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This blog was featured on 11/27/2019
Meg Cabot on Her Latest Book, Process and Advice
Written by
She Writes
September 2019
Written by
She Writes
September 2019

Meg Cabot is the author of more than 80 books for both adults and teens, with multiple #1 New York Times bestsellers. She’s best known for her Princess Diaries series, which was adapted into two hit films by Disney.

This year she released Bridal Boot Camp, a digital-only novella released in the spring. And this month, No Judgments, her first novel in the Little Bridge Island series, hits shelves to the joy of many anticipating fans.

Cabot resides in Key West, and her real-life experience of choosing to not evacuate during 2017's Hurriane Irma inspired the book.

“There are lots of reasons families might not be able to evacuate a storm,” Cabot says on her website. “Most of them are complicated, and as the title of the book above says, we shouldn’t judge others. We don’t always know exactly what’s going on in their world.”

The heroine of No Judgements was inspired by a real woman in Key West who organized a rescue hotline for evacuees. They were able to call and tell her how to break into their homes and care for their pets.

On Process

Cabot told Goodreads that she doesn't start writing anything down until she's worked out the story in her mind, beginning to end.

“When I feel confident enough in the story I've plotted in my head to write down the first few chapters, I'll do that, then write a one-page plot summary, then open a folder on my computer where I will keep the summary, the manuscript, files containing notes, deleted scenes, research, maps, images, and correspondence related to that book as well as a ‘story bible,’ which is a list of all the characters, place settings, and other pertinent information. That's when I know the story is a ‘keeper’!”

To see an example of Cabot's story bibles, the author recently released the one she kept for the Abandon series.

On Creating Characters

“The first thing I ask myself when crafting any character is, ‘What does this person want?’” 

“Once you've figured out what your character wants (and you need to figure out what ALL your characters want, not just your main character, because EVERYONE wants something), the little things that make each character stand out (and you know what those are!) are easy—and fun!—to add in, like a sense of humor or a dislike of beets.”

This excerpt was originally published on Goodreads. Read the full interview here.  

On Writing Advice

Cabot is open about sharing advice with aspiring writers, with tips ranging from practical to motivational.

“Figure out how long your novel is going to be,” she urges as a start. “Publishers go by words, not pages. Most historicals are at least 90,000 words. Chick lits are about 75,000-85,000 words. Mysteries and sci-fi novels tend to be about 70,0000-90,000 words. My YAs are about 55,000-60,000 words.”

A 55,000 word book should be about 200 manuscript pages, and a 100,000 word book would be about 400, she recommends.

This excerpt was originally posted on Meg Cabot’s blog. Read her full post here.

“Some authors make an outline plotting out what will happen in each chapter, before they sit down to write the book. While I do think it's important when you're writing a book to know where you are going (and how you are going to get there), that kind of detailed plotting pretty much kills the fun of writing for me, so I don't do it. See what works best for you,” she recommends on her blog.

“Write the kind of story you would like to read. People will give you all sorts of advice about writing, but if you are not writing something you like, no one else will like it either,” Cabot said in a news interview.

And like anything important in life, it deserves one’s ultimate focus... and a few sacrifices along the way. 

“If writing is important, and it’s hard to find the time to commit to it, quit the other things that are sucking up your time, Cabot advises. In her case, it was ballet, softball and acting classes that she had to sacrifice in order to create more time to dedicate to writing.”

“It’s important to not give up – if it’s something you love doing, just keep doing it,” she encouraged listeners on a podcast.

She also went on to share her book recommendations for aspiring writers, which include:

On Rejection

When dealing with rejection, Cabot emphasizes the importance of keeping a healthy sense of perspective.

“It took my father’s death (I was 26 at the time) to motivate me to send out my work. His death taught me that time is short, and if there’s something you’ve always wanted to try, you better do it soon, because you may never get another chance.”

This excerpt was originally published on Writer’s Bone. Read the full interview here.

Photo Credit: Kathryn Wirsing

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