PS: I was watching an interview where you said you used to write a book a month. That’s impressive! What was your process for that?
R.L.: Back in the height of Goosebumps in the ’90s, I did twelve Goosebumps books a year and twelve Fear Street books. I don’t know how I did it. Honestly, I don’t know how! I didn’t get out much, but I wrote a novel every two weeks. The way I could do it was to outline them all first, and I still do. Nobody wants to hear that — everybody hates to outline. Kids especially, they hate that advice. But I do a complete chapter-by-chapter outline of every book before I write it. Everything that’s going to happen in the book is in the outline. So when I sit down to write the book, I’ve done the hard part. I’ve done all the thinking, and then I can write really fast and just enjoy the writing because I’ve done all the work.
What is your writing process like when working on your novels? What does your average working day look like?
I write for about two hours a day, every morning, in my office in my house. I don’t know much about the story when I start, maybe just an idea for a character, and maybe a small plot idea. I make up the story as I go along, but a lot of it is really bad. So after I finish the first draft, I write a second draft. It’s still pretty bad, but at least I know the story and characters better. Then I write a third draft. Then a fourth draft. Then a fifth draft. And maybe a sixth draft. The first few drafts I’m mostly concerned with characters and plot. The later drafts I’m more concerned with the art of writing.
from a piece written to celebrate the re-opening (aftger refurbishment) of Seven Stories: The National Centre for Children’s Books:
I never expected to become a children’s author. I was a grown-up educated adult and I thought my purpose was to write books for intelligent educated adults. But I’d been ambushed by a story called Skellig and my life and work had taken a totally unexpected direction. I found myself in a world where people really do believe that books and art can change people’s lives, that they can help to create a better world. I found young readers who, despite all the myths and mistruths, are active citizens, who really do read avidly and creatively, who are able to be both hilarious and deeply serious, barmy and profound. I found myself in a community of astonishingly talented and hardworking authors and illustrators. I found a literary home.
2. Keep it real – but not too real
3. Keep a diary – secret ones are the best
4. Don’t be afraid if your family is unusual
5. Put yourself in their shoes
Go to full page for her explanation of these headings: Tamsyn Murray: how to write about your own family | Children’s books | The Guardian.
Young Romantics is a competition which asks writers aged between 16 and 18 to entertheir poems (max. 20 lines) and short stories (max. 1,000 words) – the only condition is that your work must take their inspiration from the work, lives and ideas of the Romantic poets, and they must refer to the theme of the competition, which this year is Lost Angels.
Find out more and enter here. The closing date for entries is 13 March 2015.
Shortlists for both prizes will be announced on the Keats Shelley Memorial Association website in March/April and the winners will be announced at an awards ceremony in London on 21 April 2015.
The author of Skellig and A Song for Ella Grey opens up to the Millennium RIOT Readers book group
Steven: When you were younger, using the library in Felling, was there a particular author or genre you would choose to read, and did your reading preferences change a lot as you got older or do you still like the same genres now?
I read widely. I read all kinds of things. I think I was the same when I was younger. I just used to go in and browse. When I was reading the children’s selection then I moved to the older sections, I would read a lot about ghosts and spirits and that kind of stuff – I was fascinated by ghosts and parapsychology so I would look for that. I read novels, poetry and I remember the moment when I first read Ernest Hemingway. I was in Felling library – this shows the influence of a good library – I was in that library and I remember taking the book off the shelf, it was a book of short stories by Hemingway. I felt that suddenly when I started reading it, I had grown up as a reader. I think I was about 15 and I fell in love with those kinds of books.
Alex: Do you ever get writer’s block and if you do, out of all of your books, is there one that you struggled with at all while writing it?
I doubt the existence of writer’s block because it’s like when you are lying in bed in the morning and don’t want to get up to go to school, and somebody shouts up and says “Get up and get to school!” In the back of my head when I get to a difficult bit and I don’t particularly want to do it there is a voice saying “Get it done Lad!” Also a great way to get rid of writer’s block is to just write nonsense. There are notebooks in which I just scribble. I think the process of scribbling like that releases any writer’s block and if you don’t know what to do then just write rubbish! You start scribbling stuff down and suddenly you find a way through it.
The worst way to try and stop it is to try and think your way out of it. When you get to the point in a story when you don’t know what is going to happen next, if you think too hard it can stop you can’t it? It can stop you from getting through to the answer. Just put your pen in your hand and do the physical thing of putting it across the paper and that is the way to unblock it. The thing is to doubt it and not believe in it. Also I just can’t afford to have writer’s block – it’s my living!
Many more questions and responses:
via David Almond: each story comes with its own kind of fizz, gurgle and energy | Children’s books | theguardian.com.
Meg Rosoff, on why writing is like sex:
Writers are not marketing experts or salesmen. Although these qualities are required of nearly all writers these days, it is vitally important not to forget that the job is to write, not to get a high score on Goodreads.
What does this mean?
It means putting on blinkers and ignoring the noise of the world. It means not thinking about success when you should be thinking about truth. Or at the very least — about story, or character, or what your book will say that has never been said before.
Think about the real point of writing when you sit down to write “a synopsis that will sell!” Or spend hours a day on twitter “building your profile.” Or when you ruin a morning obsessively checking your Amazon ranking.
The purpose of art is to inspire, to shock, to provoke, to connect, to satisfy yourself first and foremost – and you should never be satisfied.
Writing is like sex. If you’re doing it right, you will not be thinking about success.
Marcus Sedgwick: where I write [photograph by the author]
Marcus Sedgwick talks about the writing of his new book The Ghosts of Heaven, using his own photographs to illustrate the different elements in the novel.