Writing Advice Sucks #5: The importance of community, the quantum state of cons, and recharging your creative batteries

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Two weekends ago me and some pals rented a cabin in upstate New York for what we like to call Broke Hack Mountain: a few days of eating, fighting, drinking, and writing.

I was working on a final pass of The Warehouse before submitting it back to Crown. It was great, to see all 472 pages over the course of two and a half days—I caught so much stuff I wouldn’t have caught if the read were stretched over a longer period.

Like, hey, I used a somewhat similar metaphor 70 pages ago and why do so many characters have ponytails? kind of stuff. I know it’s not easy to find a whole, obligation-free weekend, but if you can, it’s worth it.

That’s not what I’m here to talk about, though! I’m here to talk about community. Because one of the many, many publishing-related questions that came up over the weekend was: are conferences worth it?

It’s actually a pretty common question, and one I’ve been asked a lot: do I need to go to this con or that con?

Which is a good jumping off point, I think, that’ll bring us back to why we went to the cabin in the first place (and why we hope to make it a more regular occurrence). Continue reading

Writing Advice Sucks #4: Editing ‘The Warehouse’, why Elmore Leonard was right, and one secret editing trick that will BLOW YOUR MIND

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I run an online workshop program at LitReactor, where we bring in writers and editors to lead classes on craft. I listen to a lot of pitches. And one of the pitches I get most frequently is on editing. Not how to write the first draft of a novel or story, but how to refine a written story.

And I cannot sell them.

I’ve had authors whose other classes sold very well try to teach an editing class and I’m lucky if we sell enough seats to keep it open. I cannot for the life of me understand why this is. Continue reading

Writing Advice Sucks #3: ‘Analysis paralysis’, Shiny Thing Syndrome, and the Nicholas Cage Rule.

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Do you ever go on Netflix looking for something to watch, and despite hundreds of choices right in front you, you can’t decide on something?

So you click through the menus until you end up re-watching an episode of The Office you’ve already seen a dozen times?

This is “analysis paralysis.”

It’s something I struggle with constantly as a Netflix customer and as a writer.

When it comes to Netflix, my wife and I have a rule: If we spend more than 15 minutes without making a choice, we have to watch the first Nic Cage movie we see. That usually helps to settle things.

Which is a difficult rule to apply to the writing end… Continue reading

Writing Advice Sucks #2: How forgetting shit might make you a better writer

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Last week I talked about the mechanics of thrillers and writing to trends.

This week I want to talk about why forgetting shit can be really valuable.

I’m the kind of writer who needs an outline. I respect people who can write by the seat of their pants—that ain’t me. My outlines don’t need to be super intense (usually a couple of sentences per chapter), and a lot of times I’ll diverge from them. But I need a general sense of where I’m going.

I learned this as I was writing my first book, New Yorked, which took me five years to finish. I was just writing blindly, and had to keep finding my path. I re-wrote it from the ground up twice. It tried to outline it three or four times after I’d already written it.

I went into my second book, City of Rose, with a solid outline, and it took me four or five months to write.

Which, granted, I knew my character and I found my process, and I had more confidence. But the outline helped a lot.

Remember: writing advice is mostly bullshit and you have to take what works for you and trash the rest. Maybe outlines don’t work for you. That’s fine! But I do have a trick for them. I even found another place to apply that trick, in my research. Continue reading

Writing Advice Sucks #1: The mechanics of thrillers, writing to trends, and free books

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I hit the publishing hat-trick with my newest book, The Warehouse. Nice deal with Crown, sold to publishers in more than a dozen countries so far, and optioned for film by Ron Howard. One of the funny/odd/interesting things about this is: how other people have responded.

Besides the general well-wishes, one writer called dibs on getting a blurb when his next book is ready (which is baller, so I said yes). I’ve had people walking on eggshells like I’m suddenly going to forget who my friends are (I won’t!). I’ve had at least one person quiz me on how the deal went down, and seemed so stunned that, by the end of the conversation, I felt a little bummed out (because it sounded like: “how did you manage to do this?”).

But one question I’ve gotten a couple of times now is: did you write something you were passionate about, or did you write to a trend?

And the more I think about it, the more I want to answer that. Because it’s like 95 percent no and five percent yes. And even that five is a little wonky.  Continue reading