What’s it like to write funny stuff? As someone trying to learn to write, I’m confused about how you do it. The way you guys are funny seems to me like a ‘foibles and contradictions of human interaction, well narrated’ type of strategy, but how do you come up with that stuff? Is it part of your natural worldview? Do you brainstorm it? Is it because you know your characters so well that it kind of pops in to your heads? Do you think that’s something a writer can develop, or is it kind of an intrinsic part of your style (or not)?Claire
“Will you please stop doing that?”
Cookie giggled and waved the fart gun around.
Andrews, Ilona. One Fell Sweep (Innkeeper Chronicles Book 3) (p. 162). NYLA. Kindle Edition.
I think you might be overthinking it. 😉
Worry less, wing it more. When you see funny stuff, put it in your books. That’s it.
I’ve become a beta reader recently for a couple of different authors – does everyone have their own requests on what they’re looking for from beta readers? Or is there some general “job description” that I should know?Bookworm
It depends on the writer. If no specific instructions are provided, the writer is looking for reader reactions.
Some things are technical like these:
She had come taken care of her affairs this morning[RS1] . If her plan to convince him to cooperate failed, she would go at it alone. “Everything I need is in my vehicle. I’ll give your people the code. They can bring it up.”
[RS1]Had to read this sentence a few times. Is it like “she had come dressed for battle”, a past participle adverb? It doesn’t sound right with “taken”.
What happened here? We started one sentence, probably got interrupted, and shifted to a different thought. So it should be either She had come prepared or She had taken care of her affairs this morning.
This happens a lot, as does homonym replacement and muscle memory mistakes, like typing break instead of brake or eyes instead of eye. These are issues that are related to the sheer volume of words typed over many years. These corrections are always appreciated, but please don’t feel too much pressure to catch every one of them, because a copy editor will flag them as well.
His intelligence, his humor[RS1] , his determination, none of it remained. His face was blank, his eyes cold and empty, as if she were looking at death itself. Not many things scared her, but in that moment, she felt the icy grip of true instinctual fear.
[RS1]His humor is the second trait she thinks of? He’s not really given her that much cause to yet, she remarks on his lack of it a couple of times before this. Even says the word amusement is likely not in his vocabulary (page 29). It’s much more believable on page 94, “when he thawed enough to show rare splashes of humor” because he’s more relaxed and funnier from here onward.
This is a reader reaction. The reader is not buying what we are selling here, and she is explaining why. This is gold and this is what most writers want. We want to know how our narrative makes you feel. It helps us finetune things. We are in the business of manipulating your emotions and we need the real time feedback.
I’ve been writing for 10 years and sacrificed exercise and sleep to make it happen. It’s not a sustainable system. So how did you raise kids and live life AND write books before you found a publisher and began to write full time?Rita
This is probably going to make you scream at the screen, but it didn’t feel like a sacrifice. I had a job that didn’t really challenge me intellectually. I worked as a legal secretary, which was a good job and I was lucky that the firm took a chance on a college dropout. A lot of my job involved formatting documents, transcribing letters, taking things to courthouse to get them stamped, and so on. It gave me an opportunity to think about writing the next scene while I drove back and forth or sorted the files.
So I would get up in the morning, prep the kids for school, send them on their way – the school was only a couple of blocks away from our subdivision, kiss Gordon, and then we’d get into our two separate cars and drive to Savannah. I would work, sometimes meet Gordon for lunch in the square in front of the law firm, since our firms were only a few blocks from each other, finish my work for the day and get home. Then I would make dinner, feed the kids, and park myself on the couch with a laptop for a couple of hours. I’d write and talk through things with Gordon, and still be available if the kids needed homework help, etc. Our house was small, only 1100 sq. feet, and we were never far away from each other.
Because Gordon and I thought about the scenes all day, we were able to get the word count down in those two hours. That’s how we wrote Magic Burns, Magic Strikes, and a good chunk of On The Edge.
You have to take into the account that I was very motivated. On paper, Gordon made 35K per year and I made 30, pre-taxes. We had two kids in elementary school. We had to have professional wardrobe, two cars, make the mortgage payments, the insurance, and so on. Money was very tight, and neither of us was likely to be promoted with a substantial salary increase. That first 5K that Ace paid us for Magic Bites bought cute school clothes, school supplies, and paid for school sports, which were expensive.
The older the kids grew, the more money we consumed as a family. Writing was the only path to financial security I could see. Day jobs weren’t going to keep up with the cost of living increases. I was laser focused on “make money so the kids can be okay” and writing not only brought in supplemental income, but was so much fun. Much more so than my day job. I didn’t give up exercise – exercise was a luxury at that point I couldn’t really afford. I didn’t give up sleep either. I did give up TV and most of computer games at that time. Basically, I gave up leisure. There simply wasn’t enough time for it.
As to how sustainable it was, I don’t know. We were able to go full time after On The Edge was finished. Although we weren’t quite making as much as our day jobs provided at that time, we both saw an upward trajectory in earnings and we agreed that if we gave it all we had, writing would provide for us. We ended up being right.
The BDH is profoundly grateful you took a leap of faith and moved to full time writing.
Mary Beth says
And, as always, thanks for the views into your real life and into the world of an author.
Sara T says
Yes +1 for sure!
Stacie McC says
Patricia Schlorke says
Lynn Thompson says
1st, really? WooHoo!
I’m so glad that your talent and hard work and passion for writing were rewarded, because it means the BDH also reaps the benefits too! Thank you for your candor in sharing your journey to becoming professional writers!
Thanks for these insights. We’re all glad you took the plunge.
Christina Hanley says
Wow. I can’t imagine how stressful and scary that must of have been with two small kiddos. My husband and I struggled alot when my kids were little because we couldnt afford daycare and yet couldnt quite survive on one income either. We are also in a much better place now and I’m so happy that you guys have a happily ever after.
Crystal L. says
Having a great time reading these. ????
I enjoyed this post. It helps me better understand beta readers and copy editors, but it really helps me see other things in a different light. I am SO thankful you two found this joint passion to be profitable. Thank you for another personal insight.
“…our firms were only a few blocks from each other…” So was Gordon a legal secretary, too?
That had to have been scary to go full time writing. As others have said, we’re so glad you did. Wow!
Great questions and answers. I am so glad you took the leap!
Wow, what a wonderfully honest and down-to-earth answer. There are many reasons why you both are my favourite authors and this blog is just the icing on the cake. Thank you 🙂
I remember how much stress y’all were under in the early days from hanging on the forum. It was great to see you all succeed every time.
Patricia Schlorke says
Very glad you and Gordon took that leap of faith to write full time. Any leap is scary, and you doubt yourself after a while when it seems like nothing is happening. Then all of a sudden things start to happen that makes you want to celebrate.
Thank you for sharing your journey. Whenever I work on projects I think about how hard you two work and it inspire me to keep moving forward. Can’t wait to read your next book!
Interesting. My oldest granddaughter is paying for a Karen Kingsbury (sp) writing seminar this summer and each attendee is guaranteed their manuscript will be read by an editor. Looking forward to hearing how it went when I get to visit them in August. She paid for it herself. My grandkids make more money than I do! So annoying!
Jéssica de Freitas Maciel says
This is so encouraging, sometimes risks pay off. I for one am so thankful you guys were brave and motivated enough to stick with it <3
Valerie in CA says
Thanks for a bit of the early years explanation, description of your lives ( Ilona, Gordon, and two children). Nice of you to share a part how you came to be prolific writers.
Thanks for the post, always love to read about how other people overcome financial issues, I’ve been having my best year financially (that’s not too much to say I mean I’m in Venezuela) buttt I’ve been Saving almost all my earnings this year so I’ll be able to buy an apartment the first trimester of the next Year…
I’ve been working 12 hours Daily with only the sundays off and even working online in my free time so that I can achieve my goal and I feel súper motivated (until I remember that I would have to spend all the Next year saving almost all my earnings again so I would be able to buy the appliance’s and furniture and all the other little things because I’m single and I plan to continue so and I’m not having any help in this) soooooo I do love to see that even developed country citizens have problems and have to think in ways to
Improve their financial and reading that you did so doing something that you obviously love and we completely enjoy makes me happy!!!
Thanks for posting!
Wow! From immigrant, to potential physicist, to college dropout, to bestselling author of multiple books. What an amazing life story.
Also, I got an -aha- moment thinking of all those legal scenes/contract drawing scenes to be found sprinkled here and there in HL and other stories. Like they say, write what you know!
Donna A says
That was such a weird title you made me look it up (was actually quite hard to find too) but I’m guessing you probably shouldn’t mention it for politeness.
Thank you so much for answering my question! I think it’s exactly what I needed to hear.
Also, is there an real life Barabas out there?!
William B says
I’ve done some ARC reading for another author so I appreciate the feedback about what you as an author really appreciate.
Moderator R says
It’s worth noting that ARC readers and proof-readers have rather different roles 🙂 .
A proof-reader projects back towards the author, as Ilona explains- what worked or didn’t work for them in respect to plot and characters. They are often the first eyes on the draft, after the author themselves, and their feedback results in changes to the substance of the book.
ARC readers get the final draft or most likely even the publication copy, after proof-readers and editor have had their way with it and the author has made final changes. Their role is to project outwardly- their reviews go out into the world before the book release and generate a hype that gets people excited to buy. As such, they are the last group to see the book before the publication and their opinions don’t usually generate changes to the book.
Thanks for the helping me understand the difference Mod R!
And it’s time to re-read the Innkeeper series.
Thank you for the insight and I’m so thankful you did what you loved to do. Thank you for sharing the stories that live in your imagination.
LIBBY STEVENSON says
I once had a conversation about getting my first bachelor’s degree with two toddlers, being full-time active duty in the Air Force, working 12+ hours a day, trying to fit time in playing with the kids, and when they went to sleep, I was doing my college homework (sometimes not finishing until 2am) and then getting some sleep, up at 5am, and repeating. I looked back at my final project and as I read through, it I was like, I wrote this? It was really good. But I have no recollection of actually writing it. You do what you do and humans are great at adapting. I’m glad that you were able to get your stories out. I need those interludes with greatness (i.e., your books) to “get away”. Party on, Ilona/Gordon. 🙂
This is extremely impressive. Thank you for your service, both at work and at home raising kids.
I, like everyone else am thrilled you started writing full time and are thriving. I bought Magic Bites from Ace and as I told friends the guaranteed great sticker, was completely accurate. I bought copies for friends who all agreed, that sticker was accurate. Years later there’s no sticker but we all know that your books are a guaranteed great read.
Look after yourselves.
Bigmama Battillo says
I first met you at the signing for the RT Convention in 2009. I was there with Charlaine Harris and you were promoting Magic Bites. I told you how much I liked it and I was very amused when you earnestly told me the the books you wrote would get better! I assured you I would certainly keep reading because I had very much enjoyed your first effort! We met again in 2010 at RT in Daytona, I think, when you came to a party that our fan club, Charlaines Charlatans, , gave for Charlaine’s fans. You came with a group of other authors and we all had a great time eating pastries and discussing everyone’s writing! Even that early in your career it was obvious to us you would succeed and Charlaine was already a fan as well. She has GREAT discernment! 🙂
Kelly M. says
My sister is a writer and I often refer her to your “writing posts” as ones she would enjoy reading. I always enjoy getting a glimpse “behind the curtain,” too!
Johanna J says
Also enjoying the “behind the curtain” glimpses (and grateful that you two decided that writing as a career was worth the risk).
I first read Magic Strikes because the quotes kept popping up on Goodreads when I was searching for something else and Curran gluing Kate’s butt to the chair kept popping up among other hilarious scenes and banter… i was like… “I need more of this… much more” ????❤️
Thank you!! I love hearing about your early careers. It gives hope to people.
Eben Gay says
“we agreed that if we gave it all we had, writing would provide for us. We ended up being right.”
And we, your readers, are so grateful that you took that risk!!!
Wow! Just wow! I’ve followed you guys for years and still never realized you wrote while working full time when you started the Edge series. One of my favorite lines is still “get your guns, we’re going to Wal-Mart”. As a happy member of the BDH, I’m so glad you took the leap!!! Your writing is amazing. Thanks for all the wonderful worlds/stories/characters you’ve given us all. Just wow.
Kelly M. says
This is a completely not-writing-related question – but what games are you enjoying on Steam these days? I FINALLY replaced my 13-year-old laptop and I have decision paralysis on which game(s) to try first! It’s been so long since I had a machine capable of actually running anything decent, haha.
This is off topic, but I saw that there was a 9 month old tiger loose in Houston (it’s been recovered) and it made me think of Zeus. Now, this was just a regular orange tiger ????, but I just imagined Matilda going up and petting it and it following her home. ????
This is a nice post.
Writing is a skill, it requires practice. The more you write, the more flaws you will see and subsequent improvement.
We love the idea of considering the trajectory of writing, versus other careers, as a team, and then deciding to go for it. Like everyone, we are so grateful you did… and also that you have decided to invest your talent and interest in exactly my favorite characters and worlds – across the board. Despite the risk and hard work, the freedom to actually set hours that allow you to know and be there for your children, too, is golden! Inspiring philosophy…
Rhonda Harrison says
I love hearing the behind the scenes narrative. I am delighted you two decided to make the leap and become full time writers. You’ve brightened many of my days, and I think of the characters in your stories as friends that I love to revisit.