Happy Birthday, Shannon Hale, born 26 January 1974
Six Quotes On Writing
- Read! I just can’t stress this enough. I always tell kids and teens, “Read what you love! Don’t let anyone tell you that what you love is silly or too young for you or too long or too short.” I believe this. But for writers, I must add: “Read a little bit of everything.” If you love fantasy, for example, and you want to write fantasy, then do keep reading it! But if you don’t read the classics and poetry and mysteries and historical fiction and science fiction and biographies, etc., then your writing won’t be able to catapult you forward. There are lots of different kinds of books. Savour them all.
- Write! Here’s the honest truth—you’re not going to publish the first thing you write. If you’ve heard that someone did, then either they lied or somehow forgot about all the other practice writing they’ve actually done or they’re a freak. It just doesn’t happen. So write a lot, short stories, long stories, poems. It doesn’t have to be great, it’s all for practice. Nothing you write is wasted, even if no one ever reads it but you.
- Don’t be afraid to imitate. Don’t worry, eventually all your ideas will be original, but when starting out, it’s OK to imitate your favourite authors or even write new stories using their characters. This is called fan fiction, and you won’t be able to publish it anywhere, but that doesn’t matter. It’s all practice.
- Don’t worry about getting published right now. Quite often I get emails from teens who are in the process of writing their first book and they ask me about finding an agent or publisher. Please, banish those thoughts from your head! If you worry about that right now, your writing will suffer. Just focus on your characters, just think about telling your story. After you’re done with several drafts, then it’s time to start doing research on publishing. It takes a lot of research and time and luck to get published, and I’m afraid I can’t tell you how to do it because it’s different for everyone. But if it’s your dream to be published, then you won’t quit until you make it happen, even if you have to write five books first. But the trying-to-find-an-agent-or-publisher is not the fun part of being a writer. I recommend not burdening yourself with that gunk for as long as you can.
- Know that you’re not alone. There are lots of resources, classes, newsletters, and workshops for kids who write. I have some info in my links section. Form your own writing group with friends, take a class in your community, ask the children’s booksellers in your favourite local independent bookstore for ideas, talk to the children’s librarian in your neighbourhood library, join a yahoo or google group of teen writers.
- Don’t get discouraged! The more you focus on trying to be a Christopher Paolini or Amelia Atwater-Rhodes, the more disheartened you might feel. They are extraordinary exceptions to the norm. Don’t be a them, be a You. You may publish a book before you leave high school, but most likely you won’t, and that’s OK. Just keep reading. Keep writing. Keep loving what you’re doing. It’ll all work out.
Shannon Hale is an American author of young adult fantasy and adult fiction. Her novels include the Newbery Honor book, Princess Academy, the Books of Bayern series, and two graphic novels that she co-wrote with her husband. Visit her blog squeetus.com
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