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Cassandra Clare Shares Writing Advice

Yesterday, Infernal Devices series author Cassandra Clare (pictured) kicked off her Clockwork Prince book tour at New York City’s Barnes & Noble Union Square.

The reading featured a surprise visit from Clockwork Prince audiobook narrator Ed Westwick (who plays Chuck Bass on the Gossip Girl TV series). Westwick (pictured) introduced Clare to the standing room only crowd. Clare read from her novel and answered questions.

Prompted by one fan’s question, Clare shared writing advice with the crowd at the reading.

1. “Read everything! Don’t just read things that are in your comfort zone or things that you think you’re already going to like. Experiment; try new stuff and try new genres. If you read a lot of romance, then start reading mystery. If you read a lot of mystery, start reading fantasy. Literature is huge; there are all these different influences, tropes, genres and whatnot. When you write your own story and you’re going to want to be able to bring something new. If you only read stuff in one genre, it’s going to be hard to reach outside that genre and look at other ideas and other concepts.”

2. “Write everyday. Don’t kill yourself. I think a lot of people think, ‘I have to write a chapter a day’ and they can’t. They fall behind and stop doing it. But if you just write even one hundred words a day, it’s not that much. By the end of a month, you’ll have three thousand words which is one chapter. By the end of the year, you’ll have twelve chapters which is a book. Just think about doing a little bit everyday.”

3. When writing a scene where one of her characters has to tell his parent he is a vampire, Clare drew inspiration from a personal friend (who happens to be gay) and his experience in coming out to his parents. Clare role-played the scene with fellow writer Holly Black: “Well, Mom I’ve got something to tell you. I’m un-dead … You may not want me to be un-dead, but that’s just the way I am. You’re just going to have to accept it and join PFLAG or whatever they have for the un-dead. The un-dead are just like you and me, well maybe more like me than you.”

4. To tackle writer’s block, Clare endorsed a technique attributed to Dr. Gregory House from the House M.D. television series. She uses a white board to diagnose for why she gets stuck. “I believe that writer’s block is a symptom. It’s not a disease, it’s the symptom of a disease. So what I try to do is kind of do it like House; write down the symptom and write down the other symptoms. Try to work backwards to figure out what the problem is.”

She also encouraged fan fiction writers, predicted who would win the YA Sisterhood blog’s “Tournament of Heroines” contest (hint: a Suzanne Collins‘ character), revealed how she conceived of the idea for Infernal Devices (took a gloomy walk by a river during a London trip) and shared an update on the Mortal Instruments adaptation.

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