How Dave Barry Writes

Dave Barry

Dave Barry

Why: The most logical profession for me, based on my natural gifts, would be male underwear model. But I’ve always loved to write, because it gives me a chance to express my ideas. Unfortunately, I ran out of ideas in 1987, but by then I’d been a writer for 15 years and had no useful skills. So here I am.

Where: I write in an office in my home. My desk is a few feet from that of my wife, Michelle, a sportswriter who also works mostly at home. We can hear each other chewing.

How: I use a computer. Unfortunately, this computer also has the Internet on it, so I spend a lot of time looking at sites that have nothing to do with what I am allegedly writing about.

Ideas: I scrawl notes when I think of something. My house has scrawled notes all over. They say things like “snail rocket,” and when I look at them later on, they serve as a reminder to me that when I wrote them down, I had consumed a lot of beer. So I throw them away and go into a state of panicky despair and then write a column. Panicky despair is an underrated element of writing.

Influences: Robert Benchley is my idol. I’ve been reading him since I was a kid, and still return to his essays regularly for inspiration. My mom was pretty funny, too.

Writer’s block: I believe “writer’s block” is the normal state of writing; that is, you rarely have anything just flow easily from your brain to the keyboard. And if it does, it’s usually pretty bad. Good writing is almost always hard, and what I think sometimes happens is that writers forget how hard it is, or don’t want to do the work anymore, and they call this “writer’s block.”

Writing novels vs. columns: The hard part of novel-writing is the plot; you have to make so many decisions, and each can affect what can and can’t happen later. So I had to do a whole lot more planning than when I write columns, and planning is not one of my strengths, the way underwear modeling is. What I liked best about the novel was making up characters, and watching them develop and turn into people whom I did not totally control.

The challenge of humor writing: Overcoming the fear that whatever you think is funny really isn’t.

Advice to writers: Don’t be boring. Don’t assume every thought you have is fascinating to others. Your job is to give people a reason to keep reading.

From Wikipedia:

David “Dave” Barry (born July 3, 1947) is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American author and columnist, who wrote a nationally syndicated humor column for The Miami Herald from 1983 to 2005. He has also written numerous books of humor and parody, as well as comedic novels.


Successful Schizophrenia: Why Jodi Picoult Writes and Other Advice

Jodi Picoult

Jodi Picoult

I write because I can’t not write. Just ask my husband. If I have an idea circling in my brain and I can’t get it out, it begins to poison my waking existence, until I’m unable to function in polite company or even hold a simple conversation.

When I’m actively writing, in the thick of a book, I’ll find myself hiding up in my attic office to get just one more scene down on the page before I go downstairs to dinner. A lot of times, that one scene will turn into two or three.

But beyond the itchiness I’d feel if I weren’t able to write, I write because it’s a way of puzzling out answers to situations in the world that I don’t understand. The act of writing a book gives me the same experience that I hope reading it gives readers. It forces me to sort through the various points of view on a given issue or situation and ultimately come to a conclusion. Doing that might not change my mind, but it almost always gives me a stronger sense of why my opinion is what it is—a question we rarely ask ourselves.

Riding a bike down a hill

The way I feel about writing changes on a daily—or an hourly—basis. Sometimes it’s like riding a bicycle down a hill, with the wind whipping through my hair and my hands in the air. And then there are the times when writing feels like slogging through the mud that was left behind after Hurricane Irene.

I’ve always seen writing as a job. Granted, it’s one I love to do, but it requires me to park my butt in a chair even when I don’t feel particularly motivated.

Sometimes, it’s magical. The characters seem to breathe and take over. I hear their voices very clearly in my head. That’s why I’ve always called writing “successful schizophrenia”: I get paid to hear those voices. But at a certain point in every book, something happens that I never saw coming—at least, not consciously—and it’s exactly the puzzle piece the story is missing, the element that ties the threads of the book together. Characters seem to pick their own paths. They have an agenda that I don’t even know about until the conversation or the plot begins inching its way across the typed page. Even though I know the end of my books before writing a single word, I often find that the middle section—how I get from point A to point Z—is a delightful surprise.

I’m often asked if I cry when I write. Of course I do! There are some scenes I’ve written, often between moms and kids, where I find myself sobbing at the keyboard. I know the characters better than I know anyone else, so it stands to reason that I’m emotionally invested in them.

Physically, when I write, I feel the years. I’ve been a writer for two decades and like every other writer I know, I have tendinitis. A good day writing can mean a very bad day for my arm or shoulder. I remind myself it’s a pretty sweet problem to have.

Home Depot time

My hardest time as a writer was when I realized that I’d grabbed the brass ring. I’d published a bunch of books, and I still wasn’t a success.

A lot of writers think of the publishing contract as the Holy Grail, but it’s not. It’s a huge mistake to think that just because your book is being printed, your publisher will publicize it. If you’re a new author, it’s much more likely that they won’t. You have to stump yourself and find book clubs to talk to and go to book fairs and set up signings at bookstores and libraries—anything to get word of mouth going. Your publisher’s more likely to pay attention to your book if it starts magically selling. Then they might put some money into promoting it. It’s a vicious cycle.

That’s why I was really disheartened when I was a young mom of three kids, and I’d had multiple books published, but I was still toying with the idea of getting a job application from Home Depot so I could help support my family.

Can’t beat number one

The best time I’ve had as a writer is every time I’ve found out that a book of mine is debuting at number one on the New York Times bestseller list. It’s happened a few times, and it never gets old. I have to pinch myself to say, Wow, look how far I’ve come. When I’m number one, I know it’s not just my mom and her friends buying the book. I can remember the precise moment when my editor called with the good news. I’d write even if no one ever read my stuff, but it’s so gratifying to know that people do.

Another amazing moment was when I did an event at the Margaret Mitchell House in Atlanta. Gone with the Wind is the book that made me want to be a writer. To sit at the desk where it was written had me trembling.

Jodi Picoult’s Wisdom for Writers:

  • Take a writing course. It’s how you’ll learn to get and give feedback, and it’ll teach you to write on demand.
  • There’s no magic bullet that’ll make you a success. If you write because you want to be rich, you’re in the wrong business. Write because you can’t not write, or don’t write at all.
  • Write even when you don’t feel like writing. There is no muse. It’s hard work. You can always edit a bad page, but you can’t edit a blank page.
  • Read. It’ll inspire you to write as well as the authors who came before you.

From Wikipedia:

Jodi Lynn Picoult (pron.: /ˈdʒoʊdi piːˈkoʊ/;[1] born May 19, 1966) is an American author. She was awarded the New England Bookseller Award for fiction in 2003. Picoult currently has some 14 million copies of her books in print worldwide.

Picoult became the writer of DC Comics’ Wonder Woman (vol. 3) series following the departure of fellow writer Allan Heinberg. Her first issue (#6) was released on March 28, 2007, and her last was issue #10 (released on June 27, 2007).

Nineteen Minutes, Picoult’s novel about the aftermath of a school shooting in a small town, has become her first book to debut at #1 on the New York Times Best Seller list. Her book Change Of Heart was published on March 4, 2008, and became Picoult’s second novel to debut at #1 on the NYT Best Seller list.


The Best Part of My Day by Hope Larson


Hope Larson

Hope Larson

Writing is the best part of my day. I wake up at 7:00 AM, walk the dogs, put on some coffee. At 8:00 AM I open my laptop and spend an hour pecking away at my current script. At 9:00 AM I sigh, close the laptop, and commute upstairs to my drafting table and my “real work”: drawing comics.

Like most writers, and probably like you (whether you’re in school or in the working world), I have a day job, but that’s okay. Having only an hour to write keeps me disciplined. It’s the one hour all day that I’m not tempted by Twitter, Gawker, or GMail. It’s precious.

It took me a while to fall in love with writing. When I graduated from art school in 2004, I could draw a nude in charcoal and screen print a hundred posters, and I wanted to write a comic—but writing terrified me. Not only was I convinced I had nothing to write about, I had no idea how to write a comic script. I’d never seen a comic script! Knowing me, I probably wasted weeks fretting over questions of format, only to discover that there is no standard format for comic scripts. It’s not like screenwriting, where one parenthetical too many or the wrong kind of brads will make or break you. A comic script need only make sense to you, your artist, and your editor. Many cartoonists don’t write scripts at all, preferring to draw rough stick-figure comics on printer paper and compose the dialogue longhand. Whatever works!

I wrote my first scripts in Word, but now I outline in Scrivener—I like the note card feature—and write in Final Draft. The early drafts of my comic scripts look like poorly formatted screenplays, with direction and dialogue but no indication of panels or page breaks. After my editor and I work out any problems with the story and add whatever additional scenes and bits of dialogue we deem necessary, I break the script down into something recognizable as a comic script.

This is a delicate procedure. First I decide how much story goes on each page, and then I break the pages down into panels . Text and illustration are in constant competition for space, and in a 6” x 8” book there’s not a lot of it. I learned early on, while working as a letterer, to be as spare as possible with dialogue. Publishers would send me a comic script and a batch of unlettered pages, and it was my job to add in the word balloons. I always got the text to fit, but the memory of all the artwork I covered up with excessive dialogue helps me keep my own lean and to the point.

Once the script’s broken down, my job as a writer is done. The script goes to the artist—sometimes me, sometimes not—and an eternity passes while she cranks out the hundreds of pictures that bring the story to life. In a year or two, when the finished book is printed, bound and sitting on a shelf somewhere, a reader will pick it up and flip through it. She’ll look at the art, unaware of the many words that lie, invisible, behind it. It may never occur to her that comics are written, not just drawn.

And that’s okay. Because somewhere in Los Angeles I’m waking up, walking the dogs, putting on some coffee. Getting ready for the best part of my day.


From Wikipedia:

Hope Raue Larson (born 17 September 1982) is an American illustrator and cartoonist. Her main field is graphic novels.

Graphic novels

  • Salamander Dream. AdHouse Books, 2005
  • Gray Horses. Oni Press, 2006
  • Chiggers. Atheneum Books, 2008
  • Mercury. Atheneum Books, 2010
  • “A Wrinkle in Time”. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012


Playing God with Ian Rankin

Ian Rankin

Ian Rankin

**Article obtained from The Guardian**

My working day varies. Sometimes I’m traveling to a festival or am on the road/in the air as part of a promotional tour. One particular day on a US tour, I woke up at dawn in Houston, flew to Chicago for a signing, then traveled to Milwaukee for an evening event, where I was expected to be wise and witty.

My favorite days, though, are spent at home – planning a new novel or writing it. I’ll start with coffee and the papers, then maybe move on to emails. But eventually I’ll knuckle down. I have an office of sorts in my house. There will be music on the hi-fi, and I’ll sit on the sofa (if mulling), or at one desk (if writing longhand notes) or the other (if typing on to my laptop). My writing computer isn’t exactly state of the art – it can’t even access the internet – but I’ve written my last seven or eight novels on it, and it seems to work fine.

If the writing is going well, the hours melt away. I may skip lunch. I may look at my watch and find it’s four or five in the afternoon – where did the time go? I almost always break for dinner, but my mind is still upstairs, involved in the plot. On a really good day I might go back and work until 10 or 11pm. Other days, nothing happens – I sit at the desk and words, scenes or characters won’t come. So I walk away and go to a bar or cafe, then try again later. There’s always correspondence to deal with, bills to pay, shopping to be done.

Sometimes I’m neither touring nor writing; but it doesn’t mean those are empty days. I may be phoned by a journalist, canvassing my opinion on anything from Scottish independence to Valentine’s cards. Or I may have an interview in town – journalists from across the globe like to meet me at the Oxford Bar, as that’s where Rebus drinks.

Not having an assistant or secretary, it’s me that queues at the post office to send signed books to charity auctions and the like. And I do have a family I like to spend time with. For years my wife vetoed work commitments in July – that was holiday time – but just recently a few appearances and festivals have crept in.

About a dozen times a year I need to visit London – my agent and publisher are based there. I take an early train, walk from King’s Cross to my publisher’s office in Covent Garden, see my agent in the evening, then take the sleeper home. I get more done that way than I would if I flew.

I can’t write a novel when I’m traveling, but I can revise or edit, send emails and resolve plot problems. I’m envious of writers who can work on their books when they’re traveling, but I need my home comforts and certitudes – coffee, music, biscuits. I need to be in my office. It’s where I get to play God.

From Wikipedia:

Ian Rankin, OBE, DL (born 28 April 1960) is a Scottish crime writer. His best known books are the Inspector Rebus novels. He has also written several pieces of literary criticism.

Rankin did not set out to be a crime writer. He thought his first novels Knots and Crosses and Hide and Seek were mainstream books, more in keeping with the Scottish traditions of Robert Louis Stevenson and even Muriel Spark (the subject of Rankin’s uncompleted Ph.D. thesis). He was disconcerted by their classification as genre fiction. Scottish novelist Allan Massie, who tutored Rankin while Massie was writer-in-residence at the University of Edinburgh, reassured him by saying, ‘Do you think John Buchan ever worried about whether he was writing literature or not ?’

Rankin’s Inspector Rebus novels are set mainly in Edinburgh. They are considered major contributions to the Tartan Noir genre. Ten of the novels were adapted as a television series on ITV, starring John Hannah as Rebus in Series 1 & 2, with Ken Stott taking on the role for Series 3-5.

In 2009, Rankin donated the short story “Fieldwork” to Oxfam’s Ox-Tales project, four collections of UK stories written by 38 authors. Rankin’s story was published in the Earth collection.

Ian Rankin signing copies of his debut graphic novel Dark Entries in the Edinburgh Forbidden Planet International store.

In 2009 Rankin stated on Radio Five Live that he would start work on a five or six-issue run on the comic book Hellblazer, although he may turn the story into a stand-alone graphic novel instead. The Vertigo Comics panel at WonderCon 2009 confirmed that the story would be published as a graphic novel called Dark Entries, the second release from the company’s new Vertigo Crime imprint.

Points on Submitting a Graphic Novel: Robert Kirkman

Robert Kirkman

Robert Kirkman

  • Find an artist before pitching.
  • If submitting to a publisher, write short, compelling pitches, rather than a script (five pages of comic with a one-page synopsis–shorter, if possible); My publisher, Image Comics, looks at each pitch that comes in.
  • Hone your scriptwriting skills so you can actually follow-through if your pitch is accepted.
  • The pages submitted should show the premise in an engaging way.
  • Make it as original as possible…but not too weird.

From Wikipedia:

Robert Kirkman (Richmond, Kentucky, November 30, 1978 is an American comic book writer best known for his work on The Walking Dead and Invincible for Image Comics, and Ultimate X-Men and Marvel Zombies for Marvel Comics. He has also collaborated with Image Comics co-founder Todd McFarlane on the series Haunt. He is one of the five partners of Image Comics, and the only one of the five who was not one of its co-founders.