This week my Aussie Nibble, A Strange Little Monster, illustrated by Stephen Michael King, will be released. YAY! And this release provides me with my second example of the three Ps of Publishing at work.
This story started with a first line that just popped into my head:
"In all of Grotty Hollow, there was no stranger little monster than Sasha."
I had no idea where the line came from, but it immediately intrigued me and I wanted to know more about this strange little monster. What made her strange? How did she cope with her strangeness?
A Strange Little Monster started out as a picture book manuscript and I honestly felt that this was the "one" - the one that publishers were going to be falling over themselves to publish. I was sadly mistaken. I sent the manuscript to eight publishers, and eight publishers rejected it. (This was in 2002/2003.)
But I was not deterred! (Cue: PERSEVERANCE.) I reworked the manuscript as a chapter book, a short story, a reader ... I sent it back out into the world and again it was rejected. (And I was sorely dejected, I have to say.) So I put the manuscript in my bottom drawer where all lonely homeless manuscripts go, and got on with other projects.
Five years later (cue: PATIENCE), I stumbled across it quite by accident and had another read. Hey, I think this could work as an Aussie Nibble, I thought. I pulled out my previous chapter book version, and with clear eyes and five years further writing experience behind me, I could see its flaws - and there were many! I could also see just what it needed to work in this format. So I set to work, and as they say, the rest is history!
When I was a primary school teacher, come September/October of each school year, I often found myself worrying that my students weren't making enough progress. At this point, I would always go back and look at examples of their work from the beginning of the year, and nine times out of ten, I would discover that they had indeed made loads of progress.
I often feel this way with my writing. Am I progressing? Is my writing getting stronger? Am I doing enough to improve my craft? It is so hard to know and often I find that writing seems to be getting harder for me rather than easier. (I suspect this might be because I am being increasingly harder on myself.)
Fortunately, the rewriting of A Strange Little Monster really brought home to me that yes, my writing has benefited from the years of PRACTICE. All that writing and reading and thinking and workshopping and analysing and critiquing has paid off. Like my primary school students, I have, thankfully, progressed. When I looked at my original manuscript, five years on, I could see why it was rejected. It simply wasn't strong enough. It started off relatively strongly, but wobbled into a meandering middle and fell splat into a limp ending. And it was a wonderful experience for me to rework it to a point that it was accepted rather than rejected!
So the lesson for me with this book is to never give up and to continue to practise my craft: to read and read and read; and write and write and write. It is, I believe, the only path that leads to PUBLICATION.
Oh, and by the way, that opening line that I loved and adored - I gave it the chop! It didn't work for the Aussie Nibble chapter book genre.