Q: When brainstorming ideas for your next book do you come up with multiple ideas? How do you choose the one to push forward with?
A: I pretty much always have a number of novel ideas to play with. I tend to talk about them with Scott and my agent, Jill, as well as my editor and a few writer friends. I’ve been talking about writing a book about a compulsive liar for ages. Whenever I mentioned it people would get very enthusiastic. I was too afraid to start though cause it seemed like it would be really hard to write (I was right) so I delayed until Scott and Jill and my editor all ganged up on me. That book was Liar.
I guess I let people bully me!
Though honestly all the bullying in the world wouldn’t have gotten me going if I hadn’t finally figured out a way to write Liar. So I guess my real answer is that the book that begins to grow and make sense is the one I wind up writing.
Q: Do you have any advice for young writers?
- Don’t be in too much of a hurry to get published. Learning to write well is the main thing. If you try to publish before you’re ready you can wind up very discouraged. While you’re learning o write you should have fun with it. Try different styles, different genres, mess about, get your hands dirty!
- Read A LOT. Read and read and read and read! Think about what books you like best and try to figure out what it is about the writing that works for you. Then give it a go. Think about what books you hated and try to figure out why the writing was such a disaster. Don’t write like that.
- Write a lot.
- Learn how to critique other people’s work.
- Learn how to take criticism. If you want to be a professional writer you’re going to have to learn to take criticism and the sooner you start practicing the better!
Q: How do you write a novel?
A: I’m glad you asked. Here’s how.
Q: Why are most of your protagonists girls?
A: Er, um. I don’t actually know. It was not by design. The first novel I wrote has multiple viewpoint characters many of whom are boys. My second novel is first person from the point of view of a boy. However, neither of those books sold.
My first published novels (the Magic or Madness trilogy) have three view point characters two of whom are girls. Then How To Ditch Your Fairy is first person from the viewpoint of a girl. As is the Liar novel which will be out in (USian) autumn of 2009. So far the books I’ve written with more girl characters are the ones my publishers have wanted. We’ll see if that pattern continues.
I don’t really consciously decide to make my main characters girls or boys. Nor do I consciously make them black or white. That’s just the way they are. Once I start getting a sense of their voice I’m learning at the exact same time all those other things about them: their race, gender, ethnicity, opinion of Elvis etc.
Q: Nicolás asks: “I’m writing my first novel and i think i have a good story to tell, somethin’ that hasn’t been written at least not in Argentina. Luckyly i fell in love with my characters and their world and i hope it can get published ’cause i’d really like to get my first novel out there.
But lately i got scared, likee “oh my god what if nobody will want my book? what if i’m being naive and i’m wasting my time?” Do you have any kind of advise for these feelings i’m getting?
I believe in my story but lately i’ve been having these feelings . . . these scary feelings.”
A: Yes. I get those feelings all the time. I worry that what I write is crap more often than I like to admit.
In fact, I wrote two novels that have never been published. But I don’t think I wasted my time on them. They taught me a lot about writing. I’m still very fond of my first novel and have hopes that one day it will find a publisher. You never know.
I suspect that doubt is a part of the creative process for many writers. (Not all, though. I know at least two happy doubt-free writers.) It seems to be for me. As long as you don’t let the doubt get in the way of actually writing—which you don’t seem to be—then I wouldn’t worry about it too much.
Q: Belinda asks: “Have you and your husband ever written a book together? If not have either of you ever considered it?”
A: We haven’t, though we have written a section of a short story together that was auctioned to raise money for Clarion South. We have considered it, but so far we’ve both been way too busy with our own projects to make way for a collaborative one. Some day . . .
Q: What’s it like writing for a young adult audience?
A: I don’t feel like I wrote the Magic or Madness trilogy specifically for kids aged twelve and up (which is what a young adult audience is meant to be). I simply wrote the story of Reason Cansino the best I could. I hope it will be read by all ages. So far the books have been read and enjoyed by quite a few people who are considerably older than twelve.
I find that there’s a much bigger difference between writing fiction and non-fiction than there is between writing for kids and adults. Fiction is much, much easier. For starters: no pesky footnotes!
Q: I want to get my novel published but I’m a teenager, will publishers give me the time of day?—asked by several young writers.
A: You can find my detailed answer here. Most of it applies to aspiring writers of all ages. The short answer is that your age is irrelevant; it’s the quality of your novel that counts.
Q: I want to write a novel but I don’t know how to start. Help!
A: You are in luck. I have written an entire essay entitled, How To Write A Novel. I hope it helps.
The essay does not, however, describe how I write my novels. It’s advice aimed at a beginning writer.
Q: How do you write your novels?
A: Slower than I’d like. Annoyingly, each novel seems to demand a different method. I started out writing from the beginning to the end but more recently I’ve been writing books out of order. The more novels I write the less I seem sure of a distinct method for writing them.
Q: I’ve written a novel but it’s broken and I don’t know how to fix it? How do you rewrite?
A: Amazingly, I’ve written an essay that suggests many ways a newbie writer can tackle novel rewrites. Good luck!
Q: Brittany asks, “The devil books, must they be typed and submitted in a particular format? Or is standard Times New Roman 12pt Single spaced ok?”
A: One of the nice things about being a published author is that I submit my books electronically. Thus the font I use is irrelevant. The publisher can change it. When you’re unpublished and having to submit paper it’s best to stick to the industry standard stuff: double spaced, readable font, single-sided, etc.
For those wondering why Brittany asks about “devil books” it is because of this post where I say that books are teh devil, which they are.
Feel free to ask more questions below. I can’t promise a quick response but I definitely will answer.