Writing Advice: 3 Reasons to Never Give Up, From Bestselling Author Lisa See

Author:
Publish date:
Writing Advice From Lisa See

Photo Credit: Patricia Williams

One of the best parts of my job as editor of Writer’s Digest magazine is that I frequently have the chance to speak with authors I admire as part of our ongoing WD Interview series. To say that our current issue’s cover subject, Lisa See, is no exception would be a huge understatement. I’ve long been in awe of our See for the sheer scope of her novels—richly re-imagined historical tales set in forgotten places and times that are striking in contrast to our own (if you have yet to read her work, think remote villages in ancient China). This is not a writer who shies away from a massive undertaking in the name of a good story. (The mind boggles at the scope of her research alone, but it turns out that’s her favorite part!—a fact that could, come to think of it, have a lot to do with her success.)

I’m not sure I can think of anyone better to offer up writing advice, especially for those times when you’re feeling most discouraged. In our conversation, she spoke candidly about persevering without being intimidated by the scope of a story, or by the odds against trying to sell it, or by the naysayers in your life who think your time would be better spent doing something with surer results. Here are a few of my favorite words of advice on writing from our exclusive WD Interview.

3 Reasons to Keep Writing, in the Words of Lisa See

1. “There’s so much that gets published every year. We think of it as being so hard, and it is—I’m not saying it isn’t hard. But really there’s so much, and there are so many ways to publish things, and you have to be open to them, especially now, with the way the business is changing.”

2. “You’ve got to write what you’re most passionate about. You shouldn’t think that writing will change your life—but what it can do is create passion in your life.“

3. “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan was my fifth book. At that point I was what they called a ‘critically acclaimed writer.’ You know what that means? You get lovely reviews, and nobody reads your books. When I started Snow Flower, a lot of people said, ‘Nobody’s going to read that.’ People would say, ‘Nobody wants to know about China. Couldn’t you write something, just, American?’ People would say that to me. ‘If only you could have more American characters in your books, I think it would really help!’ And so I had in my mind a number. I thought, OK, if I’m lucky, 5,000 people will read this—but they’re going to be the right 5,000 people. I just thought, I have to tell this story, and maybe if I’m lucky it will find this small audience. And of course it turned out everybody was wrong and it was the big breakout book. But you can’t predict! It could’ve just as easily gone the other way where maybe only 1,000 people read it—and it still would have been the right 1,000.”

These inspiring (and refreshingly down to earth, wouldn’t you agree?) words are just a taste of what Lisa See had to say in her interview with WD. For more of her wonderful advice on writing, getting published and much more, check out the full article in our May/June issue (available now at the Writer's Digest shop, on your favorite newsstand, or for instant download here), which includes plenty of the best new advice for getting published from an array of fantastic contributors. You can also read bonus online-exclusive outtakes from our interview with bestselling author Lisa See here--she really was full of more insights than we had space to print.

Congrats to Our Free Issue Giveaway Winner!

Speaking of which, thanks to all of you who entered to win a hot-off-the-press copy of the May/June 2012 issue of Writer’s Digest, featuring our “101 Best Websites for Writers” and “Publishing Today: What Every Writer Needs to Know.” We’re pleased to announce that the winner is: Nan! Please email your full name and mailing address to writersdigest [at] fwmedia [dot] com with “May/June issue giveaway winner” in the subject line, and we’ll get your copy out to you right away!

Jessica Strawser
Editor, Writer’s Digest

Follow me on Twitter: @jessicastrawser
Like what you read from WD online? Don’t miss an issue in print!

for_the_travel_and_nature_writer_keeping_your_mimnd_sharp_and_your_words_insightful_caitlin_oconnell

For the Travel and Nature Writer: Keeping Your Mind Sharp and Words Insightful

Dr. Caitlin O'Connell shares some insight for travel and nature writers, including how travel helps keep your mind sharp and words insightful, whether you're writing fiction, nonfiction, sports, politics, or something else entirely.

Grushin_1:23

Olga Grushin: The No Man's Land Between Genres

Award-winning author Olga Grushin discusses what it meant to wade into a new genre and how she put her spin on the fairy tale retelling.

Poetic Forms

Rannaigecht Mor Gairit: Poetic Forms

Poetic Form Fridays are made to share various poetic forms. This week, we look at the rannaigecht mor gairit, a variant form of the rannaigecht.

Weinstein_1:21

The Writer, The Inner Critic, & The Slacker

Author and writing professor Alexander Weinstein explains the three parts of a writer's psyche, how they can work against the writer, and how to utilize them for success.

Stottlemyre_1:21

Todd Stottlemyre: On Mixing and Bending Genres

Author Todd Stottlemyre explains how he combined fiction and nonfiction in his latest book and what it meant as a writer to share his personal experiences.

plot_twist_story_prompts_take_a_trip_robert_lee_brewer

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Take a Trip

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, have a character take a trip somewhere.

Probst_1:20

Making the Switch from Romance to Women’s Fiction

In this article, author Jennifer Probst explains the differences between romance and women's fiction, the importance of both, and how you can make the genre switch.

Wrobel_1:20

Stephanie Wrobel: On Writing an Unusual Hero

Author Stephanie Wrobel explains how she came to write about mental illness and how it affects familial relationships, as well as getting inside the head of an unusual character.

who_are_the_inaugural_poets_for_united_states_presidents_robert_lee_brewer

Who Are the Inaugural Poets for United States Presidents?

Here is a list of the inaugural poets for United States Presidential Inauguration Days from Robert Frost to Amanda Gorman. This post also touches on who an inaugural poet is and which presidents have had them at their inaugurations.