FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS FROM WRITERS
(Stay tuned -- this page will be updated soon!)
I often receive questions from aspiring writers, and after a time a pattern emerges, giving me a fairly good idea what sort of questions most of you have. So I hope you find this area interesting and informative.
How do I get started?
If you're asking that question in a business/technical sense, take a look at my Basic Primer for Aspiring Writers. If you mean creatively, you get started by putting your butt in the chair and writing. Seriously, if you have stories demanding to be told, they will find a way out of you. Your job is to sit in the chair and do the time: Write.
Will creative writing courses help me?
They didn't help me. They help some people. Your mileage will vary. One of the tricks to becoming a working writer is to find out what does work for you. And nobody else can do that for you.
How about books on writing?
Again, whether such resources work for you is something you'll have to discover for yourself. They help some people, but not everyone. One bit of advice: Don't go running after every writing "fad" book or program—hoping to find the magic secret to becoming a writer. There is no secret. And I've known writers to waste years looking for one rather than putting in the chair time to actually practice and produce.
Any advice for aspiring writers?
Read. Read a lot. Read everything you can get your hands on. If there's a local writer's group, join it. If you're reading this online, you have access to a huge resource of bulletin boards and various groups: use it. There are also national writer's organizations that do offer membership to aspiring writers; check those out. And write. Write a lot. Keep a journal if that helps you; it does some writers. Watch movies and TV, looking at character and plot. Drive your friends crazy by figuring out whodunnit during a murder mystery. Have a favorite book? Break it down by plot and character until you understand how it was put together. Do the same thing for movies. Teach yourself to think like a writer, to mentally ask yourself "what if ..." and begin spinning a story whenever you encounter an interesting situation or person. And after you've written something you think might sell to a publisher, go out and get yourself a current edition of The Writer's Market, which contains all the info you need on how to prepare and submit a manuscript. And good luck!
Are there any secrets or shortcuts to getting published?
No. Trust me on this; I've been writing more than twenty years, and I've known lots of writers who made it — and lots who didn't. The only secrets I know of are hard work, patience, talent, and a smidgen of luck.
Do you accept students or do any mentoring?
No, sorry. Since I make my living writing, and since I'm under contract to a publisher that expects me to concentrate on my obligations to them, I don't have the time or excess creative energy left over to teach.
Do you ever read unpublished manuscripts?
Sorry again, but no. Apart from the lack of time and leftover creative energy I mentioned above, I've been advised by my agent and lawyer not to do so. I've been known to judge in a writing contest or two, but the lack of time makes that a very infrequent occurrence.