I know I write this time and again, but it is so true. Progress occurs after small deliberate steps. While rethinking a Middle Grade book that my agent asked me to revise, I’ve been working on picture books. I’ve been working on three. Two of the picture books are new. One is old. I almost always keep picture books in “drawers.” they require so much thinking. Every word has to be perfect.
The first draft of one of those books started out as this child monster story. It was too scary (even for me). Instead of giving up, I’ve kept trying. I’ve changed the structure, the rhythm, and flipped the entire story upside down. The only thing that has stayed the same is the title.
The other new book just isn’t working. I’ve run it through over and over again, and though it is better, I can’t seem to break it open. But that leads me to the topic of the old picture book I decided to dust off. For years I’ve struggled to make it work.
But this time, I came back to it. As I revised it, the voice of the story broke free. The story snapped together like a jigsaw puzzle and the picture I was trying to paint at last became clear. I wrote that picture book nearly five years ago. I have changed as a writer. I have read thousands of pages and hundreds of books. I have written dozens of articles on the art of writing the picture book. I believe, that, at last I had the skill to edit this troublesome book.
Daily writing and daily reading does inform the writer and gives us ways to unstick ourselves. As for the story that I couldn’t quite write. I am not worried. I am not a good enough writer to make that story work… for now. Maybe one day soon I will have the experience to see how all the pieces should come together. Now is not that time. But as my writer teacher Phyllis Root always reminded me, “No writing is wasted writing.” And she is right.
In every new book I try to push myself to the limits and do things I have never done before. I now know my limits. But I’m excited to grow little by little, word by word, until I have the skill to paint the story I so desperately want to tell.