Wednesday, July 27, 2011

What's the Best Writerly Advice You'd Give Your Younger Self - Jessica Spotswood

Today is the second to last guest post in this fabulous series. And I'm so very pleased to bring you Jessica Spotswood who's debut book, Born Wicked, is the first of a trilogy that I guarantee will blow you all away when it comes out in February, 2012. Yes, I'm one of the lucky few who've read it, and yes, it is mind blowingly good! I love love love this book and I'm so excited to see it come out because I have a feeling it's going to be a huge hit. And when it does, I just want you all to remember that I said it here first! And just look at her gorgeous cover! It's absolutely swoon worthy! So please welcome Jess and enjoy her lovely post on what she would tell her younger self.

Advice to my young writing self:

Everyone has a story.

The skinny hipster girl with the layered necklaces at the coffee shop—she could be reading work emails, or she could be writing a novel of her own, or maybe she’s emailing her boyfriend who’s studying abroad in Prague. You don’t know. But isn’t it fun to imagine? To take strangers on the street, passengers on the train, fellow audience members at plays, and concoct wild stories about them? It’s good practice.

Everyone has a story, and you don’t know what it is.

It’s easy, sometimes, to look at other people and envy them. They have things you want. They are things you want—perfectly cool and confident and hipster-chic. But you don’t know their secret insecurities and tragedies. You don’t know their stories. It’s true for strangers on the street—and for authors whose careers you might envy. Envy is totally natural and it inspires you to work harder. But it’s important to keep in mind that when things happen faster or better for someone else, you don’t know what else is going on in their lives, or what happened before. Someone with a major deal that sold in a week might have written five other novels before hooking an agent, might have a first novel that never sold, might have struggled to write the book over the course of two years while juggling a full-time job and kids and dark nights of the soul. You don’t know. Not everyone makes their story public. But if you assume it’s there, even if you don’t know about it—it gives you an awful lot more compassion.

Everyone has a story, and you don’t know what it is. This includes you.

Every step in this writing journey feels all-important, like it could be your only chance, and coupled with your inherent perfectionism, it is often crazy-making. You would argue with fierce Taurus bullheadedness that you know what you want. You have wanted to be a writer since fourth grade when you wrote that story about your grandparents’ cabin in Mrs. Eisenhart’s class. But did you? In college you got swept up in the camaraderie and collaboration and razzle-dazzle of theatre, and you went to grad school for dramaturgy, and it wasn’t until you were miserable and unable to find a theatre job that you rediscovered writing. Even then, you never expected to be where you are now. The book that got you an agent never sold—but then your second book sold in a week, in a way that you didn’t even have the temerity to dream about. You never expected this. This is more amazing and more terrifying and closer to your heart than anything you ever dreamed of.

Stories have a way of doing that.

Jess hearts books, tea, cardamom cookies, the color pink, theatre, twirly dresses, and the sound of bells chiming the hour. She's frighteningly enthusiastic. Her first book, BORN WICKED, Book 1 of The Cahill Witch Chronicles, is coming out Feb 7. 2012 from Putnam. You can find out more at her website here


Christine Tyler said...

Wow, yes that is a gorgeous cover. Probably one of the best ones I've seen lately.

Charles Gramlich said...

Everyone has a story for sure. Some are more imaginative than others! :)

Tiffany Schmidt said...

I am so excited to read BORN WICKED -- Jess, I wish you could travel back in time to give MY younger self writing advice. Very wise!

Thanks, Ello.

Erin Bowman said...

Loved how each lesson here built on the previous one. Thanks for sharing, Jess. And can't wait to read BW!!! :)

Tyhitia Green said...

Very good post, Jessica. Everyone does indeed have their own story. :-D I'll be awaiting your novel.

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