One piece of writing advice I always give people who ask me for, um, writing advice – especially young writers – is this: never throw anything away, even if you don’t finish it.
Why? Because you never know when you might go back to an idea you thought was broken, and suddenly realise you know how to fix it.
I first had the idea for the book that would become ACID when I was fourteen. A friend and I challenged each other to write a story about someone escaping from jail in a brutal future world. I wrote about three chapters, got stuck, and gave up. But I didn’t get rid of it.
Eight years later, aged twenty-two, I’d just graduated from university after fighting my way through a fine art course, knowing after the second week that I didn’t want to be a painter but determined to get my degree. As soon as I’d put up my final show, I went back to my tiny room in my student flat, turned on my computer, and began another attempt at my prison story. That failed too. I graduated, moved halfway across the country, and decided it was time to have a proper stab at becoming a writer. It would take a year before I realised I was a YA writer, and another four years to get an agent, with a contemporary story that didn’t sell.
That was when I started thinking about my prison story again, and wondering if I could make it work as a YA novel. My agent liked the idea, so I dug out all those old notebooks and scribbled notes, and started looking through them, wondering if there was anything in there I could use to help me bring world that was taking shape inside my head to life. Fortunately, although both attempts at the story had stalled early on, I’d made a lot of notes about politics, technology, infrastructure and everyday life. Worldbuilding is such an important part of any novel that’s set in the future or an alternate reality, and still having all my old notes meant a huge amount of that work was already done. It took over two years to write the new version of my old idea, then edit it and get it ready to go out on submission.
Emma Pass grew up at an environmental studies centre near London, went to art school in Cornwall and now lives in the North-East Midlands, UK, with her artist husband. For 3 wonderful years she was lucky enough to share her life with The Hound, too (that's him in the picture). She is represented by Carolyn Whitaker at London Independent Books and her YA dystopian thriller ACID is out now in the UK from Corgi/Random House, and releases in the US on 1st April 2014 from Delacorte. You can find her blog here, view her website here and catch her procrastinating on Twitter here.