Inspirational Writing Advice From Different Authors

Looking to get those words down on paper? Tales of first-book sales, as chronicled by Oscar Collier and Frances Spatz Leighton in How to Write and Sell Your First Novel, offer some insights about approaching the blank screen/page that any writer can use.

Jeff Noon, author of Vurt, recommends letting the words surprise you:

A novel is 300 pages of manuscript, and that”s a hell of a lot. That was the main fear I had, that it was going to be too long, that I was going to run out of energy. I think what you have to do is become excited by it. You have to actually want to write the next sentence because you can”t stop writing. The way I do it is very scattershot; I”m just firing words down at the page and seeing what happens. If you do something like that, I think it”s quite easy to keep the excitement going because you”re not sure what”s going to come out next. Sometimes you write really embarrassing sentences, but they excite you because they”re weird and strange.

Kathleen Cambor, author of The Book of Mercy, recommends priming the creative pump:

I try to write before I do very much else in the morning, and I often read poetry before I write. I find that if I read even the newspaper, my prose begins to sound like what I am reading. Where poetry is so much about the particulars of language, it helps me to let my ordinary life fall away and fall into a world of language again.

Jonathan Lethem, author of Gun, With Occasional Music, recommends recognizing the thrill of the writing process itself:

It took me a long time to break in and all the time I was obsessed with breaking in. After I did, I realized that I was looking back nostalgically at the relation I had to my writing when there wasn”t any audience and there wasn”t any editor, when it was just me and my burning ambition and the blank page. There was something pure and wonderful about that time, and it will never be exactly like that again. It doesn”t mean that I would ever want to give up the rewards that have come from finding an audience, but I wish I”d known to value that effort and that time for itself.

And Jean Hegland, author of Into the Forest, sums up the advice of her colleagues:

It”s important for all writers to remember that it”s those hours spent at the desk, when we”re engaged in the work and play of understanding what it means to be a human on Earth, awash in language and images and ideas and emotions, that is really what writing is all about. If writing itself isn”t soul-satisfying, then publication will ultimately feel hollow; but if it is soul-satisfying, then publication will only be the icing on an already very rich cake.

For more success stories and instruction for getting the words down and then getting them to an editor, check out How to Write and Sell Your First Novel, revised edition, by Oscar Collier with Frances Spatz Leighton.

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