Friday, 20 April 2012

What Christopher Paolini Teaches us about Writing

Despite his flaws, Christopher Paolini is a successful author. Creator of the Inheritance Cycle, Paolini has sold more than 25 million copies, and his books have won several awards. There are a lot of things we can take away from reading Eragon, but I’ve picked three things that I think are important.  

(Spoiler alert: be warned that there may be spoilers in this post. If you haven’t read the entire series… well, you’ve been warned.)

Age shouldn’t be a barrier: Christopher Paolini started writing Eragon after being home-schooled and graduating from high school at fifteen. Four years later, Eragon was published by Paolini’s parent’s publishing company. No matter what your opinions on self-publishing are, age shouldn’t be a barrier to being a published author. If you’re thirteen and you think you’re ready to be published, go for it. (Actually, I’d advise to be critical as to whether or not you’re really ready, but if you still think you are, go for it.) Just because your age starts with a ‘one’ doesn’t mean you can’t be as good as someone who’s twenty, thirty, or forty.

Follow your dreams: As I said, Paolini’s parents self-pubbed Eragon when Paolini was nineteen. But the author didn’t sit back and say “now just wait for the royalties to roll in”. No, he worked hard to make Eragon successful. Paolini toured over a hundred schools, library, and bookstores in the US promoting his book (along with reading in general). But not only that, he did in medieval garb. Honestly, he probably looked like a dork. A mega-dork. A Mega-King of the Dorks. But that didn’t stop him. Because Paolini had a dream of being a success author and so he followed that dream. Following our dreams isn’t always easy, but they’re dreams for a reason – because we really want them. Would you be willing to go out in public dressed as a foot soldier in the name of success?

Love doesn’t have to have a happy ending: As I was preparing this post, this lesson stood out. I posted on Wednesday that I wanted to have a romance in my fantasy novel but I didn’t know who the love interest should be, or how it would develop. So I think this lesson is important. You can have a failed relationship. Eragon and Arya’s relationship didn’t work out, and in fact I think (from a writing perspective) it’s pretty cool. It’s different not to have a happily ever after.

Your turn now. Do you agree with my points, or do you disagree? What other important lessons do you think we can take away from Christopher Paolini? Let me know in the comments!


  1. I read somewhere that he edited Eragon for a year, then self-published when he was 16, and that the traditional publishing happened when he was 19. But either way! It's still nothing to snub your nose at. ^_^

    I would totally go dressed in chain mail. XD Well, I'd probably opt for the more gender-appropriate medieval dress, but same principle. =) I do agree about not having a happy ending, though I think we should've gotten one, having to slog through all THAT. =P I believe in at least including hope for the future, so there you are.

    Anyway, I often use Christopher Paolini as a figure for encouragement. He's mega successful as a young writer, which is what inspired me to go for it in the first place at 12 years old, we write the same genre, and my writing is now objectively better! What's there to be down about?? XP

  2. Amanda: Being self-published at 16 is probably right. I got my info from Wikipedia, so your source is probably more accurate! And you're right, he is a good source of encouragement for young writers. Thanks for reading!!

  3. Good post!
    I didn't know he toured in chainmail! I was only vaguely aware he toured at all, actually. That does up my respect for him. Knowing he wasn't just being pampered by his parents, but that he was actually working for it...I am proud of him! :P
    I HAVEN'T read the last one, so it was a spoiler. *shrugs* I'll live. Probably won't remember it by the time I DO read the book. XD But yeah. I want to experiment around in my next books with all sort of scenarios and outcomes for love subplots. My characters will hate me. *grin*

    1. I'm not sure it was chainmail, but more of a... I don't know what you'd call it. Medieval street-wear? Thanks for your comment!