by Alana Saltz
Brandy Colbert is a Writing Pad alum who recently sold her YA novel “Pointe
” to G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers (an imprint of Penguin). Her book will hit the shelves in April 2014. We asked Brandy a few questions about her journey to publication and what advice she has for writers hoping to publish their own debut book.
Can you talk a little about “Pointe” and your path to publication?
“Pointe” is about a gifted ballet dancer who must come to terms with the role she played in her childhood friend’s abduction after he returns home four years later, when they’re 17. I began working on the novel in 2009, but four years later, it’s been through many drafts and plot changes. With the help of critique partners, I polished the book and began querying in May 2011. I signed with my fantastic agent in August 2011, and after another round of revisions, we sold the book in October of that year. Since then, I’ve been working with my insanely talented editor at G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin, which will publish the book in April 2014.
Was it difficult for you to finish the book? What helped you push it to the finish line?
Actually, when I was only a few chapters away from finishing the first draft, I saw a blog interview with a debut author whose book was nearly identical to mine. Like, basically all of the same plot points. This isn’t super uncommon, as no idea is 100% original. But I was devastated. This was the book that had been in me for years, and I couldn’t believe someone else had gotten to it first. Luckily, I had amazing, supportive friends who convinced me to set it aside for a while and work on something else. I did, and when I came back to “Pointe,” I had a lot of fresh ideas to revamp it and truly make it my story. After that, the new draft just poured out of me and I finished it in about three months.
What does your daily writing practice look like?
I am definitely not a “write everyday” sort of person. I admire people who can adhere to a schedule like that, but I’ve never been able to do it. That being said, I rarely go more than a couple of days between writing stints. And when I’m not writing I’m always thinking about my story, jotting down notes as plot points come to me, or looking over sections I’ve already written. This often leads to marathon writing sessions when I actually open up the Word doc. I’m a night owl, so my best work is usually done from 8 p.m. onward.
What was the first class you took at WP? How did it influence your writing?
I took the “So You Want to Be a Writer” class with Marilyn Friedman at Writing Pad, which ended up being perfect for me. I’ve been writing since I was seven years old, but decided at the age of 27 that I wanted to start writing seriously, for publication. I’d always been incredibly shy about sharing my work (I still am; go figure), and knew the class would push me to become more confident, which was obviously needed if I was going to be querying agents and (hopefully) approaching editors with my work one day. It was also a great way to meet other people who took writing as seriously as I did, which helped me view it as work and not just a hobby.
What advice do you have for aspiring Young Adult fiction writers?
Read, read, read. Write, write, write. Repeat till infinity. Read within your genre, but outside of it, too. Read anything you can get your hands on: poetry, essays, short stories, scientific articles, blogs. You never know what will inform your work. Personally, I rarely feel like writing if I’m not reading, so it’s essential to the writing process for me. Also: Don’t give up, always write what you love, and don’t chase trends.
What did you like best about the class you took at Writing Pad?
Writing Pad was such a fun, supportive atmosphere. I felt safe there, and always knew the critiques offered (yes, even the tougher ones) were intended to help improve my work, not tear it down. And the delicious snacks were a definite perk, of course!
Congratulations, Brandy! We can’t wait for the book to come out.