This resonates, a lot. Not just the advice but Myer’s journey. 😀 Being the lonely kid at the front of the class with glasses and other “Nerd!” aspects can be awkward, especially in primary school. However, the awkwardness does give more reading – and then writing time.
Though I did less “reading critically” and more “ooh, this series/book is awesome, Diary, here’s why!” (Cue paragraphs-long splurge.) I can track when I got into certain fandoms in my teens because of this. (Unfortunately for tracking purposes, I didn’t start journaling or diary-writing or whatever you want to call it until high school.)
Social skills is something I wonder about at times. I’m an extrovert, so you’d naturally think I’d thrive in environments that require a lot of talking and stuff (e.g. interviews or whatever, when it hopefully comes time for that). Truth is, that while I do like talking (*pauses and laughs at understatement*) ad-lib is not my thing. I take time getting to the point, I can repeat myself a bit and go on tangents and I can overshare without quite meaning to. I’m learning, but it’s still hard, as it means I have to be “on my guard” in conversations. I hate that.
Oh well. These things will come in time I suppose. Especially if I own my quirks whilst doing so.
Do check out Myer’s website and Chuck Wendig’s (who I got the post from).
Ilana has a debut fantasy novel out — Last Song Before Night — but before that, she’s done a lot of work as an accomplished blogger and freelance writer, so I’m excited to have her here to speak a bit about one skill most writers don’t think, or know, that they need…
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As an author whose first book just came out from Tor, you could say I’ve achieved exactly what I set out to do. And I’ll be real: I set out to do it a long time ago. This is not one of those instances when the author takes up writing on a lark and a novel comes out. If only. It’s more like, when I was a teenager I decided to start taking seriously this dream I’d always had. I was already thirteen, it was time to get moving.
Maybe it’s because I was living in Jerusalem in the mid-90s and fully convinced — not entirely without reason — that I wouldn’t survive high school. (Buffy was to have incredible resonance, years later.) Being a kid, doing things like having fun or whatever, was a waste of time when life was short. (Plus, being in a class of kids who don’t speak your language is not that conducive to having fun either.) So I did two things. I read a lot, and critically. Whatever I read, I picked apart. I looked at the things that worked and tried to figure out why they worked so well. Sometimes I couldn’t figure it out, so I just reread those glorious sections repeatedly, as if to absorb them into my bloodstream. (In retrospect, this means I can open my old notebooks at random and be like, “Right, that’s when I was reading Dune.”)
Because another thing I was doing was writing my own novel. And I worked incessantly. By the end of high school I had completed the first volume of a projected epic fantasy trilogy. I had written it longhand in a series of notebooks. Teachers knew to be suspicious of these notebooks and occasionally they were confiscated.
Eventually I was to give up on the high school novel, dismissing it as too juvenile. I started a new one while still in college. That novel, in the course of years, became Last Song Before Night.
So this is great, right? I did it. I put focused effort into achieving my goal, by developing the skills necessary for that goal, and succeeded.
Fast-forward to this past year at Book Expo America, when I and three other debut authors had the honor of being on a panel hosted by John Scalzi. Except this wasn’t really a panel. It was a game, for the general public, of “Would You Rather?” We would get questions and need to answer them, cleverly, on the fly.
This was a foretaste of what it means to launch a novel out into the world. My calendar for October has been a series of public appearances, readings, another game of “Would You Rather” with Scalzi at New York Comic Con, and — incredibly — a New England book tour with Fran Wilde and Seth Dickinson where we’ll be visiting five bookstores in five states in five days or something like that. And answering questions, and being witty, and hopefully impressing the ever-loving hell out of everyone.
I did not do a single damn thing in my life to prepare for this. And it’s made me reflect on this dissonant quality to being a writer: what makes us excel at our work, what gets our books to the level of being publishable, involves being alone, a lot. No matter how many workshops you attend, ultimately the work only gets done when it’s just you and the page. Or just you and the necessary act of reading. All of it intensely alone.
Read more by clicking on the title.