4 Timeless Writing Tips from 'A Wrinkle in Time' Author Madeleine L'Engle

During her lifetime, Madeleine L'Engle published over 60 books for children and adults. We can learn a lot from L'Engle and her decades of writing experience through her words of wisdom.
Author:
Publish date:
Image placeholder title

Back in 1962, Madeleine L’Engle gifted children everywhere with her sci-fi fantasy classic A Wrinkle in Time. The book became a classic and continues to be enjoyed by young readers with over 10 million copies sold. In 2018, the year L'Engle would have turned 100 years old, Disney made a movie based on the book, starring big names like Oprah, Chris Pine and Reese Witherspoon.

Like so many writers, L’Engle had a hard time finding a publisher. The book didn’t fit neatly into a genre category, and the concepts in the story were way ahead of their time. There were elements of quantum physics, the problem of evil, and it has a young female protagonist in a science fiction book, which was pretty much unheard of at that time. Aside from the content, she believed her troubles were also because people underestimate children. "They think you have to write differently," she said. "You don’t. You just have to tell a story."

Image placeholder title

In all, 26 different publishers rejected A Wrinkle in Time. L'Engle had almost given up when she was introduced to John C. Farrar of Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Although his publishing company did not publish children’s books at the time, he liked her book and published it with the caveat that the author should not expect much public reaction. She, in turn, had it added to her contract that the company could have the rights to the book forever, anywhere in the universe, except the Andromeda galaxy.

During her lifetime, L'Engle published over 60 books for children and adults. Read on to learn four powerful lessons from her experiences and expertise.

"You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children."

It is easy to underestimate the ability of children to understand complex concepts and want to protect them. By doing this, we rob them of the opportunity to receive new information, process it and better understand the world around them—and their own imaginations. L’Engle said that it was adults who thought children would be afraid of the Dark Thing in A Wrinkle in Time, not children. If we are writing for younger audiences, our responsibility is to write honestly and not shy away from more advanced ideas if those are part of the story we want to tell. Children will appreciate it.

[Register for the Writer's Digest Annual Conference — August 10-12, 2018]

"When we believe in the impossible, it becomes possible, and we can do all kinds of extraordinary things."

Doubt is powerful deterrent for writers. It causes us to question our abilities, makes us second guess our intentions and steers us toward thinking that any dream of publishing is impossible. But many successful ideas and inventions were once considered impossible. The light bulb would have never been invented if Telsa and Edison hadn't believed it possible. Before Elizabeth Blackwell there were no women doctors, but she didn’t let that stop her. People accomplish extraordinary things all the time because they believe they can. If you want to be a successful writer, then you must believe it is possible, then do the work to make it happen.

"Inspiration usually comes during work rather than before it."

Waiting for inspiration to come is like waiting for lightning to strike. The chances are pretty slim it's going to happen out of the blue. Those writers who have figured out how to be successful, understand that you can’t wait around for that bolt of brilliance before you sit down to write. It is the other way around. Commit time to your writing, and, as L’Engle says, that is when you'll find your inspiration.

[Webinar: Writing and Selling The Middle-Grade Novel]

"If we are not willing to fail we will never accomplish anything. All creative acts involve the risk of failure."

There is no magic formula when it comes to being a successful author. There is nothing that says if you write a certain type of book, include this storyline and create this kind of character, you will find success. However, there is one trait common among many who achieved their dreams and that is perseverance. They were willing to risk failure, risk rejection and keep going anyway. Finding success in writing is not easy, but it is by no means impossible. Just look at Madeleine L’Engle, who was undeterred after rejection No. 25, and her books continue to inspire readers and writers alike today.

 Madeleine L'Engle in Writer's Digest, March 1990

Madeleine L'Engle in Writer's Digest, March 1990

Image placeholder title
plot_twist_story_prompts_without_a_trace_robert_lee_brewer

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Without a Trace

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, have a character leave without a trace.

WDVintage_10_29

Vintage WD: The Truth about True Crime

In this article from July 2000, true crime novelist and former New York Times correspondent Lisa Beth Pulitzer shares with us some key insights for breaking into the true crime genre.

new_agent_alert_barb_roose_books_such_literary_services_adult_christian_fiction_and_nonfiction

New Agent Alert: Barb Roose of Books & Such Literary Management

New literary agent alerts (with this spotlight featuring Barb Roose of Books & Such Literary Management) are golden opportunities for new writers because each one is a literary agent who is likely building his or her client list.

Grinnell_10:28

Evoking Emotion in Fiction: Seven Pragmatic Ways to Make Readers Give a Damn

Evoking emotion on the page begins with the man or woman at the keyboard. Dustin Grinnell serves up seven straightforward tactics for writing tear-jerking stories that make your readers empathize with your characters.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 546

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write a spooky poem.

Richard_Shadowlands

Learn Better World-Building Strategies Through World of Warcraft and the New Shadowlands Expansion

WD editor and fantasy writer Moriah Richard shares five unique ways in which writers can use World of Warcraft to better build their worlds—without playing the game.

Hall_10:27

Seven Tips for Intuitive Writing: The Heart-Hand Connection

Award-winning author Jill G. Hall shares her top tips for how to dive into your latest project head-first.

bearing_vs_baring_vs_barring_grammar_rules_robert_lee_brewer

Bearing vs. Baring vs. Barring (Grammar Rules)

Learn when to use bearing vs. baring vs. barring on with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.