Writers Write is a writing resource. In this post we share American novelist, Jennifer Egan’s advice for young writers.
Jennifer Egan is an American novelist and short story writer. She was born 7 September 1962.
Her novel A Visit From The Goon Squad won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction. Her 2017 novel, Manhattan Beach, has been awarded the 2018 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction.
She is also the author of The Invisible Circus, a novel which became a feature film, Look at Me, a finalist for the National Book Award in fiction in 2001, and Emerald City and Other Stories.
Her short stories have appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, McSweeney’s and other magazines. She is a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Fiction, and a Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Fellowship at the New York Public Library.
She is President of PEN America.
We think Jennifer is one of the best modern authors, and when we found this post, we wanted to share her advice for young writers with you.
Jennifer Egan’s Advice For Young Writers
- My advice is so basic. Number one: Read. I feel like it’s amazing how many people I know who want to be writers who don’t really read. I’m not convinced someone wants to be a writer if they don’t read. I don’t think the problem is that they need to read more; I think they might need to readjust their life goals. Reading is the nourishment that lets you do interesting work. To be reading good things. I feel that you should be reading what you want to write. Nothing less.
- The second thing is, I feel like getting in the habit of it is huge. I guess that was my one accomplishment of those two years [with the first failed novel]— making it a routine is a gigantic part of it. One corollary of that— and this is probably the most important thing for me— is being willing to write really badly. It won’t hurt you to do that. I think there is this fear of writing badly, something primal about it, like: “This bad stuff is coming out of me…” Forget it! Let it float away and the good stuff follows. For me, the bad beginning is just something to build on. It’s no big deal. You have to give yourself permission to do that because you can’t expect to write regularly and always write well. That’s when people get into the habit of waiting for the good moments, and that is where I think writer’s block comes from. Like: It’s not happening. Well, maybe good writing isn’t happening, but let some bad writing happen. Let it happen! … So, just write and be happy that you did it. You stuck to the routine. You’re kind of holding the place so that you’re present for when something good is ready to come.
- And then it’s all about rewriting. Re-visiting, re-visiting and re-writing. I think it’s a mistake to be too precious about one’s words. I feel the same way about the criticism. You’re not going to break! It’s pretty tough to stick it out, to do this. So, get used to it! People are going to not like it. Okay! You’ll live. So, it’s bad. Okay. You’ll live! They said ‘no.’ You know what? Everyone gets said ‘no’ to a thousand times. If that is really something that you can’t tolerate, this may not work.
If you want to learn more about Jennifer, visit: www.jenniferegan.com.
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TIP: If you want help writing a book, buy The Novel Writing Exercises Workbook.