Pep Talk from Markus Zusak

photo of Markus Zusak

Hello Writers,

It's always a bit strange to be asked for writing advice, or for a pep talk. Don't get me wrong---it's an honor and not something I take lightly. It's more just the fact that my own writing is a process of stumbling around in the dark for long periods of time. Half the time I have no idea what I'm doing myself. If the people who paid me saw the way I work, they would walk away shaking their heads, vowing never to pay me again.

What? He's fallen asleep again? He's gone surfing instead? He's making
another music compilation? If he thinks that'll make him write better, think
better, or be more disciplined, he's kidding himself.

At this point, I have no idea where you're up to with your work, but it's safe
to say that no matter where it is, it's probably no picnic. If you're near the
end, don't look back! Get ready for a long night and that great moment when
you write the last line that's been itching away inside you all this time.
If you’re in the middle, the fight is probably getting harder. It’s definitely
very rough in there, and it’s dark, but I usually find that each chapter is a
new beginning, a new way, a different piece to hang in front of the eyes of
people who might someday read it.

If you’re starting all over again with a different voice, different plot, or
different title, you’re the bravest of them all.

If I've learned one small thing over the last seventeen years, it's that the
writer who says it's easy is not to be trusted. They're either lying or they're
probably not writing anything that will stand the test of time. I personally
found writing easier when I first started, but that's because I was just
churning out copies of my favorite books. The original ideas take time. They
take failure and more time. Still, that probably doesn't help you at this
moment, given that I'm pretty sure you've got a deadline. Some help I've

At the end of the day, forget the deadline as best you can. Forget you're
entering your work in any kind of public setting. Forget that any of that
matters; it doesn't. Nothing matters except the story. The audience doesn't
care about it. It doesn't care about you. You can only please them by
ignoring them. What do you want your characters to do to you? How are
they going to please you? Are you going to remember them after the last
word is written? That's all I would try to do. We make things so
complicated, but it all comes from one simple hope.

Lastly, you might not make it in time. You know that, don't you? That, if
nothing else, is the best reason to keep going. I never finished anything when
I first started writing. I never won a single writing competition either, and I
ended up being a writer. It's the time you spend alone that counts. That's all I
can say: forget everything except the story. That'll do.

Best Always,

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Markus Zusak is the award-winning, #1 bestselling author of The Book Thief, I Am the Messenger, Fighting Ruben Wolf, and Getting the Girl. His newest, much-anticipated novel, Bridge of Clay, will release in October 2018. He lives in Sydney, Australia, with his wife and children. Learn more about Markus at

Markus Zusak is available for select speaking engagements. To inquire about a possible appearance, please contact the Penguin Random House Speakers Bureau at