Stephanie Manova

Author of YA book What The Universe is For

Read this first


It’s nice to re-read old posts, not because I like them, but exactly because I don’t. My writing’s gotten slightly cleaner. I keep waiting for a plateau and continue missing it.

A few things that have been up:

  • Signing a deal with an agency, can’t say by contract but the prospects are good and I’m happy

  • Writing some articles about writing as a guest blogger on a few sites

  • Interning for CrowdSchool

  • Refining these edits while I still can (most of my time). It’s been a long road alone, but I’d do it all over again if I had the choice.

It’s also time to move on. Next chapter, here we go.

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Stylistic Cohesion

One of the most fascinating aspects of working on a project as long as a novel is the creation of a final product whose content echoes your thoughts over a long, long period of time. Fascinating, but difficult. Those fluctuations in your development come through in the draft and can make the whole thing feel rocky if your lucky, self-contradictory and pointless if you’re not. The challenge, then, is developing a voice solid and authentic enough to last you a year or two, along with a worldview that takes all of its counterparts into account and is well-thought-out enough to remain more or less unchanged by new information. Both of those things are pretty hard to do and take a while, but they’re also essential, at least to me. And they matter more than anything else in the process of growing a spine and learning to stand your ground when challenged, not just in writing, but in life. And

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“Dear Ophelia, Be Patient. Love, Hamlet.” – Kurt Vonnegut

Let me fan girl for a minute. I owe Kurt Vonnegut greatly – Slaughter-House Five was the book that turned me on to writing as a serious career option because it was the first time I realized that angst, if organized correctly, could evolve into a cultural antidote. And what’s more than that, Vonnegut made some of my worst days alright. Even if he was “like a child” according to an old professor, it doesn’t seem as though that was a bad thing. His simplicity was his strength, and he knew how to find the humor in big and/or depressing questions and situations instead of turning each story into an intellectual gloom fest. So, as an admitted fan girl of a dead man, let me give you some good ones:

“There’s only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.” – God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater

“Tiger got to hunt, bird got to fly;
Man got to sit and wonder ‘why, why, why?’

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The Music of Writing

If there’s one way anyone ever got through to me, it was through music. No isolated words or gestures, nothing a person could singularly do or say. Instead, the patterned compilation of expressions caused by the core of who that person is brought the whole of them to light. It sounds like bad poetry when I try and tell you about it, but music is the immediate metaphor that comes to mind. Similarly, music was also the immediate metaphor that came to mind when I began finding unplanned, so-called “hidden” patterns in my draft these past few days after nearly a month of rigorous copy editing. Each element plays like an instrument, and they all stay in synch with each other. Structure is bass, theme is chord progression, language is melody, plot is lyrics, or the overarching “mood” should your taste be entirely instrumental, and the book is a really, really long song, or one of those albums

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Triple Triple Triple

As I begin to see the end of my work on book number one, the back of my mind naturally jumps far ahead into the future and starts plotting books number two and three. Meanwhile, the front of my mind is wondering whether or not the back of my mind is onto something. This morning, the back of my mind won. I’m doing a trilogy. I have more to say, my characters have more to do. Or maybe I just have attachment issues. Causes aside, I know what I’ll be writing these next three-five years. And I’m damn happy about it.

There’s something beautiful about the number three. Two makes for a direct contrast, which I’ve never been a fan of, or in the best case scenario leaves the whole project feeling either unfinished or overdone. And one stands alone. The departure is almost too quick. (Note: alone = alONE) As Coelho says in the Alchemist, “If something happens once, it can never happen again. If

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Truth Wins

If I could’ve given myself two pieces of advice when I started out writing, they would be this:

1) No matter what you’re writing (doing, saying, wanting), be honest
2) Truth will always, always, always, beat out fabrication in the long run

And that’s all I’ve learned from writing fiction, even if it is ironic. If you are sincere, you will win. I don’t mean “sincere” as in oversharing, or complaining, or convincing yourself to follow a caricature of what a “good person” ought to be, or trying to sound like a cavern-born poet. I mean, say what you think, think what you feel, and know why you feel the way that you do. Then you are pristine as rain. You can’t make a mistake, because gaps are no longer possible.

In short, if you’re stuck in your draft, take a second to step back and reexamine the core truths that propelled you into writing the damn thing anyway. You’ll hit where it

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Jump off the Ivory Tower

Two weeks ago, I went to a conference looking for new representation. At around the same time, my friends were flying out to their universities. There’s been a lot of doubt around my decision to take a leave of absence this semester to see my book through, but I’ve never felt such clarity about anything in my life. Going to school was actually what made me sure about not going back (for now, anyway).

The number one lesson I learned from a semester of academic writing was, I don’t like it. Not because I’m three, but because it doesn’t do much for anybody except complicate what was meant to be inherently clear. I’m convinced that bad writing stems from the same frame of mind that most English classes do. Because nobody really cares about structure, or motifs, or vocabulary words, or grammar, or what, exactly, those blue curtains symbolize. When you focus on technique alone, you lose

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My name is Stephanie, and the evidence shows: I can’t write. I don’t have a novel out. No essays, shorts. Nothing I like, anyway. Not that I’m complaining or anything, these are just facts.

I’ve been writing stories since the fourth grade, and trying to pull together a satisfactory novel draft for the past four years. Though I’ve made significant progress and gotten enough positive response to keep at it, I haven’t, on paper, accomplished much. I’ve thought a lot about why. I asked around.

Whenever I go looking for feedback, I hear a few things. The most common thing writers say about me is that I make nice sentences. My professors say I have an “unusual affinity for sentence structure”. I also have an “active mind with a wealth of ideas”. I occasionally am “guilty of going a little overboard” on the poetic writing, but I self-corrected in that area four months ago. Alright. Then why

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