I have completed the revisions on an upper middle grade thriller. I’m thrilled with the outcome. It is dark, twisted, but light enough to be read, understood and loved by kids. I think. I hope.
I’ve toiled away on it for a very long time. I started writing it in May, and completed it mid-October. I’ve spent the last month and a half revising and editing it. As I write, I also do major edits and revisions. I tend to go back and rip out scenes before the manuscript is complete, which cuts down my revising period significantly. I read it as a reader, very carefully thinking about how it would be interpreted. I re-read it as a writer, and tear apart every word. I want every single phrase to matter. Every damn word must count!
Another part of my process is to look for timeline flaws. This book in particular is based on a back and forth plot, which refers to the past and flashbacks to some pieces. I needed to carefully weave the timeline in without writing the timeline out for the reader. I needed to carefully refer to certain things, exaggerated amounts of time passing that made sense, and so on. As a result, one of my reads was just for this purpose. I sat with my notebook and plotted out the timeline to make any changes needed to the manuscript. This resulted in the killing off of one character, who just didn’t fit into the timeline well enough to not feel forced, and a lot of number re-jigging.
Now, I look for an agent. I will not self-publish (I’m not saying DON’T SELF PUBLISH, just that I won’t – I want a team of people who believe in my work and back me up). I also don’t have the skills to work directly with a publisher, so submitting to an editor is not in my area of interest.
It’s funny how synchronistic The Universe is. As I wrapped up this manuscript, and found that some of the agents I’m into aren’t accepting submissions, or aren’t even agenting anymore at all, I was feeling a bit low. Then, I saw this:
If money was no object, what would you do with your life?
I’m pretty transparent about my life. I am an elementary school teacher, and am taking my secondary qualifications.
But if I DIDN’T have to worry about money, a mortgage, debts, and so on, would I wake up every day and teach?
I do my very best to work my interests into teaching. We read, we write, we paint, we sing … I play the guitar and ukulele and piano for them. I show them my artwork. I read them my stories. I love them very, very much. There’s nothing quite like a hug from a kid who just loves you for showing up and being there.
But there are lots of things about teaching that I can openly say I didn’t sign up for. I’m not going to get into them. If I could do without those things, I think that I would still teach. But, it would be nice to also be able to spend my whole life …
Painting. Painting more than I can now, in a bigger space than I have now, with a greater emphasis on doing it just because I want to. Painting in the middle of the night on a Wednesday, if I felt like it.
Writing. Writing and writing and writing. And being read. And writing more, late at night when I do my best writing, when I currently sleep so that I can go to work on time. Writing in the woods and in coffee shops and in the living room and on the deck that I don’t actually have and on trips around the world.
Reading. Reading what I want, when I want. And then reading some more.
Walking. Walking through the mountains and forest trails that aren’t near my house but that would be if I could have it that way, with the dogs who would be off leash.
Loving. Just loving the crap out of everyone and everything because I wouldn’t have to worry about money, which is what tends to make me cranky, or worry and stress about the parts of my job that make me cranky and also exist because I need money.
I guess my ideal life would look like this:
Writing and illustrating for a living. And because it would be so lucrative, I would live in a house in the mountains and near the water and trails, and would spend most of my time writing and arting and ideating with the dogs as we walked the trails that never looked the same. I would also have more time to give to my beautiful, amazing, smart and talented wife, and our future children, and I would be able to go in and volunteer in her classroom for a few hours every week, where I could build the same sort of beautiful adult-student relationships, but without the stress and the not-so-fun aspects of the actual job.
I consider this completed manuscript to be the first step in that direction. I have so many more books in me, and if I can find someone, just one person, who believes the heck out of it with me, then I’ll be on my way. In the meantime, I’m glad that my list of to-do’s when money is no object, are all things I am able to do to some degree right now, even with my full-time day job. I’m a lucky man.