R.L. Stine (born in 1943) is the bestselling author of the Goosebumps and Fear Street series.
Here are five of his fantastic quotes to inspire your writing!
1. If you want to be a writer, don’t worry so much about writing. Read as much as you can. Read as many different writers as you can. Soak up the styles.
If you want to be a writer, you need to find the time to read, it’s as simple as that. You’ll never get any better as a writer if you don’t read because then you won’t try new things, you won’t experiment with different styles. Especially in the beginning of your career, you won’t have a voice developed quite yet, and reading works by lots of different authors will help you find that voice.
Pick a time of day you can read for even ten to twenty minutes. This can be right after you wake up, this can be on your lunch break, this can be late at night as you’re soaking in the bathtub. Have a book close by at all times, and then dip in whenever you can. And don’t just read the same author and genre over and over. Try something out of the box at least once in awhile so that you can absorb different voices and styles.
2. When I write, I try to think back to what I was afraid of or what was scary to me and try to put those feelings into books.
Writing books as adults that are aimed at children can be tricky because so much time has passed since we were children. You’re so set in your ways as an adult now that you might need to reflect a bit harder to remember what being a kid was even like. But the great thing about being an author of children’s books is that you don’t necessarily need to remember what your day-to-day activities used to be long ago. What’s most important is that you remember what your emotions were. What made you happy? What did you dream about? What terrified you? What made you laugh?
Kids will go along with your books as long as you capture that authenticity of their emotions. And if you write horror books aimed at kids like R.L. Stine does, and like I do, it’s pivotal you take the time to remember what freaked you out the most when you were young. Was it something simple like a monster hiding in the closet, or was it something more disturbing, like waking up one day to find your parents have abandoned you? Those emotions that were real to you at the time can absolutely translate to a book you write today, even one written in contemporary times.
3. It’s hard for children’s authors to be accepted when they try to write adult books. J.K. Rowling is the exception because people are so eager to read anything by her, but it took Judy Blume three or four tries before she had a success.
R.L. Stine is of course world famous for his long-running Goosebumps series and Fear Street series, but did you know he has tried his hand at adult fiction throughout the years? His first adult novel Superstitious came out in 1995, and I remember being so excited as an eleven-year-old fan of his to read something he wrote not aimed at kids. And then more recently in 2012 he had another adult novel published called Red Rain, which I haven’t read. But try as he might, adult fiction hasn’t been the easiest crossover for Stine. His books for kids have taken off to such an extent that his name has become a brand for children’s horror, and there’s little at this point he can do about that.
Sure, some authors have managed to write for both children and adults, like J.K. Rowling, Judy Blume, and even Roald Dahl, whose adult books I’ve read and are amazing. But it can be hard no matter what kind of writer you are to find success in one age market and then find equal success later in a different age market. You can try different things when you’re starting out, but once you find success in a specific niche, many of your readers (not to mention, your literary agent and editor) will want you to produce more books like that one. And you have to be prepared for that.
If you get popular enough, you might be able to stretch a little and try different genres and/or age markets, but you have to be prepared for skepticism from readers and potential low sales when you stray too far from what’s expected of you. This is why, of course, you want to love the genre and age market you do write in. You want to get popular in something you could write with great enthusiasm for another 100 years.
4. People always ask, ‘How do you write so many books?’ And I say, I work a lot. I work six or seven days a week. And I set a goal for myself everyday when I write — 10 pages a day.
Some writers sit down and say they’re going to write 2,000 words a day, and some writers sit down and say they’re going to write ten pages. To each his own. Stine prefers to think of the day’s work as the number of pages reached, and if that works well for him, then great. Ten pages a day is an awesome goal, especially for children’s books when the page count is usually less than your average adult novel.
What’s most important to marvel at and absorb some inspiration from is Stine’s work ethic. I heard a story he told once where he said at the peak of his popularity in the 1990s he was writing a new Goosebumps book and a new Fear Street book every month. That’s right… two new books every single month. That meant he wrote a new novel every fourteen or fifteen days, which is absolutely insane. But he was making so much money at the time, and the demand from readers was so rabid, that he was able to do it, at least for a little while. And trust me, when you have lots of money and adoration from readers coming in on a daily for something you love to do and have worked toward for years, you’ll be capable of just about anything.
5. If you do enough planning before you start to write, there’s no way you can have writer’s block. I do a complete chapter by chapter outline.
So how exactly was Stine able to write two new books a month for awhile there in the 1990s? He planned his books so well there was never a moment he felt lost during the writing process. Before he wrote a single word of a new Goosebumps or Fear Street book, at least in that time period when he was pumping them out like popcorn, he did a complete chapter by chapter outline. He started writing each novel knowing every single thing that was going to happen in it.
This is certainly one way to write if it gives you structure and if it prevents you from ever having writer’s block. And if you’re on a wild deadline like having to write a novel every two weeks, then yes, you probably will need to come up with super strict outlines. But I do feel at a certain point outlines rob you of the joy of writing. Because discovery plays a large role in the writing life, too. You want to always have an idea of where your story is going next, and you want to have a pretty solid handle on what the ending is going to be, too, but a sense of discovery always makes the process much more fun, at least in my experience.
You can write a book any way you want, of course, as long as you do it as best you can, and as long as you finish it. R.L. Stine has written hundreds of books in his lifetime, and with his large amount of planning he’s been able to finish every one of them and pump out one bestseller after another. What you need to do is find the way that helps you the most in writing your novel, and then stick to that process every time you start something new.
No matter what, continue to look to the great R.L. Stine for inspiration from time to time, as I always do. His books got me obsessed with reading at a young age, and they influenced me more than any others when it came time for me to write my novels. His colorful characters. His fast-paced storytelling. His iconic chapter cliffhangers. Stine is one of the masters, and he’s the perfect author to turn to whenever you’re looking for some helpful writing advice… or just a really good scare.
PS Ready to be inspired? I’m excited to announce my third craft book about writing!
From Douglas Adams to Markus Zusak: Quotes by 100 Amazing Authors to Inspire Your Writing is now available on Amazon for just $4.99.