Yesterday, I finished the fifth revision on my work-in-progress and sent if off to three invaluable readers. While I wait for their feedback, I'm pondering all I've gained from this book. Each novel is a journey. I learned the basics writing my first book. I knew nothing. Not point of view or how to format dialog or why all that lovely description puts young readers to sleep. I was as unpolished and new as new could be.
When I started this book, I had a couple conferences behind me. My writing toolbox seemed adequate, my confidence boosted by a contest win and a published story. But I was without a writing group and one-hundred pages in, I sent the manuscript off for professional review. Although the feedback was positive, the suggestions called for a rewrite I couldn't comprehend. My brain twisted into a knot trying to sort it out. In the end, I shelved the project and my creativity spiraled.
A year later, I was accepted into a most wonderful critique group. The story, of course hadn't let go of my brain. It had percolated into a nice, bubbly stew, begging to be restarted. So I did, ignoring the old version entirely. What I've written since doesn't even resemble it. And although I couldn't follow the professional's advice because I scrapped what she'd read, I did finally accept her wisdom and I think my work benefitted from it. So the first thing I learned during that painful year was even through the dry spells, there's growth. Just keep writing, keep trying, even if it feels like the worst writing you'll ever do. Even if it ends up in junk files. Write.
Another year has passed. I've written and revised the book and added to my toolbox. My critique partners challenge me to craft better sentences and paragraphs, to choose the right words and place them carefully. I listen now to the rhythms in the story, think about syntax and cringe at discords. My previously unstructured chapters now follow arcs, or they try to anyways, and my story strives to hit prescheduled points on a plot map: binding, low and turning. When I think of all I've learned through the writing of this book, I imagine my brain as a house with doors and windows wide open and knowledge sifting through. The greatest things is, the doors and windows didn't close when the book was finished. I'm primed for the next story, ready to learn what it has to teach.
I write middle grade and young adult books with a magical twist. And creatures, always creatures. I'm represented by the fabulous Leslie Zampetti of Dunham Lit.
Baggott, Asher & Bode
Rear in Gear
Kate DiCamillo on Writing