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How to Write Like Sandra Brown, RL Stine & David Morrell

Sandra Brown, R.L. Stine and David Morrell got together for a chat on the craft of writing. Here are their writing processes and where they get their ideas.

On Saturday, ThrillerFest ThrillerMasters Sandra Brown (Unspeakable), R.L. Stine (Goosebumps) and David Morrell (First Blood) got together for a chat on the craft hosted by Peter James. As James said, these are giants of the genre—and “each of them would make E.L. James turn 50 shades of green.”


Here are their writing processes and where they get their ideas.



Brown started writing when her children were young, so she would take them to preschool and then write in the small timeframe when they were gone. That process informed the rest of her career.

“I think I’ve always kind of patterned my day after basic banker’s hours,” she said. “It’s generally 9-5 for that reason, because they were in school. Nowadays I go to an office, and I typically deal with correspondence and things like that for a couple of hours, and then I start writing.”

Brown also has ritual escapes.

“Several times a year I go completely away,” she said. While gone, she has no appointments, and she turns off her social life. “Those are my favorite times. That’s when I just totally immerse myself in the book. My favorite day is the day when I have maybe like 8 hours of nothing, except just make believe.”


“When I finish a book, I start looking around and thinking what I’ll write about next. I’m always totally convinced I’ll never have another idea. Sometimes it takes a while, and sometimes it comes very rapidly. Not all ideas want to be books.”

“In terms of where I get the ideas, sometimes I can tell you very specifically, ‘I read this in the newspaper,’ or, ‘I heard this in conversation’ or ‘I saw this on a television program’ … and then other times I have absolutely no idea.”



“Kids think you just sit down and start writing. I always tell them you never do that.” Instead, Stine plans and outlines extensively. “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.” Stine said his readers hate to hear that—“And I hate it, too. But I can’t work without it.” Once he has his outline, Stine can then sit at his desk and know how he’s going to get to The End. “I know it all. And the writing is just fun because I’ve done the hard part.” Stine works about six days a week, and generates 10 pages a day—typing with only one “magic finger.” “I used to do it faster, but that was before email and Twitter, which is a horrible distraction. And I’m too stupid to turn it off.”


Stine has one of the most unconventional processes out there—he gets his ideas from titles. For instance, he was once walking his dog, and he thought, “Little Shop of Hamsters.” That’s a great title.Coming up with a title sets him to pondering, and then he creates a fictional universe and plot around it. “It leads me to the story, and I do that all the time.”

For much, much more about Stine’s writing process, read our full profile of the bestseller here:
More & More & More Tales To Give You Goosebumps (Yeah, We’re Talking About R.L. Stine)



Morrell is an early riser—he frequently wakes at 5:30 or 6. He then checks Facebook and email, reads a newspaper, eats breakfast, and tries to be working at 8:30.

Morrell said he practices Stephen King’s philosophy of 5 or 6 pages a day, and he’ll just keep working until he has those readable pages. He also exercises “vigorously” in the middle of the day.


“If you chase the market, it’s not going to come to you. You have to have faith in yourself. I think one of the differences in what I call civilians and authors is that we have an antenna hat buzzing all the time.” Morrell said that when something sparks his interest, he analyzes why he’s interested in it. “I play with it a little bit.” He has a rule that if you’re going to begin writing a new book, there better be a good reason for spending a year of your life working on it. “It can’t be money. It has to be a fulfilling experience. If it’s true enough, the rest will follow.” To ensure it’s the right project for him, Morrell writes a letter to himself exploring his interest.

To read an exclusive dual interview with David Morrell and thriller great Ken Follett, visit:
David Morrell & Ken Follett Talk About Writing

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