After discovering my long lost Mandy Book for Girls, Greenwood Girls took off rather fast. The first thing I did (and this is what I would encourage any aspiring children's novelist to do)was to join The Society of Children's Bookwriters and Illustrators. I was able to register online and when the prompt asked whether I was a writer or illustrator, my first reaction was to put illustrator. I added writer. Gutsy move since I had no idea how to write. I decided that since it was official, and that I actually called myself a writer, I best put some effort into the charade.
Main Character: I picked my absolute favorite student from my inventory of perfect, athletic, social, and most of all, pretty girls and decided to make a story around her. Lori MacLean was everything I wanted to be as a kid all rolled into one.
Inciting Incident: I decided to start the story with a background of how she grew up. Yup. It's true. I committed one of the biggest faux pas in writing, but 3 years ago it was all I knew how to do. I had at 75 pages written before Lori even got to Greenwood Academy; no mention of an inciting incident and zero conflict but I loved her and would write about her almost everyday.
Upon Completion: A year later, I gave my first draft (220 pages) to my friend a fellow writer, Maggie D, and she (God love her heart) had the painstaking task of having to offer constructive criticism. She did a great job because she gave me the confidence I needed to continue. Let me back up and say how important this step was for me. The draft was horrible. The pace was slow, the character under-developed, the plot inconsistent and the structure was poor. But it didn't matter mostly because I didn't know any better. I had something to work with and it felt great.
In Hindsight: I guess first drafts are meant to be this way...just get it down and then the work can start. Apparently not everyone works this way and I understand why that is. I teach art to kids and from experience I know that the creative process is different for everyone and that it's innate.
Some kids throw caution to the wind and see what happens. These are the kids who seem to enjoy the process and don't really care what the results are...it's the fun they're after. Other kids stare at the paper and deliberate where and how they should start. Top of the paper or bottom? Red or blue marker? Light lines or heavy? Decisions are not difficult; they are important. Both ways yield good and often fabulous results.
What All This Means: Someone once said at an SCBWI event...I think it was Mary Hershey?...anyway, one wise woman said, "Don't ever let yourself be the reason why someone quits". I think that sums it up.