Let me share a little story with you. It’s a little embarrassing but I try to be honest on my blog. I don’t consider myself a superior writer – I’m still learning. The hardest thing though is learning what you didn’t know you need to learn (like the old “how do you know what you don’t know” saying).
One year ago, I finished what I thought was the final draft of Small Town Ghosts, my YA ghost novel. I had rewritten it several times and was frankly tired of editing. I had received good feedback from readers and thought I had fixed the problems most people pointed out. I did my homework and had really tried to craft something good. I wrote a query letter, did some research on the do’s and do not’s of querying, and sent my baby out into the world. Because it was genius, right?
Yeah, not so much.
Rejections followed but I didn’t give up. After all, I had written a novel, a good one. It just needed a home.
Then I met with an agent in person, who was lovely. She was very interested in the book and wanted to see the first ten pages, which I excitedly sent out. As you probably can guess, a rejection soon followed. BUT she had taken the time to provide me with some feedback. I stepped back and took an honest look at my writing.
The story was good, the characters compelling, the writing above grade. But two things continued to haunt me – the voice of the main character and the spooky feel of the town.
My protagonist is a 17-year-old boy who has moved, unknowingly, to a town regularly visited by ghosts, so voice and the “spooky factor” are critical to the book’s success. I soon realized that the voice was still not right, despite all the work I had put into it.
I despaired, pulled the book from the query process, and did what any “sane” person would do – I started another novel. But I didn’t forget Small Town Ghosts. People asked about it – told me how good a story it was, how they liked this or that about it. I was sad because I had really liked the book but it seemed that our relationship was over.
I read books on writing, I read non-fiction, I read more YA. Over a six-month period of reading and distancing myself from the novel, I came to a decision point – I could either shelve the whole thing or try something different. I took a chance and decided to write one – just one – chapter from the first person point of view. I would see if it changed anything and then shelve it if I still couldn’t make it work. I’m not a big fan of first person point of view and wasn’t sure I could pull it off. But I needed to try. After all, it was only one chapter.
So I wrote one chapter. I didn’t just change pronouns – I made a scene list of things that needed to happen and I started from scratch. Because you know, crazy.
And a wonderful thing happened – I fell in love with the novel all over again. I continued rewriting, making scene lists, and delving deeper into my protagonist’s head and his emotions. I felt like I was discovering him anew.
I’m halfway through now and determined to finish by May. I never thought just changing one little thing could open new ways of seeing my writing and my characters.
Have you ever made a small change in your writing that has opened up new vistas, or got you through a block? Tell me in the comments!