Monday, December 30, 2013

Writing advice from author Jennifer Donnelly

I just finished reading the wonderful, sweeping historical epic The Tea Rose by Jennifer Donnelly. At the end of the book there is a Q & A with the author, and I thought her advice for young writers was terrific, so I wanted to share it with you! Below are quotes from Donnelly about how to become a writer.

  • "There's only one thing that makes you a writer -- and that's writing."
  • "Writing -- any kind of writing: journals, term papers, letters to your grandmother -- will hone your ability with words. As you keep writing, you'll learn how to do more with less. You'll get a feel for simplicity and elegance, when to let rip and when to hold back, and how the subtle art of suggestion can lend incredible power to a paragraph or scene."
  • "Reading is also incredibly important. It shows you how other writers do it, how they succeed, and where they fail."
  • "Whether it's a novel, a newspaper article, or the copy on the back of a cereal box -- it's all writing. Someone had to think about it and make choices. It's your job as a reader to decide how well the author did."
  • "You may not be aware of it, but every time you get lost in a story, or intrigued by a magazine article, you're also picking up pointers on structure, plot, and style."
  • "Lots of kids, and older people, too, tell me that they have so many stories started. Started is good. Beginnings are good. But you have to finish. Finishing is what makes the difference between ideas and books."
  • "Force yourself to sit down at your desk -- glue your butt to your chair -- and work through the problems. It's very important. It's very good discipline. It forces you to see an idea through from beginning to end and to do the hard work of bringing the various threads of the story together in a satisfying way. Do this and you'll become more confident in your ability to tell a story."
  • "Listen to your own thoughts and feelings very carefully, be aware of your observations, and value them."
  • "When you're a teenager -- and even when you're older -- lots of people will try to tell you what to think and feel. Try to stand still instead all of that and hear your own voice. It's yours and only yours, it's unique and worthy of your attention, and if you cultivate it properly, it might just make you a writer."