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This blog was featured on 11/27/2019
Writing Advice from 2018’s Bestselling Female Authors
Written by
She Writes
October 2018
Written by
She Writes
October 2018

We have been fortunate to have an incredibly good year in book releases. Women writers are taking over the world! If you dream of one day hitting that NYT bestseller list or just seeing your name on the cover of a book, we’ve tracked down some great tips from women who are rocking publishing in 2018.

Kristin Hannah, The Great Alone

In an interview with USA Today, we get to see two vibrant sides of the internationally bestselling author of The Nightingale. We see the power and conviction in her work, but we also see that not even the biggest authors go into projects 100% confident and ready.

Q: Do you feel women’s stories are overshadowed and overlooked? How can fiction correct that oversight?

Hannah: Yes, I do, and it’s become sort of a passion of mine to bring them to the forefront. I think that’s the gift that Nightingale gave me, and I think it’s why readers are responding to the book so much.

Q: You wrote a novel after The Nightingale that you abandoned, correct?

Hannah: Yes, it was a wholly different version of The Great Alone. It was always set in Alaska, but it just took me a while to find this story. It was complex, it was emotionally layered, and I was not quite sure after Nightingale who I was as a writer. When you’re writing for years and years and years and then all of a sudden you have a book that changes who you are as a writer and your perception and how many people are reading you, I felt a great pressure to write a better book. That was very daunting. Because it felt like, “Wow, maybe I should just retire, maybe this is as good as it’s going to get.” It took me a while to just realize, "Wait a second, do what you do. You write about strong women, you write about interesting times, you write stories that you can’t put down. Just keep doing that.”

As a writer, you have both the power to change the world and permission to be stuck for a while. If while you’re writing, you haven’t quite found your groove yet, the only thing that matters is to keep writing until you’ve unearthed the story you want to tell.

Tomi Adeyemi, Children of Blood and Bone

Tomi Adeyemi hit what most would consider to be the publishing lottery: a 7-figure book deal. Since the release of Children of Blood and Bone, though, she has proven to be more than deserving of this appearing on all the major media outlets with a message that is big, bold and new.

Her book uses fantasy as a means to shed light on the vast landscape of cultural and racial issues in modern day life. At it’s core though, Tomi had one major driving factor during the writing process that she shared in an interview with Mashable.

“I want people to know that first and foremost, this is a great story. And I had to come out of thinking you can’t call your own story great. It IS great, so let's just be Kanye West for a second.

There is a lot of conversation about what the book means and what its significance is, but to me, the author’s job, no matter what you want to get across in your book, is to deliver a great story. That is what this is.”

Tessa Fontaine, The Electric Woman: A Memoir in Death-Defying Acts

Tessa Fontaine’s memoir of literally running off and joining a circus was a big hit among readers this year. And though you not be one for eating fire, in a discussion with Elle, Tessa talks about bravery: a virtue every aspiring artist needs.

“It does hurt to eat fire, you know—it does hurt to have your mom dying. But bravery is just a matter of doing the thing, even though you're scared. It's not that you stop feeling scared—it's just that you do it anyway,” says Fontaine.

Fatima Farheen Mirza, A Place for Us

When talking to Read it Forward about her book, the first to be published by Sarah Jessica Parker’s new imprint, Fatima shared intimate details about her writing process. For fiction authors, she hits specifically on the line between real life and creation.

"RIF: Is there anything that’s autobiographical, or is it completely invented?

FFM: I don’t think anything can be completely invented. It’s both a novel that is deeply personal to me, and one that doesn’t look anything like my life when you to consider the facts. The novel isn’t autobiographical because the characters took on their own lives, they acted in ways that I never acted, but through them, the heart of it is very personal. Or through the questions they’re asking as they interact with one another, the very questions that I’ve been asking my whole life, without being really aware until I started writing."

Chloe Benjamin, The Immortalists

In an interview with POPSUGAR, the author of one of the first big breakout books of the year, shared a lot of tips about her writing routine and inspiration for the book. However, her final address to readers is one all writers can consider, especially those in the She Writes community.

PS: And finally, what message would you want to give to POPSUGAR readers?
CB: Well, I think what we're seeing culturally right now is how important it is for women to feel empowered in pursuing their dreams and speaking up about injustice. And I would just encourage them to trust themselves, to go for what it is they want and deserve and to be kind to each other in the process — because it's a hard world, and I think women helping women is one of the best things that we have.”

Meg Wolitzer, The Female Persuasion

Meg Wolitzer is a prized literary staple and her latest release appears to have come out at the exact right time. One of the greats among a whole slew of politically progressive novels and nonfiction works, Wolitzer had actually started the book long before the current tide. At her story’s core, are the things that really matter and that’s why they are so applicable, she told The Guardian.

“All you are going for is what feels human, and it transcends a political moment, it predates a political moment, it’s like what happens between people, in this case between women.”

Besides which, she says, “the idea of fashion and novels seems so strange anyway. The truth is that you really write what preoccupies you. And if you don’t do that, you’re missing an opportunity. Students will say, ‘What’s a good idea for a book? Is this a good idea?’ To which I would say: do you lie awake thinking about this, and if the answer is ‘yes’, I feel fairly hopeful that it can be fashioned into something that’s meaningful to the writer.”

Celeste Ng, Little Fires Everywhere

Celeste Ng is what most would consider an “overnight success” but as is so often the case, her rise to bestseller took a huge leap of faith and a lot of hard work as she described to Shondaland.

Melissa Hung: I’m interested in your journey to becoming a writer. There’s a lot of uncertainty, especially at the beginning of your career when you don’t know how your work’s going to be received. Was there a moment that you decided, "Yes I’m going to be a writer"? I imagine it takes a lot of bravery.

Celeste Ng: (laughs) I was just laughing at the idea of bravery because I feel it’s more like pigheaded desperation. [For] a lot of my early years, I didn’t think that writer was something you could do as a job. I always thought I was going to do something else and write on the side. It wasn’t until I started working in publishing and I realized that really wasn’t the job for me that a mentor said, "You keep saying that writing is going to be on the side. Why don’t you try and switch it?"

I looked at my savings and I went, "OK, I need to try this." I went to grad school and then I said, "I have this amount of time that I can afford to try and finish drafts of a novel and if I can’t, then I’ll have to figure out something else to do. But I’m going to at least see if I can get a book together." And so I think that was the moment where I was like, "This is the sink-or-swim moment."

MH: And of course your first book was super successful. Was writing the second book different for you?

CN: It was. I should clarify that when I finished that first draft [of the first book], it was not anything like the book that finally got published. It went through four more revisions. So it did take a long time. But being able to finish the manuscript, even in a very rough stage, made me think it was possible to finish a book. It took a lot more work before that novel actually became Everything I Never Told You.

Photo Credit: Tomi Adeyemi, Celeste Ng, Kristin Hannah

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