Cinda Williams Chima

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?

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:

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 Go to the Regional area for local offerings. I have posted some recommended books on writing here.
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?

What can you tell me about setting? How can I write about a place, e.g. a fantasy world, I’ve never been to?

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?

I start a lot of stories, but after thirty pages or so, I run out of ideas. What am I doing wrong?
You may also find this post on writer’s block helpful.

What can I do about writer’s block? I never seem to be able to finish anything.
This post might help:

I don’t really understand the rules of point of view. Can you explain?

How do you deal with killing off characters?
I don’t deal with it very well. Read this.

On Feedback

Could you read my book/story and tell me if it’s any good?
Sorry, but no. Here’s why:

How can I get feedback on my writing?
Finding good critique can be challenging. Here is a series of posts on this topic.

Here are some other links relating to starting a critique group or workshop.
SFWA’s Turkey City Lexicon: Rules for workshops
Longridge Writer’s Group Rules for Critique
Fiction Factor’s Tips for Good Critique
James Patrick Kelly’s Workshop Tips


I’ve finished my story. What should I do now?
Are you really finished? Read these blog posts:

The Business of Publishing

How do I go about finding a publisher?
Here’s my advice:

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.
And, if you don’t end up being one of those million-dollar writers right away, Read my post on day jobs for writers:

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.
Hopefully, the cover won’t make a promise the book doesn’t keep.

General Advice for Writers

Do you have any general advice for writers?
First, you have to put your butt in chair:
Real writers write:
And how not to become a writer
Writer rituals:
Don’t be a writer unless you have to.
Read this on hard work:
On research:
Tools writers could use:
Chima’s rules for fiction writing:
Chima’s rules for the writing life:
Learn about time management here:
Don’t worry; it’s never too late. Read this:

Why do you write fantasy fiction?

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

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