Brave New World.

“You don’t write because you want to say something, you write because you’ve got something to say.”
~F. Scott Fitzgerald

I still remember my first “book.” It came about as a direct result of my eighth grade English class. Every day, Mrs. Schuster had us spend the first ten minutes working on a journal entry. For Monday through Thursday, it was an assigned topic – sometimes a question, sometimes a prompt, sometimes related to a novel we were reading and sometimes not. Fridays, though, they were my favorites. They were free writes. What began as a journal entry soon blossomed into a story about Jamie and Melanie, twins who were in eighth grade (shocker, yes?) and, if I recall correctly, spent half the time deciding what clothes to wear. Ha. The tale spanned several chapters and ignited a fire in me. Those flickering flames, the joy for writing they sparked, have continued to blaze brighter and brighter. Yes, the journey to get published has been frustrating. Yes, it’s made me feel like throwing in the towel on more than one occasion. Yes, it’s felt like forever. But despite that, the fire is still there. Because of it, the fire is stronger than ever. And so, when my sixteen-year-old cousin (I swear, she was just born … where on earth does the time go?) asked me to read the book she’s been working on for the past few years, I agreed immediately. I wanted to share her passion for the story and for her characters. Now that I’ve finished reading, and she’s asked me some questions on the publishing process, I find myself thinking – if I could give her any advice, what would it be? What would I tell someone whose love for writing is still so fresh and pure?

1. Write the stories that keep you up at night.

2. If you think you can – even when you think you can’t – there’s no limit to all you’ll achieve.

3. First and foremost, write for yourself. Listen to the voice in your head, but listen to the one in your heart, too. Write because you have to, write because you want to, write because you can’t not write.

4. There will be days when the words don’t come as easily. That’s okay. Sometimes there’s a beauty in the block, because it takes you down a road you never would have seen otherwise.

5. Never lose the sense of wonder. That bittersweet excitement you felt when finishing your first book? You’ll feel it time and again, with each “THE END.”

6. Don’t be afraid to take chances. Sometimes the story you’re nervous about writing is the story you need to tell.

7. Write what you know, but also write what you don’t know. It’ll help you grow in ways you can’t imagine.

8. Each character will leave a handprint on your heart. Each book will become your baby. Each story will teach you something and offer a glimpse into a brave new world.

9. Be proud of your work. It’s a part of you, a part of your heart, and no matter what, nobody can ever take that away.

10. Never give up. Never, ever give up. When you find something that sets your soul on fire, it’s worth waiting for, it’s worth fighting for, it’s worth putting yourself on the line for … always.

How about y’all? What advice would you give to someone who wants to follow in your career footsteps?

21 thoughts on “Brave New World.

  1. Love the F. Scott Fitzgerald quote.

    Oh goodness. I remember my first story. It was about Heather and Hannah, who were best friends in sixth grade (I was in sixth grade at the time…shocking). And Heather had a twin named Ryan. But yes, I know a lot of those chapters were devoted to picking out their outfits (not sure why – they went to Catholic school and wore a uniform everyday), playing basketball, and discussing what boys they thought were cute. I’m glad we have these tales, and even more glad that we’ve grown as writers since then, haha. :)

    Congratulations to your cousin! That’s an amazing accomplishment, especially at such a young age. Good for her. As for advice…I can’t really think of anything to add that you haven’t already covered. You’ve left beautiful words. Although I would add that it’s always a good idea to find writer friends out there (who become just friends period, but there’s the added bonus of the common interest in writing), who will totally Get It when it comes to what you’re going through. Friendships sometimes keep the flames going.

    • Evidently twins are also a hallmark of getting-the-writing-itch stories? Ha. You’re right, it’s so fun to look back on those first attempts – not only to see where we started, but to see how we’ve grown. It makes the journey even more enjoyable.

      She’s super talented! She actually just finished another book and is in the middle of writing a third (how she finds the time with all her junior-year AP courses is beyond me!). I love your advice about finding writer friends. It is SO TRUE – fellow writers understand on a whole other level. There’s an unbreakable bond that definitely helps us keep pushing forward, not to mention a safety net to catch us when we fall. And, you know, I think the common interest just makes the friendship stronger … makes us like Writing Sisters, in a way! :)

  2. “Sometimes there’s a beauty in the block, because it takes you down a road you never would have seen otherwise.” – That’s such a great way of looking at it, and it took me such a long time to realize the truth of it.

    “Be proud of your work. It’s a part of you, a part of your heart, and no matter what, nobody can ever take that away.” – Thank you for that reminder. It’s something I need to hear from time to time now that I have work on Amazon and GoodReads (i.e., up for review).

    My advice? Hm. I think it’s just this: “The writing life is not easy. No one said it would be. But easy isn’t what matters. Publication isn’t what matters. Reviews aren’t what matter. So what does matter, then? Just you and the page. The world and the characters you create. The expression of yourself. The exploration of yourself.”

    • I can’t even imagine the double-edged sword of having your work up for review. On the one hand, feedback is so wonderful – and something we crave, I think. On the other, words can be just as hurtful as they are inspiring. Commentary from agents is often difficult enough … to cast a wider net … well, it surely takes a thick skin, that’s for sure.

      I absolutely ADORE your advice. So beautifully and eloquently put, so inspiring, so very true. <3

  3. You’ve even worded the advice in the beautiful way a true writer would, Shari :) I think I swung by your blog at just the right moment, because I feel some sort of relief after reading what you’ve written here even though I didn’t realize I needed any sort of assurance. Something must have been chewing at the back of my mind. Awesome post, and you’re so right about everything you’ve said here… also, year 8 beginnings for the win!!! :D I started getting serious about writing in yr 8 too!

    • Awww, thank you! Your kind words mean more than I can say, and I’m glad the post was able to provide some sort of comfort. Knowing that completely makes my day! :) And whoohoo for eighth grade writerly beginnings! Isn’t it fun to look back in time and pinpoint when the passion for it truly set in?!

  4. Thank you for this advice Shari. I know it is helpful for me and probably several others. You have worked so hard and I really admire you. Rock on girl.

  5. Reading your entry just brought back some good memories. :) Thank you for sharing your advices and tips. I don’t have any that comes to mind to share, but I wish I had a cousin like you to help me through when i was going through a few stumbling block that I had to overcome. :)

    • Aww, thank you!

      Goodness, doesn’t it seem like just yesterday that we were sitting at our table in Mrs. Ruckel’s Language Arts class? I think of those memories often and they always make me smile!

  6. How cool that she’s writing a book, too! I hope her writing journey takes her amazing places. Of course, with an aunt like you she already has a big advantage. :-)

    Hmm. What advice would I give? I guess not to focus on how long it will take — writing the book, revising, waiting for critiques, revising again, querying, writing another book, etc. When you look ahead it seems like it will take forever, and that can be paralyzing. But if you take it one page at a time, day by day, you’ll find you’re getting there. Just, you know, do other things in the meantime, too. Because it does take a while, and there’s a lot of waiting.

    Oh, and save everything you write early on. It will be fun to look over it later and see how much you’ve grown as a writer — and also fun to see those early seeds of your own style, voice, humor, etc.

    • I hope it does, too! She’s so talented and creative (and would you believe she’s already writing her third book, in the midst of everything else that comes along with junior year in high school?!).

      Oh, that’s such good advice – for all of us! So much about this is a waiting game, and though that can be frustrating sometimes, it’s important to remember that nothing worth having ever comes easy. If we love this enough, if we live it enough, then we have to be willing to take things one step at a time.

      I am now determined to find that story I wrote back in eighth grade … the search is on! ;-)

  7. Pingback: What to find on the page | Kristan Hoffman

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