Bettina Restrepo Debuts with ILLEGAL
Introduced first in 2007, debut children’s authors have formed a cooperative effort to market their books. I featured Revision Stories from the Classes of 2k8 and 2k9 and this feature returns this year with the Class of 2k11.
Guest post by Bettina Restrepo
Recently, I performed a paid critique of a teenager’s novel. While I carefully weighed my words to encourage the young writer, I knew he needed a vigorous critique to move forward to revise. No one wants to feel like they have to redo their work. Rewriting a novel reminds me that revision is like growing up. I want to skip childhood and get to the good part.
My novel, ILLEGAL, grew from two picture books. Each time I rewrote the book, I taught myself how to revise. I learned more about the tedious revision process. Then, I discovered the work was learning to live and listen.
Characters Calling. First, by combing through each word and sentence, I hear more parts of the story from the characters inside the book. I keep many novel ideas sitting inside a drawer. But, I only work on the stories where the characters call and beckon me with more details of their life. As I grow in maturity, I add new life experience which gives me deeper understanding of my characters. It takes life to influence great writing.
Patience and Tenacity. Second, I learned patience and tenacity. Long before I had an agent, I had to print out the pages, schlep to the post office, and send off my baby manuscript to live amongst the slush piles. Three months later I would status query. Three months later, I would nudge. But, during those six months, I went on to write other things. Each time when the manuscript came back, I looked at it with new eyes. The returned manuscript contained a generic rejection letter, sometimes with providing a golden nugget of information. I listened to the advice doled out and I heard (sometimes) what was meant. My tenacity came as I realized that these rejections weren’t about me, but rather about a story that wasn’t ready – yet.
Growing as a Writer. Third, I’m continuing to learning patience and it’s getting easier. I am no longer a baby writer, crying for Mama to read every morsel, to feed me the answers. I crawled around the publishing world putting genres and techniques into my mouth to see what worked. I did the rudimentary drills to learn multiplication, faced the schoolyard bullies. I tackled Algebra; even though I was convinced it would never apply to my life (once again, wrong!).
Lifelong Challenge. As I begin my fourth novel, I’m beginning to understand that my learning curve is a tangent – stretching out into places I never imagined. Learning how to revise will continue to be a lifelong challenge that will test my patience. Hindsight is 20/20, and I want to learn from my mistakes. I’m listening and revising as I go along.