Ryan Schneider is an award-winning and Amazon SciFi Top-20 writer. He is the author of the science fiction series The Go-Kids, as well as the futuristic love story Eye Candy, in addition to a story collection, two short novels, and more than a dozen short stories. He lives in Palm Springs, California with his wife, singer/songwriter Taliya.
What inspires you to write?
Almost anything can serve as an inspiration. A book. A movie. A song. A phrase. Something I read in the news or heard on the radio.
But it’s typically a story which comes into my mind and has something intriguing about it that won’t let me go. Reading good science fiction is often very inspiring. But often it’s a scene in the story I’m thinking about. If that scene has enough power to pull me in, I know I must write the book in order to see how I arrived at that scene and what happens after it.
Tell us about your writing process.
I am blessed to be a full-time writer. So I spend an average of 12-14 hours per day at my computer. That time is divided between writing new books and marketing existing books. I’m very active on Twitter as well.
My actual process of writing involves selecting a story I want to write. Once that decision is made, the story starts to come to me and I whip up an outline in Word. Nothing too fancy; just whatever comes to mind. I try to get a feel for the story in as much depth as possible. It’s easier to write when you have a sense of where you’re going. Once the actual pecking of the keys begins, the outline can and usually does change. I then go back and amend it accordingly, so my characters and plot and subplots are consistent.
In EYE CANDY, for example, the first half of the book takes place over two weeks. It is set in 2047. So I went online and found a free calendar creator, went to July 2047, and printed it out. I then penciled in the plot points for each day during the end of June and the beginning of July, including the 4th of July holiday, which is featured in the story. I found this to be very helpful in organizing the plot.
As for the daily writing, once the story is moving, I tend to neglect the marketing and Tweeting and blogging, etc. When I was finishing EYE CANDY in early 2013, for example, I didn’t blog for three weeks. I barely checked in on Twitter. There were a bunch of people who never got replies. Sorry!!!
I also try to write tight and clean in my first draft. This saves time on subsequent drafts. That being said, I still go back and find errors and typos and grammatical disasters I can’t believe I actually wrote. But that’s okay. Each pass refines the manuscript. Subplots are removed. Characters are added, removed, or consolidated. Extraneous exposition is hacked mercilessly. Some great writer said, “Less is more.” That’s generally good advice.
I have done character sketches in the past. I end up with pages and pages of notes I may or may not go back and read or use. But knowing the character helps realize them on the page so the reader feels like they know them too. I didn’t do this for my most recent book. Danny and Candy were already very real. They get developed during the writing as you spend time in their heads within the parameters of given situations, figuring out how they think, how they behave, what they like, what they don’t like, what they’re afraid of, what life experiences have shaped them and how those experiences inform the story.
Stephen King once likened his creative process to that of an archaeologist. He’s down on his knees in the sand, using a little brush to remove as much sand from the story as possible. The more sand he removes, and the more of the story he excavates, the better the story will be.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
Do I talk to my characters? Not really.
Do I listen to them? Absolutely. It’s like watching a movie in my head. I’m just taking notes. Translating. It’s like C.S. Lewis once said, “I never actually made a book. it was rather like taking dictation: I was given things to say.”
Sometimes it’s like The Neverending Story.
What advice would you give other writers?
Read, read, read. Read everything you can find in the genre in which you want to write. Get to know the ins and outs of the genre. Its conventions. Everything about it. Who are the most popular authors in that genre? Study it so that you become an expert in it yourself. Read at least 10 books similar to the book you want to write. This will enable you to compete on a level playing field.
Then write. Write a lot. Try to get your manuscript done in 2-3 months. There’s no reason to drag it out over a year. If it’s taking a year, you’re either scared or something is holding you back. Get out of your own head, embrace the joy of writing, and simply go for it. Get that first draft written!!! A paltry 1000 words per day = first draft in about 80-90 days.
Once it’s complete, give it a couple of weeks to cool off. Don’t look at it. Give yourself time to forget what you wrote. Then, you can go back to it with somewhat fresh eyes. This will enable you to have at least some objectivity while working on your second draft. Try to cut 10% of your word count. Tighten the writing. Make sure the story logic holds up. Make sure you are consistent. If a character is walking (fleeing?) in the woods and beams of sunlight are slanting through the trees in one scene/chapter, make sure it isn’t suddenly raining in the next paragraph.
Once the manuscript is as good as you can possibly make it, use social media to find half a dozen beta readers. These should be people who don’t know you and have no vested interest in your emotional stability. They will therefore give you their honest opinion about the story. If it’s worse than reading the back of a cereal box, they’ll tell you. If more than a few people cite the same problems, go back and address those. This will hone the manuscript when it comes time to publish.
Publishing in itself is a matter every writer must weigh carefully. Personally, I can’t see why any writer would not self publish. If you get lucky and an agent takes your book and a publisher offers you six or seven figures, take it and run. Otherwise, settle in for the marathon that is self publishing.
And like Bret Easton Ellis said, “Write for yourself. Work out between you and your pen the things which most intrigue you.’ Ergo, do not write for money or fame or accolades. Write because you love it. Or because you must. Or because you start to go totally mental when you haven’t written for awhile.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
After I had decided to pursue writing professionally full time and had the first sizable chunk of THE GO-KIDS written, I began querying agents. I spent about a year doing this, including researching publishers. I wrote about a dozen different drafts of my query letter. Everyone said No Thank You.
This was for the best.
Because it was during that year I truly pondered what it would be like to sell my book. It’s like selling your car. “Bye bye, little car! See you around never!” It’s not yours any longer. It now belongs to someone else. They can do whatever they want with it. In the case of a book, you’ll still be utilized for re-writes, but the decisions about how, when, and where to publish it, the cover art, etc, are typically out your hands. You may have some input, but the decision rests with the publisher.
This whole notion felt wrong to me.
On the other hand, at that time self publishing was just coming into its own. Amazon KDP was new, Createspace was new, and I decided to check it out. I immediately realized that I LOVED the idea of being in complete control of my books. I wrote THE PILLOW BOOK because it was a short (180 pages) collection of fiction which I used to learn the self-publishing ropes. I took what I learned and published The Go-Kids books 1-5. I haven’t regretted it for a minute. It’s a lot of work, but it doesn’t feel like work. Being a writer is the greatest job in the world. When doing research for EYE CANDY, for example, I spent about 50 hours during one week doing nothing but watching Mythbusters.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
Self-publishing will only become more popular. It is the new slush pile. Many self-published writers are hitting the big time and selling a lot of books. Once they’ve done the work, the Big 5 publishers approach them to ink a paperback/hardback deal and handle the distribution. These have become what’s know as “hybrid” writers; part self-published, part traditionally published.
Ebooks are also the wave of the future. They already are. It was a couple of years ago already that Amazon announced they sold more ebooks than printed books. I saw a story online a couple days ago about kindergartners being given iPads instead of books. Wait 12 years for those kids to get into college. They won’t have a single textbook. Everything will be in ebook format. Many of them will go through life with minimal interaction with actual paper books. When technology changes, demand dries up, so supply dries up.
What do you use?
Professional Cover Designer, Beta Readers
What genres do you write?
Science Fiction, Fantasy, Mainstream Fiction
What formats are your books in?
Your Social Media Links