At Storymakers 2010, we had the opportunity to hear a panel discussion from these amazing authors. This is part 1 of 5. I’ll be posting the comments of the other authors on the panel over the next few weeks.
Dan Wells writes chapter by chapter paragraphs summing up his novel’s storyline. Once he has a good outline, he begins to write. After the first draft is done, he waits 2-3 months before he goes into revisions on a rough draft. Dan comments that once the revisions have been done, it’s important to “know when to leave a book—don’t marry yourself to it.”
He warns that publishing is a slow moving machine. He sold his horror novel, I Am Not A Serial Killer, three years ago, and it just hit shelves a couple months ago. Back then, he’d work all day and then come home and write between the hours of 10pm and 2am. He felt burned out after work, but he used that for motivation to keep writing. He says, “the last thing I wanted to do with my life is go back to work about a shampoo” so he had to make the change happen through writing.
When asked about his late hours, Dan mentioned that he did find some meds that cured his insomniac tendencies, but after sleeping through the night for a week, he decided to drop the meds. He joked, “this is crap! How do people without insomnia get anything done?”
Directing his gaze to the audience, Dan pointed a finger. “If you want to do this (writing) for your living, you cannot do it in your spare time. Treat it like a job and find the time. If you don’t have time to write, it’s not a scheduling problem, it’s a value issue.”
While suffering through mind-numbing college classes, his delightfully twisted brain made a goal that “someday, I’ll do a book and some shmuck will have to do an essay on it.” (enter muah-haha here)
On agents, Dan says, “eventually you’ll need an agent. Yes. As soon as I got an offer, I went and got an agent, but even then I was rejected four times.” Be careful though, “if an agent asks for money, drop them and report them. To become an agent requires no schooling. You could stand up and say you’re an agent and it would be true. Look them up!” A great website to check them out is Preditors and Editors.
I found Dan to be both knowledgeable and charming with his quick wit and well timed jokes. He kept us laughing while we soaked up his helpful hints and insights.
A special thanks to Dan Wells for being such a good sport throughout—even when a mock version of his novel titled “I Am Not A Cereal Killer” (about someone who ate all the cereal) became the running joke of the conference.
*Update* you can watch Dan give a presentation on story structure on youtube for free! I've been struggling with creating an outline for one of my current novels and I have to say that watching this video really helped me organize my thoughts. Easy to follow, entertaining, and educational. Yup, he's the man.
Do any of you keep odd/late writing hours like Dan does?