Saturday, December 29, 2018

"The Prince Book" or, The Novel Formerly Known As (major plot point of original proposal recently deleted)

Those of you who know me in person or follow me on social media will know that I have been struggling mightily with my current YA novel. I sold it as part of a two-book deal, the first book being ANYTHING BUT OKAY, which came out in October, and the second book what I'm now calling "The Prince Book."

I started researching this book while writing ANYTHING BUT OKAY, but wasn't able to start it until later than I planned because: 1)Revisions for ABO went on longer than expected and 2) My husband suggested we sell our individual houses and buy one together like normal married people and I said "Yes, let's do that!" and thus ensued a great deal of insanity for several months. Note to self: NEVER, EVER, BUY AND SELL A HOUSE WHILE YOU ARE ON A TIGHT BOOK DEADLINE.

Immediately after turning in the first iteration of The (Former Plot Line) Book, I had to write THE TAMING OF THE SHOE, the third novel in my fractured fairy-tale series with S & S.

Given the circumstances, it's not entirely unsurprising that my first editorial letter for the Scholastic YA was 14 pages single-spaced. I basically threw out 95% of version 1 and rewrote the book from scratch. I still wasn't happy with the book I turned in as version 2. Neither was my editor. Editorial letter number 2 was 11 pages single-spaced.

By the time I got to version three, which wasn't a complete re-write but a MAJOR revision, I'd reverted to old-school plot attempts using colored index cards on the floor.

But it still wasn't right, and I knew it. We pushed the pub date back from Fall 2019 to Spring 2020. My first published novel came out in 2005. This YA is my 18th novel, and it's the first one for which I had to push back a pub date. It felt like a failure. I was complaining to my husband how much I hated this book and wish I'd never had the idea and sold it. It felt like I was beating my head against a wall, that I'd forgotten how to write, that all my previous 17 books were flukes, and that calling myself a writer was fraudulent.

Meanwhile, I had revisions of TAMING OF THE SHOE to do, so I had to take a much-needed break from headbanging on the YA. Working on the funny, lighthearted book, was good because I'd started to feel increasingly overwhelmed and depressed. It didn't help that I hadn't had a vacation in a very long time. We'd booked a week in December to go to Bonaire, on a scuba trip. I don't dive, but it worked out perfectly. I worked in the morning, while my man was out diving, and then he came back and we enjoyed time together.

My "office" in Bonaire.

I turned in the TAMING revision on Christmas Eve, allowed myself Christmas Day off, and then started thinking about what to do about this book the next day. I started feeling depressed again almost immediately. Something was really wrong with this book, and I couldn't for the life of me figure out what to do. The brilliant and wonderful Laurie Halse Anderson spoke of having tools in our writer's toolbox and finding the right tools for each book
I'd already rewritten this book from scratch three times without figuring out the tools. It was a heavy, horrible feeling. I tried figuring it out on the train into the city to see my sister, talked about it with my poor long-suffering husband before bed, and went to sleep that night still not knowing the answer.

But then I woke up the next morning at 6am with an idea of how to completely restructure the novel. I wrote a new opening that I LOVED. Suddenly, I was excited about this book again. I emailed my editor the new opening, and we ended up having a phone conversation about it.

Today I wrote over 2500 words without sweat, and I'm still excited about where this book is going now.

So what the heck took me so long to figure it out?

I have no freaking clue. I'm just grateful that it's finally happened. I wish it had happened in May, so we didn't have to push back the pub date, but better late than never.

This is all a long-winded way of saying: If at first you don't succeed, try again, and again, and again, and again. #shepersisted

Writing novels doesn't seem to get any easier with practice.

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