I should have found a photo of a green pen in honor of Mrs. Shields. One of my humanities professors used to correct all our papers in green pen because “green means go.” She’s quite possibly the most optimistic person I ever met.
Today is National Day On Writing. So I thought I’d trace the story of my book thus far. Hopefully it will be a Wow-look-how-far-you’ve-come kind of thing instead of a you’re-still-at-it? kind of thing. I’m bad with keeping track of time so forgive me that.
Back in 2003ish Josh had a business trip back to CA and I got to go along. No kiddos! It was the first time. I’d been writing a young adult novel that just wasn’t going anywhere. I decided to start a fresh one. I took a notebook to the beach and wrote every day for the whole week. It was very hard because pen on paper was not my thing. I’m more of a delete and ctrl+z kind of girl. So, actual writing forced me to finish a draft. A really shitty draft. There were four mediocre characters and a big rock. Awesome story, right? By the time I got home, I disliked one character so much that I killed her. I needed a new one, one that wasn’t a typical high school stereotype. It dawned me that I had ROTC experience and that might be a unique character.
Three years later, my critique group had helped me build a nice high school book with a Rotcee girl. I showed it to agent. Comment: “This is a pleasant read.” But why did I have a rotcee girl if she’s not going to to go into the military? In my head: Because that sounds like a lot of research. But good Lord, “pleasant read?” That wouldn’t do! She knew how to incite change in me.
So, I considered what would happen if my girl enlisted. I did the research. I wrote and rewrote. My critique group held my hand and pushed me along. Another year later, I showed another agent. To my surprise, I heard words I’d never heard before: “I loved it.” People in the writing business actually say this! If you are unpublished, these words are out there, and they will be said to you. Believe it.
I’m still revising because “I loved it” doesn’t mean “It’s ready.” I’m thankful to be working with someone who is so dedicated to getting it polished ahead of time. Learning the details of boot camp was a lot easier than making my character face difficulty, especially when her values began to drift from mine. But one of my favorite things so far about writing is when my agent says something about the manuscript and I think, “Huh.” Because I know I’m about to make a better story.
Andrew Karre said something once that was fantastic advice. He said, when you finish your book and before you land an agent or an editor, go celebrate that it’s done. It will never be yours again. I’m so glad to have heard those words. It made me appreciate the changes that were to come once I got an agent. They have been many, but they have been great.