Last night, I met Sarah Dessen, a much-beloved author in the YA market. I’ve read and enjoyed several of her books — and I’m not the only one. Sarah has a hugely devoted fan base. I’ve been to many author readings at this particular San Francisco bookstore and I’ve never seen it so crowded for a reading — and tickets were required! (My ticket put me at “number 35, group B” in the signing order! The woman next to me was “number 77, group D!”) The young girl in front of me had Sarah sign about 15 books and a canvas bag and her ticket and…you get the idea. But it was worth the wait:
As one might expect from her hilarious tweets and blog posts, Sarah was funny and engaging. I’m looking forward to reading her latest. As I told her during our brief encounter (during which I gave her cupcakes from Sift and tried very hard not to go too fan girl), I believe she and I were separated at birth. Not only are we both writers, moms, pop culture and sweets addicts, we are also both big-time worriers. It’s reassuring to find fellow successful and productive members of the anxiety-ridden tribe.
Speaking of meeting authors, here’s a terrific piece by a friend of mine from journalism school about meeting the incomparable Judy Blume. And one more link — a piece in the New York Times about writing and fear by another favorite author, Sarah Jio.
I’ve chronicled here the ups and downs of my work-in-progress, Fly Girl. As you may recall, it started as my Nanowrimo project and after that I spent about five more months revising the story. After two recent readers (kindly) confirmed that the fixes I made to address the first two readers’ comments still weren’t successful in increasing the drama, I decided to shelve the project.
But all is not lost. Am I bummed (to put it mildly) that six months of writerly blood, sweat and tears may never see the light of day? Absolutely. But…an analogy: When I spend a month knitting a sweater that turns out to be unflattering, I’ve always declared that the knitting time was not wasted. After all, I still enjoyed the relaxation (and other) benefits of knitting and probably learned some new skills along the way. Though that sweater may wind up in a Goodwill pile, the next knitted sweater is sure to be better for that experience. The same, I keep reminding myself, is true of the last six months spent on Fly Girl.
And that’s already proved true. After getting the most recent feedback from readers, I checked out from the library everything I could find on plotting, conflict, tension and creativity. I started doing morning pages after re-reading The Artist’s Way. And in immersing myself in some of these novel-writing bibles (the most helpful of which was this, by the way), a new idea came to me. An idea with tension built right into the premise, much the same way as Cheer is. So I’m invigorated. This time, before writing a single word, I plan to methodically plot every single freakin’ scene to ensure that tension and conflict are built into every critical point. I have high hopes for this project.
And it turns out I’m not the only published novelist who has shelved entire drafts of books. YA author Sarah Dessen once wrote that one minor character who made a brief appearance in one of her books was actually the protagonist of an entire novel that she wound up ditching. So it happens to the best of us.
Somewhere, someone is wearing my knitted sweaters gone wrong. And someday, I’ll look back fondly on the six months spent on Fly Girl work and recall how it led me to a much better story that might never have otherwise been uncovered.
* photo from www.phd2published.com