First, and this is important: this is advice for people thinking about writing as a career. Okay? This is not advice for how you can write a journal entry or your next creative writing assignment.
If you want a career as a writer, I have the following advice:
I would like to single out the so-called "chunk method" for special abuse. The chunk method isn't just stupid, it actively destroys the part of your brain that might be a writer. So learn it to pass your tests, but for God's sake keep it isolated in some dark corner of your brain where it won't contaminate anything around it.
There is no method to writing fiction. You're telling a story. Did the people who read your story understand it? Did they keep reading it all the way to the end? Were they interested by the characters and the plot? If the answer is "yes," then you did it right.
That's the job: tell a story using words.
I'd love to. I actually like talking to kids and answering questions and all of that. However: it's expensive.
Sometimes my publisher foots the bill and sends me around. When that happens it's called a "Book Tour" and they decide where I'm going.
Other times I can visit a school on my own, but I live in Southern California, so there's likely to be air fare, hotels, so on. So I have to charge the school for all of that. Surprisingly, many school districts are not exactly drowning in money. In fact most of them are barely able to pay their teachers and buy the Jell-O for your school lunch.
However, sometimes they can afford to have an author come.
Here's an example of what it usually costs:
Air Fare: $800
Hotel (2-3 nights): $600
Car Rental: $200
Bar tab: $300
Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating that last item. But the bottom line is rather than make things complicated for the school and for myself, I set the price at a flat $2000 for a one-day school visit. Which seems excessive. Let's face it: I'm not that much fun and you could throw a really great party with two grand.
However: I am available.
Here's the way that works: I own what are called "Rights." That means if a Hollywood producer wants to make a movie of GONE he comes to me and says, "Dude, we love your work. Can we buy the rights and make a movie?"
And I say, "Sure."
Then they say, "Okay, what are the major adult roles? Because we need some big-name adult actors to be in the movie. Maybe Tom Cruise."
And I say, "Are you sure you read the book? Because there are no adults. That's kind of the whole idea."
So: probably not.
Maybe. I think it's much more likely than a GONE movie.
I would say, moral cowardice on my part. I bowed to the marketplace. I'm not proud of it. I don't think words are bad in and of themselves. And I think it's a really ridiculous thing to obsess over. But I gave in to perceived pressure.
Man, I can't tell you how often I get this question! (Okay, never.) The answer is probably Roquefort. The real stuff, from France.
I usually write outside when I can. Often in my back yard. In fact that's where I am as I write this.
I drink a bunch of coffee. I put on my stupid hat. I'm usually in t-shirt and pajama bottoms. Then I waste time on the internet until I start getting tense because I know I'm wasting time and I should get to work. Then I put on my headphones and play music. Here's my current playlist on iTunes.
I type away with two fingers. I usually have no idea in advance what I'm going to write. I don't plan, I figure it out as I go along. Eventually I get tired, then I stop. Then I go to Costco and buy paper towels and blueberries.
Yep. It's a glamorous life.