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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

We've come a long way, baby

Around this time last year, I started dreaming about how awesome it would be to attend the SCBWI annual conference.  At first, I never expected it to come close to reality.  Why on earth would I travel across the country, alone, leaving my husband and two young children for almost a week just so I could indulge in a big conference, which would undoubtedly be at least as much fun as it was informative?  Well, you all know how that turned out.
I don't know if it's just this time of year or what, but the dream has returned.  I want to go back to that conference.  I want to go badly.  The hubby is on board so it's time to start planning and saving up the $$$.
In the meantime, you may also recall that I was brilliantly happy with my writing strides in 2010.  I completed a full draft of my YA novel, which had started as a bizarre dream all the way back in 2001.  I attended a regional SCBWI conference that assigned NYT bestseller, Jay Asher, to critique the first chapter of my novel.  His feedback was amazing.  He encouraged me.  He made me feel that my work really does have merit and that I need to pursue it.  I attended the SCBWI annual conference.  I met unpublished authors who I'm working with to perfect our craft and break into this crazy business of kidlit.  I met wildly successful published authors who were also very encouraging and kind.  I met my critique partner.  I learned that I'm totally capable of traveling all by myself.  I learned a lot about my novel and the work it will take to get it from that completed draft to a version that I can show an agent or editor with pride and confidence.
I entered my picture book manuscript in a contest for MeeGenius.  The results are yet to be announced.  (sigh) But I'm still holding out hope that I could be the winner, and if not, that I will get a small ebook deal with them out of it and be actually making some money for my writing.
I have been grappling with the revision of DREAM GIRL.  It's a hard row to hoe, let me tell you.  I thought it was a struggle to get the first draft out, I will tell you with confidence that it's harder to make that draft into something engaging, intelligent, suspenseful, polished, compelling and coherent.  Thus, after many attempts to get through a revision of the entire draft (which I have not done,) I have come back to a title recommended by editor Ruta Rimas at that same regional SCBWI conference where I met Jay Asher.  The book is WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL WORKBOOK by Donald Maass.  I had checked the book out from the library after that conference, but I wasn't ready for it.  I was riding high from completing the first draft.  I just knew it was brilliant as is.  (if you're a writer, you know that feeling, let's take a moment to laugh about it now.......ha.....ha.....ha....ok, let's continue.)  So, zoom forward to tonight, I bought that book 5 days ago from Amazon.  It arrived on my porch this morning.  (pretty impressive since Christmas has occurred in between purchasing and receiving).  We got the kids to bed by 8 tonight and I did the exercises in the first two chapters.  This involved answering 8 questions/ doing some brainstorming and I stopped after those 2 chapters because it's draining but incredible work!  I think I'm already on track for a heck of a lot better book just from those 8 questions alone.  And let me tell you, there are 34 chapters!
Working through this workbook, which I highly recommend for any of you out there who want to write better novels, is helping me to polish this manuscript better than I could myself.  I wouldn't know about this book if it wasn't for that regional conference.
    Besides that, all of my current revision work is reminding me of the talks I attended by Rachel Vail on character development at the SCBWI annual conference.  I didn't want to admit it at the time but I didn't know everything there was to know about my character.  In fact, here's a dirty secret, I hadn't spent much time thinking about her before I threw her into my story, let alone the other characters.  So now, I'm putting in the hard work, or starting to.  These conferences I've attended, these connections I've made to the writing world, have helped me tremendously, even if it takes me a few months to process it and apply it to my project.
   So, in closing, I suppose my point is that even though this is really hard work and the conferences are a lot of fun, they are so valuable to this dream I have of publishing books.  This past year has been my most successful as a writer even though I have not even advanced to sending out queries yet.  The devil is in the details, and right now, I'm striving to make the details of this novel as good as I can so I can fashion a product that will make myself and my potential readers proud.
    I can only imagine what 2011 will have in store, but if I can continue reaching and growing even slowly, it's going to be another amazing year.   Thanks for being part of this journey.