When an Idea Needs to Be Heard

August 7, 2018

“I rewrite my books many times before submitting them, and after my editor takes a look I wind up rewriting some more! It’s a good thing I learned at an early age to keep on trying. Stick to it, and eventually you’ll get there.”
~ Wendelin Van Draanen

I thought this YA was close, even though I knew it needed more work. I had the plot down. I had a better character arc. And yet…

Getting to the Heart of Truth

I just returned from the 2018 SCBWI Conference in Los Angeles. I kept hearing a message bounce through the rooms—heart and Truth with a capital T. Heart and Truth.

I knew the message was for me, but I didn’t want it to be. I’ve been working on this project off and on for almost two years. I knew the story. I felt good about it. I’d even had an “ah ha” moment a few weeks ago about the character arc—thank you, About a Boy by Nick Hornby—and felt like I was humming along.

But I still had that niggle. You know the one. The niggle that tells you that something isn’t quite right. That the story isn’t full enough or deep enough or whatever enough. The niggle that tells you something important is missing.

Heart and Truth. Truth and heart. They bounced around in my head. Then I had a conversation with a brilliant writer and had a second, much bigger “ah ha” moment.

Digging Deeper

It had been there all along, glinting along the surface, gilded fissures in a mine. A throwaway thought, a throwaway idea. But it was—DUH—actually a driving force for the character, SO much better than the one she has now. Stronger character goal. Stronger character arc. Deeper story theme.

But the work. Now I have to dig beneath that surface, mine for the heart, mine for Truth.


Except I’m excited by the challenge, by the new ideas I’ll need to weave through the existing story, the brand news scenes I know I will have to write.

It’s a process. Always a process.

Hand me the shovel.