Wednesday, August 10, 2011

All Day Q&A

The floor is yours today, guys. If you have a question—about pretty much anything—I will answer it for you asap. Also, if Blogger isn't working for you, I will take questions on Twitter as well. Answers will appear on the blog:)

Note: I do not guarantee quality of answers, just that there will be one. You've been warned.


  1. When you're writing, what's the one thing you HAVE to have with you. Food, any object, whatever.


  2. Charlee, I would say music. I work much better with music. Second? A water bottle. I know, lame.

  3. Awesome! Thank you so much for this! I know I'll be sticking around to see the questions and answers. :)

    As for my question:

    What advice do you have for unpublished writers (both those just starting out and those who have been working on their craft for a while)?

  4. Ava, for those starting out: If you think you're amazing, you're probably not as good as you think you are, and that's okay. If you think you suck, you're probably not as horrible as you think you are, so cut yourself some slack. Listen. Learn. Read. And most of all, be patient.

    For those who have been at it for a while: You are normal. It can take a long time to break in, and just because you haven't doesn't mean you suck. It just means what it always means—this is a freaking hard business. Never forget why you write, and keep at it.

  5. Lisa, I've always loved Wolverine, since I was little. But I also fell in love with Riddick in The Chronicles of Riddick. And as for an anime "superhero," I adored Inuyasha and Zuko and Ichigo. Can you tell I'm a fan of the reluctant, rebel-ish hero?

  6. 1. Is there ever a limbo between drafting and revisions that you just can't get your head around? I'm having that problem right now.

    2. In a new-house situation: Consult a decorator, or wing it?

  7. Juliemybird,

    1. I'm having trouble understanding what you mean. Do you mean not knowing what to revise? Or being overwhelmed and not wanting to? Or are you trying to wait and let it simmer but it's hard?

    2. It depends on your ability and desire, I think. I personally would do it myself because I LOVE that kind of stuff and want the creative control. I also really enjoy that kind of work—building and painting and decorating. I just redid my living room, in fact, and even my relatively small space took a few weeks to finish.

    So, if you're into that, I say go for it. If not, I'd find someone who can interpret your desires and get it done for you.

  8. What is your writing process as far as developing the story? Did you plan everything before you started writing or did you just dive into writing and let the story create itself? How long did it take you finish the first draft of Transparent?

    Sorry... way more than one question.

  9. Delilah, I'm not a hardcore planner. I don't outline my books ahead of time. Mostly, I just have an interesting character in mind and an opening sequence. I *do* plan a little, like one to three chapters ahead of where I'm at, but those plans change often as I learn about my characters and such.

    TRANSPARENT is an interesting case. I can't quite remember how long the first, original draft took, but it was likely around two months in the Summer of 2009. But after I sent the book to my agent, I was asked to rewrite the book entirely. And that rewrite (which was basically a second first draft) took about six months in 2010.

    In general, I would consider myself a fairly fast drafter, but I take about double that time in edits. Definitely a much slower editor.

  10. I was wondering if you've ever tried MG, or have any advice about it. I'm working on an MG project now, it's really fun, but I don't know if I'm nailing it or not... I love YA, but this idea seemed too MG to make it work for a YA audience.

  11. Awesome! I love asking questions =)

    While hunting for an agent or a book deal, did you ever thought about self-publishing?
    If yes, what made you change your mind?

  12. Red Boot Pearl, I have tried MG once. It lasted 13 pages, and it was AWFUL. Truly awful. I really don't think I have an MG voice at all, but I sincerely admire those who do. I wish I had advice (other than read MG and research), but mostly I would say good luck and you are awesome!

  13. Juliana, I *have* thought about self-publishing. I think most writers these days at least consider it at one point or another. But for me, it just wasn't feasible. I know that may sound crazy, since there is this impression that self-publishing is "easier" than traditional publishing, but it's not. It's a tough business with its own rules, and I didn't feel like my personal skill set fit well in that atmosphere.

  14. Do you think that series genre writing is dominating the YA market to the detriment of standalone general fiction?

  15. Jim, I certainly don't think it's a detriment. I think it purely based on the consumer wants. I know as a kid I loved series, and I think a lot of kids want to stay in a world they love for as long as possible. It's kind of natural that you'd see a lot of series in MG and YA (heck, even a lot of adult genre fiction is serial in nature).

    That said, I think there is room for standalones. A lot of room, even. For myself, I just want to write as much story as is necessary. No more, no less. Sometimes that means a standalone (even a long one), and other times that means a series, and even at times it means companion novels (which I adore).

  16. What do you think about tall women wearing platform heels?

  17. Valerie, lol, I'm jealous? I wear heels because I'm short, and I think it's cool when a tall woman owns her height and uses it. Why not wear heels if you want?

  18. I love that you do character sketches because drawing is something I've always wanted to learn how to do. But I've always heard that you don't "become" an artist, you just "are" an artist. Have you always been good at art, or was it something you worked at?

  19. 1. Ha! Sorry. I guess I mean a combination of not knowing how to revise what needs to be fixed, and there being so much that needs to be fixed, it seems hopeless. Would one call in a complete rewrite in this situation? When you rewrote Transparent, was it hard to not be constantly looking back to the original? How did you balance that?

    (Wow, I just asked you, like, three more questions.)

  20. Haha, YES!

    Nothing wrong with being short. My best friend in highschool was small and cute, and I always felt so manish.

    Mm. Compensating with 5" heels...?

  21. Deserae, I have to admit I'm a little outraged at the idea that you just "are" an artist! That's like saying you just "are" a writer and you don't have to do anything or work hard or learn.

    That's a load of crap, in my opinion.

    While it is true that I've been interested in art since I was a little kid (just as I was interested in writing), I was not a good artist for a very long time. In fact, I don't really consider myself a great artist currently.

    Art is like any other skill—you have to practice. I did not start out drawing perfect anime a age four (Heck, I don't draw perfect anime now. Is there even such a thing?).

    I drew constantly as a kid. I took art classes whenever I could. I carried around a notebook with me literally EVERYWHERE growing up. I drew in church (Which my dad hated, until I would repeat everything the speakers said. Hi, I'm a tactile learner.). I drew in class. I drew at birthday parties and sleep overs and camp outs.

    I worked hard to learn!

    I truly believe that anyone can learn to draw, just like anyone can learn to write. Sure, you may not be the next genius artist, but art is as much skill/practice as any other creative pursuit.

  22. :) Thanks, Natalie.

    Now onto bookish things (you did say "all" day q & a, right? Lol!)...

    Is Transparent set in our world? Like could I feasibly step out of my front door and into Fiona's story? If not was it hard to build that world into something tangible/ relatable?

  23. Juliemybird, okay, I think I get what you're saying now:) Revisions can be SUPER overwhelming, especially when they are really big ones. When I first was told to rewrite TRANSPARENT? You bet I freaked out. I cried. I had major doubts. I wasn't sure I was even capable of taking on that kind of task.

    I thought about it for an entire month, actually. I didn't touch the book. I didn't even open it. I just let everything sink in—my current plot, what the problems were, how I could possibly fix it. Things started to click together. I saw what my agent was saying and why he said it. I saw that it could be fixed, but then there was that final question:

    Do I WANT to?

    That was the hardest choice of all. To stay with this book that I seriously jacked up, or to go on to a fresh project and take what I learned and be done with it.

    Obviously I chose to rewrite, and it was one of the hardest things I've ever done in my writing career, if not the hardest. I chose to do it because I loved the project deeply, and I knew I could make it better. I knew it deserved to be written properly. I have faced this choice before and moved on, but with this particular project I went through with it and it turned out.

    Hope that helps.

  24. Haha, Deserae, I *did* say that, and I meant it!

    TRANSPARENT is...*kind of* set in our world. I imagine the time period very close to ours, but it's based on an alternate past, if that makes sense. In Fiona's world, there was an anti-radiation drug developed during the Cold War and, well, that drug had some serious side effects, but people took it anyway because of the threats and fear at the time. The mutations started out small (strange skin color or deformities or odd smells, etc.), but over time they increased in severity and, of course, usefulness. Fiona is the first person ever born invisible, and she's rather infamous for it.

  25. I get it. That sounds really cool, actually. I'm so used to books set on future calamity that I never really considered a plot based on an alternate past.

    Anywho, you've said before that characters come easily to you. What was it like to... Can I even say see when it comes to Fiona? I mean, being invisible must have made the getting-to-know-you process a little more difficult. You've talked about how you heard her in a more detailed post, but I guess my question is how hard was it to translate what you knew about her onto the page when she kind of wasn't there. I know that's all over the place but if you understood any of that, I'd love to hear back.

  26. Deserae, Fiona was a very interesting character to write! Getting into the shoes of an invisible girl might have been a little difficult, but it was also VERY fun and interesting. And she's not easy invisible, either. It's permanent, she's can't switch out of it or anything. I always thought that was kind of a cop out when I'd see it in shows/books/comics, heh.

    But I approached Fiona like I approach any character—she is a person still, after all. I treated her like one. She has her own quirks and definitely a lot of issues surrounding her invisibility, but in the end she's just a girl who wants to be loved and accepted.

  27. 1. I LOVE writing but beginning's? No fun. I can never seem to write a really gripping, great first liner. Should I delete the beginning and then delete it? or something else. Any advice? 2. Do you watch So You Think You Can Dance. If so who do you want to win/think will win?
    3. What is you day like, and what is your writing rountine.
    4. What perspective should I write from? I think 1st is better, but 3rd is easier!

    Lexi ( who's blogger account is being MEAN!)

  28. Oh yes and another question is:
    Where and how do you get good critique partners.

  29. Lexi,

    1. I'm kind of a horrible person to ask about beginnings, because that's really the only part I'd say I'm good at! Heh. But I do have friends who struggle with beginnings, and from what I've seen they mostly push through it and deal with it in revisions/throughout writing. Don't let a rough start deter you.

    2. I have been watching, but I need to catch up! I'm behind a little. I really like Sasha and Tadd. The darling M&M duo are of course brilliant as well.

    3. My days are all over the place. I have two fairly small kids, so my days consist largely of tending to their needs/breaking up fights. You would also find me in the kitchen a lot, as I genuinely enjoy cooking. Some days I go running, others I play dance games on the video game console. I watch anime in the evenings rather frequently, and between all that I do the social networking thing and fit in writing and drawing. I'm basically always busy with something.

    4. I would say use the perspective you feel fits the story. Sometimes it can be scary to try out a new one, but it's a great learning experience as well.

  30. Lexi, about crit partners, I would refer you to my "Writing Advice" tab. There are several articles there about crit partners that will be far more thorough than I could answer here.

  31. I haven't read a lot of YA with male MCs, and have always wondered why. What's the difference between writing a female MC and male for you, what leads you to ultimately make that decision, and why do you think YA favors the girl's POV? Also, which do you prefer writing from while I have you on the subject.

  32. You know, a week or two ago one of your posts brought a question to my mind that I thought, I should ask Natalie that next time she does a Q&A! But think I can remember what it was, now? Perhaps it'll come back to me.

    In the meantime: what was the most surprising thing to you during your long road to publication? Something you knew about but which was still most unexpected when it happened to you, or something you didn't know to expect that took you by surprise when it came up? Good or bad.

  33. I have a couple questions. The first one is multiple parter.

    1. How long did it take you to write Transparent from start to finish? And how long did it take to get through each stage of writing separately (plotting, drafting, & revision)?

    2. You ran a successful blog BEFORE your first novel came out. This is something I'm trying to do. How did you do this and do you have any tips? Ironically, I'm supposed to teach a class on social networking next week o_O so whatever you can give will help.
    I'm assuming I'll have to talk to no one for a few months before anything really happens?

    Here's my (failing) blog so far:

  34. Deserae, crap it all, my internet died and your answer got eaten. Short version:

    YA has more girls simple because the YA audience is largely female. There are lots of theories as to why, but boys tend to skip YA and go straight for adult genre.

    As for differences, I don't think there are many, honestly. All people are people, and gender is part of life, but there are other aspect of people that are more important. Boys aren't one-dimensional, and their personalities run the gammut just as much as girls. I focus on what a particular character would do based on their whole life, not just their gender.

    And finally, I love writing both genders, but I do adore my boys. I had many guy friends growing up and it feels like hanging out without "girl stress" all over again.

  35. Seabrooke, I think, honestly, it was the wait. I mean, people kept SAYING publishing was slow, but my idea of slow was very, very fast in comparison to publishing, you know?

    I'd think things like, "Oh, it won't take me that long. Surely that's an exaggeration."

    Nope, not an exaggeration. It really can take forever at every stage, and it never changes. Me? I'm still waiting on something. It never goes away.

    On the positive side, I have always been so pleasantly surprised at how genuinely nice people in this business are. Of course there's a few curmudgeons, but for the most part I've been in contact with writers, agents, and editors who have been nothing but kind, gracious, and helpful.

    I was so scared that people would be mean to me when I started out, but overall that has been a very select few. Kindness is the name of the game.

  36. C.M. Sikora,

    1. The TRANSPARENT rundown:

    First First Draft: About two months maybe (Summer 2009)
    Revisions: All of fall and winter, maybe six months

    *Enter Agent telling me to rewrite it all*

    Second First Draft: Six months
    Revisions: Six months before agent saw, two or so months revising after her read

    2. Short answer? A lot of time and a few lucky breaks, honestly. Longer answer—No one read my blog for YEARS. Not a few months, but years. I mean, I had a few loyal followers, but I would say my numbers for the first two years averaged about 20-30 at most. I don't know for sure, because this was before "Followers" and stuff like that.

    What really started it all was a contest at Nathan Bransford's blog. I entered my first paragraph in December 2008, and he chose me as a finalist! I was SO excited and shocked, and my blog saw a huge increase in traffic because of that one thing. But not like HUGE huge, maybe another 50-70 readers (which I was ecstatic about).

    It built from there slowly. More people visited because my new followers would occasionally link to my posts. And I would visit their blogs and interact with them as well. I've never believed this is about numbers—it's about people. Quality over quantity, I say, which is why I never have "follow me and win!" contests, etc. I want people who genuinely want to read what I have to say, whether that's 10 people or 1,000.

    Another big jump came when I signed with Nathan. And I saw significant increase when I started posting my blog posts on Twitter. Then after 15 months on sub, I wrote a very honest post about my experiences that got a surprisingly big response, and I think a lot of people found me through that because it got linked all over (But I certainly didn't know that would happen when I wrote it).

    Honestly, it's taken years of just plain participating in the community. It won't happen overnight, and it shouldn't. People seem so eager to pump up their numbers, but that's really not what blogging is about. Connect with people, and it'll all come together and be rewarding, no matter how many people read.

  37. I just asked this question on Twitter, because Blogger was temporarily down, but it's fine now. So my question is, how do you deal with revisions? Do you start by sending it to your crit partners/readers, or do you just dive right in? And the revisions themselves: do you map it out completely, or rewrite scene-by-scene? When do you line edit? What do you do if you need to drastically change it? Do you completely rewrite the whole thing every single draft? Do you even reread it before you start? What if you know it's really, really, really bad?
    I'm 14, so this will be my first time editing. I have absolutely no idea what to do ... so thanks for the Q&A!

  38. Mercy Vaughn's question from Twitter: how do you suggest diving into revisions? Do you map out everything, or do it scene-by-scene, what?

    It depends on how big the revision. If we're talking substantial changes, I usually map out a plan. I go chapter by chapter and write things like "Cut this. Rework that. Nix the whole chapter. Add tension. Etc."

    If there are only smaller revisions, like tightening up a certain spot or cutting one small thing, then I don't get as detailed and just dive in. And of course, once I get to prose editing I don't make notes, I just go through cutting out the crap:)

    I often read things out loud or put them on my Kindle to get a different perspective.

    Of course, as I say constantly, edit in the way that's best for you. It's just like writing—there's no one right way.

  39. So let's say you have something on sub and a WIP fifty percent complete. At what point do you send said WIP to your agent? When it's done? Or do you send her pages to see what she thinks? I'm just wondering if sending pages early would save you some of the rewrites later.

  40. Yeah, thanks for your time today, Natalie. My last question is about the books you read. Do you choose them from recommendations only, or do you take my approach and stand in the bookstore reading the back covers for the ones that seem interesting? And are you reading anything good right now (or have you read something OMGable recently)?

  41. Becky, it depends (I say that a lot, don't I?). When I was working on SIDEKICK, I *did* send the first 30 to Anna after I finished the first draft because the book was quite a departure from my usual genre (para to contemp). I wanted to make sure she was "on board," so to speak, before I continued my editing.

    But on the other hand, I haven't sent her any of my witch book, House of Ivy and Sorrow. I want to make it as clean as possible before she sees it, and I'm not really concerned about the genre:)

  42. Deserae, I take a lot of recommendations. My friends have good taste:) But I do also enjoy discovering a book on my own, whether in the store or online.

    As for what I'm reading currently, I tend to read several books at a time, so I can go between my moods. Right now, I'm reading DEMONGLASS by Rachel Hawkins, 13 LITTLE BLUE ENVELOPES by Maureen Johnson, and DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE by Laini Taylor. I'm enjoying all three:) I just recently finished BLEEDING VIOLET by Dia Reeves, which was one crazy book. I love me some crazy.

    Other loves of this year:

    LOLA AND THE BOY NEXT DOOR by Stephanie Perkins (Out soon!)

    PIVOT POINT by Kasie West (Out Winter 2012)

    THIS LULLABY by Sarah Dessen

    DON'T STOP NOW by Julie Halpern

    SUPERNATURALLY by Kiersten White

  43. Hi Natalie!

    Are you naturally a self-disciplined person? What do you think it took to make you a self-disciplined person, someone willing to sit down and write everyday no matter how you feel?

    Thanks, and thank you for answering all these questions!

  44. erika, I don't know if I'm *that* self-disciplined, but I would consider myself a hard worker. I think part of it might be natural—I'm the oldest, always felt responsible for things, and just the fear of disappointing someone was enough to keep me in line.

    But I can also be terribly lazy. Like, right now I'm watching Notting Hill and trying to avoid exercising at all costs. Also, I'm debating whether or not I should make myself a giant root beer freeze. So I'm pretty awesome at lazy, an over achiever, you could say:)

    I think I learned discipline from my dad. He always told me if I worked hard enough I could get what I wanted, and he taught me how to break down goals into manageable bites.

    And really, the more you work, the more you see just how rewarding it can be. When you put in those days and finally get to the end product, it's extremely satisfying.

  45. Natalie, what do you do to help get motivated when you're facing a mountain of pending edits?

  46. Michelle, hehe, I'm actually not motivated AT ALL when it comes to edits! I kind of struggle greatly through them. But what I do to get them done is schedule. I tell myself I have to do a certain number of pages a day, or tackle a certain part that needs rewriting. They aren't big sections, usually 2-3 chapters (and my chapters are like 5-8 pages on average).

    I also give myself little rewards when I finish. Like I'll watch some anime or eat chocolate or what not. It's kind of lame, but it works for me because I can see the end. Like, if I just do 3 chapters a day, I'll be finished in two weeks, you know? If I do more than a few chapters a day, I usually get burned out too fast. Or overwhelmed. Then it takes me longer.

  47. Hi Natalie! this is my first comment, and I want to say that your blog is my favourite THING on the web! I also love your Qs & As and I have some questions regarding one topic :
    what's going on with 'House of Ivy and Sorrow'? since day one I couldn't stop thinking about it and how it might be my gonna be favourite book by you, I even dreamt of me asking you about it & woke up before geting an answer ! I just read up there you still didn't send it to your agent, well has any of your friends read it? if so what do they think of it? And do you think youv’e succeeded in displaying it as you wanted I mean 'beautiful language' ?

  48. Oh, I hear you about timelines, Natalie! I've got a non-fiction with a co-author due out next year. In my naïvety, when we were first drawing our proposal together and preparing to query in February of that year, I'd been thinking maybe we could have it out by the end of the year. Ha! It'll have been over four years, start to finish.

    I also agree on the nice people thing. I'm not sure why I was expecting maneaters; perhaps it was just my natural introvertedness and shyness allowing myself to be a little intimidated by these awe-inspiring deities of the mysterious realm of publishing.

  49. Zinzanah, Not much has happened with House of Ivy since I finished the first draft. I've been editing another project this summer (SIDEKICK) while I let it sit and simmer. And I should be getting my first editorial letter soon, so it will be another few months before I come back to it.

    Which I know might sound depressing, but that's kind of how it goes. I can't put anything out before TRANSPARENT, anyway, so I've been trying not to rush through my projects at my usual speed.

    A couple of my friends have read it, and I actually have a friend reading right now. They are very excited about it, and that makes me happy. It also makes me happy that you're already excited, too!

    I'm not sure I achieved the "beautiful language" I was going for, it's probably more on the "unique language" side, but that is what editing is for. Hopefully I'll get closer in subsequent drafts.

  50. Thanks, Natalie. Good advice--I'll give it a try!

  51. Welcome to the society of published Whipple authors. (I know you're a "by-marriage Whipple, but we love you anyway.) Join the likes of H.P. Lovecraft and Frances Harriet Whipple Green McDougal, Julia Crouch Culver, Don Welch Whipple, Dorothy Whipple, Maureen Whipple -- and a bunch more, including me. It kinda runs in the family. Now that TRANSPARENT is sold, the second can only be weeks behind. Look forward to it.