Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Year of the Do-Over (Stephanie Kuehnert)

As I was reading and being invigorated, inspired and cheered up by my fellow YAOTL bloggers “do-over” posts, I started to reflect that 2016 is basically going to be the year of the do-over for me.

As I mentioned in my last post here, 2015 was TOUGH. It was endlessly busy and I lost track of what should have been my priorities along the way (self-care, having downtime and having time to write!) I’ve got a plan in place to do all of that over and do it right this year. So that is do-over number one.

Then there are my writing projects for the year. I expect more revisions on my memoir (revisions, my favorite kind of do-over!) and then I hope to begin planning the launch of that book which should (fingers crossed!) be out in 2017. It’s been a long, long, loooong time since I had a published book. This year is seven years, meaning next year will be eight. I could be sad about this (and admittedly in the past I have been), but instead I am looking at it as a chance to do it over. My career will start fresh with the launch of that new book, but… I have all of the knowledge that I gleaned from my first go-round with publishing. I know wayyyyyy more than I did in 2008 when I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone came out and I’m sure this is going to benefit me. Isn’t that the best part about do-overs? You get to come at them more informed than before?

That is certainly true when revising or rewriting a book. I have not one but TWO novels that I am planning to start do-overs on this year. If you’ve followed my blogs/tweets for a while, you’ll know that I had a YA contemporary book that I nicknamed the Grief Book and a more genre-fluid YA that I nicknamed the Modern Myth YA. I wrote a full of the Grief Book and a couple of partials of the Modern Myth YA.


The Grief Book got so, so, so close to selling, but didn’t. It had two complicated plot lines, that much as I loved them, were probably bogging the book down and editors seemed to be saying that I needed to make a choice. I was thinking about it—and then my memoir sold and I got completely distracted. That also conveniently solved the problem. One of the plot lines is pretty similar to something in my own life that is covered in the memoir, so to include it fictionalized would feel like a retread to readers and to me. I started re-imagining The Grief Book last year—you can even read a sample of it on Rookie. I’m looking forward to polishing up a partial of it and seeing if my editor, who rejected it before, might be interested in the do-over.

The Modern Myth YA… Oh, I have been doing that one over for almost eight years now! I’ve written so many versions, but even the ones that went on submission just did not feel right to me. It’s my first foray into magical realism and by far my most ambitious project. I think I just needed the time and a lot of do-overs to get it right. I was not ready to write this book eight years ago or even three years ago. I think I am ready now though. When I was at my residency last summer, the idea just hit me more fully formed than any idea since Ballads of Suburbia—which, by the way, I also wrote a just-not-right version of, and then, five years later while I was finishing up my first major draft of IWBYJR, I got the key idea for the notebooks, the ballads themselves. I had to sit on it for another year or so while I worked on IWBYJR but then it just flowed.

I was in the middle of revisions on my memoir when the new version of the Modern Myth YA flashed into my brain over the course of two long runs. I took copious notes and even dashed out a synopsis. Then, I had to set it aside and get back to work on my book that was actually on deadline. Then life happened. But now here we are. I’m still cautiously dancing around it the idea. Carefully plotting. Writing lines here and there as they come. This book as had so many do-overs, I am almost afraid to start another—afraid it fail, too. BUT I have a really good feeling about it. I think the time might be right and this might be the do-over that sticks! But even if it isn’t, as a few of my fellow writers pointed out beautifully, as long as we’re here, we keep getting do-overs! 

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