Monday, February 15, 2010

From Spelling Bee to Josh and Tiffany or Writing is Rewriting

Now that my debut children's middle grade novel is published (Gone From These Woods, August 25, 2009, Random House/Delacorte Press), I'm often asked, "Are you writing another book?" I usually answer yes. And then they ask what it's about. And I usually say, "Two kids and a spelling bee." Next, they want to know when they can buy a copy. And if it's anything like GFTW and if the characters are like Daniel and, well, you get the picture, right?

For a very long time, this manuscript that I hope will be my next published book has been called Spelling Bee or some version of that name. These days the "spelling bee book" is called Josh and Tiffany, or Wild Josh and Tiffany Cool, depending on how I'm feeling that day. And oh my goodness, I'm still rewriting this middle grade novel . . . again and again. It's not that I'm such a perfectionist (ask my husband -- he'll quickly verify I'm not). My latest rewrite centers on making this book different from another Random House author's book that came out in 2008. Even though I had rewritten many drafts of my story long before she probably even thought of her idea, there were enough similarities to cause me to plunge into yet another rewrite. I'm also working on making this book equally Josh and Tiffany, rather than just mainly Josh. My first published book is considered a "boy's book." I like the idea of a book for boys and girls. So each kid in this book gets an equal part via alternating points of view. First you hear from Josh. Then you view the world through Tiffany's much different eyes. Hopefully this will make Tiffany a more interesting character.

So when will this latest rewrite be done? Don't know. But I hope it's soon. In my 20-plus years of writing fiction I've learned that most manuscripts (the ones written by me anyway) require a great deal of rewriting and they're simply done when they're done. I've set writing goals and at the moment I'm on track to reach the latest ones. So maybe Josh and Tiffany will walk out of my office, into the big, wide world soon and eventually hit the bookstores and libraries . . . and the Kindles and Nooks and iPads and such.

One of the things I look forward to after completing this latest Josh and Tiffany rewrite is starting a new book. I'm also excited about diving into my "to read" pile to catch up on some of my favorite authors' books. Look for my thoughts on recent novels, poetry and memoirs by Philip Lee Williams, Anne Webster, Linda Lee Harper, Lauretta Hannon, Amanda Gable, Edith Hemingway, Susan Rosson Spain, Ann Stamos (Judy Iakovou), Fran Slayton and many more in the coming weeks.

Oh, and one more thing: If you're a writer, how do you approach rewriting? I'd be interested to hear your rewriting comments and stories via the comment feature on this blog. How many rewrites do you go through? How do you feel about this process?

Now, it's back to the iMac for me. Josh and Tiffany are calling . . . again . . . in alternating but equal voices!


  1. I can relate to your rewriting woes too. I have a finished YA, the one I brought the beginning to the writer's workshop, and am working on a mainstream novel. Keep tinkering with the YA and no takers on publishing yet. But I have not even finished my mainstream, and I am already thinking about the rewriting.

    One of the best rewrite techniques I applied is one I actually learned in a screenwriting workshop. It deals with keeping the story moving and not getting bogged down. The thing to look for is to start your chapter as far into the action as you can (like a scene in a film), and on either a positive or negative note. Then end the chapter on the opposite note. It really works!
    Mauriel Joslyn

  2. My problem is that I keep editing as I go and it really bogs me down. Any suggestions?


  3. Hi Mauriel,
    I appreciate your advice and will try it on my manuscript. Sounds like it will work to me. Thanks.

    Hi Angie,
    I know it's hard but try to separate the writer and the editor in you. Just write for awhile, then go back and edit. Force yourself not to edit. I find this hard to do for more than a chapter or two. But I make myself do it. Donny


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