You’ve probably heard much of this before, but I think it bears repeating.

  1. Writing is like playing an instrument or painting: it’s a craft to be learned, and the only way to get better is to practice. So the most important thing is to write. If you’re intimidated by starting a novel, try writing short stories, or journal entries, or whatever excites you.
  2. If you find yourself starting lots of projects and not finishing any of them, push yourself to complete something, even if the process becomes much less enjoyable than it was at the beginning. Don’t worry about how “good” it is. It’s helpful to prove to yourself that you can finish a draft. And you can. I promise.
  3. Read a lot, both in and out of the genre you’re writing. The rhythm and pacing of story and language have a way of seeping inside our bones. Analyze why you like certain books, and why you don’t like others. Take apart successful plots and figure out how the writers constructed them. Think about what makes you connect with certain characters, and feel distant from others.
  4. Read a book or two on craft. When I was starting out, I read What’s Your Story? by Marion Dane Bauer and Crafting Stories for Children by Nancy Lamb. After I had a handle on the basics of narrative, I learned a great deal from Story by Robert McKee and The Art of Fiction by John Gardner. During the revision process, I love Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King.
  5. When you feel ready, find other writers to share your work with. Join a critique group, either online or in person. And open yourself up to constructive criticism. There is almost always a TON of revising to be done between the first draft and the final draft; don’t be put off if it seems like a lot of work. Revising is every bit as important as the first draft. That’s when the real story is revealed.
  6. If you have the resources and access, take a class – at a local college, or adult education center, or online. I know great writers who teach at www.mediabistro.com and www.writers.com.
  7. BE PATIENT! The writing process is a sloooow one, and so is publishing (if that’s your goal). Do yourself a favor and don’t be in a hurry. The only thing rushing will lead to is frustration.

Some helpful resources:

As much as I’d like to, I can’t read your story/novel/etc. Between my own work and the reading I do for my critique group and other friends, I just don’t have the time. When I give feedback, I spend a long time thinking about it.
The two books I’ve consistently reread since high school that never disappoint me are My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell and Tender is the Nightby F. Scott Fitzgerald.Some YA and middle grade books I reread often are: The Tricksters by Margaret Mahy, Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, Looking for Alaska by John Green, The Austin Family series by Madeline L’Engle, and the Malory Towers and St. Clares series by Enid Blyton. (The Blyton books I don’t reread for craft, just to visit old friends.)

Over the years, some authors and books I’ve absolutely loved (but haven’t necessarily returned to) are: Daphne Du Maurier, Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, Julio Cortázar, Vladimir Nabokov, Alice Munro, Shirley Jackson, The Secret History by Donna Tartt, Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey, Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner, A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving, Sophie’s Choice by William Styron, and The Road from Coorain by Jill Ker Conway.

From K-9th grade, I went to Shady Hill School in Cambridge, MA. In tenth grade I went to boarding school at Phillips Academy in Andover, MA, then Oberlin College in Ohio, and Vermont College of Fine Arts. All the way through, I was incredibly lucky to have teachers who made me care about learning and want to do my best. It probably qualifies me for dork status, but I loved school.
No. I have another completed YA novel in the back of a drawer. It’s best if it stays there.
Only in that Leena lives in a small house called Frost House with her close friends, like I did my senior year. Otherwise, it’s all fiction. (Although, I can’t speak to what happened to the groups of girls who lived there after we did. The house was eventually destroyed, after all; deemed uninhabitable…)
An illustrator, probably. Some day, I would love to write and illustrate a picture book.
Yes, I have a sister and two half-brothers, all of whom make me laugh (in a good way). In fact, I plan to make money off my siblings by having the four of us write a funny book together. Don’t mention it to them, though. I haven’t told them yet.
A new novel that I’m very, very excited about!
Nope. I have no plans to write a sequel.

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