Friday, November 12, 2010

Journey from Idea to Book

Tip of the Day: Thanksgiving is just 13 days away. I don't want to know how many days until Christmas, because it's not enough. I should start shopping now!!

On Monday, I finished line edits on my upcoming middle grade novel, SPRINKLES AND SECRETS. This is a companion novel to IT'S RAINING CUPCAKES, and will be released 9/2011.

This book has had quite the journey, and I thought it'd be interesting to share that journey today.

Back in February or March, I decided to pitch a sequel to Aladdin, the publisher of IT'S RAINING CUPCAKES. I wrote 5 chapters and a proposal. But, in April, my agent received word that my editor thought we would be better going with a companion novel, rather than a sequel. I think the reasoning is that with a companion, new readers can pick up the book and jump right in, without having read the first one. There is a connection, but the book can easily stand on its own. My editor suggested a book told from Sophie's point of view. Sophie is Isabel's best friend (Isabel is the main character in CUPCAKES).

I was a bit disappointed at first. I liked the idea I had for the sequel (although, now, all of these months later, do you know I can't even remember what I had planned). And I had no idea what I could possibly do for a plot in a book with Sophie as the main character. I mean, without a plot, you don't really have a book!

So, I whined to my friends, including my buddies here at Author2Author, trying to figure out what a story about Sophie might entail. In CUPCAKES, we learned that Sophie is a real go-getter. She loves to sing and act and her dream is to be an actress someday. Deena suggested - what if she has the chance to be in a commercial? And that got the wheels spinning. I made some connections from the first book to create some conflict - and a new book idea was born. (Thank you DEENA!!!)

I wrote another five chapters and we sent it to my editor. She didn't love them, but thought the book had the potential, so they made an offer. I couldn't stop worrying about whether they might not like the whole book though. And I *really* wanted to make this idea work. So I sat down and fast-drafted the rest of the novel in a matter of days, after I briefly outlined the whole book. That was key - knowing what each chapter was going to be about (in a very general way).

When I got my editorial letter, there were some major changes I needed to make. The beginning just wasn't working. I had to find a way to show the kind of person Sophie is and get readers up-to-speed on what happened in CUPCAKES, if they hadn't read that book. But it needed to be fun and interesting, so people who had read CUPCAKES wouldn't be bored. I don't think I've ever had to change a beginning of a book before - I seem to have more trouble with endings. With this revision, I also needed to eliminate one sub-plot entirely and make a minor character more of a major one, and bring out a sub-plot with him. I decided the best thing to do was open a brand new document and start writing.

I was able to use probably 50% of the existing manuscript, but I added another 50% that was entirely new. Did this make me regret writing the entire novel like I'd done? No. I think having an entire novel to work with allowed my editor to really figure out what she liked and what she didn't like, so she could give me some good editorial direction.

So much of what we do is rewriting. We worry we won't be able to come up with new scenes, new sub-plots, new characters, and yet, we do! And often, they're better than we ever imagined they would be.

I love how this book turned out, and my editor does too. The journey had a lot of twists and turns, but I never let myself doubt that I couldn't get where we needed to go. I've gotten a lot of notes from readers of IT'S RAINING CUPCAKES who want another book about Isabel and Sophie. And I just kept thinking - I have to make this work for them.

And it feels so good to have made it to the finish line!!!

~Lisa, Miss Crafting a Career


Rachel Harris said...

Yay! Both my daughter and I will be reading this one!

Thanks for sharing about the rewriting part. I am finishing my first ever first draft this weekend and I've noticed the second half is much more the voice/style/flavor I was going for but I am so nervous to go back and rewrite the beginning--can I do it? Can I ignore the previous word choices and dive in with her current voice? I've read those words so many times in the beginning when I was getting the handle on this writing thing that I am nervous I won't be able to do it. Reading this today helped a lot. Thanks for that :-)

Unknown said...

Congrats and thanks for sharing your journey. Insightful.

DeenaML said...

I can't wait to read the brownies book and am psyched that your editor loves what came out in the end. Woo hoo!

And I agree with Rachel -- it's good to see that even multi-pubbed authors have huge revisions to accomplish. :)

Kate Fall said...

Thanks for sharing this, Lisa. I love the reminder that we just have to keep going forward. It's OK if it's not perfect the first time. Just keep moving and being open to new ideas.