Pep Talk from Nancy Yi Fan

photo of Nancy Yi Fan

Hi, fellow young writer!

I know what you're going through. I started Swordbird, my first work, when I was in fifth grade; I've been writing ever since, through middle school, and now in high school. I know the excitement of creating your very own world, but also the feeling of having school and other things interfere. Just when I need time to work on my story the most, you grumble to yourself, my teachers sense it telepathically and line up a stampede of tests.

Perhaps you suffer from authoritis—school is sponging up your creative mental energy, leaving you baffled about where the story should go next. Sometimes, an initial outline or plan for your story simply is inadequate, and the theme seems to have shifted. Or the story is already winding down at ten pages. You're not sure where to begin to pick apart and solve the problem.

Whenever my story comes to a halt, I know I need to take a look at my characters. I refresh my grasp of each with several quick questions: "What does this character want? Did s/he get it already? Did s/he encounter trouble? What are this character's biggest fears? (Will s/he overcome just one fear or all of them, in the near future?)" Sometimes, I find that my characters simply obtained something they wanted, and no longer had much to do. I explore ways to send my characters back into action again.

Imagine you are at school, in a class where nothing is going on, and everybody is slumped in seats. Suddenly, the teacher and a student start arguing. You sit up, straight and attentive. You want to know what's going on. Will the teacher or student win? Perhaps the teacher says something persuasive or it is the student's demeanor that makes you take one person's side over the other. There is a purpose, a struggle, and it is something very much like writing a story.

If the pacing in your story slows down, maybe you need to shake things up. Explore what happens when your character's fears come true, or when your characters collide. But remember, every time you come to a stop, it's really a sign that you're at the brink of possibilities. You just have to step back a little and enjoy the ride!

– Nancy Yi Fan

Nancy Yi Fan is the New York Times bestselling teen author of Swordbird, a fantasy novel she started writing when she was ten, and Sword Quest, a sequel to Swordbird. Birds, a lifelong passion of the author’s, provided the inspiration for her novels. When she isn’t talking and writing to readers worldwide, Nancy gets straight A’s in school, practices martial arts, and takes very good care of her pet lovebirds. She lives in Florida with her parents and is working on her third book, Sword Mountain.