"All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us." —J. R. R. Tolkien

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

In which I steal ideas from my kids

First - huge shout out to Cynthia Leitich Smith for the release of her brand new novel Eternal. This cover is awesome, Cyn is a fabulous author (not to mention a super person). I'm so excited to buy/read it. So what are you waiting for? Go buy this book! And while you're at it, recommend it to a teen you know or love also!


OK, so am I the only parent that does this?
My son brings home his Monday folder filled with the week's classroom work, and I pour through it looking at the various creative stuff he's done. I'm not consciously checking for this; it's just sort of what I do. And then I see it: a perfect idea. Right there in front of me.

I hold it up and start reading it to him. He's getting kind of embarrassed—like he thinks I'm making fun of him. But when I finish reading aloud it I say, "Can I use this is a book?"

OK, I'd post the gem I found this week, but it's just too good! I don't want to share it. Look for it in print in five years (once I write it, revise it, get it sold, get is published...you know, all that easy stuff). And for the record, he granted me permission to use the idea, so when it pans out, I will fully credit his genius mind for the spark.


So I'm about a day away from sending back my final revisions for The Navel of the World (The Forgotten Worlds Book 2). I'm happy to say revisions from my editor were minimal. Really minimal. But here's the thing. I wrote the first draft of this book four years ago. And then I let it sit. Then I did a major revision and let it sit again. Repeat this process a few more times, and by the time my editor finally read it, it was pretty tight. The plot stayed on track. Subplots had been reduced to a minimum. Not that it didn't need work at this stage. Just not the same amount of work as it would have needed had she read it after the first draft/revision.

Time between revisions = critical

It's number two on my most important lessons in revising.
Number one?

Full manuscript feedback from an editor/agent/author

Nothing can beat a totally objective opinion on your work by a qualified individual.
We just become too blind to our own work. It's why editors are needed.


And finally, in addition to reading Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City by Kirsten Miller, I just started The Host by Stephanie Meyer on audio. Anyone read it? Liked it? Didn't like it? No spoilers please!
As for audio, I just finished The Giver by Lois Lowry. When it started, I was actually thinking it was a bit slow and sterile. But wow. What a story once it gets moving.

One thing of note on The Giver. People are giving The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman a hard time for the opening scene, suggesting it isn't for children. Um, The Giver was way more vivid in its not so pleasant scenes. Seriously. No spoilers here, but I would read The Graveyard Book aloud to my 7-year-old but would totally not yet read him The Giver.

Also, anyone read The Giver and The City of Ember of Jeanne DuPrau? Hmmm...there are some similarities here, aren't there? Or was it just me thinking this? Don't get me wrong. I loved both books. I just think the common elements are interesting.

Hope everyone is having a great week! Mine has included (count them) three dental visits, but I'll save that for another post :)


adrienne said...

Doesn't everyone steal ideas from their kids? :)
They are just so darn clever.

Lady Glamis said...

Three dental visits! Oh, ick!

I think that is fantastic that you got an idea from your son. How exciting!

As far as time between revisions, I agree with you completely. Making something tight requires lots of time and feedback from others. I will read your books eventually. Why is it that I can't read while I'm working on a WIP???

Christine M said...

Except for the dental visits sounds like you're having a good week.

And if your son isn't planning on using the idea in a novel in the next couple of years, then it makes perfect sense for you to do it!

My son read The Giver when he was seven. He really liked that book - but I'm not sure if he totally got the finer points at the end. He read it after hearing it on audiotape while traveling with my parents. I wouldn't normally recommend it for that age - but he was very insistent that he wanted to read it - and since he already knew the ending - I let him.

beth said...

You're always just a few steps ahead of me in reading--I've ordered the Host, but it hasn't arrived yet!

PJ Hoover said...

Glad I'm not the only one, Adrienne! They are so clever and smart and creative!

Yes, ick, Glamis, on the dental stuff. And when I am in first draft mode, I read almost nothing. It's one reason I've been bulking up on my reading. I feel a first draft coming soon.

Glad you agree on the idea stealing, Chris! I think reading a book like The Giver would just bring up some yet un-asked questions. Like the stirrings. And the dreams with Fiona. Did Harry ask anything about those points?

I think we flip flop back and forth, Beth. One day we should align our reading efforts! I'm thinking Book Club :)

Thanks for visiting!

Miriam S.Forster said...

Yah for the Giver!! (It's my favorite book...)

And I agree, there are resonances with City of Ember. I think it's because both are about societies that seen almost normal, but then turn out to be drastically different then our own. And there are kids in both books who have to find a way out.

I'm thinking about reading The Host, you'll have to let us know how it is.

Lapillus said...

I can't wait to see your son's idea in print. You'll have to dedicate the book to him! : )

I've read the host. I really liked it. I struggled with the very beginning, but it picks up quickly.
I thought it was rather original.

It's no Twilight though!

PJ Hoover said...

Wow, your favorite, Miriam! Agree on the resonances. The ones that I really noticed were the selection of jobs at 12 and the younger sibling type character which really yanked on my emotions.

Totally he'll get the book dedicated to him, Casey! The Host does seem different so far, yet very engaging. I'm hoping for big things!

D.A. Riser said...

Thanks, PJ, for sharing your revisioning experiences and congratulations on tidying up "The Navel of the World."

I'm glad your son's school stuff supplied you with a book idea. I'll have to tell my son to step it up. Granted, he's only 13 months.

Amy said...

Totally agree on the timing of revisions. What I find most often (pleasantly) is that the book is much better than I thought. I'm usually so over the book by the time I finish, I'm sure it's crap and unpublishable. A little time languishing in a drawer (or on a hard drive) et voila! not so bad.

While it's important to get feedback from other authors/editors/agents, I also think the timing of that is important, too. I don't think you want to give them something too raw.

My kids give me great material.

PJ Hoover said...

It's never too soon to start picking his brain, D. A. 13 months is perfect!

Totally, Amy! You have to be ready for the feedback, and it does have to be somewhat in good shape. Otherwise it can be a long process!

Happy Wednesday!

lotusgirl said...

Yeah, there are some similar themes in The Giver and City of Ember. I loved The Giver, but it does have it's harsh moments.

I thought The Host was slow at the beginning, but it picked up after a while. It could have been a good bit shorter, but I liked the story all right.

Keri Mikulski said...

A mom's gotta do what a mom's gotta do. :)

Urgh. Three dental visits? Hell on Earth.

PJ Hoover said...

Very harsh points, Lois. I was actually discussing it with my elementary school librarians today.

Hell on earth. Funny, Keri! And I'm glad you agree on the story stealing :)

Jim Danielson said...

THE GIVER is one of my favs...dental visits are some of my least favs. Haven't read CITY OF EMBERS.

PJ Hoover said...

Nice comparison between The Giver and the dentist, Jim. You could write a book called The Dentist.

Lenore said...

I've read both The Giver and The City of Ember, but years apart so I don't think I really made many connections. But now that you mention, I'll have to go back and take a look.

PJ Hoover said...

I read them at the same time, Lenore, which is probably why I kept seeing similarities. I'm not sure I would have even thought about it otherwise!

Marcia said...

I loved The Giver when I read it, which was the year it was published. That was the only Newbery Medal I ever accurately predicted. I think there's a lot I don't remember! Have just started The Graveyard Book. Was a bit put off at first, but I think I feel myself being pulled into it. I have to admit my first impression was, "This is for kids?" But I'm going to wait and see.

PJ Hoover said...

I'll look forward to your thoughts once you are done reading it, Marcia! It's a very different kind of book!

Kelly H-Y said...

Kids have ALL the great ideas! :-) I think that's so awesome ... how cool is it going to be for him when, after it's published (which I have no doubt it will be!!), he gets to see his name in print being credited for the idea that sparked the whole thing!?
Yikes ... 3 dental visits?! You poor thing!

PJ Hoover said...

He will love being credited, Kelly! He even loved seeing his name in the acknowledgments!

Nora MacFarlane said...

I read the City of Embers and thought it was a good read. I've also read The Host. It starts slow and picks up. I liked the story, but she could have cut back on the word count and made it tighter.

I have a list of fun things my kids said, wrote or did - all waiting to be used in a novel someday!

PJ Hoover said...

The Host does have me engaged, Nora, but I can totally see already how it could be tightened!
Thanks for visiting!

Rebecca said...

The Giver and The City of Ember are two of my all-time favorite books. I don't really see any significant similarities between the two of them.

PJ Hoover said...

It was little things here and there, Rebecca, and I probably never would have noticed them if I hadn't been reading them at the same time.

Thanks for visiting!