I’ve had a busy spring touring for the launch of ALWAYS! It was such a joy to visit Houston, Indianapolis, St. Louis, New York, San Diego, Amsterdam and Oslo! I have so many happy memories from my travels.
When I’m at author events in the US and in other countries, my favorite part is answering questions from readers. I tend to get asked some similar questions. The one question I’m almost always asked is something I’ve often wanted to expand on here, because over the years, I’ve come to be pretty passion about the subject:
“Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?”
My answer is exactly what I wish someone would have told me so many years ago when I was floundering around trying to write a novel–an attempt that, back then, felt like climbing Mount Everest, truly. After so many years, and ten books, behind me, here’s what I’ve come to learn, and some advice I like to share with hopeful authors. For me, it boils down to this:
- Read, and write every day, if you can, of course–even if it’s just 10 minutes before bed, or doodling random thoughts in your journal. All of this will be helpful to you in your draft, I promise.
- Remain curious about the world around you. Plants. People. Animals. Experiences. Your weird neighbor who drinks sparkling wine in her mumu on her patio every morning. Ask lots of questions when you meet people. Inquire about your grandma’s secret romances before she met your grandpa. Life is research.
- I see so many writers toiling away on manuscripts for years to the point that they began to literally despise their novels. If you hate your novel, if you’re tired of your novel, if you dread it, TOSS IT. I don’t mean delete. Maybe just tuck it away in a folder on your computer, but here’s the point: MOVE ON! Why waste time on a project that you, yourself, have lost that loving feeling for? How can you expect agents, editors, publishers and, most importantly, readers, to get excited about something you can’t? Start brainstorming a new novel idea that you’re gaga for. True confession: I’ve ditched tons of novels and novel starts that just weren’t doing it for me. It’s not the end of the world, it’s just part of the process!
- Write from your heart. This might sound cheesy, but I believe in this wholeheartedly. Years ago, I wrote a novel that did not sell. It would have been my first book and I was deeply saddened when the rejection letters came in. Looking back, though, the book was … kind of terrible. I’m so grateful that it never saw the inside of a bookstore. That book, I have learned, was not something I wrote from my heart. It was not only a practice book, but also, sadly, but truly, was a book that lacked soul. I wrote what I thought would be commercially successful at the time, a book I thought would garner me a publishing deal. And while I came very close to getting one, I ultimately didn’t, and the experience caused me to start over, refocus and write a book that I truly believed in, a book from my heart. (That booked turned out to be The Violets of March, which has so much of my heart in it, you can practically see my fingerprints on the pages.)
What do you think? Do any of these ideas speak to you?