I’m one of those writers who gets so excited about a manuscript that once I’m done and I’ve been through one or two revisions, I think it’s done. Ready for the world to see. Well, maybe not the world, but a trusted group of friends who pretty much demand to read it as soon as I’ve typed the last word, and I politely put them off for a few months until I feel a little better about it. These friends are not writers. They are just brilliant girls who read the same things I do. And they get me, which always helps when asking someone to read an early draft (‘casue they won’t laugh at me when I tell them I’ve written a book about a girl who can smell people’s desires, or an imaginary friend who falls in love with a human boy, or—after this year’s NaNoWriMo—a grim reaper who is tasked with taking the life of the boy she’s crushing on).
But I realized something this spring while taking a YA master writing class with the talented and kickass YA magical realism author, Nova Ren Suma. I miss working with other writers. Reading their work. Having them read mine. You just get a different level of read from a fellow writer. Especially a fellow writer who also writes YA that is a little, shall we say, different. And let me tell you, some of these books are so f’ing brilliant I want shove a handful of bills at them and yell “Shut up and take my money!”
Since class ended, I’ve made some much-needed revisions to my YA paranormal romance The Art of Breaking (the imaginary friends novel) to really build the world and make the relationships between the main characters stronger. And the novel is so much the better for it.
But what I’ve found most fascinating is that during those revisions, I also fell back in love with my magical realism novel Love & Cupcakes (the girl who can smell desires novel). It’s been through three or four serious revisions (mostly based on comments from agents who liked it but didn’t love it enough to represent it). As it turns out though, my revisions had all been superficial. I wasn’t open to changing it, not really. And it wasn’t until I’d been away from it for a few months that I was finally able to see what these agents saw. It needed a serious overhaul. Like deleting almost 30,000 words. Like rewriting or reworking half of the book. Like writing a new 30,000 words to fill in the gaps from what I’d trashed. I had a revised outline. I knew what needed to happen. But I just couldn’t get motivated for it. Until this class.
Something about being around writers—talking with them, reading their blogs, commiserating with them about writers block and how scary it is to try and find an agent—changed me. Reinvigorated me. Made me a better writer. Somewhere along the way, I managed to refine my voice and take chances with my descriptions that have bled into my revisions for Love & Cupcakes. And I couldn’t be more grateful. I still have a ways to go before it’s polished and ready to re-query, but I know it’s much closer to publishable now than ever before. And when it is finally in a bookstore near you, I’ll have one hell of an acknowledgements section.