Friday, September 14, 2012

Fan Mail Friday - the Grown-Up Version

First, thank you all so much for your wonderful notes of support and comfort and strength in this time of great trial and suffering in my family.  I truly can't tell you how much I appreciate it.
A little bit of success: I got another chapter written (very short, but who's counting, right?!) I also finished reading a novel and a research book. And I got a massage!!! 
All I need now is a good night's sleep so I can stop yawning so much. Or falling asleep at my desk. 
Fan Mail Friday from an adult - which completely surprised me. Well, I've actually had several emails and messages in the past, but it's always such a delight and a great thrill. 
1. From a woman named Lila: "Wow, this book (CIRCLE OF SECRETS) is AWESOME! I wish it was around when I was eleven! Just had to give you a major compliment on this. Very cool! I'm about a hundred pages through and I hope to finish it today.  When I picked it up, I could not put it down. There is so much emotion to Shelby (MC). I was so much like that at that age. I look back and laugh now but your story brought it back so much. I have no idea how you got so much into your characters thoughts, but it just floored me. And I read a lot of books!"  
Wow, thank you, Lila!!! 
Here's some wild and interesting backstory: CIRCLE OF SECRETS is actually a book that I wrote twice over from start to finish - full 200+ page stories that are completely different from each other
Here's how it happened: I wrote a full draft of a manuscript based on a proposal (a two-page detailed synopsis), revised it for several months, turned it into my editor with excitement, but the manuscript that I was so proud of with some great twists and turns was NOT what she'd been hoping from me. She didn't think the character was very likable. My character was whiny and treated her mother (they've been estranged for a year) badly. She also had trouble with some of the plot, and thought it was too old for a middle-grade novel.
After an in-depth talk with both my editor and agent discussing many aspects of the manuscript I knew it wasn't salvageable in its present plot form. I knew I had to start over. The voice was all wrong. The plot was complicated and all the pieces too tightly interwoven so I decided to start completely over from Page One. SCARY!!!  
There was one piece of advice that I wrote down from my editor that kept resonating in my mind as I began all over again. She wanted Shelby Jayne to be more like a 10-11 year old. Scared, hurting and vulnerable. After much pondering and daydreaming and thinking about her, I was able to go to that place with her and I'm so glad I did. I wrote the next draft in less than 3 weeks and Shelby was there on the page. Her voice came pouring out. And my editor loved the new manuscript! But I knew that the only way I was able to get to that 11-year-old true voice was keeping my editor's words in my head all through the new draft as I wrote every day: "Scared, hurting, and vulnerable."
I revised once, added another 15,000 words (the first draft was a bit spare) and cleaning up, moving some scenes around, etc. Then my editor and I revised together, went through copy edits and were doing First Pass Pages 4 months later. It was a whirlwind! I was terrified the whole thing stunk. I was sure there were huge holes in the plot, things I'd missed. It was all too fast, but my editor kept assuring me it was a beautiful book, and that she'd cried.
CIRCLE OF SECRETS ended up with fabulous reviews in all the review journals, a starred review in School Library Journal, and so many wonderful blogger and online reviews. 
Sometimes writing can be magical - even with a ton of hard work! :-)  
*Sometimes our readers confirm that, too. This message is really meaningful to hear if the story takes adults back to their childhood and brings the growing up experience rushing back in a flood of remembrance.*

Which is exactly what writing does for me. 



Donna K. Weaver said...

That's a great story about the writing of the book. I'm glad she came out to you because I loved this book.

Andrea Mack said...

Thanks for sharing your story about your writing process. I always find my stories are too complicated!

Jennifer Rumberger said...

I can't imagine having to totally start over with a ms. I just finished the 1st draft of my middle grade and would be so defeated if I was told to start over, that revising wouldn't help. Thanks for your story or perseverence!



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