Jessica Cluess Discusses Writing Tips for New Authors
Jessica Cluess is a successful young adult fantasy author with a number of published works available through Random House Children’s Books. She has run creative writing workshops for children and started her career in communications as a troubleshooter for an online radio newsgroup. As a published author, Jessica Cluess has overcome the hurdles to mainstream publication, a process many writers have said is tougher than actually writing a quality novel-length narrative.
We asked Jessica what tips she might have for aspiring writers looking to get published.
Jessica Cluess Offers 5 Tips for Aspiring Writers
The dream of the aspiring writer is a fine one, and the best of us with that instinct have made some of the finest contributions to the human ideosphere in history. But, Jessica Cluess reminds us, there are internal and external challenges to be overcome.
1. Understand the Limitations of a Creative Mind
Different people have different types of brains. Every brain type has strengths and weaknesses. Writers overwhelmingly have creative-type brains. The limitation of the creative mind type is the disinclination to systemize, to run their craft routinely each day, and to treat it like a job. It goes against your instincts, Jessica Cluess explains. But you have to figure out a way to flow with, workaround, or overcome that disinclination.
2. Turn the Millstone
Jessica Cluess says, “I sometimes think of the rotary millstone in the Conan the Barbarian movies.” She describes it as a symbol of the experience of doing daily routine work for the creative person. It feels like punishment, as it does for most people, but knowing you have stories inside of you while doing routine work feels like a cosmic insult. But, Jessica Cluess argues, we should understand and accept that something worth having must be suffered for. This is humility. It is devotion. Those are the ingredients that make dreams manifest.
3. A Little Every Day is a Lot
If you write just 100 words a day, you will have 3000 words at the end of each month. If you keep that up for years, you will be surprised how much material you can develop. It will not all be good. Maybe even most of it won’t be. That is okay. Just know, you do not have to bruise your fingertips to develop a respectable amount of material. Be kind to yourself, and do the work.
4. Have an Out-Bin
Just as you treat writing as a job, as a daily devotion, so should you regularly throw material away. You should have a quota for the out-bin. Feed your out-bin. Treat it like a demon familiar that must be fed. Throw away at least 10% of everything you produce. It’s a bit like tithing. If you throw nothing away, you will never develop what Hemingway called a “shock-proof shit detector.” Have an out-bin.
5. Be Your Own Advocate
Eventually, your daily devotion to storytelling will produce a novel-length result. When this happens, your job is to try to get it published. “Know that the publishing industry is not fair,” Jessica Cluess warns. “People will turn you down out of hand. It is political. There are gatekeepers. Profit margins rule the printed page. But you have to look at yourself as someone you must advocate for.” Think of your creative self as a charity case, and your executive self as a social worker. Pound pavement, seek allies and make your case every day. In time, the clouds will part and the sun will shine through.