Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Cure by Stephanie Erickson with Guest Post

How to Write by the Seat of Your Pants: Outline or No?

In general, I’m a seat of my pants writer.  Historically, I haven’t done much outlining at all. The whole process reminds me too much of fifth grade with Venn diagrams and makes me gag a little. 

But, seat of your pants writing isn’t just sit down and spew forth brilliance – at least it isn’t for me.  I spend a lot of time chewing on things, characters, concepts, story lines.  So how do I get from chewing to writing? 

Shower…a lot

This is going to sound bizarre, but I do some of my best thinking and daydreaming in the shower.  I’ve come up with some brilliant concepts, and in fact, The Blackout was born in the shower.  It is my sanctuary, the place where I’m least likely to get interrupted, and the place with the fewest distractions.  Facebook, text messages, infants, phone calls, and dogs can’t find me there. 
So, whether you outline or write by the seat of your pants, find your sanctuary. 

Write as if the whip of your master was behind you

Once I have some good ideas, I start writing.  It’s not always productive, and it’s seldom brilliant, but that’s not the point of seat of your pants writing.  The point is to just write.  Get it all down, the good, bad and the ugly. 

Make your caterpillar a butterfly

I think the key to seat of your pants writing is editing.  Take your diarrhea of the keyboard and polish it into something that looks like you spent ages planning, outlining, and plotting.  Now’s the time to spot plot holes and fill them in.  Did you mistakenly change a character’s name half way through?  Better fix that.  Change the layout of your main character’s home?  Better set it right. 
If your readers can tell you’ve used the seat of your pants writing method, then it hasn’t worked for you. 

So, why not outline?

Why not indeed.  In fact, I outlined The Cure – the first time I’ve ever used an outline voluntarily.  I thought trying something new might help me to create fewer plot holes and problems within the book.  So, I bit the bullet and tried it.  However, I’m not married to it.  In fact, I eliminated an entire chapter from it and changed directions.  And I’ll probably follow a similar method for my next book, with a few tweaks for good measure.  I liked how it went, despite my aversion to outlines. 

The Cure by Stephanie Erickson 
Publication date: November 14th 2013
Genres: Dystopia, Young Adult


“One life will make the difference.” Macey Holsinger has been hearing that promise her whole life. But it hasn’t saved anyone yet, not even her little brother.

The disease has claimed countless lives in the last hundred years, and the government is working hard to find a cure through human testing. Testing that has killed nearly as many people as the disease.

At sixteen, Macey has better things to think about than saving lives and submitting to any rule other than her parents’. As a budding artist, she has her whole life ahead of her, at least until she faces her own testing.

Questions plague Macey. Questions that make everyone else nervous. How can death be justified with more death? What’s the point of all this?

Answers evade her until she’s left with only one question: How much will she sacrifice in the name of the cure?



“I gladly sacrifice my life for the good of others.  One life will make the difference, and that life could be mine.  For this reason, I’m devoted to finding the cure.”  I said the words out loud, but I wasn’t thinking about them.  A couple of squirrels chasing each other held my attention more securely than the pledge we’d been forced to say since kindergarten.  By tenth grade, the thing had lost all meaning.  
I sat back down among the rows of desks, still eyeing the squirrels.  I folded one of my legs under me and let the other one swing.  At five foot three, I wasn’t the tallest member of my class, but I wasn’t the shortest either.  My violet eyes followed the dance of the squirrels while I toyed absently with a lock of my jet-black hair. 
My teacher was blabbing about our latest reading assignment, but those dang squirrels were so cute I couldn’t focus on her.  
I turned to face her.  She was one of the younger members of the faculty, but dressed to try and fit in.  Her loose-fitting floral print blouse was tucked into her high-waisted navy skirt.  She stared at me over half-glasses perched at the end of her nose.  I imagined she referred to them as spectacles and liked to put the end of them into her mouth while pondering literary stuff.  
“Hmm?” I asked. 
“Care to answer the question?”
I glanced out the window to curse the squirrels, but they were gone.  “Could you repeat the question?”  
She half-smiled as she leaned against the front of her desk, knowing she’d caught me.  “Certainly.  Why do you think Billy has a stutter?”  
“Oh jeeze, I don’t know.  I didn’t understand a single page of this book, Mrs. Whitehead.”  A few snickers escaped from some of my classmates.  “Hey, guys, don’t throw me under the bus here!  I couldn’t have been the only one who didn’t get anything from this!”  A few faces turned to Mrs. Whitehead and nodded.  “Look, I know this was the shortest thing we’ve read so far, but it was all moon language to me.  Quite frankly, I hated it and think it was a waste of time.”  I nodded to accentuate my point.  
A couple of kids clapped, but soon it died down under Mrs. Whitehead’s unceasing gaze.  The bitter taste of regret worked its way to the back of my throat.  It burned a little like a vurp.  
Mrs. Whitehead frowned.  “Fair enough.  Let’s go over it, then, and maybe you’ll get more out of it.”  
Even after talking about it for the next hour, I still didn’t get it.  I mean, Mrs. Whitehead seemed to find Billy Budd very enlightening, and if all that was in there, great.  I didn’t see it.  Sometimes I wondered if people overanalyzed a book.  Maybe the writer didn’t really mean all that stuff, and you saw something that wasn’t meant to be there, ya know?  In this case we’d never know.  Melville had been dead over two hundred years, so asking him wasn’t really an option.  
When the bell rang, I gathered my things quickly, hoping to escape the classroom without confrontation.  With her gaze burning a hole in the back of my head, I kept my eyes glued to the floor.  I was pretty sure her spectacles magnified her stare, the way the sun’s heat is more intense through a magnifying glass.  I reached up to scratch my scalp, making sure she hadn’t given me a bald spot.  I rounded the front row of desks and, by some miracle, made it out into the hall where I disappeared among the sea of bodies.  
Once I was a safe distance from Mrs. Whitehead’s room, I leaned against a row of lockers.  One of these days you should really learn to hold your tongue, I thought.  I took a deep breath, checked the top of my head one more time, and continued on to my next class: History. 


Let's see. What do you want to know about me? I love apocalypse movies like 2012 (which is probably why my first book is sort of apocalyptic), I love to read, I love my fur babies, my husband and my family.

I'm a graphic designer by trade, but hoping to some day be able to write full time.

Dan, my husband, and I are brand new parents and loving life!

As far as writing goes, The Blackout was my first published novel, but I've been writing for quite awhile. I won honorable mention in the 72nd Annual Writer's Digest Competition for a short story junior year of college, so that was...awhile ago anyway. Although I published a scholarly paper senior year, fiction writing has always been my passion. Can't wait to see what's next!
Author Links:

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one (1) ebook copy (.mobi only) of 
The Cure. Open internationally. 

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