No matter where you turn, someone has advice for you. They know just what you need to do to find the success you’re looking for. I tend to believe that the best advice comes from those who’ve made it in your field so I asked the bestsellers. Here’s some of the best writing advice we’ve received from our interviews with some of the biggest names in YA fantasy. You can find all their individual interviews here.
NYT Bestselling Author of Fallen & Torment, Lauren Kate:
“Finish your book. Even if you don’t think it’s ever going to become anything. Then, the next time, when you write your real book, you’ll know that you can finish.”
NYT Bestselling Author of Tithe, Curse Worker’s series & Spiderwick Chronicles, Holly Black:
“I have three pieces of writing advice, cobbled together from things people said to me over the years and from my own journey: (1) Read a lot and in a lot of different genres – read nonfiction, read mystery and fantasy and realism and romance, read thrillers and historicals and especially read in the genres you write. The more you read, the better you’ll write. (2) Write a lot and revise a lot too. It takes a ton of flawed drafts and a lot of practice before you get good. If you read my early writing, you would howl with laughter. Seriously – I read some aloud at a panel on juvenilia. It was so terrible that I could barely read it because I was laughing so hard. (3) Find a critique partner. Having someone who liked the same books that I liked and was there to tell me when my scene made no sense and pointed out when I missed deadlines got me to get serious and stay that way.”
NYT Bestselling Author of the Mortal Instruments & Internal Devices series, Cassandra Clare:
“I was once advised that once you’re done with a book, read the whole thing aloud to yourself. It takes a long time but it really lets you hear things like overused words, awkward sentence construction, and the like.”
NYT Bestselling Author of Nightshade, Andrea Cremer:
“To write what you love and what you want to know more about – writing is about passion and commitment, so you need to have a story, characters, and subject that you’re willing to devote yourself to completely.”
NYT Bestselling Author of the Demon Lexicon Trilogy, Sarah Rees Brennan:
“Oh, gosh. I’ve been very lucky – I’ve been given some amazing advice over the years. (Notably from Holly Black. I think she has magic powers: she can advise you on your book, your career, your writing habits, anything, and make everything a zillion times better. Holly Black for president!)
Some advice I’ve received or that I just think might be good advice for those trying to break into YA: To always write what you want to read, and not pay attention to trends. Real enthusiasm sets other people on fire too – and that creates trends. To think about what your characters want, and what they’re going to get. To read, a huge amount, and everything you can lay your hands on, in your genre and out. To find writers who write what you write, with what you feel is a similar sensibility – find out who their agents are (it’ll be in the back of their books) and submit to them!
And of course to always bear in mind the fact that Sarah Rees Brennan may be totally wrong. ;)”
International Bestseller, Robin Hobb:
“Write here, Right now. Or Right here, Write now! Whichever you prefer. Don’t wait to be a writer. Stop aspiring and just write. There are stories in your heart that want to be written right now, your very own stories. If you wait too long, they will either get stale to you, or they will change as you change and grow, and they will never be what they would have been if you had written them right away. If you mind boils with story ideas, start a file on your computer or in a spiral notebook (They still work just fine for me!) and jot those ideas down. Leave plenty of space on the page so you can come back and add more to the skeleton as it comes to you. But trap the idea on paper before it fades away. Only you can write those stories; if you don’t write them, they die unborn.”
NYT Bestselling Author of the Blue Bloods series, Melissa de la Cruz:
“I think the best writing advice is to never give up–so many people told me never to stop trying–and to take your rejections well and don’t let them get you down. Keep knocking on that door until it opens. My advice to someone trying to break in to YA Fantasy is to truly think if the book you are writing is one that you are meant to write, that you LOVE. Right now YA fantasy is very popular, and it’s a crowded market. It will take a lot to catch a reader’s attention. I always advise not to chase the market. Be aware of the market, of course, but when you’re writing, you want to write something that you bring a lot of passion into–bring everything into that project, that’s what makes the difference I think.”
NYT Bestselling author of Paranormalcy, Kiersten White:
“My advice is simple and two part. One: Get critique partners. You cannot get your writing to the level it needs to be on your own. And two: EDIT. Seriously. Just, edit. No first draft is publishable. Probably no second or third draft is, either. Don’t ever, ever skimp on the editing because you’re too excited to get out there. You’ll never regret an extra month or two taken to really hone and polish your manuscript!”
Stacey O’Neale is a full-time writer and co-owner of the Young Adult Fantasy Guide. She’s had several articles and book reviews published, but spends most of her writing time on the revisions to her debut young adult fantasy novel. You can also follow her on Twitter.