A Year of Purpose

     For me, a new year brings the hope of new possibilities. I ponder new goals and feel renewed ambition.

     I’ve found that some people dislike the idea of New Year’s resolutions, seeing them as contrived and unattainable. I suppose some resolutions are. I tend to devise smaller, more attainable goals for myself and take tiny steps each day to achieve them.

     It was in this way, last year, that I got so much writing done. This year, I will work on finishing the manuscript for my picture book, and, by year’s end, I expect to have made substantial progress on my next novel.

     I’m very grateful to my family and friends, who’ve encouraged my fiction writing this past year. I hope to enjoy as much encouragement in 2008, even as I hope to encourage others.

     Many blessings to you all in 2008.

Author Janet Halfmann Talks Shop

Little Skink’s Tail     This past weekend, I had the pleasure of meeting children’s book author Janet Halfmann, at a signing for her new picture book, Little Skink’s Tail, which just came out in August of 2007. You’ve likely seen some of Janet’s books; she’s written nearly 30, mostly non-fiction picture books of an animal or nature theme, some of which she’s generously donated to the Milwaukee Public Library system for the enjoyment of generations of children.

     Janet was willing to share her time to talk of her career and experience, for which I am truly grateful. She was also a former newspaper reporter and currently lives in South Milwaukee (my old stomping grounds), so we had lots to talk about.

     Janet meets the public again — this time, her target audience — for story time at the Racine Art Museum on December 15th, from 1 to 3 p.m. You can check out Little Skink’s Tail at http://www.sylvandellpublishing.com/SkinksTail.php.

The Agent/Author Relationship

     As I’ve been researching litery agents, one of the things that I’ve been pleased to see is their purported interest in nurturing agent/author relationships, in addition to promoting projects.

     I’m glad I’m seeing that so often because I think that long-term vision is vitally important. I was blessed with a really good agent, on the television side of things, who didn’t just scout the next gig. She and I worked to hone skills. With so many years of writing ahead, I want an agent/author pairing that’s promising for the long run.

Tweaking… and tweaking… and tweaking…

     It’s just not right. You think you’re done with a story. You’re proud. You’ve accomplished something. Then you go back to bask in your achievement.

     Only, you realize it needs something.

     So you tweak.

     Then you move a paragraph.

     Then you change the storyline.

     Next thing you know, you’re in a full re-write.

     I must admit, this is rather foreign territory to me. In news, the explanatory copy and sound bites/quotes have a general sensical order, to be expressed clearly and in few words. Even if I had hour after hour to rewrite, which I don’t, the order of events doesn’t change drastically. What happened, happened in a certain way. I can change how I approach or back into the story, but getting too creative in the mere minutes that I have to tell a story can hamper understanding.

     Writing fiction, though, isn’t at all like that. The story’s yours, obviously, so you can order events however you’d like.

     And you do.

     Ad nauseum.

     I’m finding that when I have no deadline, I keep going back and “tweaking” a story, and I wonder if I’ll ever be happy with it.

     Do you walk away? Do you say “good enough is good enough?” Or do you keep tweaking because you have no deadline? In the end, the goal is the best piece of writing you are capable of producing. The problem is, that line keeps moving as your writing experience evolves.

Free Flowing

     Why is it that adult writers have such a hard time letting go of details? Why do we slow down the free flow of ideas — even in a first draft — to get bogged down trying to find just that perfect word?

     I was so pleased watching my daughter write a story this evening. After fifteen minutes of hearing the scratch of pencil on paper, I saw her walk up to me, notebook in hand, to get my take on her story. She was quick to say it was a first draft, unfinished, grammar not taken in account, etc. I suppose she expected me to start correcting misspellings.

     I wouldn’t have dreamed of it. How wonderful to see her write! How liberating to see her just go with it!

     Sure, young children generally have neither the grammar skills nor the vocabulary to write flawless works with words concise enough to match every nuance. That doesn’t make their effort and especially the “imperfect” execution less wonderful. In fact, many of us adult writers could learn from their example. We could just write and worry about the fixes later. No need to sink into that quicksand of “correction.”

Decisions, Decisions…

     I’m working on my next book now. It’s a language-focused picture book. Doesn’t sound cute, but it is. The trouble is, I’m writing two versions and can’t decide which I’m liking better. One is simple prose. The other is written in rhyme. I’m hoping that by the time I’m done, one will stand out as the clear favorite, because, as it stands now, I’m pulled two ways.

     When I was a child, I loved reading verse. I adored the rhythm of the read, and the more I read, the more I remembered, to the point that I could eventually recite the whole poem or story without referring to the page.

     On the other hand, prose feels less stifling to me. I feel better able to express myself, within the same space, because I’m not forcing words to fit a particular rhythm.

     This book, apparently, really wants itself written. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be demanding it twice.

Copyright © Silvia Acevedo. All rights reserved.