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This blog was featured on 06/18/2019
Elin Hilderbrand on Discipline and the Most Common Mistake for Aspiring Career Writers
Written by
She Writes
June 2019
Written by
She Writes
June 2019

New York Times bestselling author Elin Hilderbrand eats, sleeps, and breathes Nantucket, the idyllic backdrop for most of her novels. This month she releases Summer of ‘69, her first historical novel, also set on the famous island.

On Setting

Hilderbrand’s love for and loyalty to Nantucket is evident, and here she describes why she’s had so much success basing her novels around this unique location:

“It’s an island, so it is contained,” she says. “There is no escaping it. Additionally, it is removed, distinct from the rest of America; and so, it has healing properties, I think. It’s that piece of America that no one thinks exists anymore. My two favorite things about it are the historic downtown with cobblestone streets and 150-year-old whaling captains’ homes and the 50 miles of pristine beach. There are no chain stores, no neon signs, no stoplights. It is an authentic place; there is no place else like it.”

This excerpt was originally published on Women on Writing. Read the full interview here.

On Advice for Aspiring Writers

Success isn’t all based on talent, she promises. It’s about dedication and completing your work, then trying again if you have to.

“There’s only one piece of advice and that is to be disciplined,” she says. “I attended the University of Iowa Writer’s workshop.  I was not the most talented writer there by any means, but I could finish. You start a piece and move forward to the end. You are persistent. And if the story or book doesn’t get published, you start something new and you finish that. That’s how you become a writer.”

This excerpt was originally published on The Reading Lists. Read the full post here.

Just get it done, she encourages young writers.

“Get something on paper, you can always go back and fix it... but I think there's a lot of fear, a lot of hesitation, trepidation in writers, because they're afraid of writing something stupid or something not good. Just get it down on paper."

This excerpt was originally published on New Hampshire Public Radio. Read the full post here.

On Writing Mistakes

New writers aspiring to make writing a career often lack a long view, observes Hilderbrand.

“They're very worried about the book that they're writing, and the characters, but I think any writer that's going to be successful is going to have a longer view. What is your follow-up to this book? What other things do you want to write about? What themes do you want to explore? Who do you want to be? When they're marketing you - because everyone has to sell their books as well, not only write them - finding an identity for yourself as a writer is really important. I'm called the "Queen of the Summer Read," and people say "does that bother you?" No! That is the path I have chosen. I knew I wanted to write about summertime on Nantucket.”

This excerpt was originally published on New Hampshire Public Radio. Read the full post here.

On Discipline

“I'm super disciplined. The first thing I do every day is I get up and I run 8 miles. I do it every day, no matter the weather, because? Why? It's a discipline,” she tells Insider.com.

“If I get up and do something difficult that I don't want to do — and it sucks every day and I don't wanna go — every single day I go, because it's a discipline I carry with me and it goes to my writing and my reading … so when I write, it doesn't matter if I am inspired, it doesn't matter if it's noisy, it doesn't matter if I'm on an airplane, or sitting in the bleachers at a baseball game. So it's discipline and then it's persistence as far as, you just have to keep doing it, and keep doing it.”

On Process

“I pack a lunch, get on my bike, and write on the beach. I spend all day writing longhand in notebooks. My books are truly beach books—they're written with sand on the pages,” she tells Coastal Living.

So where does she begin once she’s settled beachside with her pen and notepad?

“You have to start with scenes,” she says. “You have to dramatize. You have to — and you'll hear this a lot — show and not tell. When I start a book, I dive right in and start writing scenes. First, I write four pages about who the character is and what makes them tick and what makes them who they are. Right now I am writing The Identicals, about twins who live on the islands of Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard. The one on the Vineyard is a mess. The one on Nantucket is less visibly a mess, but still a mess. They switch places and try on each other's lives. I am still in the process of finding out who they are, how they act, what their particular histories are ... I am constantly going back and rereading [those four pages], and adding, and changing.”

This excerpt was originally published on Insider.com. Read the full post here.

On Reading

“A professor of mine once said: An education makes you good company for yourself.  I love this quote and that’s exactly how I feel about reading.  As long as I have a book, I will never be bored.  As long as I have a good book, my life will never be wholly bad.  My favorite comments from readers are those people who say they read my book while they were in the chemo chair, or while they were sitting bedside by a loved one in the hospital because it helped them to escape.  Reading provides nourishment for an interior life that is sometimes/often preferable to real life.  To eradicate the world of the imagination would be the end of civilization.”

This excerpt was originally published on The Reading List. Read the full post here.

Photo Credit: Nina Subin

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