Writing Advice from Best-Selling Authors Stephen Chbosky and Jay Asher

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There are some major perks (no pun intended – and you will see why soon enough…) to being the President of the PA Council of Teachers of English and Language Arts. For example, this past weekend, I had the awesome pleasure of spending time with award-winning author, director and producer Stephen Chbosky and amazing writer Jay Asher. You probably best know Stephen as the author and screenwriter of Perks of Being a Wallflower and Jay as the author of Thirteen Reasons Why. Both authors were two keynote speakers at the PCTELA annual conference. Although much of their addresses discussed their interactions with English teachers throughout their lives, they also spoke of their writing life and writing process. Below are a few writing “tips” Stephen and Jay gave during their keynote speeches and a few more they shared with me over dinner and email.

  1. If you write, you ARE a writer. Stephen emphasized the fact that by just writing something down on paper you are, indeed, a writer. “There is no such thing as an aspiring writer,” he said. Again, if you write, you’re already a writer. It’s as simple as that.
  2. Stop procrastinating. That’s much easier said than done. Jay and I talked about our procrastinating nature Friday night. Between teaching full time, grading, magazine deadlines, and chasing a 1-year old son, it’s difficult for me to find the time to work on my novels. But I have to. You have to. Carve some time out and DO IT! This leads to my next piece…
  3. Commit to time, not pages. This was Stephen’s number 1 piece of advice for me. After my son’s to bed and the house it quiet, I need to set my alarm for three hours and JUST WRITE. You need to do the same. If in those three hours you write one page – great. If you finish two chapters – even better!
  4. We all get rejected. Jay’s first book was rejected 13 times before publication. (How ironic is the number?!) My debut novel POPPY MAYBERRY, THE MONDAY (coming out August 2016 with Tantrum Books) was rejected more times than I can even count – first, by agents, and then, by publishers. But all of those rejections led to finding my first agent, and then my current super agent Bill Contardi, and a 2-book deal!
  5. Revise. Revise. Jay said, “the genius of me is I didn’t know how bad it (my first book) was, so I sent it off to New York.” Even if you think you have the perfect manuscript or query letter or synopsis, revise it one more time. It never hurts.

Happy Writing! 🙂 Jennie @jenniekaywrites

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