The first time I went to the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Workshop, I had been working on the same book, off and on, for over a decade. I'd written a few short stories (one of which got published--YAY!!!) and had another novel I would peck at occasionally, but that one book had been my main focus.
On the second day of that workshop, I found out that my one book, my one shining star, my baby, was utterly unpublishable.
The characters were supposed to be college students, but everyone in my critique group said they talked and acted like middle-school kids. The premise and the light, funny contemporary fantasy setting were both middle-grade too. I had started out with an entire chapter of "maid and butler" dialog, in which the characters were informing the reader instead of really talking to each other, and there was so much backstory that my teacher, Brandon Sanderson, said, "Where's chapter zero?"
Maybe had I started the story in the wrong place. Maybe I should be writing middle-grade instead of YA.
That was going to take an OVERWHELMING amount of work.
So I went home and gently put that unpublishable manuscript in a box in the garage. I wrote another book, went back to the workshop a second year, wrote a third book, began a fourth one, but all that time my first book kept calling to me. The characters would not let me go. The premise kept coming back to my mind.
Nearly two years after my initial disappointment, it was time to try again.
I made the characters younger and thought up a new storyline, wrote two chapters, and took them to David Farland's class at this year's WIFYR workshop. Was it good enough now? I couldn't say. I was hoping Dave would tell me.
He gave the project a thumbs-up. A big thumbs-up. Coming from Dave, who has trained a whole long list of bestselling authors, that meant a lot.
Time to get back to work!