Wednesday, August 10, 2011

7 WOW Wednesday: Riley Carney on the Reasons You Write

Today's WOW guest is the amazing Riley Carney, who was fifteen when she wrote THE FIRE STONE, the first book in the five-book THE REIGN OF THE ELEMENTS series, which she completed at age sixteen. Now eighteen, she has just completed an exciting new YA, urban fantasy trilogy for teens, but is also following her passion for eradicating illiteracy and poverty for children around the world. Through Breaking the Chain, the non-profit organization she created three years ago, she has raised enough money to build three schools in Africa, one in Kenya and two in Sierra Leone. Breaking the Chain has also created a children’s literacy center in a woman’s shelter in Colorado, and bought books for reaading programs in the U.S. Currently, they are focusing on a great new program called Bookin' It, which buys books for classrooms in underfunded and/or low-literacy schools in the United States, with 20,000 new books placed into high-need elementary schools already. Please support Riley and Breaking the Chain by buying her books, following her blog, and following her on Twitter. She is truly an incredible individual!

Loving to Write

by Riley Carney

Like many writers, I spent my childhood immersed in far-off lands, battling fearsome beasts, and having magical adventures. I was amazed by the power books had to pull me from reality into an imaginary world that was just as real. I wanted to create stories like the ones I read, stories that were entertaining and immersive. I wanted to create new worlds and lively characters by stringing words together on a page.

For as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to be a writer. I have written stories since I was six years old. By the time I was ten, I had set my sights on being a published writer. I wanted to write a book and to see my story in print. I wanted to share my stories so that people would get as much enjoyment out of reading them as I did from reading the stories of other writers.

People told me that I was too young, that I would have to wait until I was an adult with more experience before I would be published and, even then, it was a longshot. But I was determined to see it happen, and that desire kept me motivated and focused. For the next few years, I wrote and rewrote a story that I wanted badly to see published, but I made little real progress. It was some time before I realized I didn’t know enough about what I was creating to develop a strong story. When I was fifteen, I finally sat down and wrote a detailed outline of the story. I wrote the first draft of The Fire Stone in the following month, and I rejoiced in finishing it, believing that I had, at last, written a book.

I shared my manuscript with my family and realized very quickly that I was wrong. Writing the story was only a small part of the process. My family was incredibly supportive and they knew how important it was to me, but they were also honest and pointed out ways that I could improve my manuscript. It was agonizing at first to consider changing my book, but I came around to the idea and began to rework my story.

That was it, I thought, I was finally finished. I had written it and revised it. I sent queries to agents and publishers, hopeful and excited, but my book was still nowhere near publishing quality, and I was, of course, rejected.

After my first round of rejections, I began to doubt my abilities as a writer. It was just as everyone said – I was too young, too inexperienced. I wasn’t ready to have a book published. I still had to earn my stripes as a writer. For a while, I lost my motivation and my belief in my work, but I still couldn’t give up on my dream.

My desire to be published was both a blessing and a curse. I wanted to be published so badly that I wasn’t going to let anything prevent me from achieving my goal. That desire provided me with a powerful motivation that propelled me through, what is for me, the difficult part of the writing process; revising. Over time, though, the desire to be published had caused me to forget the reason I wanted to write a book in the first place – because I wanted to share my story. Because I loved to write.

I had been so focused on becoming a published author that I had stopped focusing on the joy of writing. What had started out as a story that I wanted to share had become a thinly plotted book that I had written purely for the goal of being published. With that thought in mind I began to revise again. This time I edited my story from a different perspective, and while I did, I fell back in love with my characters and relished their adventures again.

After many rounds of editing and revising, I decided that my story was finally polished enough to try submitting once more. I sent more queries, this time with the satisfaction of presenting a product that I knew I had put every effort into It was the realization that I needed to write for the love of writing rather than to be published that eventually resulted in publication..

Whenever I speak to students about my writing, I am inevitably asked the question of how to get published. I always tell them to write because they love to write, not because they want to be published. Only then, will the story be good enough to be read.

Throughout my journey, I have learned a great deal about the craft of writing, and I have learned a lot about myself. There is always something new that we, as writers, can learn and improve on, there is always revising that can be done, but the most potent tool a writer has is love of the craft. If you write because you love to write, then the battle has already been won.


  1. Thanks for sharing your road to publication Riley. I loved THE FIRE STONE. And it's awesome how you're promoting literacy so much. Can't wait to read your next book.

  2. Thanks for sharing that, Riley. Writers of all ages need to know that writing only for publication leads nowhere. You are so right! Your heart must be in the story. Congratulations on your books and thank you for all you do with your literacy work!

  3. This is very inspiring! :) It is very tricky sometimes to figure out our motives behind penning stories. Especially these days when I hear about authors getting book deals and books with cool, 'hook-able' ideas and movie rights. With all the eye-catching book covers and marketing, it's so easy (for me, anyway) to focus on and desire publication more than the story writing itself. But like you said, "the most potent tool a writer has is love of the craft." Thanks for sharing, Riley!

  4. Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful story with us Riley. I've been a fan for a while now. :) You are so inspiring! "If you write because you love to write, the battle is already won," love that!

  5. Good stuff, and thanks for the inspiring post! I especially love: "I had been so focused on becoming a published author that I had stopped focusing on the joy of writing." Too easy to do! And I'm glad you kept writing, and persevered. :)

  6. Riley,

    What a great story to share! I've put your book on hold at the library and will check it out.

    Best Wishes,

    PS: I think it's awesome that you're also so involved in charity work. You've got a bright future ahead of you... and not just for your writing. ;)

  7. Riley, what an inspirational story. You're proof that you can't be too old, or too young, to do what you love.


Tell us what you think. We'd love to hear from you! :)