Happy Birthday, Tamora Pierce, born 13 December 1954
- Every now and then I like to do as I’m told, just to confuse people.
- Threats are the last resort of a man with no vocabulary.
- The best way to prepare to have ideas when you need them is to listen to and encourage your obsessions.
- All creative people—not just writers!—expose themselves to as much information, in as many forms, as possible, in the hopes that it will be useful down the road, or even right now. You never know what will spark something new!
- First, do your advance work: whatever research you might need. You may end up doing more research as you get into your story, but at least do what you need to get started.
- Don’t let anyone fool you: every writer needs editing. Every writer. Be sensible about criticism, though. Think about everything you’re told, weigh it, decide whether it will improve your work or whether the critic has some need of their own.
- I distrust any advice that contains the words ‘ought’ or ‘should’.
- Write what makes you happy. Write what makes you want to write more. Write to please yourself first, because you may be the only audience you have for years and years.
- Listen to what other people tell you, because there may be something in what they say that’s useful, but learn also to trust in your own instincts about your writing.
- Write the kind of thing you like to read. Try different kinds of writing, because each new form helps you to see your writing—and what you want to do with it—differently.
- Introduce a new character. A strong character with an individual style in speech, dress and behavior, who will cause the other characters to review their own actions and motives to decide where they stand with regard to this new character.
- Have something dramatic happen. As Raymond Chandler put it, “Have someone come through the door with a gun in his hand.” (My husband translates this as “Have a troll come through the door with a spear in his hand.”) Machinery can break down; your characters can be attacked; a natural disaster may sweep through. New, hard circumstances force characters to sink or swim, and the way you show how they do either will move things along.
- Change the point of view from which you tell the story. If you’re doing it from inside one character’s head, try switching to another character’s point of view. If you’re telling the story from an all-seeing, third person point of view, try narrowing your focus down to one character telling the story in first person. You can even insert a nonfiction-like world-building segment as a change of pace. Try telling it as a poem, or a play. (You can convert it to story form later.)
- Put this story aside and start something else. Letters, an article, a poem, a play, an art project. Look at the story in a day, or a week, or a couple of months. It may be fresh for you then; it may spark new ideas.
- Talk to somebody. If you have a friend who’s into the things you’re writing about, talk it out with them. My husband often supplies wonderful new ideas so I can get past whatever hangs me up, and my family and friends are used to mysterious phone calls asking about things seemingly out of the blue, like what gems would you wear with a scarlet gown, or how tall are pole beans in late June?
- Most important of all, know when it’s time to quit. Sometimes you take an idea as far as it will go, then run out of steam. This is completely normal. Whether you finish something or not, the things you learn and ideas you developed, even in a project you don’t finish, can be brought to your next project, and the next, and the next. Sooner or later you’ll have a story which you can carry to a finish.
Tamora Pierce is an American writer of fantasy fiction. She is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of over eighteen novels set in the fantasy realm of Tortall. She is well known for her first book series, The Song of the Lioness, which began with Alanna: The First Adventure. Pierce won the Margaret A. Edwards Award from the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) in 2013, which recognises one writer and a particular body of work for ‘significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature’.
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