Léna is also a Regional Manager for Writopia Lab whose mission is to foster joy, literacy, and critical thinking in kids and teens from all backgrounds through creative writing.

"Well, the question is, what do you want to believe? Do you want to live in a world where things are possible, or in one where they aren't?" Cin, Edges.

Friday, May 27, 2011

When You've Written the Book that Wants to be Written . . .

“You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.” Madeleine L'Engle

I have been filled with envy whenever I look at Facebook or Twitter lately, at how well and boisterous all of my writer "friends" are doing. Great reviews! Lots of gigs! Selling out books!

And I am very happy for them, but it has been distracting me from my work in that my definition of "success" becomes less about the fact that I'm doing exactly what I want to be doing, and more about what others think and how everything appears on the outside.

I promised to blog about the vicissitudes of the writing life, so here goes. Yes, as I rewrite novel #2, I think I'm ready to talk about it's rejection last spring, even while I'm waiting for an answer on novel #3. (My agent LOVES it, and it was submitted three weeks ago to my editor at FSG.)

Editor Lady said that she didn't think novel #2 was a good "follow-up". Fortunately I was almost done with a first draft of #3 when I got the call, so although I cried in my coffee, I didn't stop writing.

Instead of sending it out to other publishing houses, I wanted to sit on it, to see if I agreed with her, and it turns out I do. I love the story, but I need to tell it differently. I've learned something about writing: stories and characters need marinating, need time to grow. I was in too much of a hurry to have another book out there so that I could make a living, otherwise how could I justify taking the time to write when I have three kids who want to eat and not go barefoot in the winter?

You can't hurry art. And you can't make everybody like it, either. I am intensely proud of Edges, even if it's not what would be called a "best-seller". (I would have made my Gran proud, by writing the book that wanted to be written.) In my very first review I was skewered by Kirkus, as "no L'Engle." Duh. But there it was - my worst fear realized, before anybody had even read the book.

Other writers told me that a bad review from Kirkus is a "badge of honor", but that didn't make it hurt any less. Still others told me not to read ANY reviews - that it's not my business how others read one's work, positive or negative. And there have been some LOVELY reviews. In fact, most of them have been AMAZING!

Silver lining? I am still writing and walking through my fears. This, more than anything, makes one a writer. The fact that I'm not going to quit because of a rejection or one bad review. It's making me stronger. I can hold and hug an actual book in my hands. Something I made.

And the rewrite of book #2 is going to be much better. I'm not giving up on the story, because it wants to be written. But I've thrown out at least two hundred pages. I had two POV's and now there's only one and it's in the first person present tense instead of third person past tense. You know. (I mention it every once in a while.)

So wish me luck, my brethren, as I wait on #3, a companion to Edges, and breathe new life into #2, tentatively titled In Your Face, where "reality" TV and reality don't exactly jive.

And I need to remember that I'm doing exactly what I want to be doing, being a writer, a mom, and a teacher.

Have a great weekend!


  1. Love this post. You're not a real writer until you've had to rewrite an entire stinking book from top to toe, I say! Fingers crossed for good news about #3.

  2. Thank you loves. It ain't easy, this writing life! Edges itself was rewritten at least ten times!

  3. Way to be Lena. Keep up the positive affirmation and keep writing the books that want to be written. We will keep reading them.

  4. Thanks for sharing! I've forgotten about that quote from your grandmother--I'll have to add it to my collection of inspiring kid-lit quotes. :)

    So happy for you and all you're accomplishing, no matter how "small" the milestones seem.

  5. I'm sorry the going has to be so tough. :( But hang in there and good luck!

  6. Thank you so much for your support and encouragement Word Diva and Wonderwegian - you know where I am coming from!

    Viktorija - thank you as always for reading and chiming in - this certainly is a character building journey, but I really wouldn't have it any other way. I am living the life I want, but it doesn't mean that there won't be bumps in the road!) Oh boy, how many clichés can I come up with tonight?)

  7. Lena, your grandma is Madeleine L'Engle? I've read her books!

    Hey, I love this post. Goodluck with everything. If it makes you feel any better, I'm envious of YOU! Because really, from an unagented, newbie writer's perspective such as myself, you're looking pretty dang good where you are, and I know it can get even better. Do I see a smile now? :)

    Keep writing!

  8. Thank you Cherie! It's so much fun that we met on Twitter! Yes, we'll keep writing no-matter-what! xoxox

  9. No L'Engle...hm, she's the author who kept believing in a book after more than 30 rejections, right? Thanks for the raw honesty, Lena. It's appreciated. I'm in the middle of that same painful process...re-writing a novel, changing it from third to first person. And I agree with Cherie...you are in a place that inspires many of us to keep writing what needs to be written, hoping and dreaming someone will one day hold it in her hands and be sorry when it ends.

  10. Thank you for your beautiful comment, Amanda! I know that I'm not alone in feeling raw about the process, and I also know that sharing is always a risk, but absolutely worth it if it means building community and support!

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