Who doesn’t want to write a bestseller? While no one can tell you exactly how to get onto the New York Times list, we can always ask the people who have already made it. Here are a few pearls of wisdom I’ve been given by bestselling authors I’ve interviewed over the years. Ignore them at your peril:
David Weber, NYT bestselling author of the Honor Harrington series:
First, write what you enjoy reading. You’ll do a much better job working on something that interests and excites you than you will trying to produce something simply because you think it might sell. If you enjoy reading it, so will someone else, which means there ought to be a market for it somewhere. Second, accept that if you’re going to try to do this professionally you either need to become a production writer — which means those 16-hour days — or you need to have a day job. Third, complete something before you start trying to submit your work. An editor is a lot more likely to buy a story or a novel, even if it needs a substantial amount of work, if that story or novel exists as a completed whole.
Kat Richardson, national bestselling author of the Greywalker series:
A writer I know, Blake Charleton, says his rule for writing interesting fiction is not “write what you know” but “write what you fear.” For me it’s often “write what hurt.” It’s all variations of the original adage, but the spin is what makes it compelling. People identify with adversity because most of us have had a dose or two of it, and when we as writers can take those things that hurt, terrify, or trouble us to a favorable conclusion in a story, we connect to readers and satisfy their desire for comfort and order. And it’s also fun to exorcise a few demons sometimes.
Jack Campbell, NYT bestselling author of the Lost Fleet series:
Read and write. Read lots of things, even in areas you don’t normally like, because that’s how you get ideas for stories and how to tell them in different ways, and that’s how you learn what kinds of stories others told. Write down your own stories, too. Don’t just dream about them, write them down, and when they’re done (and you have to finish most of them so you learn how to finish stories) write some more.
And be prepared for rejection. Lots of rejection. Even veteran writers get shot down a lot. When you do get published whatever you wrote is fair game for anyone to comment on, and it’s pretty safe to say that some of those comments won’t be kind.
Mario Acevedo, NYT bestselling author of the Felix Gomez, Vampire P.I. series:
Be stubborn about writing. Keep learning and honing your craft. Hang on to your faith and dreams. And don’t buy cheap vodka.
How about you? What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received? Share it here!