8 Latino Authors Share Their Best Writing Advice For National Novel Writing Month

November marks National Novel Writing Month, a call-to-action that challenges aspiring writers to pen a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. Are you taking the NaNoWriMo plunge? Before you write a single word, read these words of wisdom from eight of our favorite Latino authors: 

MORE: 13 Young Adult Authors To Know

1. Daniel José Older

What's your best piece of advice for aspiring writers?

Find your own rhythm and ritual for writing and trust it. Experts constantly tell us “If you don’t write every day you’re not a writer,” “If you don’t have an MFA or a book published, you’re not a writer.” Eff that. If you write, you’re a writer. I promise you I don’t write every day. What stops us from writing is shame, not inconsistency. Eliminate shame from your process and embrace your own way of moving.

What books inspired you to become a writer?

The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz. Wild Seed by Octavia Butler. The Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling. On Writing by Stephen King. Six Easy Pieces by Walter Mosley. 

What’s the best piece of advice you've received about writing?

When you finish one piece and send it out, start another. It’s helpful because I hate waiting, and I love working on something new, so it keeps things moving along while stuff works its way through the system. Publishing is slow, and children’s publishing is way slow. Staying in a creative space alleviates the waiting anxiety. But make sure you rest in between and live your life.  

Why does the world need more Latinx voices in literature? 

Because mainstream publishing has kept us silent for so long, and when we do show up in literature it’s so often as cheap stereotypes, we still haven’t achieved the full scope of our humanity in the world of books. The time is now. 

Shadowshaper, $12.18, Amazon

2. Adam Silvera

How do you get into a good mental space for writing? I clear all my emails for the day, then I write in peace! I usually go for a walk, set my goal for the day (ex: write 1,400 words or finish this chapter) and then write. 

What's your best piece of advice for aspiring writers? Build a routine and treat it as seriously as you would showing up to any other job. Books don't get written by watching Netflix. 

What books inspired you to become a writer? Harry Potter, of course, even though I'm not writing fantasy novels — yet! There were very human conflicts in that story, which I think speaks to the book's universality and success.  

More Happy Than Not, $13.40, Amazon

3. Valerie Tejeda

How do you get into a good mental space for writing? I personally really like to listen to music, because it helps me to get lost in the world which I'm trying to create. Listening to music has always been a place I go to escape from the world, so doing this before working on a project is super helpful for me.

What's your best piece of advice for aspiring writers? Write every day and read as much as you can, because practice definitely makes perfect when it comes to writing a book.  Also, don't worry so much about what everybody else is doing. Write the story you want to write. Tell the story you want to tell. Be authentic and be yourself, and this will shine through in your work.

What books inspired you to become a writer? I think a lot of books inspired me to become a writer especially the Harry Potter series, Nancy Drew, and believe it or not, the Twilight series. I think reading Twilight was the first time I saw how fun it was to lose yourself in a magical world within our world. I just love the idea of supernatural things happening in every day life, so I always wanted to write a story like of that nature like Hollywood Witch Hunter.

Hollywood WItch Hunter, $3.82 (Kindle), Amazon

4. Christina Diaz Gonzalez

How do you get into a good mental space for writing?

I always try to start my writing day by reviewing and revising a little bit of whatever I was working on the last time I closed my laptop. If it is a brand new project, then I spend some time reading and doing research on that new idea…just to get the brain synapses firing. 

What's your best piece of advice for aspiring writers?

Be open to all that life has to offer because inspiration— the key to writing a great book— can be found in so very many places. My own stories have been influenced by paying attention to family history, learning about art, watching movies, reading about historical events, travelling to new places and having a healthy imagination.

What’s the best piece of advice YOU’VE received about writing? 

The best piece of advice I’ve been given is: that it is always easier to revise a poorly written page, than a blank page. If you get stuck, just keep writing…you can always go back and fix it later.

Why does the world need more Latinx voices in literature?

We need more Latina voices because our experiences are unique and merit being shared with the world. Since I write for children and young adults, I believe it is extremely important that Hispanic children see themselves in the stories they read and are able to find a cultural commonality with the characters that they love. I also believe that it is equally important for non-Hispanic children to see that the hero of a great story can be of any race or ethnicity.  

Moving Target, $12.78, Amazon

5. Pam Muñoz Ryan

How do you get into a good mental space for writing? I don't have a requisite "good mental space for writing." If I'm working on a project, I show up, no matter my attitude. I sit down to write. I sit down to work. For me, momentum is far more important than inspiration. It's in the revisiting, revising, and rereading the manuscript where I find the motivation to move forward. For me, that impetus only comes from not letting up, day after day, week after week.

What's your best piece of advice for aspiring writers? Spend at least as much time studying the craft of writing and practicing writing, as you spend studying the profession of publishing.

What books inspired you to become a writer? I didn't become a writer until after I married and my four children were born. By then, I was an obsessive reader, so it's hard to pinpoint . Some of my favorite books on writing are Zen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity by Ray Bradbury; A Field Guide to Writing Fiction by A.B. Guthrie, Jr.; One Writer's Beginnings by Eudora Welty; The Opposite of Fate by Amy Tan.

What's your writing schedule? I prefer to write in my home office on the computer. I have two monitors which are helpful. I like to have my old falling-apart thesaurus and other resource books handy. I'm a morning person. When I'm working on a project, I will start writing as early as 5:30 a.m. I have a confession. I've never imposed a daily word count or pages-to-complete on myself.  Not once.  (I don't actually know the word count of any of my novels. I've never kept track.) When I first begin a novel, I start in a scene with some of the characters.  I always have that opening scene in mind. Each time I sit down to write, I try to move the story forward toward the resolution I want at the end of the story. Initially, all the things that happen between that first scene and the resolution is a mystery to me. As the story unveils, I'm as surprised as my characters. My writing is more of an evolution than a process. No playlists. When I'm working, my mind is too noisy.

Esperanza Rising, $4.40, Amazon

6. Kiera Cass

How do you get into a good mental space for writing? I write in two places: my office and my local Panera (which I lovingly called my office until I actually got one). And I listen to a lot of the same music. I sometimes use things like smell, too. This year was the first time I had to switch between narrators, so I got a different lotion for each of them and only use one when I'm working with that person. Part of what keeps things fun!

What's your best piece of advice for aspiring writers? Daydream often! It's hard to create if you don't leave space in your day to let yourself daydream.

What books inspired you to become a writer? I don't know about specific books, but I definitely owe a high five to Stephanie Meyer (Twilight). She made it sound so easy to get a book published, like anyone could do it. Going through it, I know it's a bit harder than it looks, but I don't think I would have tried if she hadn't made it seem possible.

Do you have any writing playlists? And my writing schedule looks a lot like a cat chasing a laser beam. I just try to jump on the words whenever they come.

The Selection, $6.35, Amazon

7. Melissa Grey

What's your biggest piece of advice for fellow writers and aspiring writers? Keep writing. Trust your gut. Sometimes, you'll write things that aren't good. That doesn't mean they weren't worth writing, because you have to write a lot of crap before you write something good. You're not ever going to sit down and have great work pour out of you. It's like any other art, you have to practice, practice, practice and trust your gut to determine, 'Am I ready to be published? Or am I ready to have another set of eyes look at my writing?' I think working on your instincts is really, really important, because at the end of the day, it's just you and the blank page. You have to be able to stand by your work and trust in yourself to be able to create something. I think that's something that comes from writing, writing, writing and practicing. 

The Girl At Midnight, $12.44, Amazon

8. Anna-Marie McLemore

How do you get into a good mental space for writing? I think about where I want the story to go in the time I’ll be writing. Having a sense of what’s ahead helps get me ready.

What's your best piece of advice for aspiring writers? Take in other art whenever you can — books, visual art, music, plays, movies that inspire you. It helps your brain rest, and gives you creative energy. 

What books inspired you to become a writer? Nella Larsen’s Passing, Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince, and Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate

What’s the best piece of advice you've received about writing? That if you’re not reading work that inspires you, your writing will end up, well, uninspiring. If I’m not reading books I love, I don't have as much of that raw passion for words.

The Weight Of Feathers, $11.21, Amazon