Notes from PNWA Conference 2011: Part 3

Lunch with NY Times Bestselling Authors Steve Berry and James Rollins

(A 45-minute lunchtime Q&A session with the authors)

From Jen:

  • This was a fun, informal session with the two authors, open to all conference attendees.
  • The following list of Steve Berry’s rules for writing was recited so quickly and authoritatively by Berry that I can’t believe I got them all down!

Steve Berry’s Eleven Rules of Writing:

  1. There are no rules. You can do anything you want as long as it works.
  2. Don’t bore the reader.
  3. Don’t confuse the reader.
  4. Don’t get caught “writing.” Keep the illusion going at all times.
  5. Don’t lie to the reader. Misleading and redirecting is fine.
  6. Don’t annoy the reader.
  7. Writing is rewriting. (Steve Berry goes through his manuscripts fifty pages at a time, up to seventy times each).
  8. Writing is rhythm. Must flow.
  9. Shorter is ALWAYS better.
  10. Story does not take a vacation. Don’t stop the story.
  11. You have to tell a good story. Good writing will not forgive a bad story.

James Rollins:

  1. Don’t forget the five senses. There are more senses than just the visual. Rollins said sometimes he’ll write several chapters using just the visual sense and then reminds himself to go back and add in the other senses. (The five senses are sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing.)
  2. Give yourself permission to write crap. You don’t have to write brilliant prose each day. Let loose of your inner editor.

Steve Berry:

“I edit every fifty pages and I do the edits over and over. I look for verbs on one reading, and then repeat words the next reading. I go through the book fifty to seventy times. I make it shorter and tighter each time through.”

James Rollins:

“Write every day, read every night. Keep honing and sharpening your skills by reading the professionals.”

  • The new writer should use an outline. Outlining books all the way through forces you to think about plot and saves you a lot of rewriting.
  • We spend 90% of our time thinking about what to write and 10% of our time writing.

Steve Berry:

“The publishing industry isn’t changing by the day but by the hour. It’s a brutal industry and I feel sorry for everyone trying to break in now.”

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