You know that idea that’s been buzzing around your head, the one that’s embedded itself in your imagination? Taking that idea and pinning it to the page can seem like an impossible task. But looking up to your writing idols can be exactly what you need to get your bum in the chair and actually get your book written.
Last time we looked to authors like Stephen King, Nora Roberts, J.K. Rowling and John Green for writing advice and tips on getting published. So here are some more renowned authors and their best pointers.
Risk is essential
Madeleine L’Engle talked about the necessity of risk when it comes to accomplishing anything. She is quoted saying “every time I sit down and start the first page of a novel I am risking failure”. The truth is you risk failure in every part of your life, every day. So take the chance to do something you truly want to do.
“If we are not willing to fail we will never accomplish anything. All creative acts involve the risk of failure” (source)
Write your book
One of L’Engles most famous quotes is about writing the book that wants to be written. Don’t let other people put you off the core messages and themes of your book because they’re too sensitive or the like. If your book has meaning people will relate to it.
“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” (source)
Expand your vocabulary
Learn as many words as you can. You probably won’t use every word you come across but it gives you the whole artists toolkit to express yourself as completely and descriptively as you can. More than that, it removes your limitations and makes you more and more capable to think for yourself. As L’Engle put it, “the fewer words we know, the more restricted our thoughts. As our vocabulary expands, so does our power to think.”
“The first people that a dictator puts in jail are the writers and the teachers because these are the people who have vocabulary, who can see injustice and can express what they feel about it.”(source)
Believe in yourself
Before being picked up by traditional publishing houses, Matthew Rielly was self-published. He had been rejected several times and faced his own doubts, “for about four seconds”, but then he thought “Yeah, they’re professionals, but they’re wrong. I know better than they do.” That is the kind of self-belief you need to have to get your story out there.
I need for my information and my plots, and my twists to be better than everything that’s out there. I thought Contest was an innovation and it just hadn’t been seen by the right person. That’s why I self-published it.(source)
Keep rejection letters
Following on from his last point, Rielly made a habit of keeping every single rejection letter, not to wallow in self-pity or to serve as a reminder of failures, but to use them as motivation to improve, to work harder, and prove them wrong.
I keep every rejection letter. You know, as they say “wallpaper the outhouse wall with them. Keep them. Let them fire you up.” (source)
Use an Agent
Rielly, suggests the best thing an aspiring author can do is to query more agents to save time and build connections you cannot do on your own. For Australian authors, he even suggests sending your manuscript global to agents in London and New York.
If I had my time again I would have gone to more agents. Agents have the superhighway, broadband connection to publishers. So, if you want to save time, send your manuscript out to agents. (source)
George R.R. Martin
When researching for his epic fantasy novels, George R.R Martin suggests using a total immersion method. He aims to learn as much as possible about whatever topic he needs to cover so he knows the ins and outs and tiny nuggets that make up a believable story. He reads everything he can get his hands on.
Don’t limit your imagination
Before becoming an author Martin was a scriptwriter who was often told to tone down scenes due to expenses and feasibility. But with novels, you don’t have those confines and you don’t have to listen to people who try to confine you. That can be the problem for whoever adapts your epic novel.
When I went back to prose, there were suddenly no limits: I could write something huge with all the characters I wanted, with battles, dragons and immense settings. (source)
Borrow from History
Martin’s novels are known for their epic scale fantasy elements, but that doesn’t stop it from being heavily grounded in real history – including the War of the Roses.
“Stealing from one source is plagiarism but stealing from lots of sources is research!” (source)
Research your editors
Knowing a bit about who you’re sending your manuscript to heaps in several ways. You get to know a little something about who they are and how they might handle your work, whether or not they’re enthusiastic about your genre, and as Bardugo puts it, it can take the edge off.
When you’re working on the ms, you’re all-powerful. You’re the author and that story belongs wholly to you. But as soon as you click send on the first query or mail out that first envelope, the power dynamic changes completely. It’s easy to feel helpless or freaked out, so arming yourself with information can help take the edge off. (source)
Write the story you want to write
For her debut novel, Shadow and Bone, Bardugo was offering a very unique story of high fantasy for young adult readers a concept a lot of agents would not even entertain. But she persisted regardless.
“It’s wise to know what’s out there, [but don’t] let that hinder you. If you have an idea, pursue it. [Think] about things that make your story a story that only you could tell—those are the things that will stand out.” (source)
Query in small batches
One tip Bardugo has for authors looking to publish is to query in small batches. It improves the quality of your queries, decreases chances of silly mistakes, gives you the chance to adapt your query over time, and ensures personalisation. So take your time and query away!
What was your favourite tip? Let us know in the comments below!