Tuesday, January 22, 2008

To all writers, young and old from Erin Hunter

I am copying here a New Year letter from Erin Hunter, author of the 'Warriors' series. It was sent out to subscribers by HarperCollins. It is a list of tips for writers and although it may be directed primarily to younger aspiring writers, it really does contain the best advice for any writer.

This is the time when people make resolutions that will hopefully last the whole
year, such as eating more healthily or taking up a new hobby. I know lots of
Warriors fans love writing their own stories based on the existing Clans, or on
completely original Clans with lengthy cast lists and complex allegiances. We
love reading them, and are always amazed by how talented you are with your ideas
for action and characterization. If your New Year’s resolution is to use your
creative powers, here are my top five tips for writing:

1. READ! Read anything and everything, from newspapers and the backs of cereal
boxes, to sci-fi novels and manga (starting with Warriors manga, of course!).
Reading is by far the best way to experience all different types of writing—and
discover what goes into the sort of writing that makes you want to stay up all

2. WRITE! Sounds obvious, I know, but if you think of your imagination as a sort
of muscle, then it needs exercise to become even stronger. If you don’t think
you’re the sort of person who’d enjoy writing a loooong novel, why not try an
article for your school newspaper or website—anything from covering a sports
event to a movie review would be a great way to put your creativity to good use.

3. DON’T GIVE UP. . . People often say that the Erins must have the best job in
the world because we get to stay home all day and tap out stories about feral
cats on our keyboards. But writing is a job like any other, which means it can
be difficult, lonely, and even boring. When it feels as if you’ve been staring
at a blank page or screen for hours on end, don’t let yourself think for one
moment that you’ll never be able to write. The mantra that I say to myself when
I get truly stuck is Don’t get it right; get it WRITTEN! Stop trying to find the
perfect word or phrase, and just write down roughly whatever it is you’re trying
to say. Nine times out of ten, when you read it back later you’ll realize you
got it right first time!

4. BUT ALSO, KNOW WHEN TO STOP! If you’ve been stuck for so long that you feel
as if you’re trapped in an elevator with all your characters and you don’t know
what to say to any of them, then take a break. Sometimes something as simple as
sending an e-mail or writing a shopping list can kickstart the imagination so
the words start to flow again; other times, try getting away from your keyboard
or page altogether and go for a walk (my walks usually take me as far as the
cookie jar and back again!). It’s also important to remember that even the most
dedicated writers take time out to eat, sleep, and spend time with friends and
family. We’d be pretty dull people if we didn’t!

5. ENJOY! Writing is a gift, not in being a special talent that only some people
possess, but because anyone can do it, at any time, and on any topic they like.
That’s my kind of gift! (Almost as good as chocolate. . . ) Treasure every
chance you get to put words down, and relish the freedom you have to say
whatever you want. Unless you really, really have to, like for a school
assignment, don’t get hung up on deadlines or publication or even finishing your
project. All those things can come later, when you’re a successful author. :)
For now, just soar like an eagle, run like a leopard and plunge like a dolphin
through skies and forests and oceans of wonderful worlds. Come on in, the
water’s lovely!

With love and best wishes,

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