It’s always good to take a break; and I know it’s only the third day in, but some of us might be feeling the pinch. Didn’t make your word count goal this morning/last night? Already feeling pinned down by writer’s block? Don’t fret, here are some words of advice from 20 pros. Twenty people who have been right where you are before, and you’d recognize their names from the front covers of their published books.
These highlights are from personal favorites of mine, but there’s definitely more where this came from:
I write for kids, and I think there are definitely rules for when you write for kids. People are always asking me, “How do you know how not to go too far?” And I have one rule that I always follow seriously, and that rule is that the kid has to know it’s not real. I keep the real world out. The kid has to know that it’s a creepy fantasy and it isn’t something that can happen. And then I feel like I can do the story, because the kid knows that it’s just a story and they’re safe in their rooms reading it.
I don’t think there are any universal rules. I really don’t. We each make our own rules, and we stick to our rules and we abide by them, but you know rules are made to be broken. … [If] any rule you hear from one writer doesn’t work for you, disregard it completely. Break it. Do what you want to do. I have my own rules that I follow, but they’re not necessarily going to work for other writers. … The only universal rule is to write. Get it done, and do what works for you. There’s nothing sadder than someone sitting there and trying to apply a lot of rules that are not turning that person on and are not stimulating and are not making a novel.
The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you’re allowed to do whatever you like. (That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But it’s definitely true for writing.) So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it honestly, and tell it as best you can. I’m not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.
[Y]ou have a right to express what you see and what you feel and what you think. To be bold. To be as bold with your vision as you can possibly be. Our salvation, to the extent that we have one, will come out of people realizing the crisis of our species and of the planet and offering their deepest dream of what’s possible.
Don’t be boring. [N]othing else that we try to do in journalism will work, if people don’t read it. … What readers know is that they could also watch television, or go outside, or just put the paper down. So it’s really important to keep them reading you. And I think that should be the most important rule.
Joyce Carol Oates:
Best tip for writers: not to listen to any silly tips for writers.
In the end, you must follow your heart, your characters, and their story in the way that feels most honest. Best of luck to all my fellow November novelists!