The most important thing I’ve learned from the experience of writing my first novel is that I still have a lot to learn. I wanted to share some lessons that have helped me along the way.
“Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader – not the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon.” –E. L. Wharton
I have to stand in the rain with my characters.
I’ve learned that I can’t have empathy for my characters unless I get wet. Immerse myself in their lives – weather the storms with them. Only then can I hope that my readers will feel the rain.
“There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” –Edith Wharton
I have to look at my characters as they view themselves.
I’ve found that writing a scene where my characters look at themselves in a mirror helps me to see them as they see themselves. Even if I don’t use the scene in my novel, it serves as part of the character study I do for each character.
I believe that writers have an opportunity to shine a light on the difficult issues that young adults face in their lives – that light comes through the strength of our characters.
“You can’t get mad at weather because weather’s not about you. Apply that lesson to most other aspects of life.” – Douglas Coupland
I have to put my feelings and opinions aside.
I’ve learned that I have to focus on my characters and what they need. I have to separate my feelings as a writer from the feelings of the characters on the page. Readers don’t really care what I think. They care about characters – and how those characters grow and change as they tell their stories.
“The biggest lesson we have to give our children is truth.” Goldie Hawn
I’ve learned that I have to be true to my characters. Life is not always about happy endings. It’s about the journey, and what we learn along the way.
“The lesson I learned is that sometimes the task you have at hand needs all of your concentration and focus.” –Damian Lewis
I have to enter a cave.
I’ve learned that I absolutely have to isolate myself with my characters for several hours a day. I take walks with my characters. I chat with my characters. I spend long hours not coming up for air. There’s this rhythm that I can’t seem to find unless I bury myself in my writing cave with my computer.
“Everything in life… has to have balance.” –Donna Karan
I need air.
I’ve learned that while I need isolation to write, I also need the inspiration and support provided through the SCBWI, my critique group – and the writing community.
Reading feeds the soul. Writing frees the soul.
I have to read.
I’ve learned that reading inspires me to write – and writing frees my soul.