So You Want To Be a Writer.

I had a high school student email me with a bunch of questions about writing, so I thought I’d share them and my answers.

 

*What is the job really like? Well, no one tells you how much marketing is part of it. I’ve always found that many writers are by nature fairly introspective- we want to spend our time just imagining things into existence on the page. However, when you start your agent search, and then after that when editors get involved, they look at your involvement on social media as part of their consideration. Someone who maintains an active Twitter, FB, and blog they believe has a built-in fan base. When I signed my contract with my publishing company, I had to fill out a questionnaire on my marketing plan. Related: book tours aren’t as profitable for the industry these days with newer authors, so they send you on blog tours instead. This means you can expect to spend hours answering questions (often the same ones) and pulling excerpts and doing “character interviews” for various book blogs.

*Pros and cons of a writing career: Pros- it’s an infinitely varied and exciting job. You can literally do anything you want. Travel, commit crimes, fight crime, fall in love, develop superpowers- all through your characters. I also think by and large the community is extremely supportive (although for you as a fantasy writer, I have to say there have been a lot of accusations of misogyny there. As crummy as it is, it may be worth considering doing the JK Rowling thing when you query, so your gender isn’t as noticable.) Cons- there are zero guarantees. You may or may not get an agent who may or may not sell your work, which may or may not sell to the public. The percentage of writers who survive on that alone is depressingly small. That being said, when writing’s something to look forward to after your day job, it maintains a bit more allure than when you have to get up every day and treat it like you would an office job.

*What kind of viewpoint do I prefer to write in? I tend to prefer third person past because it lets you, as you said, flesh out the story a bit more. You aren’t tied to one person’s observations, and you get to observe them more closely than most characters would examine themselves. However, the last two books I’ve done have been in first person present and the writing goes much more quickly that way. It also gives a sense of immediacy that works better for certain stories.

*My favorite thing to do when writing a story is jokes. And Easter eggs. I have a couple good friends who read everything I write before anyone else, and if they text or call laughing or saying “I see what you did there!” I am satisfied.

*How do I get romance to work? I learned this trick from my co-writer, who was a theater major. In every play (or book) your main character wants something- be it a job, a victory, or a love. You have to imagine a string connecting your character to their desire. And then keep it taut. So for example in romance, once the characters meet, their thoughts continually drift to one another, even if they fight it. Especially if they fight it! They’ll order a coffee, and idly wonder if the other takes cream, or smell perfume on a passer-by that instantly reminds them of The Night They Met, or whatever. Wherever the object on the other end of their string goes, your character will follow. Also, witty banter. Insta-love only goes so far, especially when you can’t see the chemistry.

*How do I get inspiration for romance? A combination of asking what-if and being a fangirl, mostly. I wrote a short story once based on a real-life brief relationship I’d had- what if it had been more? My first published book was based on a craigslist ad where a guy advertised for a matchmaker. What if the matchmaker turned out to be his match? Or then, the second book was “What if You’ve Got Mail was modernized and kind of mashed up with the movie Once?” The one I’m working on now is, “What if 21 Jump St was romantic AND funny and also smashed into Never Been Kissed?” I know people who write heroes based on celebrities just so they can pretend to fall for them.

*Do I have any writing tips? Firstly, READ. Read constantly. Read in your genre, but also outside of it. Read non-fiction and fiction. All of it makes you a better writer. Second, and I am saying this as someone who was an English major- being an English major won’t necessarily teach you much about writing. My co-writer’s theater degree was much more applicable- they do character studies and all that immersion in acting really helps you get inside a character’s head- plus you get familiar with pacing and structure. In English you learn how to be a reader, with some writing experience; in theater you learn to be a writer, a director, and an actor. Much more well-rounded. However, if (and reasonably so) you are concerned about real-life applications of a degree like that (although the business world loves good public speakers!) a History major also helps you draw connections and see the narratives in a way that is particularly appropriate for a fantasy writer. Third- make some writer friends who can help critique you. The QueryTracker website has a forum where you can find critique partners. Fourth- READ some more!

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