Today is our stop on Cynthia Hand’s UK blog tour to celebrate the release of Hallowed (Book 2 in the Unearthly series). Over to Cynthia…
Cynthia Hand’s Seven Tips For Writers…
1. Write. I know this sounds like a no-brainer, but there are plenty of people out there who call themselves writers who simply don’t write (which is good for me, competition-wise, hee hee). I did this for a long time. It’s romantic to call yourself a writer, to “wear the black beret,” as I call it, and look like an intellectual artsy type. What is not romantic is to sit down every day all alone and sweat and stare at the screen and painstakingly put your words to the page. But that’s what you have to do, to truly become a writer. Write!
2. Write every day. Your brain is like a muscle that you exercise. If you give it a writerly work-out every day, writing will get easier and easier. I’ve been doing this writing thing for a long time, but even I get mentally flabby if I let too much time go by between writing sessions. I operate best when I take some time to write every day.
3. Set a goal for yourself. When I was first writing Unearthly, my goal was to write EVERY DAY NO MATTER WHAT until I had my book finished. I shot for 1,000 words a day, which is around 3 or 4 double-spaced pages. Some days I hit that goal easily, and wrote 2,500 words, and some days I got busy with something else and wrote 100 words. But that’s okay because I held fast to my WRITE EVERY DAY rule.
So often I meet people who want to be writers, but they are overwhelmed at the idea of writing a 300 page (or 400, in my case) novel. I always tell them, if you just wrote 250 words a day, (that’s one page) you could have a novel in a year.
4. Write about what you love. I know it’s tempting to write toward the trends. You hear that the next big thing in publishing is going to be aliens, so that’s what you should write, right?
Nope. Not unless you happen to be fascinated with/in love with the idea of aliens. Write about what you love. If you don’t love aliens, your work is not going to be very passionate, and that will hurt you in two ways: a) it’s really hard to write a book, and if you don’t love it, chances are you won’t finish it, and b) even if you miraculously pull off a book about aliens, unless the real fire is there, chances are it’s not going to be very good. Which means you probably won’t get it published, and if you do get it published, or self-publish it, then it probably won’t sell too well. Put your heart in your work, and you are so much more likely to succeed.
And another thing: usually by the time you hear about a trend in fiction, that boat is sailing. Meaning, unless you write your aliens novel really, really fast, by the time you finish your novel all the publishers will already be super saturated with alien books and it will be very difficult to sell. So write what you love.
5. Read. This too is a no-brainer, but I think it should be said. And said again: read. Not only will reading be another kind of work-out for all those little neurons in your brain, but reading will tell you what the current climate of publishing is. It will show you what’s being done, so you can gauge how your own story might be different, and how it might be the same, which will be essential if you have to write up a comparable titles section in a query. (Read both in the genre you want to write in and outside of it, so you don’t get tunnel vision.) The year I wrote Unearthly I read over 70 young adult books. I wanted to know my market. This was wonderful fun, because the books were awesome, and I came to quickly understand what I wanted my own book to be about and how I wanted it to pull away from what was already on the shelves. It also introduced me to a bunch of amazing and talented authors. Read, read, read! Because seriously, if you don’t love to read, you probably don’t have any business being a writer.
6. Study. This is a step a lot of would-be writers skip, or don’t know that they should focus on. They think if they just read books, that should be enough. To this I say: remember that writing is an art. When a person wants to be a great painter, yes, they look at other people’s paintings. But they also STUDY: technique, theory, history. They grow, not only in their ability to put paint on a canvas, but in their knowledge of the craft. That’s what writers need, too: knowledge of the craft.
Now, by study, I don’t mean that you have to get a formal education in writing. I did, and it was very helpful, but I don’t believe you need a university to study writing. By study I mean: read books about craft. There are a lot out there, and some of them aren’t any good, but there are several great ones. I have a writer’s library bookshelf on my Goodreads page where I keep a list of these books. Also, as study, join a crit group or a writing workshop. You can learn so much simply from watching others struggle to do the same thing you’re trying to do. Do exercises. Go to conferences. Go to readings. Ask questions. Consider yourself a student of writing like a beginning flutist considers himself a student of music.
7. Play. Have fun! Writing is magic. It’s fun. Don’t take yourself so seriously that you miss out on the fun of spending the day with your characters, the joy of coming up with a new, fresh way to say something, the sheer awesomeness of discovering your story. So allow yourself to experiment, and try new things, new genres, new perspectives. Writing is work but it can also be play.
On Facebook: Cynthia Hand
On Twitter: @CynthiaHand
Checkout the rest of the blog tour (which has some AMAZINGLY posts!) Details below
Check back tomorrow for my review of Hallowed (which by the way is awesome!)