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WRITING ADVICE: Carrie Vaughn

Carrie Vaughn

Carrie Vaughn is the author of the Kitty Norville series of novels. Her latest installment, “Kitty Steals the Show,” was published yesterday. Her other novels include “Discord’s Apple,” “After the Golden Age,” “Voices of Dragons” and “Steel.” Here, Carrie shares some writing tips with us.

Tell us about your writing process.

Generally I get an idea, let it stew for a while, make a bunch of notes, write a rough outline (about the equivalent of a Google map on really low resolution), figure out the ending, then I start writing. I’ll jump around, I’ll usually have to stop and redo the outline once I have a better idea of the story. I’ll revise a couple of times, print a draft, do a heavy revision, let it sit for awhile, maybe give it to a couple of beta readers, revise again, and then it’s pretty much done. The process can take anywhere from a couple of weeks for a short story to about six to eight months for a novel. I write a little bit every day, usually 800-1200 words a day, sometimes more, sometimes less.

What are the most important questions to ask before writing a story?

What’s the story about? Not what happens, but what’s the point, the meaning behind the plot? Who are the main characters and what’s the point of their journey? What’s the story mean to them? What’s it mean to *you*? Why are you writing it?

How do you combat writer’s block?

A block usually means the story has taken a wrong turn. I’ll either take a break and work on something else for awhile, or I’ll take a few sheets of paper, leave my office, and sit and brainstorm about what’s gone wrong. I think about what could possibly happen next in the story that I haven’t thought about, and I write down all the possibilities. That usually jump starts a stalled story.

What advice do you wish you had or listened to when you were just starting out?

I’m not sure — mostly there’s advice I wish I hadn’t listened to. I’m actually really glad I didn’t listen to people telling me how hard it was going to be, because I might have quit. “Write for the market” is advice that didn’t serve me well early on, and I abandoned it fairly quickly. I often got good advice — write every day, just keep sending stuff out — that felt more like validation than advice because I was already doing a lot of it. Validation was valuable.

Oscar Wilde once said, “Books are never finished, they are merely abandoned.” When do you know it’s time to abandon your book and present it to the public?

When I’ve hit the deadline? Actually, it feels more like hitting a wall. When I can’t think of anything else to do to a story. When I think of revisions that when I go back to the manuscript to make, they’re already there. When making any more changes starts to change the overall structure and story that I worked so hard to build in the first place. When it feels like I’m spinning my wheels.

  1. Denise Golinowski
    Denise Golinowski08-02-2012

    I enjoyed reading this interview of one of my favorite authors, Carrie Vaughn. I ordered my copy of Kitty Steals The Show yesterday from my local indi bookstore and can’t wait til it arrives. I found reading your process reinforced my “missing link” of having even a rough outline and ending before I dive into the throes of writing. A long-time pantser, I’ve been resistant to outlines, but agree that one needs a rough road map. Thanks again and all the very best of success with Kitty Steals The Show!

  2. J. András Engi
    J. András Engi08-27-2012

    I read Carrie Vaughn’s short story, “Astrophilia” at Clarkesworld Magazine. She has a wonderful writing style, although I’ve never read any of her novels I might have to do so in the future. I really enjoy reading or hearing about another writer’s process because you never know if they do something that you can use and adapt for yourself.

    Thanks for the article.
    Cheers!

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