Posted on October 13, 2008
Diana asked: “When you wrote your book, did you sort of have the idea what the whole plot would be about or did you just let it come to you?”
All writers work differently. Some just wing everything, some outline obsessively, and most of us fall inbetween. I personally keep a basic outline (usually a couple of points per chapter, sometimes more as a timeline) and a folder full of notes. I also keep character notes (to make sure someone doesn’t go from green eyes to brown and vice versa). I do revise the outline as I go and try to keep it updated. This is especially important for me as I come up with the chapter headings, since I try to make sure each one has something to do with the chapter itself.
Here’s an example of the first part of my outline that I used for Sucks to Be Me:
1) Week 1
i) Finds out have to choose from parents
ii) Goes to school. English Class: Studying Dracula
iii) Comes Home: Uncle Mortie & Ms. Riley
iv) Uncle Mortie Stays for Dinner
v) Making the List – forgotten homework
ii) Vampire Lesson 1: Vampires don’t look like Brad Pitt –
(1) meets Aubrey
(2) The musculature and physical changes
As you can see, it’s pretty basic. Some people have really, really detailed outlines. You just have to find out what works for you. I used to not outline at all…and I found I never finished those projects. So now I outline.
Posted on October 11, 2008
So I’ve had a number of people email and ask about how I got published (and, by extension, how can they get published). I’ll outline here how I personally got published since so many people have asked about it. Please keep in mind that everyone’s path to publication is completely different. So my story likely won’t be particularly helpful to you.
The first step is the obvious one. I wrote a book and revised it until I was fairly happy with it (I say ‘fairly happy’ because you’ll never be completely happy with a book…there’s always something you find that you’d change or add every time you read it…but at some point you have to stop and say ‘okay, enough, time to send it out’). I then researched agents and publishers I thought might be a good fit for my book. I also asked author friends for their recommendations (I knew a lot of people from reviewing books at my website, Young Adult (& Kids!) Books Central).
I submitted to agents first, always following the appropriate guidelines (some want a synopsis and a cover letter only, some want that plus 3 chapters, some want only a letter, etc. etc.). For the most part, all of the agents I submitted to liked my writing but didn’t think vampires were a good bet at that point (this was in 2005 before Twilight made it big).
I was actually about to give up on the book and was working on some other projects when a friend of mine said that her editor was looking for paranormal YA. She introduced me to my (to-be) editor and I sent off the appropriate letters and materials. We went back and forth for a while and I provided information as requested (like analyzing where my book would fit in the marketplace). After a while, the publisher decided they wanted to buy my book. This was in July of 2007. We then went into the revision process, which went on for a number of months.
And that’s pretty much it.
Like I said, everyone’s path is different. Some people find an agent first. Some a publisher. Some never get an agent. There are all kinds of great magazines and website resources out there for aspiring writers.
Good luck to all you aspiring writers out there. Always remember — write! Then write some more.
Posted on October 5, 2008
A number of recent visitors have asked me for advice for aspiring writers. I wrote up a big long article over on the Young Adult (& Kids!) Books Central site sometime ago and you should definitely check that out, though I’ve also got a few things I’d like to add for younger writers here:
- The most important thing to do is to write. The more you write, the better you get at it. And remember that craft is just as important as ideas — pay attention in English class, ask your teacher for advice, maybe get involved with your school or local newspaper. Any writing, even stuff you do for school, helps make you a better writer (though I complained about long term papers, too!).
- Most places have local writer’s groups and some are happy to welcome teen members as well. Check your local library and newspapers for listings. These can be great resources for writers of any age.
- Start a writing group with other like-minded friends. And if you do — learn how to (give and) take constructive criticism.
- Think about writing some short stories and sending them out to magazines and/or websites that publish teens. It’s great practice. Writing a good short story is often harder than writing a full-length novel. You’ve got to include a lot of stuff in a short amount of words.
- There’s also nothing wrong with writing fan fiction, just keep in mind that it is practice — it isn’t something you’ll be able to sell. But it is a great way to hone your craft!
- When you do start sending things out, follow the rules and act professional. That means cover letters, good grammar, and if they ask for a snail mail letter vs. an email, send the snail mail. It’s okay to mention your age, but you can show with your actions that you are professional and mature enough that they would want to work with you (I’ve heard stories before from an editor that they’d seen some promising writing from a teen, but they didn’t go for it because they didn’t think the teen was capable of working with them).
I hope that helps! Good luck to all you writers out there!