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15 Secrets To Writing A Successful Novel As Told By Children's Book Authors

"Don't quit."

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We asked Yallwest authors if they could tell us one writing secret that contributed to their writing success. Here are their very helpful tips.

1.

"I read out loud a lot. So after I write, I read it out loud. You really hear the sticky or clumsy parts when you read it out loud that you don’t notice when you’re just writing it. So I think that makes everything flow better and feel better.”

—Rainbow Rowell, author of Fangirl, Landline, Eleanor & Park, and more

2.

"For me, it always feels really hard to write. I try and make it easy for myself with my personal writing method, which is I don’t write in order. I write whatever I feel most excited about first. Joss Whedon has the same writing style and calls it ‘dessert first.' I’ve always written that way intuitively because I’m not someone who can outline. If I’m not excited to write the scene, I don’t think anyone is going to be excited to read the scene."

—Jenny Han, author of To All the Boys I've Loved Before and The Summer I Turned Pretty series

4.

Character development. I tell people all the time that nothing really happens in my stories. I tend to believe that human beings invest in human beings more than anything else. So when I was growing up Tupac was one of my heroes. He could have said, ‘I’m going to make hand towels,’ and I would have said, 'Ma we gotta go and get all the Tupac hand towels.' It didn’t matter what Tupac was making because I was invested in him. So I develop characters with that same notion in mind: that readers will want to sit down and be with these characters the whole time, no matter what they’re doing.

—Jason Reynolds, author of When I was the Greatest, All American Boys, and The Boy in the Black Suit

5.

Don’t give up. I let myself have bad days knowing it will get better. That’s been very helpful for me because it allows me to be human. And I think when you're a writer and you're writing and you haven’t published anything, yet you’re sitting there thinking, ‘I could never do that.’ And sometimes you don’t realize that all writers have bad days, so just allow yourself to be okay with that.”

—Sabaa Tahir, author of An Ember in the Ashes

6.

I feel like my procrastination tactics, as horrible as they are and as much as I know I need to stop going on the internet, are actually really helpful. Because I’ll be mindlessly scrolling on Tumblr or Instagram and see something that someone posted a quote that they like or a link to something, and I’ll usually follow that down a rabbit hole. But then I have this really cool thing that I could never have found otherwise to put into my book. So I wind up acquiring things I really want to use in my stories by not writing them when I should be writing them.

—Robyn Schneider, author of The Beginning of Everything and Extraordinary Means

7.

“Jean Marie Stine, a writer and good friend of mine, said, ‘If any scene you’re writing feels bland and boring go back and make sure you’ve used all five senses.’ And people saying things doesn’t count for listening ... if you put those in your work, your writing will be better.”

—Alex Gino, author of George

9.

Don’t give up. I feel like I almost gave up before I got an agent with Pointe, the fourth book that I wrote. I was almost like, 'I’m done.' But I’m glad I didn’t. Every time I push myself to finish something, it’s been the best thing I could have done.

—Brandy Colbert, author of Pointe

10.

“This is the opposite of a secret, but 10 years ago I would have said to write whatever you want and to diversify it in all different directions. But it’s also a weakness because your audience can’t go back to you knowing they'll get the same thing from you next time. And that’s a good thing and a bad thing. I guess that’s really the secret to artistic irritation.

—M.T. Anderson, author of Feed and many others

12.

"I always start every book with a question I don't know the answer to. So I think by writing it, I discover it. Nothing is already figured out in my head, which means if I haven't figured it out, no one else is going to figure it out. It's naturally going to be unpredictable. I think if you start a novel by not knowing if you're going to be able to answer the question, that's when you get the best stuff."

— Soman Chainani, author of The School for Good and Evil books.

13.

Persistence counts for a lot. I wrote my first book from 4 to 6 a.m. over three years, starting when my daughter was 4 months old. I just never gave up. People say there is not enough time, but there is. If I can do it, anyone can do it.”

—Nicola Yoon, author of Everything, Everything and The Sun Is Also a Star

14.

"Understanding that writing questions is about posing questions and not providing answers. In other words, write about things you're curious about. You're exploring them because you don't know what to think about them. You're not trying to answer anything, you're trying to explore it."

—Matt de la Peña, author of Last Stop on Market Street, Mexican Whiteboy, We Were Here, and many more

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