Writing Advice From MG Women Authors

To celebrate Women’s History Month, I put out a call for writing advice from women middle-grade authors. Here are their wonderful tips:

“Write your truth! There’s a reader out there who needs it.” —Mae Respicio, ANY DAY WITH YOU

“All the talent in the world will not get you over the finish line in publishing. Persistence is the true measure of a professional.” —Janet Fox, THE ARTIFACT HUNTERS

“A mistake is never a mistake unless you don’t learn from it.” —S.A. Larsen, MOTLEY EDUCATION

“Half of writing is daydreaming. It’s not putting words on a page, it’s staring out a window waiting for the story to float by.” —Lija Fisher, THE CRYPTID CATCHER

“Writing is an act of empowerment: You’re creating your own world. It’s a place for your individual voice to ring out. So tell the story you need to, and enjoy the process!” —Diane Magras, THE MAD WOLF’S DAUGHTER and THE HUNT FOR THE MAD WOLF’S DAUGHTER

“Nobody writes well in a first draft. I think the reason many writers fail to finish projects is because they are putting too much pressure on themselves to be a ‘good’ writer – whatever that means. I am a firm believer in Anne Lamott’s advice to write crummy rough drafts. The important thing is to get the story on paper so you have the raw material to work with. Then, in revision, that’s when the real work starts, sculpting, shaping, and finding the best way to tell your story.” —Tara Gilboy, UNWRITTEN and REWRITTEN

“Connect with other writers. They are a wonderful source of motivation and support, and will help you to hone your craft.” —Anne O’Brien Carelli, SKYLARK AND WALLCREEPER and ONE LIGHT

“Every piece of writing you create contains a piece of yourself. It can feel scary to send that piece out into the world, into the hands of other people. But when you realize (and you will) that you’re brave enough to do it—and strong enough to survive the possibility that others may not be careful or even kind with that piece of yourself—you will join in the miracle and magic of a writer’s gift: You will have healed a corner of the world, someone’s world, with that small gift of you. So be brave.” —R.L. Toalson, THE COLORS OF THE RAIN and THE WOODS

“Your first draft is not supposed to be perfect! It is easy to get intimidated when you read a great book or interesting news story, but it’s not only possible, but probable, that the writer’s first draft wasn’t good — at all. That’s okay, first drafts aren’t supposed to be good. They exist to get the information down, then you go back and fix it all up and make it sound better the next time through it, and the time after that. Give yourself a break if your first draft (or first time you play a new song or try to draw a photo or learn a new dance move) needs love and attention to get better. That’s all part of the process!” —Andrea Pyros, MY YEAR OF EPIC ROCK and PINK HAIR AND OTHER TERRIBLE IDEAS

“As a former advice columnist and life coach, I’ve doled out a fair number of ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ over the years. My favorite piece of advice is this: ‘Don’t get too comfortable.’ That’s not to say you should sleep on a bed of nails or run a marathon in heels. I’m talking about stepping outside your comfort zone. Of doing the thing that scares you; that makes you say, ‘I can’t.’ Sure, it will be scary at first, and you may want to throw in the towel. You might even decide that trying is too hard—and you won’t even bother. But complacency comes at a cost. It will chip away at your confidence, until the ‘I can’ts’ feel more natural than the “I cans.” But that’s fear talking. You can do more than you realize. So, do the thing that scares you, whether it’s taking up a new hobby or starting a journal. If you don’t succeed, that’s okay. You can always try again.” —Melissa Roske, KAT GREENE COMES CLEAN

“What you need to succeed as an author: lots of hope, hard work, and chocolate.” Cynthia Reeg, FROM THE GRAVE and INTO THE SHADOWLANDS

“You guide your career, not an agent or publisher. Be deliberate in your career choices and keep the long-term in mind. Make a five or ten-year plan, even if many aspects of success feel out of your control. And don’t be afraid to experiment and fail along the way.” Kim Ventrella, HELLO FUTURE ME and THE SECRET LIFE OF SAM

I love all this advice! And here’s one from me:

“Have fun! Publishing can be a difficult industry and writing can be hard work, but the best part of that is the creating. Play with your characters. Explore your new world. And I’ll say it againhave fun.” —Samantha M Clark, THE BOY, THE BOAT, AND THE BEAST and ARROW

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Samantha M Clark
Samantha M Clark is the award-winning author of THE BOY, THE BOAT, AND THE BEAST and ARROW (Paula Wiseman Books/Simon & Schuster) and has always loved stories about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. After all, if four ordinary brothers and sisters can find a magical world at the back of a wardrobe, why can't she? While she looks for her real-life Narnia, she writes about other ordinary children and teens who've stumbled into a wardrobe of their own. In a past life, Samantha was a photojournalist and managing editor for newspapers and magazines. She lives with her husband and two kooky dogs in Austin, Texas. Samantha is the Regional Advisor for the Austin chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators, and explores wardrobes every chance she gets. Sign up for news and giveaways at www.SamanthaMClark.com.

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