Part 1 – February Has Come and Gone – So has the 4th of July! The last time I wrote about the Challenge was after Christmas. If you’d like to see where I was back then, here’s the link: Rinda Beach - Blog - Rinda Beach
I didn’t make it. I was in one of my writing groups, and I talked to them about my failure. I almost burst into tears. I failed because I didn’t make my deadline, but I wasn’t ready to quit. Back in February all 4 stories had grown by leaps and bounds so, I kept pushing.
Now 3 out of 4 are ready. ONE to go! Wahoo! It feels good to see light at the end of this journey. I don’t know when I’ll finish, and I don’t know if I’ll get a yes or no at the end of this quest. But I feel like I’ve won! I pushed myself to grow as a writer since last October, and that’s a very good thing!
Part 2 – ONE is DONE! – It took me until April to get it right. My Safety Story is only about 500 words long. I never expected it would take seven months. Writing IS one of the hardest things I’ve ever done!
I did two rounds of editing/critiquing before Christmas, and two after. In January I worked to make the main character’s arc stronger. Lynne Marie, Callie and my other writing friends pushed me to show that main character’s growth from the beginning to the end. They also pushed me to make the other characters stronger and more purposeful in their actions.
Then at the end of the month I tweaked the ending to make it stronger. I kept editing my characters and their actions. It worked! In early February I got Lynne Marie’s critique back – no suggestions! WAHOO! You can’t imagine how happy I was.
Lynne Marie also suggested I send it to Rate Your Story for feedback. They had some small things I couldn’t believe I’d missed. I made those changes and ran it past Callie’s critique group. Done! My Safety Story is still in the computer, waiting for me to get the other three agent- ready too!
Next to the Finish – My Nativity story – in May! Before Christmas it had one critique from Rate Your Story. My Reader said it needed more action so I worked on that early in January. Then I sent it off to Lynne Marie. Her response – OH MY! Not good.
She gave me lots of suggestions. I worked on being less heavy-handed with my words, and on making the kids drive the story, not the parents. Basically I was doing heavy surgery through the entire manuscript.
The hardest part was managing a story within a story. I had a pair of twins from the present, then Baby Jesus and his family to work into a cohesive story, with a narrative arc. Not easy peasy, but I made progress.
Lynne Marie’s favorite part of the new manuscript was the twist it took from a Nativity to a Christmas focus. It wasn’t perfect, but she encouraged me to push that angle. I did! By March I was ready to send it out again. For some reason, I don’t know why, I sent it to Callie, and I couldn’t believe the results!
Callie liked my January manuscript better than the new one. I listened to her and resurrected it. I worked on it in April and May, building the twins and their character arc. I looked at every single word to make sure they worked. In May – I finally finished!
Part 3 – The Third One, A Charm? I thought my duck manuscript would be my 3rd submission. I did three rounds of critiques and revisions before Christmas. Back then I changed the main character’s name, and I linked the duck and sister problems together.
After Christmas I worked with Lynne Marie again. In January she thought Liam should drive the story. She suggested fleshing out the sisters, and to keep working on connecting them to those ducks.
I sent in my February revision, and this time she said to look at the beginning and the end. Funny – that’s where the sisters are! I also need to keep building the sister/duck connection. It’s not strong enough, yet!
I took my March revision to Callie, and I got something new to work on – cutting back on the sisters at the beginning. Finally, progress! I fleshed them out enough! Wahoo! But the ending – it was still too fast! Picture books are tricky, to get just right!
In May, Callie said it was close, and that I should put a pin in it. I just nailed the nativity story the week before. She said the ducks were a regional, not a national story. The reason – those ducks caused problems for Liam. He wanted to get rid of them. Me too! Lots of people in publishing, and lots of readers wouldn’t want that. It makes it easier for an agent to say no to this story. But – Callie gave me another idea that IS ready . . . look down for a hint!
Callie’s Suggestion – Submit my ant story! It’s a middle grade novel, not a picture book, and it’s coming along. I stalled. Then I thought. I said why not? I always listen to her advice, because time after time she has good insights, so I did it again this time!
Last December I started another class with her. Before Christmas I was working on a chapter book with Zoe at the zoo. (That’s the Zoe from my newest book, Zoe’s Scavenger Hunt Fun.) I kept working in January and February. I planned to get back to the ant story in January, but I didn’t.
In March Callie started a chapter book critique group. I joined! I pushed the zoo story aside and went back to the ants. I’ve worked on it ever since. I just sent in chapter 11. Only 19 more to go! If I knock out 2 chapters a month, I’ll finish 9 months from now. Here’s to the great ant adventure!
Part 4 – The Final Manuscript – the dog story! Before Christmas it went through 4 rounds of critiques that sent me searching for a new dog name – Coco. The plot, with its tattling battle between girl and dog, had to move. It needed to be fun.
After Christmas Marlee needed more at stake, a reason to battle her dog. If I couldn’t figure it out, the plot had to change, a lot! In March a critique partner suggested using school as that stake.
It worked! In April Callie and company suggested working it in earlier. They saw chunks I repeated. Clean-up time! Another critique partner gave me a great idea to play with Coco’s bark.
In June Marlee needed some character building, and I found another clean-up job – too many stage directions for Coco and Marlee. The illustrations will show what they’re doing. The solution – put them in notes for the illustrator.
It’s almost August, and I found something else to tighten. I drifted away from that tattling battle. Time to move closer again! I’ll keep adding and cutting until the story’s just right. When I’m done, you’ll be one of the first to know!
Now Sitting on the Back Burner – My zoo scavenger hunt for Zoe and her family. It will stay there until I find the right opportunity for it. For now other stories are closer to publication, to earning money. If a story doesn’t sell, it won’t be published. It’s a sad but simple truth.
When I write, I can only have one voice in my head, mine. A little noise is fine. But too much, or worse yet, WORDS, and I must change rooms or pull out headphones. Then I can write on!