#2 – and that ain’t bad

R. L. Stine at the 2008 Texas Book Festival, A...

R. L. Stine at the 2008 Texas Book Festival, Austin, Texas, United States. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

According to a recent Writer’s Digest Article, R.L. Stine is the #2 bestselling children’s series author of all time (can you guess who’s #1? Also two initials … think there’s something to that?)

I discovered R.L. Stine as a young tween. He had not yet started writing Goosebumps, but he did produce a thrilling little series called Fear Street, which I read voraciously (quite different from the Sweet Valley Twins/Babysitters Club series I’d previously consumed). My mother never censored anything I read (thanks mom!), but she would glance over at the covers of these books – adorned with zombies and ghosts and bloody knives – and sigh.

“I worry about you sometimes,” she’d say.  But to her credit, she never made me stop reading them.

Given my love for Fear Street, the article about Stine perked my interest. He’s number 2 OF ALL TIME, yet he’s not necessarily the household name of monikers such as J.K. Rowling or Stephenie Meyer. And he’s also charming.

One thing I found interesting was his writing technique: he starts with the title. Crazy, right? Yet, somehow, not.

“A Goosebumps manuscript is 120 pages. He has his title. He doesn’t really do research, preferring to work off his imagination. He creates a character list and takes two to four days to outline—extensively (which he says also prevents him from getting writer’s block). The outline has dialogue, every chapter ending, and so on, up to 20 pages. And then, when he returns to the book, all the work is done. He writes 10 pages a day, does a second draft for a couple days, and turns it in. Grand total: About three weeks.”

I’ve had a lot of layout and flow confusion in my current WIP, so this basic-outline-and-then-some tactic really intrigues me. It’s too late for me now (I’m already more than 120 pages in), but I think I’ll try it on my next project. I love complicated manuscripts that ensure everything ties together at the end (Anyone ever read Louis Sachar’s Holes? It’s a fantastic use of this dynamic.), so I think I’ll enjoy this outline approach.

I loved the article so much, I immediately ordered Stine’s biography from Amazon. For roughly a quarter. Go figure.

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  1. I love RL STine! I grew up reading as many of his books that i can get my hands on, from goosebumps to fear street, he is an amazing writer. I wish he would write more.


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