I have a treat for you today: Samuel Park, author of the fabulous This Burns My Heart, is here to talk about advice from the writers he knows. Sam's book is out in paperback and you should get it immeditaley if you haven't. I'll just say this: I bought it originally for my eReader and loved it so much that I bought three copies for people at Christmas. It's that good. Last October, I did an interview with Sam here on the blog, in which he says what I've seen few authors say--how publishing really changes your life. But now, he's back with some great advice personally collected from other authors.
Take it away, Sam!
Author Advice from Samuel Park
Hi Sierra. Thank you for hosting me on your blog! You have been such a great supporter of the book, and it’s a delight to be here. For my guest post, I decided I would channel some of my favorite writer friends and share the best bits of advice I’ve heard from them recently.
From Eleanor Brown, author of THE WEIRD SISTERS:
Eleanor in person is as kind and generous as you would think from reading her novel, and she’s wonderful about offering advice to other writers. Here’s Eleanor’s advice on reading reviews of your book: “Don’t.”
I think that’s brilliant. I have a slightly revised version of this gem, and it’s, “Don’t Read the Bad Reviews, But Do Read the Good Ones!” I know, isn’t it great? Don’t you wish you could apply that to all facets of your life? But seriously, I find it hard to resist reading reviews of the book, but reading bad reviews are not good for the soul. I also found out pretty quickly that you don’t really learn anything from bad reviews, and often times, bad reviews come from people for whom your book wasn’t really a good fit in the first place. Lisa See has some really interesting things to say about reviews, too.
From Kelly McNees, author of THE LOST SUMMER OF LOUISA MAY ALCOTT:
I had the good fortune of meeting Kelly at a book festival right before my book came out last year. Hers already had, and she made a suggestion that stuck in my head: to carry postcards of the book, and hand them out to people. This is something that a lot of writers do, though sometimes instead of postcards, it’s bookmarks. I've heard Eleanor mention the interesting fact that most people need to hear about a book three times before they actually purchase it, and I think postcards and bookmarks are a fantastic way of staying visible to your readers.
From Nami Mun, author of MILES FROM NOWHERE:
Nami’s brilliant book is widely read in college courses everywhere, and she as a person is full of wonderful bits of wisdom. She happens to be a colleague of mine at the college where I teach, so I often have a front row seat to her great insights into the craft. Here are three of the best bits of writer’s advice I’ve heard from Nami, and hopefully she won’t mind me sharing them here.
First, “write with your pants off.” I asked Nami once how she’s able to get readers to connect emotionally with her characters, and she responded by saying that it’s because she holds nothing back. She never hides, or avoids a vulnerable place. If writing a particular story feels painful or makes you cry, that’s the one you've got to put on the page. That’s the one that will break your readers’ hearts. In other words, don’t be afraid to reveal yourself and pour yourself naked onto the page.
Second, “investigate the weirdness.” Sometimes someone in your critique group may say, “Boy, this passage is weird, you should cut it.” But you resist, because you know there’s something special there. It may not fit with the rest of the manuscript, and it stands out awkwardly, but you don’t want to let go of it. In situations like this, Nami suggests to check that out—it may be that instead of that passage being in the wrong book, it’s actually the other way around, and the rest of the book needs to be more like that “weird” passage. That “weird” passage may actually hold the real heart of the book.
Finally, “learn the bigger thing that your book is about.” This is especially helpful at the revision stage, when you feel stuck. If you think about what the bigger picture is—what the larger theme of the book is—that may unlock something in the revision, and help make the book much bigger and more resonant for readers.
So these are the best bits of advice I’ve heard recently. Hope it is helpful! And thanks Sierra again for hosting me on your blog!
Thank YOU, Sam! You can find him at his website. This Burns My Heart was chosen as one of Amazon’s Best Books of 2011, a People magazine “Great Reads in Fiction,” and one of the Today Show’s “Favorite Things.” THIS BURNS MY HEART was also a Kirkus Reviews’ Best Fiction of 2011, a BookPage Best Book of 2011, and an Indie Next List Notable Book.
Below is a really great video about This Burns My Heart (one of the nicer book videos I've seen).