continue working like everything was just the same out there. Could I really focus on my latest project day after day?

There has been talk of people being exhausted lately, even when they’re doing nothing, and trust me, I’ve felt that exhaustion, too. But usually I feel it when I’m not writing or revising. I usually feel it when I’m not being productive at all.


Instead of doing nothing I decided to take on two different writing projects in mid-March.

And I’m so happy I did, because these two projects have gotten me through. They’ve given me something to look forward to every day, even when I knew the day itself was pretty much going to be the same as yesterday and the same as tomorrow.

In mid-March I started the third draft of my newest young adult novel, Fear of Water, and instead of taking the usual four weeks to revise my latest project, I’ve spent six weeks working on it. I’ve really studied and considered and re-considered every scene of the novel, and I’ve taken a manuscript that was a 6 or a 7 and turned it into at least a 9. It gives me hope to see my fiction writing continues to improve year after year, and this, book twenty (!), is coming together in a way I’m super excited about.

I also in mid-March decided I wanted to write a new short story, so I’ve been slowly working away on something unique the past few weeks, writing just 200–300 words a day as I explore two pre-teen characters who seem so different from each other on the surface but who are actually more alike than they realize. I have one scene left to write in the story, and next week I start the second draft.


So find that outlet you love right now, whatever it may be, and do it every day!

Life has certainly changed, and we have no idea what the upcoming months will have in store. I take heart in knowing that my staying inside and practicing social distancing is helping flattening the curve, and I am grateful to all the essential workers out there — all the heroes— who are doing the real life saving and who are putting themselves in harm’s way.

For those of us who have the choice to stay home, we all need to find something that gives us our drive, that keeps us going. For me it’s writing. I’ve always enjoyed working on two or more writing projects at once, and having these projects in my life right now have definitely gotten me through. Writing has always been an outlet that gave me pleasure and purpose, and I genuinely feel I’d be lost right now without it.

It doesn’t have to be writing for you. It can be gardening, or making videos, or learning a new language, or practicing your baking skills. It can be whatever you want it to be, but find that thing that gives you joy and try to do it for part of your day in the weeks and months to come.

I know I will. You should, too.

I’m excited to announce my brand new craft book, Write Your Novel Now! 100 Tips & Strategies to Help You Draft, Revise, and Publish Your Book, coming April 28 and now available for pre-order on Amazon.

This is a book two years in the making, and I can’t wait to share it with you next week. Click here to pre-order my book for just $3.49!