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writing: your questions part 2

So this is the last week of summer for my kids, therefore it is also the last week of summer for me, therefore this week will mark the last week of the summer Reading/Writing posts on this blog and we will return to me posting on random topics on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I hope you are all enjoying these last days of summer…I feel like this year it just all flew by.

So, to finish off, here are the last of your questions from the Q & A post earlier…and if I didn’t answer something you asked, it’s likely I’ve posted about it before (check the categories in the sidebar and the FAQ). Hopefully I’ve covered everything!

And before I get into the questions, here are a few quick announcements:

* Salt Lake City Public Library event tomorrow, August 17th, from 6-9 p.m. Hope to see you there.

*Jenni Elyse mentioned that she can’t seem to leave comments. Is anyone else having this problem (maybe you could e-mail me if so and we could see if there’s a common thread in what’s happening)? As you can tell, my husband and I aren’t always fluent in all the nuances of wordpress. We’re just flying by the seats of our pants.

Okay! On to the questions! And answers!

Shawn and Carrie Jo asked: What is the editing process like? Not the editing you do before you send a book into your agent/publisher, but the editing you do afterward. How different were Matched/Crossed from when you sent them in, thinking you were “done”? (As done as you were going to be on your own, or with “non-professional” readers/editors). Were there big changes to plot? Do you have veto power, or do you have to adhere to your agent and editor’s desired changes?

The answer to this is kind of complicated. Because I’d been through the editing process with five books prior to MATCHED, I knew when I sent it in that it wasn’t “done,” and I knew that we would work together quite a bit. I’m very fortunate in that both editors I’ve worked with, Julie Strauss-Gabel and Lisa Mangum, have been fantastic and I’ve trusted them absolutely. And with Lisa, I revised my first manuscript three times before she accepted it for publication! So I’ve always been prepared to do a lot of editing and take a lot of suggestions. There have often been significant changes, and my motto is “I’ll try anything the editor suggests.” Because–why not? They are smart, smart people, they have an eye for things you cannot see, and you can always just save your old version in a document in case you like it better. Which, incidentally, has never happened. I’ve always been glad I made the changes. It’s always resulted in a better book, even if it seemed hard/difficult to do initially.

This is a really great question and one I should probably devote an entire post to at some point, because I don’t know that this answer really covered everything.

SaraBee asks: Writing about time…. not the actual time on the clock, but the time that passes in a story. Do you just pick up wherever you want your character to be next? Do you use any sort of transition? I ask because while I write, I find that I don’t want to show every single day or week (nothing really happens to my character during this time), but find myself wanting to skip ahead a few weeks/month. I really have no idea if that makes sense, but in my head, everything makes sense. :0)

I do skip ahead in time, and I do use transitions. I think you can tell when you read my books how I tend to do this–if I skip ahead, I usually flag the transition somehow, or, if I feel it will be clear in the text, I don’t flag it so explicitly. But yes, I like to skip ahead. Or sometimes back. I like playing with time. I DEFINITELY do not like to show every single day, etc., in a story. Just the interesting ones.

Juli asks: What is the biggest, most important advice you can give to an aspiring writer? And do you ever go through a phase where you feel like your book isn’t good enough, and if so, how do you handle it?

I always advise aspiring writers to put in the time and to give yourself time. It might take you years of writing every day to get good enough to get published, and THAT IS OKAY. The other advice I give is that, if this is truly important to you, DO NOT GIVE UP. I know these sound basic but, for me, writing every day and not giving up were essential. And yes, I have also felt like my book isn’t good enough. Usually if I give myself a break from the book and work on something else, and then come back to it, I can tell if it has promise or if my new project is more exciting. And then I work on that instead.

Jenny says: Hi Ally! I’m in the middle of writing a dystopian novel, do you have any advice on how to make a dystopian society seem more believable? And how long (word count) is the average YA novel? Thanks!

I’m afraid I don’t know the word count of the average YA novel. I can tell you mine are around 90,000 words, usually. But Google might know more about other novels! And about making a dystopian novel more believable–I think it needs to feel enough like our world that we can relate to it, so that the differences/strange things freak us out even more. I hope that helps!

Thanks again for the great questions, all. We’ll have to do this again in a couple of months!!

+ comments (2)
  • Great Q and A. I’m excited to have found Matched! It’s so great. I can’t wait to read Crossed. I’ll have to read your other books soon.
    PS- I have 3 boys too. 7 months, 3 and 5 yrs. They’re wild and fun!

  • ShawnandCarrie-Jo
    August 17, 2011

    Ally, thanks so much for answering my question! It’s good to hear you liked both your editors suggestions so much. I’m close to being ready to querying for a novel I’ve written and I’m a little nervous about the editing process. It’s good to hear that someone else has had multiple positive experiences.

    And I’m having a complete fan-girl moment knowing that not only did you read my comment, you mentioned me in a post! I wish you still lived in Ithaca and I could meet you (somewhere public, of course) to give you a batch of chocolate chip cookies in thanks!

    ~Carrie Jo

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