February 8, 2012

Ask an author: an occasional feature

Filed under: ask an author,bloggery — Rhiannon Lassiter @ 7:45 pm

Got a question for an author. Ask it here!
Caution: all #askanauthor advice contains high levels of honesty and should be taken with care.

I’m thinking of quitting my job and spending a year writing a book. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. Should I follow my dream?”

Rhiannon says: Don’t quit your job! 60% of professional authors don’t make enough to support themselves on their writing income alone. Start by working on your book in evenings and weekends, set aside time to write it and get a copy of the Writers and Artists Yearbook for lists of professional contacts and submission advice. If you get a good response from agents consider approaching your employer about going part time.
Following your dream is much more possible when your bills are paid. It’s hard to manufacture inspiration when you’re fretting about the rent cheque.

I want to write a book about a vampire family in New Orleans or a game in which teenagers compete to the death.

Rhiannon says: Let me stop you there. It’s really important to know the market. Every genre of fiction has classics and current top sellers. Make a note of them. You want to write something that appeals to the same audience as these books – but don’t end up rewriting them. Even if you came across the idea independently, if it’s like something else that already exists you need to find a radical new twist or route into that kind of story to persuade a publisher to buy a book that’s too like an existing title.

Do you think it is a good or a bad idea to take real life events and people and put them in your writing?

Rhiannon says: That depends on how you use them. I’ve drawn on real life events in my writing, for example the first time I had really bad vertigo. But events and situations that involve other people can be tricky. There are events that occur in most people’s lives from the first day of school to the first really bad breakup. Drawing on your own experience adds depth to these events but if you find yourself retelling a real life situation or putting someone you know into a book stop and consider if you want to write this kind of autobiographical fiction. It exposes you – especially if one of your characters becomes a thinly veiled authorial self-insertion. Do you want to be judged on your witty/truthful/insightful retelling or real life or on your creation of situations characters who you invent who you hope will feel real to the reader. What kind of author do you want to be?

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