Writing Advice from John Green

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It’s been a little while since John Green has released a book. His massive bestseller The Fault in our Stars came out back in 2012. This is what he had to say about his absence on reddit: “I also don’t want to publish until I’ve written something I can feel proud of. That hasn’t happened yet. Hopefully I’ll make more progress soon.” So I guess fans will have to wait a little while longer.

I’ve only read a couple of his books, and while I loved them both I don’t know if I’m an outright fan. Mostly because I feel weird being in my mid-thirties and calling myself a John Green fan. If you Google “John Green fan” I guarantee you’ll see pictures of some young people who wouldn’t want to be standing next to me in line at his next book release.

While I refuse to call myself a fan, I can admit that John Green is pretty great at what he does. His books are a pleasure to read, and, more importantly, they get people reading. That impresses me, and it should impress you too, regardless of how you feel about YA fiction. Most of his books have won awards, and I’m positive that everything he’s ever written will eventually end up on the big screen. (In fact, Green just announced that Looking For Alaska will be the next film adaptation.) Since we can all learn a thing or two from someone as successful as Green, I thought I’d look around for some writing advice from the man himself.

On writer’s block. 
“I just give myself permission to suck. I delete about 90% of my first drafts (the only exception to this rule so far has been Will Grayson, Will Grayson) so it doesn’t really matter much if on a particular day I write beautiful and brilliant prose that will stick in the minds of my readers forever, because there’s a 90% chance I’m just gonna delete whatever I write anyway. I find this hugely liberating. I also like to remind myself of something my dad said to me once in re. writers’ block: ‘Coal miners don’t get coal miners’ block.’”
(Source: John Green)

On writing for yourself.
Don’t make stuff because you want to make money — it will never make you enough money. And don’t make stuff because you want to get famous — because you will never feel famous enough. Make gifts for people — and work hard on making those gifts in the hope that those people will notice and like the gifts. Maybe they will notice how hard you worked, and maybe they won’t — and if they don’t notice, I know it’s frustrating. But, ultimately, that doesn’t change anything — because your responsibility is not to the people you’re making the gift for, but to the gift itself.
(Source: Brain Pickings)

On where to find inspiration.
“I’m very, very lucky as a writer to have so many readers in my life. Like, readers I can connect to through Twitter or Tumblr or YouTube or whatever, so I can read their comments and their posts about what interests them and what’s difficult for them, what they care about, how they care about it. That’s my biggest inspiration: that community of readers.”
(Source: Huffington Post)

On finishing your book.
“I am usually pretty disappointed with the book when I finally turn in the last draft and hear that I can’t revise it any further. I worry a lot that no one will like it and that I’ve failed and that I haven’t lived up to the story. Then when it comes out there’s a weird adjustment and I find myself really protective of the book and increasingly proud of it. Then after a while it settles into ambivalence for me, to be totally honest. I still feel proud of the books I’ve written, but they also feel very *finished* to me. They belong to their readers now, which is a great thing–because the books are more powerful in the hands of my readers than they could ever be in my hands.”
(Source: John Green)

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