Brian Yansky is the author of, most recently, ALIEN INVASION & OTHER INCONVENIENCES, Candlewick. The sequel, FIGHTING ALIEN NATION, will be out in 2013. He teaches writing at Austin Community College. Before that he worked in libraries, in bars, in restaurants, in gardens, on lawns, on a golf course, on textbooks, and in a vineyard. For more information, visit his website.
Let the conversation begin!
Outliner or Seat-of-the-pantser?
Definitely seat-of-the-pantser. I do usually start with some kind of situation and work from there. For example, aliens invade the world and take over in ten seconds and kill off most of the earth’s inhabitants. I know the story is going to be about the survivors and how they go on. Then I start working on a character and building him/her mostly by what he/she wants and fears and what gets in the way of what he/she wants. I stumble through my first draft, often summarizing small sections. My first draft is naturally hideous, but once I have this I feel oh so much better and I can begin the process of revision. For me, most writing is rewriting.
What advice would you give new writers?
Write what you want to write not what you think you should write or what someone else thinks you should write or what seems to be selling at the moment. Writing is wonderfully difficult, but in its many challenges are many rewards. It’s fun. It’s fulfilling. Publishing has its ups and downs though. Writing what you want to write and love to write will help you weather the business of publishing.
What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
It wasn’t written exactly in this way but it got me to think about writing in this way. BE THERE. Be in the scene you’re writing and see it through your narrator’s eyes and that will help you make the right choices. A lot of writing is about making the right choices.
He’s everywhere but he’s sleeping. Don’t wake him. There’s no telling what he might do.
What piece of advice would you give the younger you?
Never mix tequila and gin. Buy Apple stock. Focus more on structure. I think I could have found my way as a writer more quickly if I hadn’t had this ridiculous notion that story in novels was the least important element. I needed to grapple with the mysteries of structure sooner.
If you could choose anyone, who would you pick as your mentor?