Friday, June 27, 2014


I’m a complete and total pantser.

No notes. No outlines. No character sketches. No computer programs to help me organize my thoughts and drafts. I just sit down and write.

I make lots of great discoveries this way. But I also produce really messy first drafts.

Now, before seeking publication, I whip my drafts into shape. I revise rigorously. I try to plug all the plot holes, resolve the inconsistencies, deepen the character relationships, all that good stuff. To a certain extent, I like to believe I succeed.

But I still swear by agents and editors to help me polish and—so far as possible—perfect my work.

In the case of my debut, Survival Colony 9, my agent and editor have played very different but equally vital roles. My agent, Liza Fleissig, acted more as a lay reader: she told me what didn’t make sense, what sounded bad, what she liked and didn’t like. That was invaluable to me, as it enabled me to get a feeling for how readers would respond to the story I was trying to tell.

My editor, Karen Wojtyla of Margaret K. McElderry Books, served as more of a critical reader: she spotted logical flaws in the world-building, pinpointed structural problems in the plot, challenged me to rethink the story’s climax. She helped me to draw out deeper thematic resonances that must have been in my mind but that I needed a professional’s eyes to see clearly.

Many writers swear by beta readers and critique groups. For whatever reason, I’m much more comfortable working one-on-one with an agent and editor. They get me, and I get them.

Ultimately, I don’t think it matters where a writer seeks her/his feedback—as long as s/he seeks it. Writing may be solitary, but publishing is anything but.

Even pantsers need partners.

Joshua David Bellin

Survival Colony Nine, Margaret K. McElderry Books, September 2014


I've been writing novels since I was eight years old (though admittedly, the first few were very, very short). I taught college for twenty years, wrote a bunch of books for college students, then decided to return to writing fiction. SURVIVAL COLONY NINE is my first novel, but the sequel's already in the works!  I love to read (mostly YA fantasy and science fiction), watch movies (again, mostly fantasy and sci-fi), and spend time in Nature (mostly catching frogs and toads). I'm the world's worst singer, but I play a pretty mean air guitar.  Oh, yeah, and I like monsters. Really scary monsters.


  1. I always enjoy hearing other author's process. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Interesting! Proves there really isn't a "right" way to get things into the hands of readers. :)

  3. This really resonated with me as I tend to have a similar writing process. All my first drafts are quick and dirty and totally unplanned. I do have critique partners though (two that I really trust to guide me well; more than that I find overwhelming), and I'm just now embarking on my first round of revisions under the guidance of a wonderful agent. Thank you for a very interesting post.