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Bestselling YA author Marissa Meyer details her career in writing

The No. 1 New York Times best selling author spoke with an Insider about her career.
<a href="https://highschool.latimes.com/author/sydneygaw/" target="_self">Sydney Gaw</a>

Sydney Gaw

December 18, 2021
In the words of novelist George R. R. Martin, a reader lives a thousand lives through the characters and stories they become deeply invested in. Less is known, however, about the creative authors behind our favorite works of fiction. It takes more character than an imagination to write — hard work, determination and consistency among them. Being a successful author proves an impressive feat, especially in a constantly evolving industry.

For #1 New York Times Bestselling author Marissa Meyer, writing provided a creative outlet that eventually became the foundation of her career. Meyer, who has authored over 14 books, including the acclaimed sci-fi fantasy series “The Lunar Chronicles,” the “Renegades” trilogy and her newest release “Gilded,” which discusses the progression of her career from writing student to published author as well as her experience in the publishing industry.

“I always wrote. I was always writing stories since the time when I was a little kid,” Meyer said in an interview. “Growing up, I would dabble in poetry, short stories, plays…all sorts of things.”

Like many young people, Meyer first explored creative writing through fanfiction, a facet of story crafting that builds off of existing characters and literary universes. Through fanfiction writing, Meyer developed a distinct style that inspired her later works.

“I wrote [fanfiction] for years, and at that point, it was still a hobby, but I definitely had started to dream about someday being published,” Meyer said. “Then, I attempted to write my first novel when I was 16 and spen[t] the next ten years going back and forth between trying to write an original novel and writing fanfiction.”

During this period, Meyer attended Pacific Lutheran University and earned a bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing and Children’s Literature and later, a master’s in Publishing from Pace University. Despite her clear passion for creative writing, Meyer still had to overcome doubts about pursuing it as a career.

“You hear so many stories about how so few writers make it and how even if you do end up getting published, the chances of living off that are small,” Meyer said. “Still, every time we talked about authors, I felt really strongly that I wanted to be the author in this scenario, not the editor, not the publicist.”

It was with this mentality that Meyer completed her first novel “Cinder” and started querying literary agents for representation. After receiving a mix of acceptance and rejection letters, Meyer signed with the first agent she queried: Jill Grinberg. Not long after, the publishing company Feiwel & Friends bought “Cinder,” the primary novel of “The Lunar Chronicles.”

However, Meyer notes that not all publishing journeys are as streamlined as hers. Oftentimes, it can take months or even years for a book to reach the bookstores. Given this general timeline, Meyer was surprised how fast “Cinder” was able to reach the shelves.

“There’s a lot of steps, and not every book follows the same path,” Meyer said. “Because I was so familiar with how the industry works, and I knew about the statistics, I really went into the querying process feeling like I was emotionally prepared for [rejection].”

While querying can prove the most stubborn obstacle for many writers, Meyer’s unique writing style and plot concept immediately drew the interest of agents and publishers. She acknowledges the importance of knowing what one’s writing strengths are and utilizing a writing process that works well individually. For Meyer, this means writing up plot charts and novel outlines.

“I love to do outlines, and the extent to which I include details in the outline varies for each book,” Meyer said. “I know ‘Winter’ had a very detailed outline — probably sixty pages, and it was really broken down in each scene. For ‘Instant Karma’ and ‘Fairest,’ I still started with a plan, but I didn’t need to break it down for every single chapter.”

Equally important to the writing process is the balance between writing and the other facets of life. In addition to writing full-time, Meyer also homeschools her twin daughters, Sloane and Delaney, and trains for long-distance runs.

“We have to think of ourselves as complete people,” Meyer said. “Being a writer might be a huge part of your identity, but it can’t be the only part of your identity. I’m constantly trying to find ways to bring more balance and energy into my life.”

When considering a full-time writing career, Meyer stresses the importance of time management and organization. Although writing full-time offers a relatively flexible schedule, it can be hard to take a break when there are no enforced work boundaries. 

“There are days when I feel like I’ve got this…and then there are days when you never know how it’s going to be,” Meyer said. “I do attempt to have a plan and stay organized. I’m one of those people where I like to live a very full life and I have many interests, many responsibilities. When you love everything you do, you find a way to balance it all.”

Like with any job, the circumstances are subject to change. Throughout the past decade, Meyer has learned to adapt to the lifestyle of a writer, balancing her family life with her work while also maintaining a creative rhythm.

With the release of her latest novel, “Gilded,” Meyer looks forward to whatever other opportunities writing will bring.

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