Writing Advice

So, you wanna get published…

As I’ve detailed elsewhere, I make a concerted effort to reach out to my fans and try to be available to share my experiences of publishing in ways that I hope are helpful. I don’t consider myself a perfect resource for writing advice (or even a great resource) because I’ve only been in the industry for a few years… and because I only know what worked for me… and because what I tried didn’t work lots of times… and it only did “work” once. Nonetheless, I can hear you saying, “But Brent, what you did worked once, and I only need once, too!” Fair enough. So this is me trying to be helpful.

First, let me point you to a few places that have a wealth of information from people who’ve been doing this a lot longer than I have:

The SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America): Writing Tips, Manuscript Prep, Where to Submit Short Stories, and How to Sell Your Novel

Writer Beware Technically a subsection of the SFWA website, this deserves its own link. Ever been paranoid about getting ripped off? Feel so desperate that you’d pay an agent to read your work? (By the way: Don’t!) Feel like there’s a million sites all saying a million different things and don’t know who to trust? Well, trust these folks. Their whole deal is to keep writers from getting screwed.

Dean Koontz: Advice on Comedic Writing, Thrillers, an Interview on his writing style and more.

Hatrack River (Orson Scott Card): Writing Classes, Writers Workshop, and Uncle Orson’s Writing Bootcamp.

Jim Butcher: Scenes, Putting a Story Together and other info from his blog.

Donald Maass: The Career Novelist, The Fire in Fiction, Writing the Breakout Novel. These are all great books, and there’s a free download of The Career Novelist on the site I linked. Disclaimer: Don is now my agent, but I thought his books were dynamite–and terrifically helpful–before I ever met him. A lot of my advice is going to be terribly derivative of what Don has already said earlier and better.

And a quick Google search will probably show you a lot more as well. (If you know of great resources, please note them in the comments, and I’ll add them to the list.)

That said, I don’t want to be the writer who says, “It’s a hard, cold world out there. Go Google it, kid.” So here’s my plan:

I’m putting up a new web page called Writing Advice, complete with its own tab under Extras. (Thanks, Alex!) I’m gathering the writing questions I hear most often, and I’m going to post the overall outline there in the order I intend to address those questions. Some answers (if I’ve answered them in print before) will be pasted in from interviews or emails I’ve answered, but I also want to have the resource continue to grow. This way I hope to help you without burying me in work that doesn’t produce the next book. (Which, when it comes down to it, is what I get paid for.)

If you have other questions that you don’t see addressed in the outline, please feel free to add them to the Comments section on this post. Yeah, seriously, right below here. I will pick questions that I think will help the most people (and that I have something to say about!), and I’ll add those to the overall outline. I know it’s not a perfect solution, but it’s the best I can do.

I plan to update the Writing Advice page with new answers on the first of every month.

11 thoughts on “Writing Advice

  1. EQIsALateBloomer says:

    Brent, you are too cool for school.

  2. Cameron says:

    Being in my senior year, I eagerly await advise on writing education, it’s extremely relevant to me.

    …Hurry up! =P

  3. ToCoolForAName says:

    “Make the dangers greater, make their be all sorts of different kind of dangers”

    I spy a typo

  4. Erin says:

    Thank you a ridiculous amount. Any and all advice is greatly appreciated. Even if it is just what worked (and worked once) for you. That’s one more time than anything has worked for me.

  5. Murayama Tsuru says:

    I have two questions:
    1.) How do you develop you characters’ personalities, so they seem different from each other? When I write, all my characters tend to blend to having the same personality and behaviors.
    2.) I’m sorry, this is going to be a very awkard question. how do you make your ‘romance’ scenes so arousing?

  6. Fiona says:

    I always seem to be writing the same scene, always at the same stage of the story; near the beginning when all the characters are introduced and you’re trying to set up how at some point they will all be important to your plot. I can’t seem to get any farther, I have so many ideas for later on but I feel like I need to write the lead up scenes.
    I guess my question is, do you have to write your story in order? The beginning first etc..

  7. Mary says:

    1) Any tips/strategies/ect. for World-building? How do you keep from getting lost in micro-managing every aspect of your would-be world?

    2) ANY and ALL editing advice you might have. Uhhhhhhh.

    Thanks for taking time for us fans! 😀 It is greatly appreciated.

  8. Mark says:

    I have a really odd thing to say, I have written a book called ‘Eli: the Children of the Gutters’, I had it all planned out and ready to write. I had managed to get to chapter 4 I think, when I took a trip down WHSmiths and saw your Night Angel Trilogy….they appear to have some similarities without me knowing until I read all three. Shame, it’s the best story I have and only story I have finished and started a sequel for! Think I need to start something else as you kind of beat me to it! Would love for you to take a look if you’re willing?! And I could use some advice on writing a good query letter and which publishers/agents are best suited for taking on new authors of fantasy novels.

    Mark Lowes

  9. Dan says:

    Hi. I was wondering what your view on planning is. I have heard so many different ideas about plannning a story – whether you should or shouldn’t, detailed or rough – and was therefore wondering what your view is on it. How do you plan a story and what do you think the best way to go about it is? Thanks!

  10. Ayoxin says:

    You and Jim Butcher seem to have grown into who I learn about writing from. Possibly because both of you don’t shy away from sharing your thoughts in a way that’s easily understandable.

    Thank you both for your wonderful stories, characters and humility. You have been great indirect teachers for me, since the longest works I have always been writing have been short stories, written in the heat of the moment 🙂

  11. Andrius says:

    I don’t know if this is the place to send my question, but I’ll give it a shot.

    Question: What importance do you give your characters names? How do you find/figure them out? This might sound ridiculous, but even thought I nearly have everything figured out for my own story, as soon as I try jumping in, the names get me; my characters have importance and value in my eyes and I can’t bring myself to say, “You are Mr. Secritive/Caring who has a dark and haunting past and does his best to care for others but occasionally mixes work with home and makes his loved ones pay for it. You are morally ambiguous but all you really want is the best for your adopted son who happens to be your best friends child. You have an enourmous responsibility resting on your shoulders that was put there against your will but you do your best with what you have… I think I’ll call you Jim.”

    Just in case this isn’t the right place to send my question, I’ll just copy and paste.

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