Writing Advice From Bestselling Author J.T. Ellison

Writing Advice From Bestselling Author J.T. Ellison


– Hi, my name is JT Ellison. My book today is “Good Girls Lie.” And my previous books are “Tear
Me Apart” and “Lie To Me.” (gentle music) Oh I absolutely draw on real life cases but I take them and I sensationalize them and I strip them apart so that only little bits of it actually make it onto the story. But I don’t have trouble
coming up with mysteries. That’s something I think
is just coded into my DNA. I walk down the street, I
see something slightly off, and I immediately am
launched off and running trying to come up with a story
that will fit the narrative. We did it a lunch today. (laughs) It started, I was like, “Oh,
oh, I have to write that down.” So it is something that truly
is a natural place for me. (gentle music) Yes, it was, because it’s been quite a
while since I was a student. Part of the attraction to writing about the girls of The Goode School is they are incredibly
intelligent, they are very mature, they are not your typical teenage girls. And as such, one of the
things I wanted to avoid was them having cellphones, because I didn’t think that
would be a very exciting book. So I made a rule at Goode that they’re not allowed
to have cellphones. Some people slip them in, of course, people are gonna break the rules. But it was really important to me that they actually
interacted with each other instead of through their screens. Because I think there’s a lot of bullying that goes on in the cyber world but it certainly got its
start in the real world, and this book has a lot of that in it and it was important to me to
actually see it first hand, how they would interact with each other. I think they’re fun characters. They are, again, a little
bit on the hight side as far as their intelligence, they come from affluent families, so they talk a little bit differently. They are a lot more mature,
a lot more together, and I think that makes a big
difference for the story. (gentle music) So there are so many
incredible books out there. My go-to is Stephen King’s “On Writing.” My feeling is if it does not speak to you and make your wings just spread and soar, then you’re not a writer. And that’s fine, you don’t have to be. But it is one of the books
that is kind of a bellwether. Albert Zuckerman has a really great book called “How to Write a Blockbuster Novel,” and that teaches how to outline, which I think is really
important for new writers, to be able to think
through an entire story. Most people who have trouble with writing have a tendency to start a story, they’ve got a great beginning, they get 20 pages in and then
they don’t know where to go. So the Zuckerman is fantastic for that. Elizabeth George’s “Write Away” is also just perfect for a beginner writer or somebody who’s trying to change genres or wanna do something
different with their career, they can read this book and she really gives an idea
of how to develop characters, because, as we all know,
character is story. So you’ve gotta have great characters. And the last one is one
that I just started reading, Patricia Highsmith wrote a book called “Plotting for Suspense Writing.” And it is really life changing. I’ve written 24 books and
I’m learning new things that I’m going to be
applying to my next book. So I highly encourage you
to try that one out as well. (gentle music) That there’s not a lot of
routine to it. (laughs) I used to have an absolute, from one o’clock to four o’clock, that was my writing time
and I only did that. As my career has changed and grown, as the responsibilities and
all the different things and deadlines and this and that, I kind of write whenever I can. So sometimes that’s in the
morning, starting at 10 o’clock. If I can get a 1,000 words before noon, ah, it’s gonna be a great day. Also, if I get pulled into
another situation, I’m done, I’ve got my 1,000 words. I firmly believe that no matter what you have to touch the story every day. Really important to do that. So whether you are writing a 1,000 words or if you’re editing a chapter or if you’re just looking at your outline and what you’re going to do next, that is, to me, that’s the process. So as much as I would
like to just sit down from one to four and
write that 1,000 words, it doesn’t always happen that way. (gentle music) Talk less, listen more. That’s is absolutely what I would do. I think that there’s a lot of
impressive people out there that are more than happy
to give you advice, and if you stop and listen and actually hear what they’re saying, it will help you shortcut your career, it will help you become a better writer, it will make you a better person, and you’ll make some
friends along the way, and that’s really something important. (gentle music) I’m reading Ruth Ware’s “Turn of the Key,” which is absolutely outstanding. And I’m reading Gilly
Macmillan’s “The Nanny,” which is also incredibly outstanding. These two books just, ah,
they’re absolutely amazing. We’ve got some serious, serious talent in the female suspense genre right now. And they’re two of my absolute favorites. I have Lisa Unger’s “The
Stranger Inside” coming up, which I’m really excited about. And I’m also reading this
Patricia Highsmith book about how to plot a suspense novel. So yeah, there’s a few going on. Oh I think I’m listening
to Leigh Bardugo as well, “Six of Crows.” So I like to listen to a book and be reading a couple of books. You know, if I get bored
or I have a snatch of time, I can just go and do that.

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