Yesterday —

I spent all day talking to class after class of students at Francis Howell High School, west of St Louis. It was fun! Hopefully at least some of the kids thought so at least some of the time! There were sure a lot of ’em! My high school was roughly a quarter the size of FH.

I did not lose my voice, but I don’t know why, because I’m not used to lecturing five hours almost straight anymore. And it was like lecturing, because you know what? Most of the time, when you ask a large group of high school kids: “Any thoughts about that? Questions? Comments?” there is no answer, so you have to just go on. I guess come to think of it that that is pretty typical of a college classroom, too.

I’m sure this is not news to any teachers out there.

So luckily I can keep talking anyway even without too much feedback, but if you’re one of the kids who asked a question? Or nodded? Or looked interested? Thanks! That makes it significantly easier.

Questions I can answer:

Where do you get your ideas? (long and involved, but I can answer this!)

How long does it take you to write a book? (2 to 6 months depending on whether I have a deadline or get interrupted or whatever, then another 2 to 6 weeks to revise and cut)

Do you often use your own experiences from your own life to write a book? (no)

Questions I can’t answer:

What will the publishing process look like five years from now?

Wish I knew!

Do people want to hear about the writing process or the publishing process? The latter, mostly. (This is true for every group I’ve ever spoken to.) And here we are with no idea how the publishing process is going to change, except it will be a Very Big Change and probably happen really soon.

In some ways it’s almost as hard to talk about the writing process, though, because that’s so very different for different writers. Like, Angie Fox says she writes all the dialogue first and fills in the description mostly later, which is SO WEIRD. When you are talking to other writers about the writing process, you have that reaction (You do what? That is SO WEIRD!) all the time. So when you’re talking to a group about writing, it’s important to constantly say: “Now, for ME, it’s like this . . .” You don’t want to imply that it should be like that for them or else they’re doing it wrong.

I can sum up the universal truth about how to write a book pretty easily, though:

a) Read a lot of books.
b) Learn to tell the good ones from the bad ones.
c) Sit down and put words in a row until you have not only started but also finished a book. Preferably a good one.
d) Revise.

Random observation:

Man, that high school library had a LOT of great YA books that I would love to read! Wish I had access to a library like that!

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