The first weekend of May I attended the New England Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators conference in Springfield, CT. It was, in one word, amazing! But, I want to talk about the low point, or shall I say, turning point for me.
I have spent much of the past three years working on a young adult chapter book. Last fall I completed the rough draft - about 120 pages. During January and February, I combed though it adding more depth and detail to my characters and scenes. Then, in March, I attended the Whispering Pines. I took part in a YA critique group; afterwards I decided my characters would be better suited in the middle grade category. So, I printed out the entire 143 pages, pulled up my sleeves and grabbed a pen and proceeded to cut and slash my way through the manuscript changing and tweaking. Yes, I thought, this was going to be great!
Then, about two weeks later, something strange happened. Maybe it was the change in temperature, maybe the pollen began tickling my brain but I decided that this was not the book for me. I didn’t have the energy to put anymore into it. I needed to write something else. I had to, heavy sigh, begin the process again!
But I was OK with that. I’ll go to the conference, get a ton of new inspiration and become a writing machine! Oh, wait, I have that critique on Saturday. A moment of dread hit me. Just a moment, though. Then I realized, if she did not like, no worries, I wasn’t working on it anymore. Then, I thought, what if she liked it? Well, I’d just have to cross that bridge when I got there…
She didn’t like it. She gave me a very straightforward, a bit rough critique. ‘I want to hear more about the main character, don’t include dream sequences, they’re cliché.’ I explained to her where I was with the book. ‘Great. You’ve proved you can write a book, now move on. This is not the book for you. Use this character in another book.’ We went on to have a constructive conversation about what was selling, what kids want to read, and a variety of story ideas. I left satisfied. I had received confirmation. This was not the book for me.
There’s just one problem now. What is the book for me? Advice from published authors says, ‘Don’t write for trends. Write the book you want to write.’ I certainly have a lot of ideas. Therefore I’ve been dabbling. When an idea comes to me, I jot it down. I might spend a few days on it, but then something else creeps in. I haven’t written one draft and I’m not worried. I’m still writing, and that is most important. I am moving on.
Moving on from something I worked so hard (and long) on is frustrating, maddening, scary, and a huge hit to my ego. I feel so much lighter and free to write what I want now! Moving on brings new opportunities that may have been missed. So, my advice to you, try it! You never know!!