For Writers

Dearest Writers,

I’m starting to get a number of emails and messages asking for advice on writing (what? you want advice from me?). It takes a lot of time to reply individually, time that I need to spend writing! So I’ve put the collection of questions and answers here. If you don’t see your question here, feel free to contact me, but understand that I may not have time to answer right away. I’ll likely updated this page and send you a link.

I want to be a writer? Do you have any advice for me?

Write. You have to write. Everyday. And you have to read. Read deeply. Read with the eyes of a student. You’re looking to learn from the books you read. And read your own work with those same eyes. You’re looking to improve your writing. Also, read books on craft. I recommend The Anatomy of Story by John Truby and Story by Robert McKee. I read these two books over and over again. I’ve even paid a bundle to fly overseas to meet them and learn from them in person at one of their workshops. Their books (and workshops) are cheap compared to what you’ll learn.

I want to be a writer. Can you read something I’ve written?

I’m afraid I don’t have time. Find a writing class or group near you or make friends with other writers on the net and swap pieces to critique.

Where do you get your story ideas?

From everywhere. Start really looking and listening. Get curious about everything. Who? What? Where? Why? Figure out what makes you happy or angry. Write about that. It means you’re passionate about it.

But how do you come up with some of your plot details or settings in your fantasies? Seriously, do you take acid?

No drugs! I always take the time to go through each scene and I ask myself a few questions: how can I make this scene more thrilling/surprising/original? What would make this setting more interesting?
When you start asking yourself questions (instead of saying “I don’t know how to…”) then you’ll be surprised at how your subconscious mind will answer.

How do you silence all the other creativity in your head and focus on one story? I’m having difficulty focusing on one story line and have a journal full of Ideas but the one i want to tell is being drowned out.

1. sometimes what you’re getting excited about (via multiple projects) is actually a similar theme/character type/plot point. If you can tease out what the ‘Thing’ is that you’re actually excited about, you can often discard the peripheral projects and focus on the Exciting Thing in your main project.
2. sometimes the reason you’re excited about multiple projects is that they should all be in the ONE project. So for example, I had an idea for an ‘unlikely lovers on a road-trip’ novel and I also had an idea for a character I just loved in a fantasy setting. It all made sense (and made the story richer/deeper/better) when I realized that these these two ‘stories’ were actually ONE = interesting fantasy character goes on road trip with unlikely lover.
3. then sometimes this is another way your pesky brain uses as an excuse to PROCRASTINATE. (But it’s a good form of procrastination, right? multiple stories? NO.) This is actually the toughest, because reasons for procrastination occur for various deep-seeded reasons (fear of failure, not good enough syndrome, etc) and may take some time to weasel out. And sometimes procrastination occurs because there’s something that you haven’t figured out for your story (ie: character not quite right, plot hole, etc).
Unfortunately I can’t tell you which of 1-3 (or combination) you’re facing. You’ll have to figure that one yourself