MTTA 192: Writing Advice From Famous Authors (Special Episode)

This episode is different in that I’m not featuring a new interview, instead bringing you writing advice from five bestselling authors from previous podcast episodes.

The next episode will resume with new author interviews.

Featured in this episode:

Dean Koontz from episode 86.

Walter Mosley from episode 132.

Tess Gerritsen from episode 55.

Lisa Regan from episode 167.

Jon Land from episode 128.


[00:00:00.090] – Alan Petersen
You are listening to Meet the Thriller Author, the podcast where I interview mystery thrillers and suspense authors. I’m your host, Alan Petersen and this is episode number 192. So I’m back from a one month hiatus, sort of. I’ve been busy writing my new crime thriller books, which by the way, the third book in my Elijah Shaw crime thriller series is out now. It’s called ALWAYS THERE and you can preorder right now on Amazon. If you go over to thrillingreads.com/shaw3, you can preorder it there and Amazon will automatically send it to you on November 29 when it’s released. Nice and easy. Since I’ve been busy writing those books, I’m publishing three books. This year. I’ve been putting the interviews on the back burner. But I do have new episodes coming out later this month with brand new interviews. So stay tuned for that. But it’s got me thinking of writing here. I’ve been thinking about it. When I’m not writing, I’m thinking about writing. So I started thinking back to all the wonderful authors that I’ve interviewed on the podcast here and usually I ask them advice, what advice they would have for an aspiring writer, and so I went back to listen to a few of those older episodes and ended up curating a few of my favorite responses from my interviews with the likes of Dean Koontz, Walter Mosley, Tess Geritssen and others. And so that’s what I did for this, a very special edition of Meet the Thriller Author. Writing advice from a few best selling thriller authors. Enjoy this and I hope you find this motivating and inspiring, especially if you’re an aspiring author. And even if you’re not a writer, I think it’s always cool to see how these best selling authors think and about their process. So hope you enjoy this. It’s kind of like greatest hits, the compilation that I put together and like I said, I do have a new interviews coming up here later this month of November. So stay tuned for that. So without further ado, here’s my little hit parade that I put together for everyone. Enjoy.

[00:02:03.490] – Alan Petersen
Dean Koontz. Before I let you go, I was kind of curious for aspiring writers who are listening to this interview, if you would have any advice for them, especially with all the changes that have been occurring and published in the last few years.

[00:02:15.810] – Dean Koontz
Yeah, it’s challenging. It’s not as easy to break in as it used to be. You would think it would be because it’s kindle and because of the ability to more easily self publish and if you’ve got what it takes to be recognized for that. But in my estimation, publishers have not done a good job, mainstream publishers, of adapting to the new world. They still want to do things in a way they’ve always been done before. And it’s going to take some for instance, letting the paperback business sort of die on them I think was their greatest mistake. And then insisting on pricing ebooks at the level of trade paperbacks was another mistake. They should price them at the level of paperbacks, because that’s the market they’re replacing. So all of these things have made it harder on writers to break in, but the opportunities are still there, and it still comes down to the quality of storytelling and how exciting the idea might be. I think I’ve always said this, and I think it’s no less true and maybe more so than somebody looks at a career like mine, for instance, and thinks, oh, what a smooth experience that must have been. But the fact is, I was writing for about 17 years and a lot of books before I ever hit the bestseller list. And then after I hit it, I was not welcomed with open arms by publishers. There were arguments that I’ve written about this. When Strangers and Watchers hit the hardcover list, I delivered Lightning, and my publisher didn’t want to publish it, told me to put it on the shelf for seven years because if I published it, it would destroy my growing career. And there were all kinds of reasons why this was supposedly the case, but I didn’t think they were true. I just thought they were just old thinking. For instance, I was told, because the lead of Lightning is a child for the first quarter of the book, that makes it a young adult novel. Well, no, Oliver Twist is a child throughout the novel, and it doesn’t make it a young adult novel. So there are all these common wisdoms in publishing that weren’t really wisdom. And I forced the publication of it, and it would have been number one if they had kept reprinting it like they should have. But we went to number three and did very well with it. And then the next book was Midnight, and it was the first time I hit number one, and my publisher called me up and said, I’ve got great news, because you learn you’re going to be number one, unless about ten days before, because they print the book review section a week ahead of the paper. And I didn’t know what she meant, and she said, you’re going to be number one on The New York Times before I could even whoop with joy. She said, but don’t get excited. This will never happen to you again, because you don’t write the kind of books that can be number one bestsellers. And we have five more number ones, four more number ones in a row. And my publisher every time told me, this will be the last one of these you had. And at that point, I said, you know what? I have to get some place where they think this could happen again. And so it never was as smooth from within as it probably appeared from without. So my best advice to writers is never lose faith in your own work. You have to just persevere. You have to be able to take criticism and understand when it’s right and discern when it isn’t, and you have to be humble about that. But other than that, when all the setbacks happen, as inevitably they will, there are writers that boom, they’re there, and nothing ever seems to go wrong. But in my experience, that’s not the normal pathway. So perseverance determination is more important.

[00:06:40.010] – Alan Petersen
Walter Mosley.

[00:06:43.240] – Walter Mosley
When you’re writing, all of these new ideas are happening in your head. You’re not thinking about them. You’re just thinking about what you’re trying to write. Then you put that away, you go home and go to sleep the whole day, that night, the next morning, finally, you get back to the page again, and there are all these new ideas in your head. They came from what you were thinking yesterday. Every day you do that, you get deeper into who you are and what kind of story you’re telling. Every day? Every day. Every day, every day. When you stop writing a day, things start to float away. Two days, they’re even farther. Three days, you’ve got to start from the beginning again. If you write in a novel, you put off three days, you might as well just start from the first page and read and say, what did I do?

[00:07:25.160] – Alan Petersen
Tess Gerritsen

[00:07:27.490] – Tess Gerritsen
it’s really important to shut your editor up off. Shut her up in a closet somewhere and just play and play with the story. And then only after the first draft is finished do I go back and look at the flaws and then start to rewind.

[00:07:43.200] – Alan Petersen
How many drafts do you usually write?

[00:07:45.540] – Tess Gerritsen
Well, generally seven.

[00:07:47.370] – Alan Petersen
Oh, wow.

[00:07:48.710] – Tess Gerritsen
Because I have such bad first drafts, I have to go back and fix it.

[00:07:53.140] – Alan Petersen
That’s great for listeners who are writing, since I think, oh, the first draft is so terrible, use it supposed to be.

[00:08:00.040] – Tess Gerritsen
Yeah. You have to give yourself permission to write badly because nobody’s ever going to give yourself permission to write badly because nobody’s ever going to see that draft. It’s just you just sort of, like, put out the story and the story will change on you.

[00:08:14.210] – Alan Petersen
Lisa Reagan

[00:08:16.540] – Lisa Regan
The first thing I would. Say is read and read. You should do your best to choose a genre. That’s not to say that you can’t work in other genres, but typically, if you put out one book and readers love it, they’re going to want more of the same. And typically, publishers, they’re looking to grow your audience. So it’s a lot easier if you have a genre, and then once you’ve chosen it, you should read as much as possible within it, know what’s going on, know what the tropes are, know what the devices are, that sort of thing. And then I would say, write as much as you can, even if you’re not working on a manuscript per se, if you’re writing notes, if you’re writing emails, if you’re writing letters to your congress, people, whatever. If you’re getting your thoughts from your brain onto a page, that is excellent, that is practice, that’s going to serve you well.

[00:09:15.790] – Alan Petersen
Jon Land.

[00:09:18.110] – Jon Land
I would say, but bear’s repeating. And that is have fun telling a great story. But the problem is if you do that, you’re still going to need an editor. You’re still going to have to listen to other people. Publishing is a collaborative effort. Let me put it this way. Writing of any kind, especially screenwriting. But publishing, also writing is a collaborative effort. Publishing is a collaborative effort. It takes a team to be successful. They say in court that a lawyer who defends himself has a fool for a client. A writer who edits his own book or her own book has a lousy book, because you need objectivity. You need someone else to say. And if you’re self-publishing find the money to pay an editor, do not self publish anything that is not edited. Structurally schematically and conceptually, but also line edited. Nothing is worse than typos on every page in a self-published book. However, you’re choosing to exploit the medium, whether it be self-publishing, independent, with a smaller press, with one of the top five, some combination, hybrid combination. You have to be a professional. You have to think like a professional. Create like an artist, but think like a professional. There would be the advice I would give.

[00:10:42.570] – Alan Petersen
There you have it. I’ve interviewed over 200 authors for this podcast and advice shared by these five bestselling authors is what I’ve heard over and over again. You need to persevere. The publishing business is rough and tumble. You need to be a professional. Again, this is a tough business to make it in. Don’t let your inner critic editor get in your head. I’m not sure who said this, but I’ve heard this before and I love this analogy. You can fix a bad first draft and make it better, but you can’t fix a blank page. So you need to write, write, write, write every day and don’t stop reading. Most of successful authors love to read. That’s why we’re doing this, because we enjoy reading. So don’t stop reading. And then probably the number one advice, like I already mentioned is write, write, write. Get into a writing habit, right? Every day.

[00:11:31.770] – Alan Petersen
One final thing. I’m planning to add a sponsorship opportunity to this podcast in the future, which will be calling the Author Spotlight. If featured, I will mention the author’s name, the title of their book and a website address. I’ll include a max of two authors per Author Spotlight segment and I will need to check the book to make sure that it’s a good fit for the podcast and all that. And of course, if you’re listening to this and you’re interested in sponsoring the Author Spotlight, you need to be writing in the thriller mystery genre. So if you’re interested, check out Thrillingreads.com/spot I’ll have the information on there. All right, that’s it. Next episode out, we’ll be back to the regular programming with a brand new interview with a mystery thriller author. Until next time, stay safe out there.

If you’re a mystery-thriller author and are interested in sponsoring one of two slots available during the Author Spotlight segment of the podcast click here for the details.

About the Author
I write thriller and crime fiction novels and host the Meet the Thriller Author podcast where I interview authors of mystery, thriller, and suspense books.

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