Image of R.L. Stine next to text R.L. Stines Writing Process

R.L. Stine’s Writing Process Explained

In this article, I’ve outlined R.L. Stine’s writing process in detail.R.L. Stine shared how he deals with writer’s block, outlining plots, and how to write suspense.

The quotes in this article come directly from NaNoWriMo’s interview with R.L. Stine. I have edited the quotes slightly in order to make sense for those reading this article – only in a grammatical sense.

Stine’s new book on writing children’s horror fiction,There’s Something Strange About My Brain, is now available for pre-order. When it comes out I will likely write a book review article.

With my journey to becoming a fiction writer. I’m studying how some authors structure their writing routines and processes. Today, I researched R.L. Stine. In middle school, I memorized the entire Fear Street shelf in my school library. In those days, I was a quirky kid sneaking away from the lunch time cliques to go the library and read Fear Street. On the bus especially during band events I always carried a Fear Street book with me. I don’t think I explored other genres until high school.

Surprisingly, I never finished a single Goosebump book in elementary school. I’d only read enough to pass the A.R. tests (accelerated reader program for elementary students). This isn’t a critique on Goosebumps, I was just a lazy kid at that age and I wanted the A.R. points. Little off topic on this article, I know. However, I wanted to share what my experience as like reading R.L. Stine as a child.

These days I have no interest in writing children’s fiction or young adult fiction. However, I am interested in the fiction writing process in general and given the success of R.L. Stine, it was a given that I would take note on his writing process on this article.

The Importance of a Daily Writing Routine

Here is an outline of R.L. Stine’s writing routine:

  • Writes 6 Days/ Week
  • Sits at 10 every morning picking up where he left off
  • Writes 200 words a day (approximately 10 pages)
  • Before writing R.L. Stine outlines his novels. He writes a 20-page outline for a 120 page manuscript.

“I have a little game that I play with myself. When I hit 2000, if it says 2000 on the computer, I stop there. No matter where I am in the middle of a sentence or anything, I stop at 2000 words. That’s it for the day. I get up and walk the dog.

I usually write six days a week. By stopping in the middle of something, it’s easier to pick up the next day. If I finished something, I’d start fresh the next day,” R.L. Stine.

Just the idea of stopping a day’s writing routine mid-sentence is sure to give any perfectionist writer a migraine. Yet, I have to admit I love this idea. In practice it probably fuels the next days writing session with a simple task to get started and keep the writing flow going. Just finish the sentence and the day’s writing has been initiated.

Preparation for Writing

How Outlining and Character Bios Can Prevent Writer’s Block

“I outline every book before I write it. People always ask me about writer’s block, but I’ve never had it. I don’t have time for it. I have a lot of books to write. The more preparation you do before you write, the less likely you are to have writer’s block. A lot of kids think you sit down and start to write a book. I’ve never done that,” Stine.

Some writers are plotters and other are pancers. Pancers are the ones who just start writing and let the story unfold itself. R.L. Stine is not a pancer. He is definitely a plotter. Some writers may not be comfortable committing to an outline as they may feel limited while writing.

Stine, however, sees his outlining as a strength rather than a weakness. He seeing outlines as a way to avoid writer’s block. If you’re a pancer who struggles frequently with writer’s block then it may be a good idea to try drawing a basic outline for your book.

“I make a character cheat sheet before I start to write. It has the characters’ personality and what they look like. I also make a chapter-by-chapter outline with dialogue. In Goosebumps, each chapter ends with a cliffhanger. I make sure to plan the ending early, so I can keep the reader guessing. Everyone hates to outline. Kids don’t want to hear about it.”

Not all writers write bios for their characters. Mosley, who I have been frequently referencing in this article does not create character bios for his characters. He prefers to discover them as the reader discovers them through their dialogue and actions on the page. This way may come more natural for some writers who explore character development by the way their character interact with the fictional world they’ve created.

On the other hand, crafted character bios means you already know how characters are going to interact with their world. Each method of writing has its own strengths and weaknesses. Just chose which works best for you.

This is a contrast with R.L. Stine’s method of writing. Where other writers may see character cheat sheets as a limiting practice, R.L. stine once again uses preparation methods as a way to prevent problems from occurring in this writing.

“When I sit down to write, I’ve done all the hard work. I’ve done all the thinking. I have a 20-page outline. A goosebumps manuscript is 120 pages.

Everyone hates to outline. But I can’t work without it. When I sit down and people say, “Well, you’re so prolific, how do you do it?” When I sit down to write, I’ve done all the hard work. I’ve done all the thinking. And I have a 20-page outline.

A Goosebumps manuscript is 120 pages, and I have a 20-page outline. I have everything that’s going to happen in the book. I figured it all out. I’ve done all the thinking. Then I can relax and enjoy writing it, and have fun with it. Yeah, thank you so so much for that answer. Everybody’s excited to hear that you were a planner.”

How Outline Can Prevent Plot Problems

Interviewer: We talk about that all the time. In NaNoWriMo, there’s planners and pantsers. Popular belief credits Stephen King for being a pantser. He sits down and goes at it.

R.L. Stine: Well, I had a friend back in the 90s. There was a teen horror writer. I was doing Teen Horror Fear Street, and her name was Richie Tankersley Cusick. She told me, “You know, I don’t want to know what happens to my characters when they turn the corner. I want them to surprise me with what happens to them.” I thought, “Well, fine. Good luck with that.” And, comes with that, I mean, she had all kinds of plotting problems. She always had plotting problems. But that’s the way she liked to work.

Plotting problems are a common issue for pancers. This is not me passing judgement on pancers. If that’s your writing style that’s your style – own it. You should just know that this does come with it’s own sets of issues.

In Walter Mosley’s books on writing, he discussing how he has to constantly rewrite his book in order to fix plot problems in the first drafts of the novels. Yes, I really mean drafts as in plural . If you want to learn how to be a pancer I highly recommend Walter Mosley’s books This Year You Write Your Novel and The Elements of Fiction. Just be prepared for a lot of rewriting because this is a common issue when you do not outline your novel.

Have a Great Editor: R.L. Stine’s Process for New Ideas

Interviewer: How do you make each story distinct from one another? It’s impossible.

“The challenge is to avoid repeating yourself. I come up with my books to create various scares, teases, and chapter endings. To come up, not to keep repeating myself, that’s the hard part. And it helps to have good editor. Susan Laurie has been the Goosebumps editor almost since the beginning.”

As a fledgling writer I know one aspect of writing that can be intimidating to working with an editor. I recently started writing as a guest blogger for an organization. This is my first time working with an editor. My first guest post was a nerve-wracking experience. I didn’t even want to click, “submit” after I was done with my work. Once I got my draft back with the corrections I felt so relieved. The editor was gracious and understanding of my inexperience as a new writer. Her input was invaluable not just to me as someone developing the craft of writing but to the readers. The readers are expecting and deserve high quality content. Editors are invaluable in the writing world.

If you enjoyed this post, check out the original video that inspired this article:

 

I transcribed the quotes from this video and outlined R.L. Stine’s writing process. I did this mostly for my own reference and I figured it will help out other aspiring fiction writers. I’ll likely keep sharing my book reviews, notes from courses, videos, and writing conferences.

If you’re an aspiring writer, be sure to check some of my other articles on the writing process. I’m doing deep diving explaining the writing process of successful authors. In my two recent articles I feature Walter Mosley’s two books on writing fiction. I reviewed This Year You Write Your Novel as well as Elements of Fiction by Walter Mosley.