Giving Birth to a Book

Post date: Jan 17, 2018 4:10:54 PM

Have I really not wished any of you a Happy New Year yet? There was a big blur of turkeys and lights and cookies. Then I needed to stop eating chocolate and really focus. Remember focusing? Did we throw our focus in the same basement-bound box with our old Walkmans, Champion sweatshirts, Michael Bolton mullets and Keds? I realize focusing is not in vogue these days with all the wonderful distractions at our disposal, but I fastened my seat belt in the old way-back machine and put my head down to get ‘er done.

What exactly is “’er?” ‘Er is the story that I have been pregnant with for almost exactly two years. It was a good pregnancy, though. Not a smidge of morning sickness or people trying to touch my stomach unsolicited. Wow, that would have been awkward! The birth was actually easier than I thought it would be. After a long incubation, I could tell things were about to get real when I attended the SCBWI Encore conference in October, but I was ready. Two years is a long time to be holding something in—waiting for the moment when a healthy amount of motivation could be paired with children old enough to allow a few solid hours at a keyboard.

I knew it was time to push when I attended SCBWI’s Agent/Editor Day at the beginning of November. Not long after that event it was Thanksgiving and so I had to tend to my family and the usual holiday hoopla causing me to break focus for several days and even weeks at a time. When I could steal a moment, I was heads down and writing, reading and rearranging. There was also a lot of reading my own writing aloud which I tried to do when nobody was home to get concerned and wonder who I was talking to.

After the information and feedback I got at the two events I attended, I decided that the 1st person narrative needed to switch to 3rd person and that what had been my first chapter should be somewhere further into the book—oh, and the entire storyline needed a firm reworking.

I came to terms with the fact that dialogue is a tedious thing, but can be fun once you get going. The whole project was a mosaic. Broken piece by broken piece, things started to go together but then I doubted my efforts while I was looking so closely at what I was creating. The whole thing seemed like nothing more than a bunch of little, broken pieces. Then things started to take shape and an image started to emerge. I asked someone to take a look as self-doubt creeped in again and I was ready to scrap the whole thing. It was something as simple as “You should be proud of this. It's amazing! I can't wait to read how it ends. Keep going!” and so I did. Encouragement can go a long way in fueling the fire within.

One super annoying discovery I made was that I write in past tense. So, when I had finished everything I was left with a task even more tedious than following a conversation in your head and writing every word and every movement down. I had to change nearly every “was” to “is,” every “said” to “says,” every “looked” to “looks” and so on. That was not fun—I mean, that is not fun!

This is the longest project I have ever drafted. If nothing else, it was and hopefully continues to be a master class in writing a manuscript. I started to create natural sounding dialogue and allowed myself to relax into the characters enough so that I simply followed them instead of always leading them or trying to predict their every move. What else did I learn? I learned that sometimes you need to forget your blog and your newsletter for a few weeks so that you can give birth to something that you hope to be proud of some day.

Labor takes all your focus and all your strength—especially when you have young children and a life beyond your current project. But, hopefully when you resurface cradling a new baby in your arms—even if that baby is unnaturally thin, frighteningly square and exactly 8 by 11 inches—everybody has already forgotten about the things you missed as you introduce them to the new story you brought into the world.