Fan Mail Wednesday #157: Author Advice, Before You Go . . .

Dear Mr.Preller,

I am a big fan of your books.  I am in seventh grade this year, and two years ago, in fifth grade, you visited my school.  You talked about a book you were writing, about four teenagers/young adults, and they were in a car crash, and one of them died.  I was trying to find the book, but I don’t remember the title, and I was wondering if you just haven’t published it yet, and what the title is.
Also, when I am older, I hope to become an author.  So I was wondering if you have any helpful hints to writing a book, or publishing one.
Thanks so much, and please write back!
Sincerely,
A huge fan!
I replied:
Megan,

What a sweet note, thanks for remembering that I exist.

For remembering, that is, during your busy life, that oh, somewhere on this planet there’s a guy who came to my school two years ago.

The book is titled BEFORE YOU GO, and will be available on July 17th.

Helpful hints? Oh gosh. You know, the disappointing thing is that there’s nothing really new or profound to tell you. And it’s not like I’ve got it all figured out, by any stretch of the imagination. But #1, you’ve got to read. Widely, deeply. And pay attention as you read. By that I mean, sure, it’s fun to escape into a story, to get lost in a book. But I think writers also read on a different level, with more awareness about the craft. Such as, “Wow, I’m really scared right now, I can’t turn the pages fast enough.” Ask yourself, how did the author do that? If an author paints a vivid picture in your mind, if you can really see something, go back and reread that section. Notice the language.

In other words, think like a writer.

The other tip, I think, is there are no shortcuts. If you want to write, then you really should have a journal. And give yourself time to be alone, to be quiet with your thoughts, and put some of those words on the page. You don’t have to start to write your own amazing 400-page novel (unless, of course, that’s what you really want to do). Mostly, read and write, watch and live. Enjoy life, enjoy people. See them, try to notice things, imagine how you might describe someone you know, the way a friend maybe crosses her arms & squeezes the skin of her elbows when she’s nervous . . .

Hey, I’ve got to run. Sorry if this is a little disorganized, I’m feeling rushed today. Take care, Megan, and good luck!

JP

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