Wednesday, September 1, 2010


I'm deep in revisions for my WIP and OMG, reach for the red pen -- how it has changed. While the basic premise remains, and it has the same cast of characters and settings, almost everything else is different. And, hopefully, richer and much deeper on every emotional level.

I drafted this novel in fits and starts. Some days I thought I would zoom along and finish the darn thing in a week. Some days I couldn't open the file. And it wasn't until I began revising that I understood why. I was not connected to my main character emotionally. I liked him. A lot. But I wasn't letting him hurt. He was so strong initially. So sure of himself. I had to remind myself that it's okay if he shows the rest of the world strength, but my most important job is to let my characters speak the truth to themselves and to let the readers listen.

My favorite books are ones that put a knot in my stomach or a lump in my throat. Preferably both. And my goal as a writer is to deliver lots of knots and lumps. Because if writing doesn't ring true emotionally, can it succeed?


  1. Well said. I think we read to connect to the human experience. To feel something. How wonderful that you are seeing this in your work.

  2. How writers make their characters (particularly characters who are supposedly "bad") palatable is what I'm writing my critical thesis on. Emotion is at the heart. A reader has to connect to the character, they have to be real, consistent, and human (or at least have human qualities even if they're not technically human).

    Can't wait to read your revisions!!

  3. I love that line about delivering lots of knots and lumps.

  4. Tess and Meg, I totally agree. We read to connect. I think this is more true for YA than any other genre. We've all BEEN there. When we read a passage that sticks in our collective guts -- that takes us back to what we went through in those years -- well, it's ah ha moments tinged with time. For kids going through those same experiences today, it deepens and validates their understanding of themselves. I think letting those experiences unfold, without being preachy or - ahem - parental, is the most important part of revision.

    Marcia, it is what it's all about, isn't it?

  5. Yes, the classic knots and lumps books stay with you forever. On my list...The Little Match Girl, The Giving Tree, Bridge to Terabithia, 13 Reasons Why, Old Yeller, etc.

    It seems most of them involve a death of some kind. But I suppose it's just as hard (harder?) delivering the knots and lumps when no characters die.

    J.A. I can't wait to see the changes...

    Just wondering: What's on everyone else's knots and lumps list?

  6. I can give you three that I read recently and loved:

    How to Say Goodbye in Robot
    Marcello in the Real World

    Real kids, real problems, real lumps and knots. And while the characters in Mockingbird are grieving the loss of a loved one, the death occurs before the book begins.

  7. I agree with J.A. about MARCELO IN THE REAL WORLD giving knots and lumps. So did Storks' most recent book, THE LAST SUMMER OF THE DEATH WARRIORS. I'll also add Rita Williams Garcia's JUMPED and Jandy Nelson's THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE.

  8. Oh yes, Meg, I agree about Jumped. Great book.