Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Aprilynne Pike: How to Write a Book

By Aprilynne Pike

Today I'd like to welcome YA author Aprilynne Pike to the blog. Aprilynne is the #1 New York Times best-selling debut author of the YA fantasy romance Laurel Series. Wings, is the first of four books about a seemingly ordinary girl with a not-so-ordinary destiny. The story continues with Spells, and today's new release, Illusions. Her take on faeries is pretty darn cool. She's going to chat with us about writing a book (which sounds so much easier than it really is).

Take it away Aprilynne..

Let’s Start at the Very Beginning

I think I speak for every author when I say that the most common question I get from readers is some variation of How do you write a book? My answer is an extremely simplistic one: I start at the beginning, and I write to the end. But really, it’s an important part of my process!

The very first book that I finished—let’s call it High Fantasy of Beginnerness—I started writing at the beginning of the story and then I got into the part I like to call The Slog! (Yes, that is a technical term.;)) That’s the part of the drafting process where the work really starts. The idea is not quite as shiny and new as it was in the beginning, your characters may have started to rebel, and your subplots are starting to get unruly and tangled (as they are supposed to do!). This is the point at which a lot of aspiring authors give up. I know I did with the first novel that I attempted to write. *koffkoff* Romance Novel of N00bness *koffkoff*

So when I reached that point in High Fantasy of Beginnerness (HFoB) I decided I should do something very dumb. I skipped forward to the next really exciting part and wrote it, leaving myself a note to come back and write a connecting scene here.

That worked super well and was way fun! (People kissed! Buildings exploded! Side characters died!) So I did it again. Just left myself another note.

Fast forward about two weeks. I had written all the super cool exciting parts of my novel!!!

Just one problem. Now I had to write all of the parts that connected them.

Now, they weren’t necessarily boring parts, but they weren’t the big emotional highs that the scenes I’d already written were. They were necessary for sure! These connecting scenes bridged subplots, built characters, and foreshadowed all of those lovely little scenes I’d already written. But the fact is, they were harder to write.

Fast forward about four weeks.

Despite having written about half the number of words I had written the previous two weeks, it took me twice as long to do. Why? Because the scenes that get you from Exciting Point A to Exciting Point B are more difficult to write. And even more difficult to write well.

I did finish that book eventually. I got all my connecting scenes written. But I learned from that experience that I did NOT want to write a book that way again. I do well with two things hanging in front of me: deadlines and the proverbial carrot.

I love to write, don’t get me wrong. But I especially love to write exciting scenes, and I suspect most authors are the same. And nothing is as fun as writing a big ending! So I save that ending for last. Like dessert. Writing the endings of my book is my reward for having finished the rest of it. It gives me something to look forward too, but it also gives me an enthusiasm for the part of the book I am writing right then. It’s not a chore; it’s a step I am taking to get to that awesome ending!

In addition, because I am thinking about the Awesome Ending I Am Going To Write, foreshadowing becomes easier. And pacing is also easier because every scene I write is trying to get to that ending!

As you can clearly see from Janice’s blog (especially this series!) there is no one right way to write a book, so maybe writing the exciting parts first works for you. But for me, I follow Fraulein Maria’s advice and start at the very beginning.

It is, after all, a very good place to start.

Aprilynne Pike has been spinning faerie stories since she was a child with a hyper-active imagination. At the age of twenty she received her BA in Creative Writing from Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho. When not writing, Aprilynne can usually be found at the gym; she also enjoys singing, acting, reading, and working with pregnant moms as a childbirth educator and doula. Aprilynne recently returned to Arizona with her husband and three kids; she is enjoying the sunshine.

About Illusions
Illusions, the third book in Aprilynne Pike's New York Times best-selling series, continues the story of a not-so-ordinary girl named Laurel.

Laurel hasn't seen Tamani since she begged him to let her go last year. Though her heart still aches, Laurel is confident that David was the right choice.

But just as life is returning to normal, Laurel discovers that a hidden enemy lies in wait. Once again, Laurel must turn to Tamani to protect and guide her, for the danger that now threatens Avalon is one that no faerie thought would ever be possible. And for the first time, Laurel cannot be sure that her side will prevail. 


  1. Great post. I'm glad I'm not the only one who started with too many subplots and for me, a big mess to fix. My problem was too many in between scenes that weren't necessary and had to be cut.

    Aprilynne, I was so excited your book tour was coming to Ann Arbor in June, but now they switched it to Lansing. I'm so bummed! I wish you could change it or come here too.

    I loved Wings and Spells and would love to win Illusions. Thanks for the guest post.

  2. "I do well with two things hanging in front of me: deadlines and the proverbial carrot" -- so true!

    My favorite faerie/fairy would have to be Puck.

  3. Great post. Thanks, Janice and Aprilynne!

  4. Thanks, Aprilynne. Beneath your light tone runs a strong sense of the hard work you did won the connecting scenes. That's a great description of one strategy for not grinding to a halt during The Slog. Thanks also to Janice, for hosting!

  5. As I was reading the beginning of this post where you were learning how you did NOT wish to write again, I was thinking WOW, this is how I write---how she no longer does. And then when you said you leave the ending for last, I'm the opposite there too. I sometimes write my ending first! Of course it might change, but as I write, it serves as my final destination. This just goes to show how the writing process varies from one writer to the next. Oh and my favorite fairy is Aurora Borealis, a.k.a. the Tooth Fairy, the name my kids and I gave her when they were all very little.

  6. i've done the skipping ahead thing before. I can't tell if it works or not yet. I've been revising the same two novels all year, but next time I'm working on a new WIP I'll be able to see what works best for me.

    I love how writing is different for everyone.

  7. Alas, I usually have to write and write and write to figure out what the end will be, so no dangling carrot for me :/

    Oh, and Queen Mab ftw!

  8. I do the same thing, but for a different reason. I find that my character's emotions and the whole feel of the story ends up being really disconnected if I don't write it in order.

    And I would love to win a copy of Illusions. I have Wings on my kindle to read soon, so I'd just need Spells to complete the collection.:)

  9. I loved both of Aprilynne's books and can't wait to read Illusions! My favorite faerie is Tamani!

  10. I write in a similar fashion. As much as I REALLY REALLY want to write that cool scene I have been day dreaming about, I force myself to write the connecting scenes. Otherwise I would never want to write them. This has worked for me and gives my book uniformity.

    Thanks for a great post!

  11. I LOOOOVED the first two novels and I heard Illusions just came out. I'd love to win, but I'll buy it anyway! So fun to hear a little more about the author and her writing process.

  12. I picked up Aprilynn's first book when my brother-in-law said, "Hey, I went to high school with her." I really enjoyed her creative take on faeries.

    Tamini is my favorite. I was very sad when she picked David :( But there is always hope :)

  13. Fabulous! I tried skipping ahead in my current WIP, but it never worked for me. How could I know what REALLY was going to happen until I saw what the characters did 3 scenes ago? Weird, I know. I like your process, Aprilynne! Will never think of my ending the same way again! I look forward to reading your series :)

  14. It's funny how writers differ. You see the ending as the big carrot in front of you ... me, I hate endings! You have to pull so much together and find some way of introducing closure. Yick!

  15. Oh, I would love to win.

    Thanks for the interview. I just finished a rough draft that I wrote mostly in order and it's turned out so much better than the ones where I skipped all over the place. I think I'll skip around a lot more in the second draft, but she's right about how writing the ending feels like a reward.

  16. Thanks for the post Aprilynne. I am currently working on my first YA and need all the advice I can get. It's always interesting to find out what works and what doesn't work for authors. Thanks for sharing.


  17. Thanks Aprilynne for today's post! She's in the middle of a book tour at the moment, but hopefully when she gets a chance to breathe again she'll pop by and say hello.:)

  18. Thanks for the post. I think it's hard as a writer to figure out what works for you. It's so tempting to read how others do it (successful others, natch) and think, well, if I just copy that, I'll be golden. Too bad it doesn't work that way! I'm like you. I need to start at the beginning and just write it out. I love using those big scenes as carrots. It's a great way to look at it and I think I can safely copy that.

  19. I always like hearing a talented author's advice. Thank you :)

  20. This was very helpful, I think. I tend to write things down as they come to me, then hope to smooth them out as I go along. Only time will tell if this method works for me. Thanks, Aprilynne, for sharing.

    Now, I'm going to delve into the rest of Janice's blog. So much information...

  21. Thank you for letting us know about your writing process. It is comforting, for me, to see that there is so many different methods to write and that depending on the person, one method is better than the other. Thank you!