Let’s Write a YA Novel – Part 2 (The First Few Chapters)

Are you a planner or a pantser? No, don’t answer right away. I want you to really stop and think about it for a minute. It’s not just about how you write – it’s who you are. Is the impulse toward pantsing embedded deep within your very soul, aching to be release in a glorious burst of creativity? If you lived in some sort of high-tech futuristic city with poorly-defined borders and no discernible culture would the annual Sorting Ceremony mark you eternally as a member of the Planner class? I’m telling you, this is serious business.

For those not well-versed in the cutesy terminology of online writing communities, ‘pantsing’ (as in ‘seat-of-your-pants’) refers to the act of starting your novel without a definite outline in place. ‘Planning’, as you might expect, is the opposite.

I’m not going to sit here and try to tell you that you can reduce all writers to two broad ‘types’, but whether you want to meticulously outline the beginning of a novel or just wing it is something you should probably decide before you start. Unless you’re writing something that actually requires a great deal of planning before going in (like a lot of non-fiction), it’s probably more a matter of choice than anything else.

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Let’s Write a YA Novel – Part 1 (Surveying the Marketplace and Choosing a Genre)

So. You want to write a YA novel. You’re in luck, because this right here is the first entry in a comprehensive, no-nonsense, 100% satisfaction-guaranteed guide to Writing A YA Novel!

Only not really, because there is no such thing as a comprehensive guide to writing anything. (Claims to the contrary can be found in great abundance on Amazon, where authorial entrepreneurs promise to divulge the secrets to publishing success. I may as well reveal my biases here and tell you that writing according to a guide written by a self-described ‘authorial entrepreneur’ is a bit like going to college for an MBA, i.e. a depressing waste of time.)

I’ve thought for a while that writing about writing occupies a similar space to criticism. You can’t say definitively what a film or book or whatever is, but you can say what your experience of it was. Maybe you surround your experience with a conceptual framework built from the history of the medium and the work of generations of other critics, but ultimately the experience you write about is still the one you had. (Or are currently having.)

I guess, then, that this will be a series of blog posts about a specific person (me) writing a specific book (Castor, out soon from Harmony Ink!) over a specific time period. I’m not entirely sure why I’ve decided to write about it. Maybe it’s because I don’t have much time to work on a foll0w-up novel at the moment. Maybe it’s because I was bored and this seemed like a fun way to organise some thoughts I’ve had on writing. Possibly it’s because Castor comes out soon and I’m painfully aware of the fact that a first-time book in a niche genre with no promotion is all but guaranteed to vanish from the public consciousness like a rock dropped into quicksand.

I have no idea if this even counts as ‘promotion’, exactly, but I do know that when I first became serious about writing I would scour the internet for first-hand accounts by other people who had already made the journey. I was less interested in concrete advice than in acquiring some sense of what it felt like to have written. Yes, I knew you were supposed to compile lists of agents well before you finished your final draft (much more on that later, trust me), but how exactly should it feel to do that? Was it supposed to be exciting? Nerve-wracking? Kind of boring, actually, if we’re being honest with each other? Was it a sign of things going permanently off the rails if you secretly suspected that publishing might be a bit of a shell game, or did everyone feel that way?

I think this is what people want to read about, this experience of doing the things writers do or are supposed to do. And I guess I want to write about it. So that worked out well.

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