Tell me about your family.
Four kids. Hannah just graduated from college, Jackson just graduated from high school, Tyler is a 9th grader, and Alex is a 6th grader. Four years ago, we bought the house next door to my parents, and that’s been a blast. My husband Michael is a former Navy SEAL badass who can build anything. My family is the most important thing in the world to me.
What do you do for fun?
I love to read, play games/sports with our kids, take walks with my husband. I love listening to the kids playing music and singing (they rock hard). And, of course, I write.
Will you help me with my English paper?
I’m sorry, but I’m no longer taking new students. If you are a previous student of mine, email me, and I’ll see what I can do. That being said, email me anyway. You never know. 🙂
I don’t get A’s in English. Can I still be a writer?
To get an A in English, you have to do more than simply write well. You have to complete all the assigned work, answer questions correctly, participate in class, attend class, and generally provide work that meets your English teacher’s expectations. Some people are good at these things, and some are not. Some of these things have direct bearing on your ability to be a successful writer, and some do not.
Do not despair if you can’t manage an A in English. Pay attention in class, learn as much as you can, and give your best effort. When you are ready to share your writing with the world, no one will be asking what grade you got in English.
My English teacher thinks my writing is terrible.
First off, no book (or English paper) ever written is loved by every person who reads it, even the classics. Go on Amazon and read the reviews for popular books. Some people think J.K. Rowling is a brilliant writer, and others can’t stand her use of adverbs. Writing is a subjective skill, and if every writer who ever received criticism stopped writing, there would be no books at all.
That said, English teachers have loads of wisdom and experience, and if one thinks your writing is “terrible,” you need to give that opinion some consideration. Ask your teacher what you specifically need to work on. If he can’t give you specifics, or if he simply doesn’t like your style, ignore him. Otherwise, listen closely to his criticisms and work to improve. Every writer has things they can improve.
I have an idea for a novel, but how do I know if someone’s already written a book like it?
Assume they already have. Fresh ideas are extremely rare, and some people claim there aren’t any “new ideas” for books. You will make your story unique in the way you tell it.
It certainly doesn’t hurt to do your research, though. Do a web search for books about “X” to give you an idea of what’s out there and if there’s actually a market (interested readers) for it. Some writers like to read books similar to their own, and others shun them like the plague – they don’t want to be influenced by what other writers have done. That’s totally your choice.
I’m embarrassed to let other people read my stories.
Me, too. Actually, I’m more terrified than embarrassed, but that’s just me.
You don’t have to show anyone your writing, but if you keep it to yourself, what’s the point? What is a book’s purpose? To be read. That means other people need to read it.
Polish your story until it shines. When you’re proud of it, take a deep breath and show it to someone you trust. Ask for honest feedback, because you want to improve. Criticism is good. It means you are one step closer to your goals.
Can I write for adults if I’m a teenager?
Of course. You can target your writing to any audience you wish. Just remember to keep that audience if mind when you write. If your main character loves Justin Bieber and talks in texting shorthand (LOL), you might not hold your chosen audience’s attention.
Are there any famous teen authors?
Christopher Paolini started writing his Eragon series when he was 15. S.E. Hinton wrote The Outsiders at 16. Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein when she was 19. There are many others. Try Google.
My parents want me to be a (fill in the blank). How can I convince them I should be a writer?
Let me first offer some insight about parents, because I am one: we only want the best for you. Cliche, but true. If your parents are pushing you towards a certain major or career, it’s because they think it will give you the best chance at a happy, secure life.
I am not here to be the voice of rebellion, to encourage you to pursue writing at all costs, your parents be darned. All I can do is encourage you to write, no matter what else is going on in your life.
Here’s an interesting tidbit to keep in mind: most writers do not make enough money to write full time. Most have a job that pays the bills, and they write before work or after they put the kids to bed. Writing is similar to being an actor – it takes a thousand auditions before you get your big break, and even then, there’s no guarantee you’ll get the next part you audition for.
Remember that no matter what choices you make in your life, there are consequences to those choices. Maybe your parents will not pay for college unless you major in business. If you choose to major in English then, you’ll have to pay your own tuition. Maybe you’re okay with that. Maybe not.
Do what you can live with. Consider the consequences of your actions. Then make your choices with confidence.
As to convincing anyone that you should be writer – BE a writer! Write! Secure an agent. Sell your short stories and poems. Be what you want to be. Don’t let anyone stop you.
What does it take to be a successful writer?
Determination. Never give up. A thick skin. Rejection is part of every writer’s life. Learn from it. Do not take it personally. Professionalism. Read every book you can on your craft. Learn about the publishing industry. Writing is a business. You’ll need to act and think like a business person who can sell their stories as a marketable product. A desire to improve. You cannot improve unless you practice. You cannot improve unless you are open to criticism.
What is a writer’s life like?
It’s different for every writer. If you currently write, you are living a writer’s life.
Here’s my life: I wake up, do some laundry, get my kids to school. I do chores, run errands, run my husband’s business. I pick the kids up from school, then I coach high school tennis. I also tutor students, so I might have a tutoring session or two. Then I make dinner, get the kids in bed, say hello to my husband. THEN I sit down and write for a few hours. Sleep, repeat.
I don’t know Stephen King, but I imagine his writing life is much different from mine. A full-time, famous writer probably doesn’t have to scrub the toilets or shop for groceries. He probably writes when his muse calls. Maybe he travels all over the world for book signings. His editor probably takes him to lunch whenever he’s in New York. He gets to attend premieres of the movies based on his books. I’m sure he drives a more expensive car than my six-year-old mini van.
Remember what I said about successful writers earlier – writing is a business, and you will still have a job to do. You will be expected to meet deadlines. You will have to do revisions. You will be expected to market your books by meeting with people; networking through Facebook, Twitter, and other social media; and maintaining a website.
My typing skills suck. Can I write with pen and paper?
Sure. I wrote my first novel on legal pads. The words flowed so easily, and I enjoyed every minute of it. Until it came time to revise.
Typing that novel was the worst experience of my life. I will never again write an entire novel by hand. Often, though, I’ll write ideas on paper. Or outlines. Or notes. Or paragraphs. But nothing longer. Force yourself to type, and I promise you, it will get easier, and it will save you a ton of headaches down the road.
Should I use a special writing app, or should I write my novels in MS Word?
You will need Word for your final manuscripts, but I don’t recommend using it for writing and editing. I write in Scrivener (www.literatureandlatte.com). Scrivener is affordable (I believe they even offer a student discount), easy to use, and simply the best writing software out there. Ask Santa Claus to get it for you. Now. (By the way, I am in no way connected with Scrivener. I am just a happy customer!)
I have tons of ideas for stories. How do I pick one?
First, write all of your ideas down in a notebook or in a special Scrivener/Word file created for this purpose.
Second, I’m glad you asked this question, because it means you understand the need to focus. I do not recommend working on multiple projects simultaneously – you’ll never finish anything. There’s always a new idea begging for attention.
Pick the one that grabs you the most. Pick the one that has already taken shape in your head. Then vow to finish it completely before starting a new project.
How do I come up with story ideas?
Be a close observer of the world around you.
Ideas can come from anywhere. Look around you. The grocery clerk with the mole on her chin may turn into the wicked witch in your story. Something funny your brother said this morning may turn into a scene between siblings. The sunset may inspire you to write a love story.
People watch. Pay attention to their speech, mannerisms, clothing, the way they walk.
Go for a walk. Listen to the wind in the trees, watch a line of ants, smell the honeysuckle.
Read the news. Real-life stories are great inspiration for fiction.
My girlfriend thinks writing is stupid.
Can I make millions of dollars off my novels?
Possible? Yes. Probable? Not so much. Making millions as an author is like making millions as an actor or a basketball player – people do it, but the ones who do are few and far between.
Do not write with the idea that it will make you rich. If you intend to write full time, aim for paying the bills. And even then, be prepared to have another source of income.
I’m extremely shy. Can I still be a writer?
Yes, but you will have to push yourself to connect with your readers in some way. Start by connecting with people online – start writing a blog, comment on other people’s blogs, reach out via Facebook or Twitter. Work up to the moment where you’ll be meeting your fans in person at book signings. ?
Should I write every day?
Should you shower? Should you brush your teeth? Should you eat?
I have writer’s block. Help!
I don’t really believe in writer’s block, which is the excuse a lot of writers use for why they haven’t written anything lately.
You might only be able to write a lot of nonsense. You might not know what’s going to happen next in your story. But that doesn’t mean you have a mysterious illness that is preventing you from putting words on the page.
So what’s the cure? Put your fingers on the keyboard and press down. Write something, anything. Start with your to-do list, then move on to a report of the day’s weather, put down the directions from your house to school – it doesn’t matter. As soon as you begin, the words will flow. And when you cannot get one more word out about the clouds migrating across the sky, you will be dying to return to your story.
How can I avoid procrastinating?
There is usually a reason that people procrastinate, and if you can figure out the reason, you can combat it.
One of the biggest reasons is fear of failure – if I don’t try, then I cannot fail. Sound logic, for sure. But the problem with that is if you never try, then you can never succeed, either. You need to want to succeed more than you fear failing.