By Ani Bundel
How does one write a novel? For those who geek out over nerd properties, the thought of writing a book has passed through our minds at least once. But how does one start? Where does one go? And maybe the most important part: How do you not get screwed? The Winner Twins, Brittany and Brianna, who have been international-bestselling and award-winning novelists and comic book writers for half their young lives, have created one of SDCC’s most useful weekend panels, explaining how to create your own novel step by step.
Though the twins were moderators, they sat at the table with the rest of the panel in a very egalitarian roundtable format. Three authors joined them. Todd McCaffrey is the son of Dragonriders of Pern’s Anne McCaffrey and carries on his mother’s series. Hugo and Nebula Award-winner Seanan McGuire referred to herself as a “more traditional author” instead of the twins who are self-publishers. And Chris Jericho, the former WWE wrestler turned comic author, rounded out the group. Also, the twins brought intellectual property, entertainment attorney, and all-around smart dude David Silver.
In talking about inspiration, McCaffrey said his mother once told him, “A writer is someone who can’t not write.” He finds that he comes up with really great characters and that his story follows, while McGuire said she finds something that interests her and learns all about it to the extent that she writes a textbook as a first draft. Then her editor asks her to make it saleable, and she turns it into a fictional story.
The Winners have several ways they work as a team. Brittany, legally blind, writes in talk to text, while Brianna does all the futzy editing processes. Because they play with their methods, they’ve tried several ways of writing; their worst one was writing a story out of order. (“Don’t do that,” Brianna told the audience.)
Jericho praises the self-editing process, saying not everything you write is gold and that taking out excess words makes a story better. He also reminded the audience to save save save. Everyone on the panel had a horror story of losing chapters, drafts, and entire novels because a computer or hard drive died at precisely the wrong time.
It was interesting how differently the writers function. Jericho said, “Don’t force it; you can’t make words come.” On the other hand, McGuire pointed out that as someone with editors and a whole host of people depending on her making her deadlines, she has to write every day. It doesn’t matter where she is or what she’s doing; she writes every day, without fail.
McCaffrey pointed out that McGuire started writing fanfiction and trained herself in daily writing before she got picked up, so she could do that. She agreed, comparing writers to athletes who keep their brains and fingers in shape to create, and that if she stopped, she would fall out of shape and have to get those mental muscles back.
McGuire also gave a lecture on how becoming a writer does not lead to becoming a billionaire, and if you’re getting on with this thinking, you’ll create the next Harry Potter, to do something else. Most people have never heard of the majority of authors, whether self-published or traditionally. But the Winners countered that you could do a living writing; you just have to diversify and write not just books, but teach, work in graphic novels, work for magic cards, games, whathaveyou.
There was too much for the panel to cover in one session, and Silver did his best to explain the idea of copyright and protecting your work in the final five minutes. But it boiled down to talking to professionals who understand this stuff and treating it like saving and backing up your work, a thing you must do not to lose what you’ve worked so hard on.
Hopefully, the panel helped at least a few in the room who will start writing and exercising those skills to create their own worlds. Happy writing.
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