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Beginnings are hard to master!

Mindy's head shot
I'm playing the revision tango with the beginning of my middle-grade novel, My Sister is NOT Human.  I love the voice, but thanks to the help of my awesome critique groups, realized that I started in the wrong place.  I'm making some great progress on it, but have a feeling it will take a lot of playing around to nail it.  That's okay--I'm learning so much more about my characters and story.  I need to make the promise clear from the beginning, and now that I've revised a hundred times, the main character's age was cut from the opening pages.  Once I think I'm really close, I'll do my best to work it back in.  The opening scene is much more intense now, so I've lost a lot of the humor I had.  Since most of the novel is humorous, I want to find a way to work a bit of it back in.  I had the same issue with the beginning of Mom Wars, since it starts during a fight...and that's when I discovered that my character's coping device was throwing invisible food at her mom.  I wonder how I'll solve the issue with this novel!  I've also realized that I probably have to cut at least some of my subplots.  I already know one that's history.  Watch out other subplots...you might be next!

One of the scariest things for me was leaving behind a manuscript filled with characters I knew so well, and diving into this new one with a bunch of strangers.  I know them much better now...but still have a long way to go before I know them well enough to do their story justice!  Right now, I'm working on getting the bones and heart of my story in good shape...I'll have plenty of time to dig deeper and polish to perfection later.  Knowing that really freed me up to play around to see what works, and what I need to cut.  

What helps you whip a manuscript into shape during the first round of revisions?


If you live near Boca Raton, I hope I'll see you at a FREE FL SCBWI workshop this Sunday, June 12th from 2 p.m. - 5 p.m.  Click here
for details! 

There's still time to sign up for the amazing Orlando Workshop on June 25.  I believe there may be a few openings in the Novel Intensive and Illustrators' Intensive (one of the leaders is an art director at Simon and Schuster)!  Click here for more info.    



I'm wishing From the Mixed-Up Files...of Middle Grade Authors a happy first anniversary!  Wow, I can't believe our blog just started a year ago.  We've had so many interviews, book lists, and giveaways since then.  Speaking of giveaways--there's a wonderful one going on to celebrate our anniversary.  Hop on over to the website and leave a comment for a chance to win these great books by E.L. Konigsburg: The Mysterious Edge of the Heroic World, The View from Saturday, and From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.

The rest are items to keep you busy if, like Claudia and her younger brother Jamie in From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, you decide to run away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Here's a photo of all the fun goodies you can win!  Good luck. :)

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Comments

( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
tracyworld
Jun. 9th, 2011 02:45 pm (UTC)
I reworked my beginning over and over, too. And I also had a more intense opening that I eventually realized didn't match the humorous tone in the rest of the book. So I started the book in a whole new place and it worked much better. My thought is if you have a humorous book, you definitely want a humorous opening.

Happy anniversary to you, fellow Mixed-Up writer!
mindyalyse
Jun. 10th, 2011 04:53 am (UTC)
Happy 1st anniversary to you, too, Tracy. And thanks so much for putting the basket together for us!

Beginnings can be so hard! That's almost always the part of my manuscript that needs the most work. On my last MG, I had something mentioned on page 1 that happened before the book started and it needed to be in real time later in the manuscript. It went to about page 50 and then page 90 something in my current version! I'm trying to avoid that by finding the perfect place to start now, and am learning so much as I play with all the possibilities.

Yay that your revision worked out so well!
tracyworld
Jun. 10th, 2011 02:15 pm (UTC)
Thank YOU, Mindy, for the huge amount of work you put into the group. I'm happy I could do this little bit.

Sending you good thoughts as you find that perfect beginning...
mindyalyse
Jun. 12th, 2011 06:48 am (UTC)
Aw, you're welcome. And thanks so much for sending good thoughts my way. :)

I hope you have a great weekend and a fantastic writing week!
Andrea Mack
Jun. 10th, 2011 10:47 am (UTC)
I recently revised the beginning chapter of my novel, because it didn't show enough of my main character's personality. Definitely one of the hardest parts of writing a novel!
mindyalyse
Jun. 12th, 2011 06:55 am (UTC)
Congrats for strengthening your beginning! Every time I finish a round of revisions, I feel like I need to go straight from the ending back into the first chapter to make sure the promise, etc. is there.

One of the things I love about conference critiques and contests is that they really make you examine your beginning. If I'm dying to get a later part into the first ten pages, that usually means something is off with my opening chapter.
annastan
Jun. 10th, 2011 11:54 am (UTC)
This sounds a lot like what I had to do with my new teen project. My agent loved the story, but she said the first couple chapters felt choppy. I went over them about a million times trying to work in more of my character's humor. It's SO hard to fit everything into those opening pages, isn't it?
mindyalyse
Jun. 12th, 2011 07:02 am (UTC)
It is hard...but it's totally worth every minute of work. I've found that it's easier to nail the beginning once the rest of the manuscript is in fantastic shape.

Yay that you were able to add more humor! Good luck with your new teen project. :)

kellyhashway
Jun. 10th, 2011 11:19 pm (UTC)
Beginnings can be tough. I rewrote the beginning of my middle grade fantasy more times than I can remember but it paid off in the end. It's the manuscript that got me my agent. Critique partners are wonderful for helping out with getting the beginning of a story just right. Mine were amazing.

A free SCBWI workshop? Really? I wish I lived there! Have a great time.
mindyalyse
Jun. 12th, 2011 07:05 am (UTC)
Congrats, Kelly! You're right--I'm not sure how anyone can make it as a writer without having wonderful critique partners. Glad you have amazing ones!

And thanks--Marjetta Geerling is a fantastic workshop leader, and I can't wait for tomorrow. I wish you lived close enough to come, too. Hopefully, I'll post some notes on my blog soon.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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Mindy's head shot
mindyalyse
Mindy Alyse Weiss
I write humorous middle-grade novels with heart and quirky picture books.

I'm an Administrator on the SCBWI Blueboard, the FL SCBWI Newsletter Editor and Critique Group Coordinator, and a proud member of From The Mixed Up Files...of Middle-Grade Authors

I've been married for twenty years and have two beautiful daughters, an adventurous Bullmasador adopted from The Humane Society, and an adorable Beagle/Pointer mix pup who was rescued from the Everglades.

I've been published in Highlights three times and placed in the 80th Writer's Digest Competition.

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