N.D. Wilson Interview: Advice for Young Writers

During a live interview hosted by Classical Conversations’ founder Leigh Bortins, Kingdom Pen asked N.D.Wilson, “What advice do you have for young writers who want to get published?”

Here’s what he said:

“This is one of those things where I can give everyone the magic bullet, or give everyone the trick that will make it happen, and then like all good magic bullets it’s not actually that easy. So, the way to get your books published is to make them very, very good. That’s what it comes down to. [laughs] Get really good – which is another way of saying control what you can control, and don’t worry about what you can’t.

“What can you control? You can control the words on the page in front of you. You can control how hard you work to improve in your prose craft, in your description, in your character work and dialogue. You can go through exercises. You can write whole novels and throw them away, and start on the next one. Really try to get good, until you can walk through a Barnes & Noble, and without arrogance say, “Here’s this book, here’s this award-winner, here’s this one,” and not out of any cockiness or arrogance, actually just say honestly, “I think I’m as good as these people in my craft. I am as good or better.”

“Then the publishers actually do want to find you. They want good books. It’s their job to find good books and to print them. There are so many people trying to get published, because it’s a fun job.  There are so many people pursuing it, literally hundreds of thousands of people trying to do this every year. The best and only way that you can try to insure success is by making sure that you are getting better every time you sit down to write. God has made the world in such a way that he who is excellent in his work will stand before kings. Cream will rise. I’m really grateful, by the way, that my first attempts at novel writing weren’t published. I’m really happy about that!

“Shape it, work on it, grind on it. Love criticism; embrace criticism. Every time someone criticizes your stuff, and criticizes it harshly and rigorously, you get better: either because they’re right, and you need to learn to listen to them and then go and make changes, or you get better because they’re wrong and you have to think through why they’re wrong, and what it is about your book that does actually account for that criticism. So get good!

“I would say I’m really grateful for the path I took. New St. Andrew’s College was the best preparation I could have possibly been given to go on and write professionally. If I had gone somewhere to get an undergrad in creative writing, I wouldn’t have gained nearly the advantage that I was given. I’m grateful for that because it was really accidental; it wasn’t like I planned it that way.

“Also, read other stuff. You know, when you read, read, read, hopefully if you read my stuff (like Dragon’s Tooth), you’ll see things you like, things you’d like to imitate, and you’ll also see things that you’ll say, “Yeah, I know that’s not for me. That’s not my taste.” Or, “I would do that differently.” But never turn your brain off when you’re reading. Never turn it off and just receive. Always think like an author and a creator, even when you’re actually a consumer.”

Listen to the full interview here:

For more from N.D. Wilson, check out his website and blog, and find his books online here.

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Kingdom Pen is a small, free e-magazine managed and published and largely written by teens around the globe who want to glorify Christ through their novel and poetry writing.