Monthly Archives: April 2012

on pantsing, plotting, and why i do one over the other

there are two basic types of writers. i used to be one, and now i’m the other.

there’s the pantser–the kind who writes by the seat of their pants (surprise!), on the fly, off the cuff. riding high on a roll, going with the flow, pen to paper with words gushing out in spurts and floods. proper sentences might fall by the wayside, smothered in streams of consciousness as long as the words get out, are born, become and exist. plot holes are mere speed bumps and dead-end subplots scenic stops on the great road to typing THE END. which still has to be figured out…eventually…somehow.

then there’s the plotter-the kind who writes according to an outline, where characters, scenes, plot points and conclusion have already been decided upon, carefully sketched out, highlighted and bullet pointed. concepts such as order and structure and painstakingly detailed will be present. this is when so-and-so meet, then this happens, then they go here, meet up with this character, all to lead up to this scene which explains why so-and-so decide to go here… no lost or wandering road-trippers here, you guys.

i’m a reformed pantser. i pantsed the first drafts of DUALED, and while i loved the spontaneity of it, the sheer fun of deciding on the go what was going to happen next, i paid for the privilege during revisions. enough plot holes and messy, confused characters to make me sweat profusely and want to cry. so, ugh. i’m a total outliner now, and while it’s mostly to keep me sane while writing the next book, there’s a bunch of other factors, too. time crunch. deadlines. being officially contracted. trying to balance writing with kids and chores and life. i freak out if i start thinking about it too much, the sheer potential for being crushed. for me, having an outline keeps all that in perspective and under control. it’s the rudder and the kite line–the game plan that assures me it’s all possible.

you can outline as lightly or as detailed as you like, from keeping the very loosest of a very general idea in mind, to a written outline that reads nearly like a rough first draft. you could write a single sentence for each chapter and that would be enough. you could break down each chapter into individual scenes, then break those down even further into a descriptive sentence or two…or three, or four. you could make a visual map of your book with index cards on a bulletin board describing scenes, plot points, character motivation. plot hole or other wtf-ery? shuffle and redistribute. you could go hardcore and try the snowflake method, or a computer program like scrivener.

so, pantsing or plotting. maybe it’s not one or the other but a bit of both that gets you going. or you could start with one and end with the other. you get the idea. find what works for you, as long as it takes you from start to finish. fill me in on your method to the madness?

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audio edition for DUALED!

if you’ve ever considered running, driving, or any other hands-free activity while listening to the inner workings and musings of a fifteen-year-old assassin, consider this your lucky day.

so very excited to announce that listening library is going to publish an audio edition of DUALED! it’ll be released simultaneously with the print edition in february 2013. listening library is random house’s youth audio publisher, and their catalogue is pretty freaking stellar. harry potter. the percy jackson series. twilight. inheritance.

yeah, little books like that.


and, also, WOW.


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link round up

okay, so these posts are for my busy or lazy or mushy-brain days. but trust that they’re still worth reading.

first, as a member of friday the thirteeners, i’m super proud to say we’re participating in the crits for water 2012 campaign! if you’re a writer, you can make a donation towards charity: water in exchange for critiques on your work from authors, editors, agents, and other folks in the pub industry. learn more about it here. you can donate towards the charity anytime, but if you want to bid on a query crit from us especially, circle june 28th (scroll down) on your calendar and get your bids ready!

us thirteeners are also running a pretty cool contest to celebrate the fact that it was friday the 13th last week. guess who wrote what with the given hint, and up for grabs are gift cards and free YA books! not only that, we all had fun writing a fantasy-themed bit, exquisite corpse style. one day left to enter, so check it all out here!

over on the lucky 13s, my announcement for the sequel to DUALED made the super awesome bomb diggity news post for the 13th of april. seriously, life is good!

and some more random to finish off. watching: our severely backed up pvr. or, more specifically, getting through approximately 42 episodes of jimmy fallon. eating: sea salt caramel on rice crackers. listening: drake feat. rihanna take care

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livre du jour

before this little thing called writing came along, i used to blitz my way through books. i’d crack one open sometime during the day and not put it down until i was finished. not because i had to, but because i had no choice–a good book won’t let you go until you’re done.  and there was something special about being the only one awake at 3 or 4 in the morning, cocooned in bed, the reading lamp aimed just so. it was in that kind of deep quiet that a book really came to life; characters breathed and moved, their words not merely read but also heard.

i still love discovering books that can do this. of course, some books are just way too long, and some too exhausting to get through in one sitting without feeling like your brain’s going to explode. and now that i don’t have as much time to read anymore, i’m resorting to sneaking bits and pieces here and there, like a little kid swiping candy from the hidden stash on the pantry’s top shelf: a page while cooking, another while eating. it’s not the same, but what can you do?

what books have you read in the course of a day? or wanted to, only to be interrupted by the real world? the last book i got to read in one day was we the animals by justin torres. it’s not hefty in terms of pages (it clocks in at 128), but the world within them is immense, brilliant, and more than a bit heartbreaking.

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blog hopping #5

today i’m over at i live, laugh, love books, where i was asked to take part in all things asian. it’s a fun online event spotlighting diversity in YA, from authors to books to bloggers! i get to talk about sushi, manga, and music, as well as writerly things.

thanks so much to lucia for this very cool opportunity. come read my interview here!

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preparing your book baby for the big, scary world

it’s a pretty common analogy, a book being a baby. first an idea is conceived, takes hold, and grows. the gestation period can be anything from weeks to years, depending how fast you write. eventually you type “the end” and boom, your book baby’s born. you find an agent, then a publisher. your baby grows through revisions and edits, squalling and screaming the whole time. okay, so you were warned parenthood wouldn’t be easy, but no one said it was supposed to be this tough.

when the idea of a full night’s sleep is no longer a pipe dream and the sour tang of spit-up has ceased to be your parfum de jour, it’s time for baby to start navigating the ins and outs of the social scene–aka play dates. book wise, after the last round of copy edits has been turned in, after you’ve seen your finalized cover and decided it kicks serious ass, after you’re sure you’ve remembered everyone you’re supposed to remember for your acknowledgement page, it’s time for marketing to start kicking in. jumping into social media to promote your book is the equivalent of getting your kid ready for the first day of school–unless you’re homeschooling or leaving him to be raised by wolves in the wilderness, it’s pretty much a given.

it’s every parent’s fear. that your baby will not only not be popular, but that they’ll be bullied. for an author, the two extremes are hitting the best seller’s list or sinking like a stone. for both, falling somewhere in the middle is, of course, what usually happens (which is more than okay).

but how to ensure even that? it’s a fine line.

as parents, we’ll worry whether or not we chose the right preschool, if we should have used more flashcards at home, if we should have replaced spongebob episodes with a continuous feed of carefully selected, highly educational shows from the discovery channel. we’ll worry that we’ve been dressing jr from the wrong store in the wrong mall in the wrong part of town, leaving jr to get the snot kicked out of him before recess hits. we’ll worry that jr still hasn’t figured out how to make friends without having to resort to bribery with candy or toys.

if you’re an author, you’ll wonder if your blog posts are dull. if they’re too short, too long, too wordy. if you’re posting at the wrong time and therefore not taking advantage of peak traffic times. if your facebook friends are starting to hate seeing you on their feed. if your twitter babble has started to veer towards me me look at meeee! territory, without even the slightest ounce of wit to make up for it. you’ll wonder if you’ve managed to make lots of people want to read your book (or, conversely, if you’ve only managed to make people actively decide to not read your book, which is a whole other crapfest altogether).

in the end, your baby has to go to school. your book has to hit the shelves. and no matter how harsh it might seem, you have to let go. all you can do is trust you did your best, promise him you’ve got his back, and hope your book baby is finally ready to face the world.

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DUALED sequel announcement!

no words can express just how happy the following little blurb makes me! i know, i’m a writer, but still. seeing it on my computer screen is such a crazy thrill. *insert manic screams of excitement here* !!!

even knowing beforehand it was in the pipeline, even having already sold a book before, it doesn’t matter. today is one huge party, like xmas and birthdays and hockey playoffs all rolled into one.

so many thank yous! my awesome agent, my incredible editor, all the fabulous folks at random house who decided they weren’t ready to leave the world of DUALED just yet.

the announcement for the sequel to DUALED in today’s publisher’s marketplace:

April 5, 2012
Young Adult
Elsie Chapman’s companion novel to Dualed, to Chelsea Eberly at Random House Children’s, for publication in 2013, by Steven Chudney from The Chudney Agency.
Film: The Gotham Group
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