The best advice I can give any aspiring writer is to practice, practice, practice your ! There are many resources and organizations to assist and tutor you. Below are links to some helpful webpages and some frequently asked questions.
- International Thriller Writers
- Mystery Writers of America
- Romance Writers of America
- Publishers Marketplace
- Asso. Of Author Representatives
- Writer Beware
- Writer’s Digest
“I have a fabulous story idea. Will you write it for me?”
I’m afraid not. My ideas must be 100% my own. Furthermore, if you feel strongly about a story idea, I encourage you to write it.
“How much research goes into a particular book? What’s involved? Where do you go for help?”
I write about things or places that interest me, so the research doesn’t become too tedious but research depends heavily on the subject matter. My goal is always to do just enough research to make it believable without getting so technical I bore my reader. With the advent of the internet and a plethora of TV crime dramas, my other goal is to get the facts right — but I’m human and mistakes happen (See this recent blog post about the research for LETHAL coming 9/2011 from GCP). I use the internet, atlases, maps, personal visits and interviews.
“I was wondering what your writing schedule is like. How many hours a day/week do you write and do you have any quirks or superstitions about writing?”
I go to work everyday just like most folks. Usually I get to the office around 9 and stay until at least 5. My favorite and most productive time to write is on the weekends when no one else is there. While I don’t have my superstitions, I am an orderly person and can’t be surrounded by mess. I like to have everything in it’s place before I start writing. I always burn a scented candle.
“How do you have time to read other books and write your own?”
Reading is my hobby, my favorite pastime, and the way I treat myself after a hard day’s work. I usually read 1-2 hours a night before going to sleep. I also own an ebook reader and read on airplanes, and any other time I have available.
“What does it take to be a bestselling author?”
From a numbers standpoint, this is really a question for a publisher or bookseller. My estimate would be that it takes the sale of thousands of copies to make a book a bestseller. Without getting too technical, it’s as much about velocity as it is about volume. But that’s only an educated guess. From a writer’s standpoint, it takes a lot of hard work.
“Do you work on more than one story at a time… Are there any books you would go back and change or rewrite?”
I only work on one book at a time. Otherwise I really would be crazy. Once I’m finished with a book, I’m finished and thinking about the next one.
“Do you name your characters when you begin the book or as you develop the story?”
Frequently, I name the characters as I begin to plot the story. They seem more real when given a name. But sometimes they’re “hero” or “heroine” or “bad guy” until I know more about them. If characteristics don’t fit the name I selected, I change it.
“Do you research material for your current novel as you write it, or do you compile it all before you begin? How long does it take you to complete a manuscript?”
I write my first draft to get the story down. Then I go through it and make a list of everything that requires research. I do all I can before I begin the second draft, so that the information I’ve gleaned can be incorporated into that draft. But often, I’m inserting new information right up until the final (usually fourth) draft is finished. From start to finish approximately six to nine months. Once the manuscript is complete, edited by myself and my publisher, then typeset, I still have to proof it.
“How to do you make your stories sound so real and not cliche? When writing, do you just go with the flow, or do you lay out the plot first?”
- You develop a technique with practice and constant rewrites (I average 4 revisions on a manuscript). This is as individual as the writer him or herself.
- I plot…but I change things as I go if I think of something better. Sometimes the plot twists surprise even me!
“How do you take a single character, issue, or setting and stretch it to 300 to 400+ pages of well-written and cleverly integrated text?
Plotting is the hardest part of writing. Unfortunately, it’s also the most essential part.
Hints: Once you’ve asked “What if?” and have that first ten pages, keep asking “What next?” And that “What next?” should be the worst thing that could happen. Continue making it worse until the character eventually finds a way to solve his problem. I also urge you to read some books on plotting, such as Strunk and White’s Conflict, Action and Suspense.
“Do you ever get writer’s block? If so, how long did/does it last?’
I’ve been stuck many times. Even after an idea is formulated, I can get snagged on a plot element that must be worked through. When I’m stuck I keep working. I’m afraid to give in to a block for fear the idea will vanish altogether.
“I know you wrote when your children were young and was wondering if you had any advice for me?”
It’s not easy! Believe me, I know. The only advice I have is that you try and set aside some time each day. It may only be an hour or two, but “commit” that time to your writing. It takes some time management but if your drive is strong enough, it can overcome even potty training!
“I’d like to know what your favorite reference books are and what you consider must-haves?”
“How to Write Bestselling Fiction” by Dean Koontz. This book is, unfortunately, out of print and very hard to find.
“On Writing” by Stephen King.
“Techniques of the Selling Writer” by Dwight Swain, University of Oklahoma Press. “Conflict, Action and Suspense” by William Noble and
“The Hero’s Journey” by Christopher Vogler.
“I’m in the middle of writing my first book, and I know how I want to end the book and how things will add up, but I can’t seem to find anything to put in between ?”
You want to try and avoid that mid-book slump, which is a common pitfall. Throw something terrible at your main character, something that will jar both the character and your readers and make them want to see it through to the end.
“When you start a new book, do you write an outline or just frewrite a rought draft first?”
I use a combination of both methods. I write a 10-15 page synopsis for my editor and publisher. This forces me to have the plot in place before I begin. I know the problem and how it will be solved. Then I put the synopsis away and rarely consult it again. As I write the first draft, I allow myself, as well as my characters, a bit of leeway.