Every year, we’re lucky to have great sponsors for our nonprofit events. She Writes University, a Camp NaNoWriMo 2018 sponsor, is an online, live webinar-based writing program for writers in all genres. Today, six of their featured bestselling authors share the writing advice they’ve come by the hard way:
Aspiring authors tend to make a lot of assumptions about what a writing career is and what it takes to get published. There is a lot of cloaked mystery around how to become a successful author and these six bestsellers are breaking down those barriers.
Each of these women were featured in the recent webinar series, She Writes University. Camp NaNoWriMo Participants receive 50% off any class or the full semester bundle using code CAMPNANO through May 31. She Writes University offers webinars aimed at helping writers write and market their books and new webinars and classes are available often.
Jesmyn Ward, author of Sing, Unburied, Sing
Jesmyn Ward is the 2017 National Book Award for Fiction winner, a Time Magazine Best Novel of the Year and New York Times top ten of 2017. Her message on voice is one all writers need to hear.
“Voice doesn’t come to you in one fell swoop. Voice is something you develop and refine over years. It takes patience and dedication. For those of us who are not precocious writing geniuses, this is how it works.”
When you’re just beginning to write, finding your voice can be both frustrating and embarrassing. Most start our modeling after those they admire, but as Ward points out, time and persistence are the only tools for developing a style that is uniquely your own.
Lisa Ko, author of The Leavers
Lisa Ko’s The Leavers is the winner of the Penn/Bellwether Prize for Fiction, a 2017 finalist for the National Book Award for Fiction and a Best Book of 2017 according to Entertainment Weekly, NPR and more.
Lisa Ko shared a tip that any writer at any stage can appreciate.
“Storytelling craft can be taught and learned—you don’t need to figure it all out on your own.”
There is a major misconception that the best writers are naturals and few consider themselves to be, making success feel unobtainable. Ko’s advice should be reassuring to anyone dedicated and ready to learn.
Abigail Thomas, author of What Comes Next and How to Like It
Abigail Thomas, the New York Times bestselling author of three novels and three memoirs has what would appear to be a dream career to most authors. Some might be surprised to find when she got started though.
“I really do think I wasn’t ready to write until I started, when I was forty-eight. It is helpful for people to know that most writers start off writing badly, and get better. I was afraid to start. Who did I think I was? But honestly I wasn’t ready to try until I was forty-eight and that’s okay with me.”
For those who think it’s too late to start or question if they are even worthy of the profession, Thomas proves that neither are true.
Christina Baker Kline, author of A Piece of the World
Christina Baker Kline is the #1 New York Times bestselling author whose book Orphan Train spent more than two years on the NYT bestseller list. Her achievements may make her appear to have a secret recipe, but her advice is something every NaNoWriMo participant should heed.
“The only tip that cannot be ignored or denied: to be a writer, you must write. (And be willing to stick with your manuscript until the bitter end.)”
Even if it hurts, make it to the end. The best manuscripts can still be difficult to finish.
Kirstin Chen, author of Bury What We Cannot Take
Kirstin Chen’s novel Soy Sauce for Beginners was an O, The Oprah Magazine “book to pick up now” selection. Chen has received awards from the Steinbeck Fellows Program, Sewanee, Hedgebrook, and the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference.
Chen had this to say about what she’s learned in her writing career:
“Approach crafting characters with awareness and intention as opposed to simply by instinct.”
Though some may want to wait for the muse to strike, Chen is clearly an advocate for planning and deliberate creativity.
Caroline Leavitt, author of Pictures of You
Caroline Leavitt is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of nearly a dozen novels. Caroline has never been shy about the difficulty she faced to get to where she is now and her advice could catapult your career years ahead.
“Structure! Definitely structure! I always thought you waited for that pesky muse and your writing ran on inspiration fuel. I would end up with 800 page novels that had to be pared down. Once I learned structure, it was like having a lifeline to writing—something to hold on to.”
Simply put, you can’t always depend fully on the muse.