National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo) has begun, and the writing fervor is upon us! If you’ve accepted the ambitious challenge of writing a novel this month, we have some tips that should help you along. Over the years, countless remarkable authors have been kind enough to share their tricks of the trade, and we have gathered a few of our favorites below. We’re confident these insider tips will jumpstart your creativity!
From Jo Baker, author of Longbourn:
“What non-writerly folk often don’t realize is that daydreaming is useful. In fact, it’s vital. You have to give yourself time to be idle; you have to allow for it. Away from school and social media and all the clutter and business of life. The idling brain has an extraordinary way of generating wonders. Let that happen.”
From J. Courtney Sullivan, author of Saints for All Occasions:
“My favorite piece of writerly wisdom comes from E. L. Doctorow: ‘Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.’”
From Jane L. Rosen, author of Nine Women, One Dress:
“Write your first draft with complete abandon. Don’t stop because you get tripped up on a word or thought. When you do just type in a few XXXXs and keep going.”
From Ian McEwan, author of The Children Act:
“I think it’s quite useful for people to set aside time, and if setting aside time means attending a creative writing program, that can be useful. Also what’s useful is to have expectations laid on you that you’re going to produce the work.”
From Nell Stevens, author of Bleaker House:
“‘The only thing that really interests us about other people is what they say and what they do.’ Sometimes when my stories get tangled-up and ruminative, I drag myself back to this line, and try again. It always results in something more direct and bold.”
From Michael Finkel, author of The Stranger in the Woods:
“My advice for telling someone else’s story is to try not to consciously bend the story in any particular direction—to listen with an open mind, to include the good with the bad, to attempt to quell one’s biases and allow the person you’re writing about to emerge as wholly as possible, warts and all.”
From Nathan Hill, author of The Nix:
“I’d say that aspiring writers should think much more about writing than about publishing. That was certainly my mistake when I was younger—I came out of my MFA program thinking: How do I get published? I moved to New York City with a bunch of other aspiring writers, and we were just so very careerist and ravenous. . . . The pressure we felt to do well was crippling.”
From Jennifer McMahon, author of Burntown:
1) Start with a bang, not a whimper.
2) Make things happen.
3) Keep them turning pages.
4) Know your characters and ask them difficult questions.
5) Let go of what you think you know.
From Iain Pears, author of Arcadia:
“‘Always remember no one has to read your book.’ That is, you have to work hard to earn the reader’s attention.”