Friday, March 13, 2009

Advice for Aspiring Writers

Michael Connelly: Write everyday, even if only for a few minutes. To even accomplish a few minutes of writing you have to think about the story and the characters. Writing everyday keeps them fresh in your mind. When they are in your mind you are constantly working the story. A lot of writing takes place away from the computer or the pad and pencil. This little trick keeps that creative process going.

Liza Dalby: Write about what obsesses you.

Dianne Day: My advice is to write what you most like to read. And read, read, read. Then write, write, write. Be realistic: this is not a glamorous business. It’s damn hard work, that you do alone, in the absence of anything like immediate feedback; when and if you do get feedback you have to wait a long, long time for it. I shudder to think how long you have to wait for the money! If delay of gratification is not your thing, you’ll probably be unable to tolerate the realities of this sometimes-brutal business. There is only one good reason to have, and to stay with, the impossible dream of being a published writer: If once you’ve written that first book, whether it sold or not, whether it got you an agent or not, you feel you can’t live without writing another. Which becomes another and another and another...because your life seems empty when you don’t have plots and characters in your head...and eventually they have to be emptied out of your head onto the page or else you’ll explode. At least, that’s the way it is for me.

Jeffery Deaver: There are only two rules I’d give to aspiring writers: one, write what you enjoy reading and, two, never, ever, ever give up; rejection is a speed bump, not a brick wall.

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni: I’m not sure I would presume to give advice, but here are some things I tell myself: If writing is important to you, you must be prepared to work hard at it, and simplify your life so that you can give your art the time and energy it requires. Read widely, practice for long hours. Like a potter, you must be willing to throw away misshaped pieces. You must be willing to take risks, try new forms, grow with each thing you write. You must try to tell the truth as best you are able.

Wayne Johnson: Try, as much as possible, to pour your life into those things you love.

Molly Jong-Fast: I think the advice that helped me most was just that you have to write and read, and not take no for an answer.

Reggie Nadelson: Aspiring writers? Enjoy it. And rewrite it. And read a lot. It’s the only way to learn the trade - for my money, it’s probably more useful to read non-genre books, novels, biographies; but if you read too many mysteries, you’ll start copying and lose your own voice.

John J. Nance: Well, first, please forgive the "wannabe" reference above if you’re a serious student of the craft. If your heart demands that you write regardless of economics, then write what you want. But, if your financial interests also demand that you seek remuneration for your efforts, then learn the basic business realities of writing today. It’s a far different business than just fifteen years ago, and one that demands different things of you in return for financial success. There may be a few critics and university professors out there searching for the great American novel, but no mainstream publishing houses have any rational mechanism to discover such a beast, let alone publish and promote it (in the absence of a movie deal with Robert Redford or someone in Hollywood to wag the dog and promote the book from the movie). What the reading public demands is entertainment, and it is the writer’s responsibility to give great value on that level as well as incorporating those elements which are important to the writer and his or her muse, all of which must be economically viable to a targeted market. It sounds depressing, but the good news is the publishing world is always looking for the next overnight success that took fifteen years to happen. Do your homework, pay your dues, and never give up. (Also, remember the three basic rules: Get an agent, Get an agent, and Get an agent). And, once you’re published, never forget for a second who’s paying your salary and making you a hit: Your reader - your customer. Be faithful to your readers, give them an ever improving product with the respect and appreciation they deserve, and they’ll stick with you.

Laura Zigman: The best advice an aspiring writer can receive is this: keep writing. No matter how daunting, impossible, or difficult and painful it seems, keep doing it. It’s worth it.

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