Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Advice from Marcus Sedgwick


Last Thursday I had the pleasure of meeting Marcus Sedgwick, a British YA fantasy and historical fiction author. Marcus is spending this semester at Bath Spa University as artist-in-residence. So I had the opportunity to hear this brilliant author speak and to meet with him one-on-one about my own writing. Even better? He's a humble, kind author and was incredibly open about his process. He even shared his notebooks with me. I'm not sure *I* would share my notebooks with anyone, let alone a complete stranger!

He's also an experienced author, and I found much of what he said useful. So in the spirit of openness, here are my favorite bits of Marcus' advice and knowledge:

  • A bored or stuck writer should return to her inspiration. What originally excited you about the idea?
  • A writer should rarely be bored. Write the bit that interests you. If you're bored, the reader is bored. So skip the boring parts and only write the fun bits.
  • When Marcus is beginning a new novel, he challenges himself to advance his knowledge in one way every day. This way he can slowly uncover his thoughts, themes, and plot ideas. For his most recent novel, REVOLVER, his knowledge-gathering involved visiting an armory, shooting a gun, and studying historical photos of Alaska.
  • How long did it take him to write REVOLVER? Well... he researched the story for an entire year. He wrote his first draft in six days.
  • Marcus begins with plot, not character or setting.
  • Flat, uninspiring characters? He used to hear that from editors and freak out. But he's learned that it only takes six sentences to make a character round and sympathetic. The trick? Finding the right six sentences and putting them in the right places.
  • Everyone should write a vampire novel. They're great fun.
Oh, and just in case you're curious: No, I did not ask him to sign any books. My only copies were library books, and while I imagined the Bristol library would appreciate the signatures, I didn't quite have that kind of chutzpah.

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for posting his advice. And a draft in six days, wow.

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  2. I KNOW! I've spent the past week wondering if I could do the same but no... I really couldn't, that's not how I work at all. And I guess you add in the year for research, and it isn't nearly as fast as it seems.

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