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Writing advice from leading authors

Lisa McMann, author of the acclaimed YA novel The Unwanteds, shares tips on writers' block, inspiration, and more.

Q: What is your method for overcoming writerís block?
A: I watch a movie or read a book. Other people's creations really inspire fresh ideas for my own writing. Taking a walk alone helps too, or cooking -- concentrating on doing something with my hands or feet lets my brain have a chance to work subconsciously and move past the blockage.

Q: What are your favorite or most helpful writing prompts?
A: I don't really do writing prompts, if what you mean by that is a writing exercise to get myself in the writing mode for the day. But I do often go back to what I wrote the day before and do a minor edit, which gets me back into the voices of the characters and allows me to continue where I left off.

Q: What is the most valuable advice you received as a young writer?
A: I'm very sad I don't remember the name of the source of this advice -- I heard it from an author at a writing conference in Chicago probably ten years ago or so, and I wish I could thank him. He said, "What's the one thing your character would never, ever do?" We all wrote down our one thing. Then he said, "Now, make him do it." It's the basis for making your characters disobey the law, the rules, the morals they have for themselves, etc. Which is crucial to conflict, character development, and plot.

Another valuable piece of advice I got from my friend Diane. She read one of my short stories several years ago and told me, "It's good. Now go drink a beer or two and write it again."

lisamcmann.com


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