Frequently Asked Questions for Writers

Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about writing technique, the publishing process, and so on. Hopefully you’ll find an answer to your question here or in one of my blog posts.
Please note: I am unable to read your work for legal reasons—please don’t send it to me.

On Finding Ideas

I want to write, but I can’t think of anything. Where do you get ideas for stories?
http://cindachima.blogspot.com/2009/07/when-stories-bite.html
http://cindachima.blogspot.com/2007/08/wyoming-dreams-or-where-do-writers-get.html
http://cindachima.blogspot.com/2010/02/does-anyone-else-have-writers-disease.html

How do you create an entirely new idea without basing the story on any of the other books you have read?

If you steal from one author it's plagiarism; if you steal from many it's research. -- Wilson Mizner. Learn more here: http://cindachima.blogspot.com/2013/04/how-to-keep-from-being-influenced-by.html

On Craft

Is it all right if I email you when I have questions about writing? Do you have any tips on writing?

I'm willing to answer a few specific questions on craft that are not already answered on my website. My general advice/tips are listed here under FAQs. If you wanted to become a tennis player, you would take lessons, right? If you wanted to learn stained glass, you would read books about it and maybe take a class. Writing is like any other skill--it requires study and practice. If you find that you have a lot of questions about craft, spend some time reading books on writing or taking a workshop or class on the area of writing that you are interested in. Often writing workshops are offered through libraries or writing organizations. There are national writers' organizations with local affiliates that offer programs for writers. For instance, the Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) is an organization for people who write and illustrate books for children and teens. Their national website is at http://www.scbwi.org. Go to the Regional area for local offerings. I have posted some recommended books on writing here. http://cindachima.com/Resources/Books_for_writers.htm
I especially recommend the Maass and Klein books for general direction, and the Browne and King book on revision.

How do you go about coming up with a plot?
http://cindachima.blogspot.com/2010/12/on-plot.html
http://cindachima.blogspot.com/2010/02/plotters-vs-plungers.html

What can you tell me about setting? How can I write about a place, e.g. a fantasy world, I’ve never been to?
http://cindachima.blogspot.com/2008/10/immersed-in-setting.html

I can never figure out how to start a story. How can you get the reader into the story without dumping a lot of information on them?
http://cindachima.blogspot.com/2010/05/beginnings.html

I start a lot of stories, but after thirty pages or so, I run out of ideas. What am I doing wrong?
http://cindachima.blogspot.com/2010/01/young-writer-writes-i-recently-started.html
http://cindachima.blogspot.com/2010/01/when-you-run-out-of-story-part-2.html
You may also find this post on writer’s block helpful.
http://cindachima.blogspot.com/2008/02/writers-block.html

What can I do about writer’s block? I never seem to be able to finish anything.
This post might help:
http://cindachima.blogspot.com/2008/02/writers-block.html

I don’t really understand the rules of point of view. Can you explain?
http://cindachima.blogspot.com/2009/04/breaking-rules-of-point-of-view.html

How do you deal with killing off characters?
I don’t deal with it very well. Read this.
http://cindachima.blogspot.com/2008/11/killing-off-significant-characters.html

On Feedback

Could you read my book/story and tell me if it’s any good?
Sorry, but no. Here’s why:
http://cindachima.blogspot.com/2010/03/on-mentorship.html

How can I get feedback on my writing?
Finding good critique can be challenging. Here is a series of posts on this topic.
http://cindachima.blogspot.com/2010/06/importance-of-critique.html
http://cindachima.blogspot.com/2010/07/when-and-where-to-find-critique_10.html
http://cindachima.blogspot.com/2010/07/forming-successful-critique.html

Here are some other links relating to starting a critique group or workshop.
SFWA’s Turkey City Lexicon: Rules for workshops
http://www.sfwa.org/2009/06/turkey-city-lexicon-a-primer-for-sf-workshops/
Longridge Writer’s Group Rules for Critique
http://www.longridgewritersgroup.com/rx/st01/starting_a_critique_group.shtml
Fiction Factor’s Tips for Good Critique
http://www.fictionfactor.com/articles/critiquing.html
James Patrick Kelly’s Workshop Tips
http://www.sfwa.org/bulletin/articles/workshop.htm

Revision

I’ve finished my story. What should I do now?
Are you really finished? Read these blog posts:
http://cindachima.blogspot.com/2008/07/what-to-do-with-that-diamond-in-rough.html
http://cindachima.blogspot.com/2008/06/blog-post.html
http://cindachima.blogspot.com/2009/09/major-surgery.html

The Business of Publishing

How do I go about finding a publisher?
Here’s my advice:
http://cindachima.blogspot.com/2010/12/so-you-want-to-find-publisher.html

How much money can I expect to make as a writer?
There is no one answer to that question. Writers make anywhere from nothing at all to millions. All right, you say, I’m going to be one of those million-dollar writers. Here’s some information on how writers get paid.
http://cindachima.blogspot.com/2011/04/how-authors-get-paid.html
And, if you don’t end up being one of those million-dollar writers right away, Read my post on day jobs for writers:
http://cindachima.blogspot.com/2009/12/on-day-jobs-for-writers.html

If I publish a novel, will I have to come up with the cover art? Do authors get to choose what’s on the cover?
If you publish traditionally, the publisher will develop the cover art, hopefully with some input from you. It’s the publisher who has the final say, though.
http://cindachima.blogspot.com/2009/09/cover-story.html
Hopefully, the cover won’t make a promise the book doesn’t keep.
http://cindachima.blogspot.com/2009/08/misleading-book-covers.html

General Advice for Writers

Do you have any general advice for writers?
First, you have to put your butt in chair:
http://cindachima.blogspot.com/2008/03/writing-is-like-birth-and-deathyou-do.html
Real writers write:
http://cindachima.blogspot.com/2011/03/real-writers-write.html
And how not to become a writer
http://cindachima.blogspot.com/2009/02/how-not-to-become-writer.html
Writer rituals:
http://cindachima.blogspot.com/2009/02/writer-rituals.html
Don’t be a writer unless you have to.
http://cindachima.blogspot.com/2008/05/young-writer-q.html
Read this on hard work:
http://cindachima.blogspot.com/2009/03/what-hard-work-will-get-you-or-not.html
On research:
http://cindachima.blogspot.com/2008/12/research-trap.html
Tools writers could use:
http://cindachima.blogspot.com/2008/11/tools-writers-could-use.html
Chima’s rules for fiction writing:
http://cindachima.blogspot.com/2010/04/ten-rules-of-writing-fiction.html
Chima’s rules for the writing life:
http://cindachima.blogspot.com/2010/04/chimas-rules-for-writing-life.html
Learn about time management here:
http://cindachima.blogspot.com/2008/02/time-management.html
Don’t worry; it’s never too late. Read this:
http://cindachima.blogspot.com/2010/03/never-too-late.html

Why do you write fantasy fiction?

http://cindachima.blogspot.com/2010/11/why-i-write-fantasy-fiction.html
http://cindachima.blogspot.com/2010/09/secret-lives-of-fantasy-writers.html
http://cindachima.blogspot.com/2008/09/notes-from-literary-ghetto.html

Why do you write for teens? Should I plan on writing for teens or adults?

http://cindachima.blogspot.com/2010/10/art-of-crossover.html
http://cindachima.blogspot.com/2008/09/why-i-write-for-teens.html
http://cindachima.blogspot.com/2010/10/why-i-write-for-teens-2.html

I’m told my story has to have a theme. How do I go about creating one?

http://cindachima.blogspot.com/2010/09/on-theme.html