I'M THINKING OF WRITING A BOOK. DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE?
Kristin Cast: Writing is the most difficult job I've had. Not only because creating a story is difficult, but also because it all comes down to one person - YOU. There's no one holding you accountable, or making sure you write a certain amount everyday. It's completely up to you, requires a huge amount of discipline, dedication, and can be isolating. Be prepared to say no to hanging out with your friends, doing your hobby, and even spending time with your significant other.
PC Cast: If you want to be a professional author you need to approach the career like you would any other job. RESEARCH THE WRITING PROFESSION. You can begin by reading: BIRD BY BIRD by Anne Lamott, HOW TO GET HAPPILY PUBLISHED by Judith Appelbaum, THE WRITERS MARKET, and THE AGENTS MARKET. Ignore the romanticized idea that says being an author is something magical and mystical – that you lay around, waiting for your Muse to whisper in your ear, or for your dreams to coalesce, and then you’re simply the vessel through which all the stories flow. Ugh. Being an author is a job. Writing is work. Period.
KC: No more writing to people like you're texting. The letter u is not a word. I feel silly for having to add that every word must be spelled out completely. If you cannot write a complete sentence, (which includes spelling out every word, and using correct grammar and punctuation), you're not ready to complete a manuscript.
PC: Speaking of work – please remember that whatever you write represents you. No one is going to correct your errors in grammar, punctuation, and spelling. That’s not an editor’s job. Your editor is there to guide you into honing an already well written manuscript into the best work it can possibly be, and not to be a remedial writing coach. You need to work on the mechanics of writing and be as perfect as possible BEFORE you submit work to an editor or agent. Spelling counts! Even in emails. Get serious about that or no one will take your writing seriously.
KC: I've sat in front of my computer staring at the screen while totally feeling hopeless and defeated. I get what writer's block feels like, but that's all it is - a feeling. It's like anxiety or happiness. The way you talk to yourself while you're in it makes all the difference. If I sat there and told myself how horrible I am, I would never be able to finish my book. I believe that the most important part of overcoming writer's block is to exchange the negative self talk for positive affirmations. What also may help is to choose a different chapter or scene to write. Sometimes it's worth skipping ahead and allowing a little time to reset
PC: What do I do to overcome writer’s block? Answer: I don’t believe in it! Again, writing is a job. When I was teaching there were many days I didn’t particularly feel like showing up at school and teaching 100+ teenagers, but it was my job and I did it (and did it well) whether I felt like it that day or not. That’s what writing is, too. Some days it’s a pleasure to be an author. Some days it’s hard as hell. Actually, most days it’s hard as hell. But I write whether it’s a breeze or whether it’s sloughing through mud, and so will you if you’re a real author.
PC: How do I get inspired to write? Again, it's my job. I have contracts and bills to pay. It's what I do for a living. Yes, I love creating worlds and telling stories. I believe people are happiest doing what they're passionate about - and I'm passionate about storytelling. That doesn't mean it comes easily. I've found inspiration is part research, part imagination, and part good old fashioned work. If you're continually coming to a dead end in your work, perhaps you need to tell a different story. Or perhaps writing isn't for you. I wanted to be a veterinarian, but when I got serious about the career I realized I really didn't like dealing with parasites and poop, so even though being a vet seemed like a good idea, it really wasn't the right job for me.
KC: I'm totally with PC on this one. This is my career, and if you would like it to be your career you'll work hard at it regardless of whether or not you're feeling inspired.
KC: I cannot even begin to tell you about the horrible nervousness that sits in my stomach whenever I'm waiting to hear back from an editor. Of course I think what I've written is fabulous, but there's always more that can be done to make it the best it can be. Sometimes the constructive criticism is super harsh. Like PC said, you must believe in yourself or this career will eat you alive.
PC: Should you ask me (or any other published author) to read your work in progress, idea, summary, essay, poetry, etc.? NO. Okay – here’s the truth: another author can NOT get you published. Agents and editors can. Focus on them. Oh, and regarding allowing tons of people to read your work as you write – my advice is DO NOT. If you need feedback get into a writers’ group, or a creative writing class, both of which you can find by searching the internet. Honestly, if you're so insecure about your writing that you have to be told by others whether you're good enough to write you probably need to look at another career. Professional authors are tough and tenacious. If you manage to get published you need to have a firm backbone and thick skin because it's like putting your child out there for everyone to take potshots at - and, yes, they will blow holes in your baby. So if you don't believe in yourself before you're even published I'd run screaming from attempting writing as a profession.
PC & KC: For the record – no, I don’t read unpublished work. First, I can’t read your work and still have time to write my own. Second, my opinion doesn’t mean anything. I can’t get you published!
PC & KC: How can you get published? That’s a question you need to research and work on yourself. See #1 above for more info. Here’s the deal: you wouldn’t walk into a dentist’s office and say, “Hey! I want to be a dentist, so could you tell me how to drill on that guy’s teeth and let me have a whack at him?” Same thing about being an author. I can’t tell you how to do it. I can’t tell you how to write a book. Those are things you need to research and then do for yourself.
KC: You definitely just have to start writing in order to start writing. That sounds funny and simple, but I understand that it can be really intimidating. The way I started my first novel was to write an outline for each chapter. This can be as detailed as you want it to be. It's yours. Don't be worried about how you think it's supposed to be formatted, because that doesn't matter. Mine wasn't too detailed, but it did alleviate my stress. It made it so that I wasn't all freaked out about figuring out what needed to happen next. Pull out that pen or start clicking that keyboard and do you!
PC: How do you start writing? JUST WRITE. Sometimes doing an outline helps. Sometimes drawing a chart helps. Sooner or later it all comes down to the writing. There is no magic pill that makes it suddenly happen. Read a lot. Write a lot. That’s all you can do. And is any age too young to start writing? Hell no! I wrote my first book in first grade. It's not about age; it's about talent and drive and tenacity. Teenagers: yes, you can begin trying to get your work published! BUT do your homework first. Know about manuscript format and how a book gets published (by a real publisher, which means you don't pay for it - they pay you). Understand an agent's role in the process. Hone your skills. Then go for it!
KC: Whether or not you believe in Karma, supporting a fellow author can only bring light into your life. Leave the backstabbing and drama for reality television, and let your positivity, talent, and confidence shine.
PC: Go to book signings and buy books signed by someone with a pulse. Don’t ask anything of the author – just go. It builds up good Karma and it helps support the career to which you aspire.
NOTE: Don’t ever download a pirated copy of any book. It’s stealing from an author and her/his publisher. Yes, it’s seriously bad Karma, whether you ever want to be published or not. If you can't afford to purchase the book, please visit your public library.
I hope this has answered at least some of your questions. Also, keep in mind that the writing process is different for everyone, and these are not the only two writing styles. Good luck!
WHERE IS THE HOUSE OF NIGHT MOVIE?
In 2011 Samuel Hadida at Davis Films (The Resident Evil movie franchise) purchased the option for the HOUSE OF NIGHT series. Hadida hired an awesome screenwriter, Marc Haimes (Kubo and the Two Strings). Marc and I worked together on the treatment and then the script for either the first movie, or a pilot for a tv series.
DAVIS FILMS HAS DONE NOTHING WITH IT.
No, there is nothing I can do about this. Yes, their contract will, eventually, expire – in the fall of 2020. Until then, Kristin and I are waiting impatiently along with our fans for Hadida to do something – anything. I think you can imagine that we are even more frustrated than our readers by Davis Films and their lack of follow through. Please focus your frustration at Davis Films and Hadida, rather than at Kristin and me. Thank you.
HOW DO YOU AND KRISTIN WRITE TOGETHER?
Well, first you should understand that Kristin and I had a decade of practice before we actually co-authored anything. Kristin was my awesome teen voice editor for the HOUSE OF NIGHT. No, she didn’t actually write the books with me. She helped me with pop culture references and she was my frontline editor for the series. So, before we tried to do any writing together, we had many years of establishing a working relationship wherein we respected each other and valued each other’s opinions. I believe that is a very important starting step.
The first book that we truly co-authored was THE SCENT OF SALT AND SAND, a novella set in Kristin’s world of THE ESCAPED SERIES. We began by brainstorming together and writing an outline of the plot of the book. We came up with the main characters and wrote character sketches of our hero and heroine. We decided that I would write the chapters where our hero took a predominate role, and Kristin would write the chapters where our heroine was in charge. Then we wrote a much more detailed outline – chapter-by-chapter. This is really important because we passed the manuscript back and forth. It was a little like tag team wrestling! So, Kristin would write her chapter, then she would send the manuscript to me. In the manuscript after her chapter would be the outline I needed to follow for the action in my chapter. I’d write my chapter, and then I’d send it back to Kristin, etc., etc. We did fudge on this a little. Kristin has a completely different writing style than mine. I write chronologically and she does not. Kristin writes scenes as they come to her, and then links them together. Obviously, writing out of chronological order won’t work when she’s writing with a partner, so sometimes I filled in some small holes in a scene she’d written – not because she couldn’t go back and do it, but because I knew she trusted me to do it. And sometimes I’d write a scene that needed to be from her character’s point of view, and I trusted her to rewrite it/change it/add to it.
Sometimes I would “go rogue” (Kristin’s words) because how I write is very organic and tends to grow and evolve as the characters become more fully realized. That could have been the death of our writing team, but Kristin was absolutely awesome about it! She trusted me to not go too rogue, and told me she knew whatever craziness I came up with would make the story better (my daughter is awesomesauce!). I mention this because Kristin’s trust in me is a big part of why we can write successfully together.
On my part, I learned to respect Kristin’s editorial eye years ago, so when it came time to do our rewrite with our editor’s notes, I was able to blindly let Kristin take charge. I knew if she needed to cut something, it would make our book better. I knew if she needed to shift point of view and change some of my scenes to “her” scenes, it would make our book better. And it did!
Did we “fight” about our characters or the plot or whatever? No. But, again, Kristin and I have the experience of a decade of working together. We enjoy it, and we’re successful at it. We respect each other. (And we don’t really fight anyway!)
We're currently writing our first truly co-authored series, THE DYSASTERS. The first book releases spring of 2018.
WHAT SHOULD I READ WHILE WAITING FOR YOUR NEXT NOVEL?
- Kristin’s books, of course! AMBER SMOKE, SCARLET RAIN, and THE SCENT OF SALT AND SAND (co-authored by me!).
- Anything Anne McCaffrey has written – her PERN books are my special favorites.
- THE OTHERS Series by Anne Bishop.
- IMMORTALS AFTER DARK Series by Kresley Cole.
- LORDS OF THE UNDERWORLD Series by Gena Showalter.
- Any of David Mack’s STAR TREK books.
- Christopher Moore is one of the funniest, most brilliant authors living. I devour all of his books. FOOL is one of my favorites.
- Pat Conroy is an incredible author. I’ve read everything he’s written. THE PRINCE OF TIDES is fabulous, but also check out THE WATER IS WIDE, MY LOSING SEASON (boys/young men will love this one), BEACH MUSIC, and of course, THE GREAT SANTINI.
- Dean Koontz is awesome. I love his books. WATCHER is my favorite.
- I think everyone should read Bradbury’s FAHRENHEIT 451 and Harper Lee’s TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD.
- I also love Sara Donati’s INTO THE WILDERNESS Series.
- DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE trilogy by Laini Taylor.