And You May Ask Yourself…Well, How did I Get Here?

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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!

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8 thoughts on “And You May Ask Yourself…Well, How did I Get Here?

  1. I think a ways back before you joined SJWG, we had an evening discussing this very topic. I challenged everyone to pull a story and completely ‘flip’ it into another one (or keep it the same) simply by changing the POV and 1st, 2nd, 3rd. I’m sorry you missed that one, because some of the folks did it and liked the story even better.

    I’ve rewritten old stuff, or used stories in parts of novels, and made novels out of stories (some were actually finished! lol). Moral of the paragraph: NEVER NEVER EVER shelve or delete anything because it CAN be used somehow, or made better later on!

    Your novel was simply ready to be born! I look forward to buying it and reading it! You go!

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    • Thank you! You are right – sometimes it’s just a matter of time or skill. I’m glad I didnt give up 🙂

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  2. This was a synchronicity for me. When you mentioned changing your POV to 1st person, I had also decided to do that with my story. They say most YA is told in 1st person anyway. I’m hoping I experience the same elation you did when I begin my rewrite. Still feeling overwhelmed just yet.

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    • A Lot of YA is written in first person but not all. I’m not a big fan of it usually unless it’s done really well. I recently read a book with a decent idea but despite being told in first person, I couldn’t really “see” the world as much as I wanted to through the MC’s eyes. It’s a tricky thing. Good luck!!

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    • True. Both first and third have their pros and cons. The future fantasy I’m writing is told in third and is coming along a lot better so I guess each work has to stand on its own.

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  3. It’s a wonderful feeling, to find the key to a work that has been *almost* working, and take it that last step!

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  4. I personally have never made changes; regardless, I am very happy that you continually drive forward! You refused to recognize a ‘dead end’ and should be very proud of yourself!! Good luck and much positivity to you as you rewrite 🙂

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