New Year’s Resolutions and New Projects

2016 is gone. It is over. Like it or not, it is time to accept that it is 2017.

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I tend to make my resolutions in the fall during the Jewish High Holidays. I try to look at my last year with introspection, reflection, humility, and objectivity. It’s not easy. For me, it’s easier to do while spending hours in synagogue trying to think of something other than food. But this year, given the year that it’s been, I’ve done some self-reflection at the more traditional time. Here are my resolutions:

  1. Be happy.
  2. Be kind.
  3. Be thoughtful.
  4. Appreciate every day as a gift.
  5. Appreciate everyone who touches my life.
  6. Act against those who, no matter how hard I try I cannot appreciate, by making phone calls, sending emails, signing petitions, unfriending, or flat out ignoring.
  7. Read stories that make me happy, stories that make me think, stories that are inclusive and filled with tolerance and love.
  8. Write stories that show happiness, thoughtfulness, inclusivity, tolerance, and love.

As of a few days ago, my most recent project went out into the world. It is gone. It is over (until, knock wood, an editor asks for revisions). It is time for me to move on to the next project…And boy, do I have a doozy in the works! It is dark, ugly, historical, frightening, and timely. I am SO friggin’ excited to write it!

When I am working on a project, my desk tends to look like Albert Einstein’s.

As I finish one project and move on to another, I need to reboot my brain and my office.

I’ve spent the last month getting my brain organized to tell this story. I’ve even made an outline (not something I have ever done before and which may be the subject of some future blog post).

Most importantly, I’ve cleaned my office.

 

I’ve printed out maps,

created a playlist,

read a stack of books,

tracked down newspaper articles,

and printed out photos of what my characters will look like.

 

 

Now I am ready to write!

Like it or not, it is 2017. We are entering a new era. I am determined to hold to my resolutions. I am determined to write this story AND sell it because it needs to be told.

 

 

“I am one with the Force. The Force is with me.” Chirrut, Rogue One

May the Force be with you.

 

 

Waiting In Between Revisions

I’ve recently finished what I hope is the “final” revision of my WIP and sent it out to a trusted reader. Now I wait…

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Waiting is extremely difficult, but something writers must deal with regularly. We wait between drafts, to give ourselves space from our own words. We wait to hear from our beta readers, who help us to birth our “babies”; and from our agents, whom we trust with our newborn creations. If you noticed a birthing theme it is because I recently spent three weeks helping my daughter and her husband after the birth of their second child.

img_1491Helping to care for this newest member of our family and his 2.5 year old brother was a joy (though and exhausting one). Not only did it feed my soul as a parent, but it also fed my writing soul. The timing of this child’s birth coincided perfectly with my work on my WIP. (Yet another reason I count myself as lucky). I was at that point where I needed to put it down and walk away. Putting a story out of my mind, after it’s been priority #1 for months, is not something that comes easily for me. But this time it was oh, so easy. I forgot all about plot structure, objective correlatives, character growth, and historical accuracy and thought only of changing diapers, playing “choo-choos”, doing laundry and dishes, going to the playground, playing cars and reading books, and doing more laundry.

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In the week that I’ve been home, I re-read my story, tweaked it, and sent my “baby” out to be read. Now I am left with nothing to do. I know some writers move on immediately to their next project. They start researching and plotting and pre-writing. I can’t do that. I can work on smaller projects: picture books that will never see the light of day, or that pb biography of the sculptor whose story really should be told but I can’t quite figure out how to start. But even that sucks too much of my attention and I’ll have a hard time shifting gears to go back to make the revisions in my WIP I know are coming. I have cleaned my desk, though. It might not look like it to some of you, but trust me, THIS is clean.

So instead of moving onto my next project, I’ve returned to my life. It’s been nice to catch up with friends I didn’t see for the three weeks I was away and whom I ignored for the months prior to that when I was writing (thankfully, I have good friends who understand my obsessive work schedule). I’ve also been binge watching “Orange is the New Black” (which I started while rocking an infant while his mother napped). And I’ve been knitting, which I can do while binge watching “Orange is the New Black” so at least I feel as if I’m being semi-productive.

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Waiting is part of the process. And as exasperating as the waiting is, I wouldn’t trade it, or any other irksome part of the process (and there are a lot of them)  for anything.

 

 

 

Measuring Success: Renewed Adolescent Insecurities Brought on by an Impending High School Reunion and a Writing Career

My fortieth high school reunion is looming. I’ve been debating whether or not to go. On the one hand, it’s been forty years (which seems impossible to me) and I am curious. On the other hand, I hated high school. I could not wait to leave. I think the movie PeggySue Got Married is a horror film on par with The Shining. I cannot imagine anything worse than waking up and finding myself back in high school. I cannot blame my classmates for this loathing. I was not bullied, I had friends–good friends. I even had a boyfriend. I was an athlete. I wrote for the literary magazine. I was the school mascot  (but that was because I didn’t make the cheerleading squad and as a senior that was the consolation prize). My sense was that I never felt as if I fit. I was always on the outside, despite my friends and activities, trying to fit in. Trying to measure up. Trying to be better. I can’t firmly put my finger on why I hated high school, but I suspect it has something to do with the fact that my father went to his first AA meeting on my seventeenth birthday. (In case you wondered why I write YA.)

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In the forty years since graduation, I have, thankfully, learned not to care if I fit in. Fitting in does not matter. Being myself, doing my best, and appreciating every single day and everyone in my life is what matters.

Over the years, I have lost touch with most of my high school friends, though I am Facebook friends with a few. They are not a real part of my life. I keep in touch, personal, regular touch with two people. Two. That’s fine. I like that.

So as my reunion approaches, I debate why am I even considering going? I see the list of classmates who are attending, and, honestly, I don’t remember who they are. And I am not even interested enough to pull out the yearbook and look them up. Chances are, the majority of my classmates don’t remember me, either. It’s been forty years! If we’d wanted to keep in touch, we would have. So, again, why am I even considering going?

Let’s face it, the purpose of reunions is to show off. Success. Rubbing it in the face of all those former classmates, Hey, look at me! I am successful!

But then I wonder, am I? And then, it’s like I am PeggySue and I am once again in high school, wondering if I’ll fit in.

On a personal level, I have a great life. I’ve had my share of ups and downs, but I have been happily married for nearly thirty four years. Both my husband and I are happy and healthy. I have two post graduate degrees from highly regarded institutions. I have two grown children who have successfully launched and are happy and healthy and are starting families of their own. I do not need affirmation from near strangers to acknowledge these successes.

Then there is my career. And this is where I falter. I’ve had a few careers, from the field of highway safety, to a long-term medical research study, to stay-at-home-mom. Now, writing is my career.

How do I measure success in my writing career? Am I successful because I have two published books? Yes. But no, because I have only two published books. Why don’t I have more? Am I successful because my books have received critical acclaim? Yes. But no, because the second one didn’t get any stars, and it really deserved at least one, from someone.  4stars1

Am I successful because both books have received awards? Yes. But no, because they’re not ALA awards.

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Do you see where I’m going? I am still struggling to measure up, to do better. Will I ever consider myself successful in my writing career? I have to remind myself, daily, that there are no guarantees in life. The one book was the cupcake and the second is icing. A third will put me over the moon. This is a tough career I’ve chosen. It is not for the faint of heart or thin skin. Isn’t it enough that I write? That I make it my job? I do the work. I learn the craft. I study. I read. I write. I am working at something I LOVE not only because I get to do it in my pajamas, but because it feeds my soul.

All of this reminds me of a lecture given by Amanda Jenkins at VCFA in January 2013 entitled “Publication Pressure: The Elephant in Brigadoon.” One of the things Amanda reminds us all to do is keep our eyes on our own paper. It doesn’t matter how many books we have in comparison to our friends. It doesn’t matter that we have fewer stars than someone we know, or that our awards are “lesser” than someone else’s. What matters is that we are writing. WRITING.

I refuse to return to my seventeen year old self. I refuse to believe that I’m not fitting in or am not good enough. I will keep my eyes on my own paper. I will stop belittling the success I have had. I will stop worrying about success all together and focus on writing, writing, writing.

And I think I’ll go to my high school reunion when I know there’ll be a portal, so I can go back and tell my seventeen year old self in that moldering, oversized panther costume, that our life turns out to be pretty friggin’ amazing.

Insecurity v Humility

insecurity |ˌinsəˈkyo͝orədē|
noun (pl. insecurities)
1 uncertainty or anxiety about oneself; lack of confidence: she had a deep sense of insecurity | he’s plagued with insecurities.

humility |(h)yo͞oˈmilədē|
noun
a modest or low view of one’s own importance; humbleness.

Most writers joke (is it a joke?) about our insecurities. Our writing sucks, our books suck, our ideas suck, we suck. But would we really spend hours, days, months, years working on a project that truly sucked? In the deep dark corners of night when we’re tossing and turning in bed we might think the project stinks, but in the light of day, right before we push “send” and whoosh the manuscript off to our beta readers, agents, editors, aren’t we darn sure that the project doesn’t really suck, that it’s really pretty awesome?

Two weekends ago I attended the Writing Novels for Young People’s Retreat at VCFA organized by Sarah Aronson and Cindy Faughnan. The theme of insecurity ran through the entire weekend and we propped each other up with Micol Ostow‘s rallying cry, “Whatever…You’re awesome!” It was a wonderful, inspiring, supportive weekend–a group of amazing writers who critiqued each other’s work, probed, asked questions, encouraged, ate a lot of chocolate and drank a lot of wine (and some awesome margaritas). During the Saturday night readings (despite the awesome margaritas, or perhaps because of them) I was struck with a sense of insecurity. Who was I to think my story was as good as all these others?

In the days since the Retreat, I’ve had time reflect on my emotions. And as I prepare to speak before a classroom of middle schoolers at the New Voices School on writing poetry as part of the VCFA young Writers Network, organized by Katie Bayerl and Danielle Pignataro. I am near frozen with thoughts of insecurities: I am a fraud, I am not a poet. I struggle to push those thoughts away. I am not a fraud; I have a published book to prove it! And while claiming to be a “poet” might be a bit of a stretch, my published book is a novel in verse – so at least I can claim that I write poetically.

I’m not willing to say that I am “awesome” with anything less than a sarcastic tone, yet I refuse to believe that I suck. Instead, I am going to believe that I am humble — for aren’t insecurity and humility opposite sides of the same coin?

Draft: (noun) A Preliminary Version of a Pieces of Writing

I’ve been drafting a new story…it’s an historical and it wasn’t new idea to me or others. I’d worked on it years ago, but stopped when another story set in the same time and place came out. But I STILL love the time and setting–Los Alamos 1944–and I still love the story I want to tell. So figuring that enough time had passed since that other book had been published, last August while on a lovely writing retreat on Cape Cod, I started anew.

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I charged on; wrote, like Kathi Appelt has said, “like my fingers were on fire!” It was wonderful, exciting, and fun. Then life happened. PAPER HEARTS came out, my son got married, and then there was the Holy Grail of all holidays – Thanksgiving. All wonderful and happy events, but still…for all of September and October I wrote maybe 5,000 words. I didn’t write at all during November. Not. A. Single. Word. Starting December 1st, I started writing again. I secluded myself in the drafting cave. Once more writing “like my fingers were on fire!” I have not seen my friends. I have not always done the laundry or gone to the grocery story, let alone had dinner ready at the appointed time. Some days are tough, and my fingers only give off whispers of smoke. Some days are easy, and my characters are the ones on fire. I am trying desperately to finish the draft before the end of January. I’m not sure I’ll make it.

And this is why: I don’t write shitty first drafts. Some people can crank out first drafts in a month or two. I will never do Nanowrimo. That is not the way I write. I like to polish the turd as it comes out. I’ve decided to blame Alan Cumyn for this.

Alan Cuymn

Alan was my advisor second semester at VCFA and he made me rewrite the beginning of my creative thesis every single packet. Every single one. That’s four times for those who don’t know how VCFA works. He said when he was writing, he liked to have his work as right as possible before moving on. He might not have said those exact words, but that was my take away from second semester. Make it as good as possible before moving on.

Those are not bad words to write by. But it does have a way of slowing down the drafting process. I have gone back and started over three times already–adding threads, changing secondary characters, writing a new opening so the story opens closer to The Day Everything Changed, condensing the timeline. Some may say I’m actually writing my fourth draft — but I haven’t written the end yet!

But I have plotted the complete story out and I know where it’s going.

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Now all I have to do it make it to the finish line.

Life After the MFA: Part II

Today’s post is the second in a two-part series about writing and publishing during and after the MFA program. Today I’m chatting with my VCFA classmates Caroline Carlson and Melanie Crowder about life after grad school, what we’ve learned about publishing and writing since graduation.

You both signed contracts for books you had not yet written. Caroline, you had a deal for a three book series with one publisher, and Melanie, you work with two different publishers, one for MG and one for YA. Will you tell us about the scheduling of the books and how you structured your time to meet the deadlines?

A Nearer MoonMelanie: Sure! My YA was set to release in January and my MG was slated for September. In really general terms, a book goes to copyedit a year before release, which means that I finished Audacity in the winter of 2014, and I finished A Nearer Moon later that fall. Now, my next YA will come out in early 2017, so I’ll need to be wrapping up revisions in the next few months.

Where it gets tricky is in the planning. You never know how extensive revisions with your editor are going to be. Revisions for Audacity took months and months (and months!) while revisions for A Nearer Moon were relatively quick. So as I try to plan my drafting and revising schedule for the coming year, I really don’t know when I’ll need to stop drafting my next MG and begin revising my YA, or when that revision will be finished and I’ll get to finish the MG. I have to be ready to shift gears quickly when I hear from my editors. It’s a challenge, for sure, but I feel really fortunate to have the privilege of working with two fantastic editors.

The Buccaneers' CodeCaroline: I have always loved schedules and spreadsheets and making plans way in advance, but publishing has taught me that I need to embrace the unexpected! The three books in my Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates series were scheduled at one-year intervals (in September of 2013, 2014, and 2015) so I always knew roughly when I had to have a final manuscript delivered to my publisher. But as Melanie says, when it comes to the time spent on revisions, each book is different, and you never know exactly how much time you’ll spend revising or when those revisions will take place. One thing I’ve learned is that I can conjure up an editorial letter by scheduling a vacation or another important life event! For example, I had to do major revisions on The Buccaneers’ Code during the same month that my husband and I moved houses. All the packing and unpacking kept me so busy that there are huge chunks of the book I don’t actually remember writing.

What about the editing process? How similar or different was it to a faculty’s packet letter? How many revisions did you go through with your editor?

Caroline: I’m hugely grateful that I got to experience receiving packet letters from my advisors at VCFA, because it made receiving editorial letters so much easier. My editor and her assistants are tremendously smart and ask great questions; they also occasionally offer suggestions when I’ve dug myself into a hole I can’t get out of without help. At this point, I feel like sending a draft to my editor is a lot like sending a packet to my advisors: I have done my best work, but I know it can be better, and I am genuinely excited to hear someone else’s ideas about how to push my story to the next level. Building that sort of relationship with an editor or an advisor takes time and trust, though, and I feel lucky to have it with my editors at Harper.

I usually do one larger-scale revision and one smaller-scale revision with my editor. Sometimes I’ll make small line edits during the copyediting process, too. By the time the book goes into production, I try hard not to change anything unless it is absolutely crucial!

Melanie: The biggest difference is that you’re preparing a story for market. In a packet letter, the focus is on learning, and process. In an editorial letter, the focus is on the product. So the same comment yields different results; you don’t address a problem by exploring all the different ways to resolve it. Instead, you find what works, and if you don’t get it right, you go back and forth until you do get it right.

As I said above, Audacity took several rounds of revision. But that story posed unique challenges. It was a verse novel, and it was a historical fictionalization of a real person’s life. There was a lot of pressure to both get the timeline to work on a story level, as well as to honor history and Clara Lemlich’s legacy. A Nearer Moon, which is prose fiction, only took one round, with a little back and forth in the line edits afterwards. The thing is—if a story needs several rounds, you want to give it that amount of attention. While a quick revision process is nice, you know it can’t be like that every time if you are going to be putting your best work forward with each new book.

Meg: My experience with PAPER HEARTS was that the packet letter was significantly more difficult than the editing process. When I first spoke to my editor, before the story had even sold to Margaret McElderry, she wanted to know if I could change Zlatka’s POV from third person to first. I played around with that before an offer came in so I would know if I could do it. So for me, the biggest change was done early. After that, there were relatively easy revisions.

Let’s talk about the copy editing process. What was it like for you?

Melanie: Copyedits for A Nearer Moon were pretty easy, but I had been through it a couple of times by then. My first experience was torture! With Parched, I was so particular about every single word I put in that book that to cut or add words in a line to fix paragraph or page widows felt impossible!

melanie's copy edits

Caroline: I love copy edits! I have actually done a lot of copyediting work myself—first at my college newspaper, then at the publishing company I worked for after college, and finally at Hunger Mountain, the VCFA literary journal—so I have a lot of sympathy for copy editors and a pretty good idea of what to expect from that part of the editing process. My advice for writers is to make sure you understand why your copy editor is making each suggested change. Sometimes she may be offering a style suggestion, but other times, she may be correcting a mistake. If the edit is more of a suggestion than a correction, I keep it if I like it and stet it if I don’t. Copy editors expect this to happen, so don’t feel bad if you don’t want to accept all of your editor’s changes! Just make sure you understand why she made that change in the first place so you’re making an informed decision when you stet.

My copy editor at Harper has been fantastic, and she’s saved me from making a lot of embarrassing errors. In Magic Marks the Spot, I had a character “climbing to the halyards” of a ship until my copy editor pointed out that the halyards are actually on the deck. My copy editor also keeps track of things like what all the characters are wearing, so there are no accidental costume changes from one scene to the next.

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Meg: My copy edit experience was payback for the hell I didn’t have to go through in the revision process! I wanted to curl into the fetal position on the floor (I may actually have done that at one point).

It began when I opened the package and saw my mss marked up with red squiggly lines that looked like hieroglyphics but made less sense. The first thing I did was call Melanie, who calmly told me to Google copy editing marks, which I did. Here is the most helpful page I found (bookmark it in case you need it some day).

I think what made it so difficult was three-fold, first PAPER HEARTS is a novel in verse, so that raised questions of punctuation and grammar that might not come up in a straight narrative story. Secondly, I used a lot of foreign words (Yiddish, Hebrew Polish, German, and some camp slang which produced words that are hybrids of two languages and don’t exist in any dictionary). Finally, it’s historical fiction and like Melanie’s AUDACITY, it’s based on true events in real people’s lives.

My copy editor at Simon & Schuster was fantastic! She was tough, but excellent. She found problems in the timeline that my agent, editor, and I missed; she fact-checked EVERYTHING, which meant I had to fact-check Everything. (Suggestion to anyone writing historical fiction: KEEP EXCELLENT RESEARCH NOTES). I took over the dining room table for a week while doing copy edits.

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What happens next? Please explain First Pass Pages (sometimes referred to as 1Ps). How many passes did you get to see?

Caroline: It’s a pretty exciting day when first pass pages arrive. My books have all been illustrated and heavily designed, but I don’t get to see most of the design work or artwork until the production passes begin. Flipping through the pages and seeing what the designer and illustrator have come up with feels like getting the best birthday present ever. It’s also a nice reminder that you, the author, are not the only person working hard on your book—there are many other wonderful people who are all putting their creative energy into the story with your name on the cover.

I usually only look at first pass pages. If they’re relatively clean, my editorial team handles subsequent passes in house, and my editor sends me an email if she has any additional questions. When I get first pass pages, I read through the entire book, looking for any mistakes I haven’t caught previously or errors that might have been introduced during the transfer from text document to production file. I’ll also answer any questions the editorial or design teams have for me. Sometimes I get a chance to weigh in on the visual aspects of the book—if the designer is choosing between two fonts or two design elements, for example—but  my main responsibility is to make sure the words on the page are right.

Something I learned at my previous job in publishing is that making changes during production passes can get expensive! It costs nothing to make a change yourself in a word processing program, but once a book is all laid out in a program like InDesign, changes can have far-reaching consequences and require a lot more effort to implement, especially if they’re large. If the author makes a lot of unnecessary changes to the text late in the process, she may end up paying for those changes herself, so it’s best to get your text as clean as you can before it goes to the production team. You may still have to go through several rounds of pages, but at least you’ve gotten the bulk of the writing work taken care of!

Melanie: This is a really fun part of the process because you get to see your book in its final format—the smaller page, the designed chapter beginnings, the font and style—it’s really cool! All this is done by your publishing house; your responsibility as an author is to check that all your copyedits have been correctly input into the document.

Another good thing to know about 1Ps is that usually that document is what the ARCs or galleys are made from. So any mistakes in the 1P will probably be in the copy reviewers and early readers see. Yep, that’s a little nerve-racking!

With Audacity, formatting 300 pages of poetry was a huge undertaking—we went through 3 or 4 rounds, which is a lot! Of course, I had all the line breaks and spacing the way I wanted it in MS Word with Times New Roman 12 pt. font, but the designer of course changes the font and program and page layout, so I had to go through and check the formatting in every single line. You don’t have to do that with prose!

Meg: I agree that getting 1Ps was thrilling. Seeing my words laid out on a page in a font I didn’t even know the name of, with page numbers and chapter headings, and the detail of the stitching at the bottom made my heart beat faster. But there were a lot of errors, mostly all those pesky foreign words, that made my heart beat faster for reasons other than excitement.  Because there were so many misspellings, I asked to see 2Ps, but ended up seeing 3Ps. By that time, all the misspellings were corrected and I am grateful that, for whatever reason, the ARC for PAPER HEARTS was not made from the 1Ps. Yet with all those passes, there is still an error in the Acknowledgments.

At VCFA the faculty, thankfully, focused on craft. How did you learn about all of THIS – what happens once you’ve signed on the dotted line?

Melanie: I asked for help! I am fortunate to have several people from my literary agency nearby, and they have become both a huge source of information and really good friends!

Caroline: As you can probably tell from some of my previous answers, working in publishing for a few years turned out to be a really helpful way to demystify a lot of the work that goes on behind the scenes to make a book. I also talk to my agent and my more seasoned writer friends. Even when you think you know everything there is to know about publishing, someone will share a new tidbit of information that blows your mind all over again and makes you realize how much you still have to learn.

When my first book sold, I joined a group of children’s authors (including Melanie!) who all had their debut novels coming out in that same year. We all had different experiences with our publishers and different areas of expertise, and we talked a lot about everything we learned throughout the process. Knowing you’re not the only one who’s confused or lost or bingeing on cheese can be very comforting.

Meg: I asked Melanie and Caroline for help! Thank goodness for the VCFA community and my L.E.C.S. classmates!

Is there anything else you’d like to share about this process? Something you wish you’d known about before you were in the midst of it?

Melanie: I’m still trying to figure out the balance between writing and promoting. My advice is to set a limit on what you are going to do to promote each book and then get back to writing—that’s what we’re in this for anyway, right? Nobody writes books because they’re so excited to sell books and market themselves. We’re in this for the story, so do everything you can to get yourself back to your stories, back to where you want to be.

Caroline: There is nothing better than meeting or hearing from a child who loves your book!

Meg: Life goes on. The book is out there, it’s out of my control. It is thrilling, frightening, and humbling. But the laundry still needs to be done.

Melanie and Caroline, you each have two more book contracts. What can you tell us about those books?

Melanie: I have a YA set in South America coming in early 2017 from Philomel, and a MG (that I’m having a lot of fun drafting right now!) coming in fall 2017 from Simon & Schuster. And I have lots of ideas banging around up there, so hopefully there are many more to come!

Caroline: My next book is a middle grade detective novel that’s kind of a send-up of Sherlock Holmes, Poirot, and all the great mysteries I’ve loved to read ever since I was a kid. That’s coming out from HarperCollins in 2017. After that, I have a couple of ideas I’d like to play around with, but I’m not sure which of them will transform itself into a book. I hope it’s a good one!

 

 

Caroline Carlson is the author of the VERY NEARLY HONORABLE LEAGUE OF PIRATES trilogy for middle grade readers. You can learn more about her and her books at carolinecarlsonbooks.com.

Melanie Crowder is the author of the middle grade novels PARCHED and A NEARER MOON and the YA novel AUDACITY. You can learn more about her and her books at melaniecrowder.net.

Meg Wiviott is the author of the YA novel PAPER HEARTS and the picture book BENNO AND THE NIGHT OF BROKEN GLASS. You can learn more about her and her books at megwiviott.com.

 

 

The Heavy Lifting of Revision

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I don’t like to exercise. I never get an endorphin high. EVER. All I ever get is tired and achy. But it might not be my fault! Scientists have identified a couch potato gene! 

Still, despite being able to blame my parents for my laziness, I know that exercise is important to my health. So I do it. I drag my lazy, endorphin-deprived butt to the gym at least twice a week to work out with a trainer. He pushes me. He increases the weight and makes me do extra reps, when all I want to do is curl up in the fetal position and cry. Then I stagger home, strip off my sweaty clothes, turn on the shower, and allow my tears to mingle with the water that courses over my aching muscles. But, despite all my pissing and moaning, I love the results. My abs are far from rock-hard, but I’ve got muscles.

For the last few months I’ve been struggling with another task I dislike–Revision. I know, I know, most of you are saying, But I love revision. Well, I don’t. I’m waiting for scientists to report some genetic malfunction that will help me explain this away too. It’s not that I dislike all revision. The first revisions after the shitty first draft are exciting. But somehow that doesn’t seem like revision to me, that’s all part of writing the story. It is often when I find a nugget in my writing that makes me believe I’m a genius. The revision I dislike are the ones in-between the full rewrites (where you know that pretty much everything in your story sucks and you chuck the entire thing and start over from scratch) and the ones where you’re tweaking–adding a bit more to this character, pulling a thread all the way through the story, cutting out the number of times you used the word “just” or “like” or how many times your character’s smile looked like the rising sun.

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What I’m struggling with now is an old, old, old story that I pull out of the drawer every year or so, fiddle with and then stick back in the drawer. I love the story. I love the characters. I love their journey. And, I’m told by readers and my agent that it is worth working on, but somehow I’m not getting it right. I’ve been working on this story now for about a year and am about a third of the way through yet another significant revision and I’m not sure I can face it. I’d really rather sit on the couch and read or work on that shiny new idea that is twinkling in the back of my head.

This kind of revision hurts. It makes my muscles and my head ache. I want to curl into a fetal position and cry. So, I have a small team of “trainers” who check in with me–sometimes weekly, sometimes daily, sometimes hourly. They encourage me to write just one more scene, and make me do the heavy lifting of revision. Then I stagger down the hall from my office to my bathroom, strip off my sweaty clothes, turn on the shower, and allow my tears to mingle with the water that courses over my aching muscles. But, despite all my pissing and moaning, I love the results. My story is still far from rock-hard, but it’s got muscles.