What do you think are the greatest challenges facing a “new” writer?
Well, of course, the odds in the business are huge. There is a canyon between “published” and “unpublished.” As someone who sat on the other side of that canyon for a good long time (and through five books), I know this intimately. I also know how that canyon can affect you. The big nasty trick is that your writing needs to show a confidence and mastery that the business itself is quite good at beating out of you.
More recently, too, there are all kinds of distracting lures and promises about easy ways to cross that wide divide. Self-publishing! PR and more PR before a book is even bought! Web sites, blogs! I can only gently give the news that there are no easy ways across the divide. Learning your craft and then getting better and better at it – writing a really good book – that’s what will get you over.
What do you know now, with several successful novels under your belt, that you wish you’d known when you first started out?
I often wonder what I would have done if I didknow what I know now. I always advise beginning writers to thoroughly understand this business, but an argument could be made that, in regard to publishing, a littleignorance is not a bad thing. We often think that getting published is the hard part. But staying published, staying in the game over the long haul – that is the real challenge. It may be best not to know that. Our hopeful dreams and roiling passion gets us into this, and in many ways, those are always our most useful tools. A love for the written word, an honest desire to express something beautiful, your own burning drive – if you can hold on to those throughout the rest, you can do okay.
That said, what I wish I knew (especially after my first book came out), was where to put my anxiety and energy about how to make it all work. I wasted some time scurrying around in desperate and generally unhelpful ways, trying to gather an audience as new writers are advised to do. After all these years, though, I firmly believe that the most important place for your time and energy is in the writing of that book, and the next, and the next.
What are you working on now?
Right now, I’m doing on a lot of things for the release of He’s Gone. Can I just say… I can’t wait for this book! I’ve also just turned in my next Y/A for Simon & Schuster, which is titled, The Last Forever (April of 2014). I love this one. I don’t know why exactly, but it’s one of my favorite ones I’ve ever written. Finally, I’m excited to turn my attention to my next book for adults, coming from Random House in 2015.
Final Words of Wisdom
If you want to write and publish, understand that there are no Magic Keys or Six Steps to Success. The bad news and the good news is that there is mostly just you, your talent, and your hard work between “here” and “there.” Understand the business – what it can and can’t do for you, what it expects from you, what the odds are. And then, informed with the truth, and with eyes wide open, go at it with all you’ve got.
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