After several major rewrites, I put my MG aside for a bit and concentrated on my picture books. It was the perfect timing, because I had some huge breakthroughs using new information I learned at the Picture Book Intensive in Orlando. I interviewed the main characters of seven of my strongest picture books, added some extra word play, and tightened them up as much as possible. It feels great to have so many ready (or almost ready) to submit! I did have one favorite that looks like it didn't make the cut. Some members of my groups love it, but the majority (including my mentor) said it was technically perfect, but they just didn't care about the main character. Ouch! I really do love that one, but it definitely won't be in my first or second tier of picture book manuscripts anymore. I'll still keep my eyes open for ways to breathe new life into the character and the story. I think it would've stung a lot more if I hadn't received raves on so many others. My mentor always said that it's hard to write well in multiple genres and that my strength is middle-grade. But now, she believes I'm a strong middle-grade AND picture book writer. Yay!
I'm slowly working on other picture books, but my main focus is back on my middle grade novel. It looks like the time I spent away from it did the trick...I found the right place to start. Wahoo! The pieces are all falling into place, and it feels amazing. I'm getting to know my characters so much better, and the beginning really does feel right. There's a lot of work ahead of me...I have about three chapters in the newest version and will have to do a lot of rewriting and cutting to merge some of the original draft with this new and much improved one.
Beginnings are so tough to master! I don't think you can really make them shine until you have a good handle on the rest of the manuscript (this goes for picture books as well as novels). At least for the moment, it looks like I found the right place to start, show the humorous voice (which was hidden during a couple attempts that started during tense scenes), and give readers an idea of what the book is about. I'm sure I'll make many changes to the entire manuscript, and I can't wait to dig deeper and make sure the heart of the story and characters shine throughout the entire novel. I'm happy dancing that I reached this point, and can't wait to celebrate again when more pieces of the puzzle come together. Writing a novel is a long journey, and I find that it helps to celebrate all the milestones along the way!