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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

12 Years of Attempting MG

So, um, yeah.

I started  writing my first MG in 2000. (Okay, actually I started my first MG in fourth grade, a fabulous novel called The Adventures of Suzie McGuire.  Adventurous in neither title nor content--still, it was my first book with chapters.  And I still have it:)

The first novel (circa 2000) was a retelling of an old legend.

It was in first person.

From the perspective of a dog.

(You can stop laughing now--it was actually a bit of a tear-jerker.)

But it wasn't quite right.  Nor was it long enough to be considered an actual novel.  It might have qualified at a "chapterbook" but I think the content was too high.  (And don't get me started on the whole chapterbook vs novel thing...I still don't know how it all works!)

So, I then I wrote a chapter book.  (Which I still kind of love, just so you know) with three princesses (named Sunbeam, Moonbeam and Buttercup--yes, I know there already is a Princess Buttercup, but not one named after a Peanut Butter cup!) who went and mixed up a bunch of fairy tales and such.  Perhaps too episodic, but I tend to be a fan of episodic stories so.....

 I rewrote the characters into a modern day mystery, thinking perhaps my princesses could solve many mysteries. But the pacing was off and try as I might, I couldn't really save it.

Then I wrote 80 pages of Trinket (which had a horrible title that I can't even force myself to type, it was so bad....) but my computer crashed and I lost it all.  But I wasn't even that sad because I knew I hadn't done the idea justice.  I knew I needed to be a better writer to tell Trinket's tale.

Now, all the while, I was still writing picture books and easy readers. I absolutely love playing with language.  I love the way the words sound when read aloud and I knew I still wanted to write something longer.  I just didn't know if I could...and do it right.

My next two attempts were probably a little terrible--but I kind of loved them.  I tried hard to write books that followed the "rules". (By rules, I mean that I probably didn't take enough risks with them.  I played it safe, adhering to non-existent "this is how a plot goes" rules.) One was about a dungeon under a school where kids with low test scores were sent during the testing time so the school would maintain its excellence. (Teacher disillusionment with standardized testing?  You be the judge.) The other was about a girl who lived between two worlds (yeah, I know, there are only a zillion books with similar plots) and, yeah, it was the faerie world.  So, um..yeah.

But these two books I finished...and if they weren't good, at least they were Finished.

In addition writing my picturebooks and easy readers (which I already mentioned), I also had a love affair with folk-tales.  I LOVE folktale retellings, but they are not the easiest thing to get published in picture book format.  But I didn't care, (I still don't.)  Sometimes it is just plain fun write fairy tales.

Finally, in the Spring of 2009, I decided that I needed to give Trinket her shot again.  I knew I could finish a longer book (which is not the easiest thing, I tell you!) and I knew, after having followed the "rules" in my last two attempts, I was ready to break them.  I knew the telling of this tale would require an unusual structure, and finally, I was brave enough to follow the story, instead of  doing what I "thought" I should do.

So, here I am , 12 years later.  That's a long time to wait, you might be thinking.  But that whole time, I WASN'T just WAITING.  I was writing.

And that made all the difference.



Catherine Denton said...

That was the best bedtime story EVER. You're like my inspiration fairy. Thank you!
Catherine Denton

Susan R. Mills said...

Write on! 12 years of writing doesn't sound like such a bad thing to me.

Katie Anderson said...

Great post!!! And love the ending :)

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed the post. Keep writing!

Joanne Fritz said...

Such wise words, Shelley! So glad you stuck with it and kept writing. And I can't wait to read Trinket's story.

Dawn Simon said...

I really like this post. It's inspiring, and you're right: that is what made all the difference.

I've been writing hard for about ten years, and it's been a great ten years. I've made plenty of mistakes and I can laugh at some of my attempts (with manuscripts and figuring out query letters), but I'm also proud of my body of work, my near misses, and my rejections. I heard Jay Asher speak a couple years ago and he did a fabulous talk about his journey to publication. I think it took him twelve years. He said something like he always felt like this was the year. And I totally get it. Just yesterday I told my husband this will be my year. And I think it will be. :)

Shelby Bach said...

You are SO right. Everybody underestimates the value of writing practice. Sometimes, you have to let yourself write not-so-awesomely, so you can be brave enough to break rules and write better!

(I wrote seven bad stories before the ones that got published. Several were novel-length. Two of them were girl-goes-to-another-world plots, but it was a unicorn world, not fairies. :-P)

But the thing is, writing was, and is, always FUN - even when it's just for practice.

Jackee said...

Such the post I needed to read today. Thank you so much, dear! I feel so close yet so far away from doing my stories "justice" too. Today twelve years of hard work is paying off for you. WTG! I'll get back to you about me in 12 minus 7 years from now. :o)

~ Jackee

JoSVolpe said...

You are always so, so write. I mean right.

I mean both.