So for the past few months, I’ve been working to get a draft of the WIP done, for the possibility that I would get accepted into a SCBWI mentorship program. Best laid plans and all that, lots of reasons, that plan didn’t work out.
But I still have my finished draft!
My goal for this next pass has been to work with someone over time to strengthen a few building blocks of my story. The biggest challenges, in all my writing, but especially in my novels are
- To come up with ideas for strong actions for my hero to take
- To build a character-driven plot, where the things my hero does are truly based in the person they are
- To make my scenes part of a plot arc that grows in tension to the crisis/climax.
I don’t know why these are my sticking points, but they are, so I’ve got to deal with them. The rest of the WIP is still quite the mess, with about a gazillion unanswered questions, undeveloped side threads, and characters who kind of drop in and out of their own subplots at random. But those are all revision areas I feel like I can deal with. I have dealt with them on other projects. But these building blocks…
So I’m hiring an editor. I’ve done this before, to get some help on my first picture book, and the woman I worked with them also does middle-grade and is awesome sauce. She also just did a couple of more picture book edits for me, and her feedback was wonderful and brain-spark inciting. Anyway, she was open to my need for her to work on an earlier draft (let’s not go into how many drafts you can have and still call them “early,” okay?), to focus on a few specifics, and–hopefully, for her sake–to put aside the pain and heartburn of ignoring all the other elements that are still beyond rough.
So the manuscript is out there, if not to the place I originally expected it to be. I have the two picture book critiques to be revising from, as I try to bring two more books up to the as-ready-as-possible stage. And I’m keeping a notebook of Things That Occur To Me about the MG WIP, that I will want to tweak, strengthen, improve when I get that critique back and begin the work of re-stacking the blocks. Maybe even re-carving them.
I love revision, so in many ways, I’m really looking forward to the next step. But I know I’m also in this for the learning process, for understanding more than I do now about those elements I struggle with. I have this sense that now is the time to stop spinning in a circle, to climb out of the skill level I’ve been at for years. If not now, then when, right? So, yes, my end goal is still agent/aquisition/publication, but I’m trying hard not to focus on that goal for a bit (because it tends to play mind games with me.) Instead, my focus will stay on skill-building, strengthening myself as a writer, learning how to weave more power into the scenes I write.
“She made herself stronger by fighting with the wind.”
-Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden