For the last two weeks, bestselling author Ben Mezrich has been reading your questions. He answered so many (thanks Ben!) that we are going to split his responses into two posts, one this week (now) and one next week. Find out what book Ben recommends, where (and when) he writes, and what "turns him on" (when it comes to what he likes to write about!). Take it away Ben...
I lack inspiration sitting at a computer I much prefer to write old style pen and paper in the corner of a coffee shop gives me a chance to people watch! How and where do you write? --SOMEBODY BEAR
I write in my writing cave, usually late at night but sometimes early in the morning. When I’m deep into a book I’ll write all night, starting at around 11 pm through 9 or 10 in the morning. I get into a deep state of trance, almost, and can write for days on end. I kind of fall apart physically.
I was wondering how you know that you're a good writer? I guess I'm asking how I can get my self esteem up to keep writing and not give up on any specific idea? --SARAH
Yes, you have to have a lot of confidence in yourself when you’re starting out, because everyone around you will be skeptical, and you’ll also feel like you’re being judged when you finally submit things to publishers. You have to believe that this is what you do, this is all that want to do, and this is something you can do better than anyone else.
Is there room for uncompromised natural writing styles - say for instance that which is rich in detail and digression - perhaps even pushing a few ‘prison yard’ boundaries? Or these days, would you say minimalist instant gratification? --SPMOUNT
Whoah, that’s a pretty intense question. There is always room for pushing boundaries- but there’s also something to be said for instant gratification! I will say that as a first time writer, breaking in by pushing boundaries is much more difficult than breaking in with something people are comfortable with.
Are there some things that you could point to in your rejected projects that I should avoid? Would you say it was the topic, dialogue, plot, writing style, etc.? --ERNEST DEMPSEY
Yes, unless it’s memoir, try and avoid the first person, it kind of screams “first novel”. There are some great books on writing -- I’d pick up Albert Zuckerman’s book on writing thrillers. Every book, at its heart, has to follow the rules of thrillers, the three act system, etc.
Are you still a "hypochondriac?" Photos of you and the Bugman tell me that perhaps, times have changed.--MERLE GORNICK
Hah, I am a hypochondriac but it’s under control. I still wash my hands 15 times a day and avoid plenty of things I think will get me sick. But nowadays, with swine flu, everyone is OCD and it’s cool.
It looks like you spent your early writing years concentrating on fiction, but later made a comfortable home in the non-fiction genre. What caused you to make the switch? And after “Bringing Down the House,” what was it about writing non-fiction that has kept you going for four more books? Do you still write/ plan on publishing more fiction in the future? --MATT
I love these true, wild stories that I write now, about young people doing wild things and making fortunes. I switched because I ran into these MIT kids in a bar and they invited me along for the ride. Now I feel like this is my voice, what I want to write. I’ll probably do fiction here and there, but the true stories turn me on.
I heard somewhere that you first met some members of the MIT blackjack team in a Boston bar, which led to your book, “Bringing Down the House.” Is that true? If so, how did your interaction with them make you decide it would be worthwhile to write a book about them? --ANNE
Yes, true. I met them at Crossroads, an MIT dive bar on the river. These were geeky, math science guys with way too much money, all of it in hundred dollar bills. I had to follow them to Vegas. The rest, as they say, is history!!!
The second set of answers is live! Keep reading...