I’ve been working on the first 500 words of my YA novel in preparation for the writer’s roundtable critique day at the Winter SCBWI conference Jan 27-29. These two pages have taken up over a week of my writing life.
I wasn’t unhappy with my beginning. It was the umpteenth version of it. And it garnered requests for the full. But no offers of representation.
No harm in trying something new since I’d have a day’s worth of captive audience at the conference.
But I really liked that beginning. It was the best beginning I’d written to date.
So I thought, let’s make it more YA-ey. Let’s talk about the clicks in high school.
I warmed to the idea and reworked the first two pages. I got deeper into my protagonist’s head. Her voice came through so much more. I didn’t say she’s an outsider, but I showed it.
I was super excited after 2 days of laboring over my words.
And then I read it to my dad.
Then he says, “I’m not connecting with it. Too kiddish.”
Okay that was what I was going for. But it gives me pause.
I read it to mom.
She says, “I hate it.”
Double pause. Maybe I did something wrong.
Wasted two days going down the wrong path.
So the next day, I thought about it. Didn’t touch the keyboard. Read a paper version.
Since the book isn’t really about high school, it was not a good idea to open with high school clicks.
But that left me with zero ideas of how to revise it.
I ruminated over it for a day. Then I decided to focus on the mystery. Play it up more. And I changed the opening again. But this time when I got stuck, I pulled stuff out of the bad revision. Because even though the concept didn’t work, the execution rocked.
There were some beautiful lines there. Cool ideas I could tweak. So I leveraged the first rewrite to get to the second.
Then I read the new one to my mom.
She says, “I love it.”
My beta reader read both and said he loved the new one best, although the first one was well written. And he could see how the first version gave birth to the second.
I kinda knew I was going down the wrong road with the clicks, but I didn’t have another idea. However, movement always feels better than inertia. Even when you’re going the wrong way. Rather than sit in my car thinking about where to go, I followed it to the end.
And it led me to a better idea. The idea I would run with and keep.
Every time you toss out an idea and lose several pages of work and lambaste yourself for wasting time, keep in mind that tossed out idea might have been the only way to get to the next idea. The one that was for keeps.