It takes tremendous courage to face the blank page. I am not quite certain, however, what it’s called to willingly face the blank page, having tossed out a sweated-over, completed novel. I suspect it’s called being the person the story needs you to be. Alysa Wishingrad certainly stepped up to such a challenge and we, her readers, are the beneficiaries of her perseverance and sacrifice. You will not want to miss Alysa’s debut novel, The Verdigris Pawn (HarperCollins), due out next Tuesday, July 13.
Hi Kirby, thank you so much for having me on your blog. It’s an incredible pleasure to join the ranks of your Friend Friday writers.
It’s been a long journey to get here. Not to your blog per se, but to seeing my debut, THE VERDIGRIS PAWN, out in the world.
I don’t keep track of draft numbers, but it would be fair to say that I wrote somewhere between 10 and 10,000 drafts of this book before I queried it. After signing with my amazing agent, Victoria Marini, I went on to do two more revisions before it went out on sub.
By the time we sold the book to my team of incredible editors, Toni Markiet and Megan Ilnitzki, I thought I knew what it meant to revise.
I thought I understood how to rewrite, how to fix, and how to massage a book into shape.
After all, I’d done it 45,000 times already!
But after meeting with Toni and Megan and discussing some foundational changes, it became clear that this revision would not be about cleaning or clarifying. It wasn’t about cutting or adding chapters, or even fixing a couple of plot holes.
The only way to get the book where it needed to be was to white-page it.
In other words, I was going to have to take all 368 pages, wad them up in a proverbial ball, toss it over my shoulder and begin again with a blank page.
That gorgeous opening line that I loved so much?
All that well-massaged prose, those beautiful phrases, and clever metaphors?
Into the bin.
And that 3rd POV character I was so in love with?
Good day to you, sir!
I left the meeting at the Harper offices that day stunned.
I couldn’t imagine that I’d know how to rewrite the book from scratch, or that I could do it on a deadline. After all, it had taken me four plus years to write it in the first place.
But there was no other choice to be made. I knew I couldn’t cobble anything resembling a good book from the original version.
So, after a bit of a cry and calling on writer friends who are far wiser than I, I got to work.
I figured that I’d be able to salvage a couple of chapters, be able to plug in entire passages and scenes. Certainly, some of the dialogue would survive.
It quickly became obvious that passages I’d once thought were so vital now stuck out like the sorest and ugliest of thumbs. Sure, the occasional line would come back to me and fit fine, but there would be no stitching this together.
But as I worked, terror gave way to something resembling confidence. Even with the structural changes I was making– the cutting of sub-plots and building of new through lines– the world of the book lived so richly in my head now it was a completely different drafting experience. Having written it once, I could pull pieces together that I hadn’t realized fit together before.
This isn’t to say that it was easy or that the rewrite came out some perfectly rendered whole. It certainly did not. And it took me longer than I’d expected. But the process of chucking out a draft and starting over from a glaring white page wasn’t the big terrible thing that lives in the woods that I’d thought it was. It was more like a giant flashlight that helped illuminate the road ahead, one that I fully intend to put to work again in the future.
Alysa Wishingrad once had a whole different career working in theater, tv, and film, but nothing could be better or more exciting than writing stories and crafting worlds for middle-grade readers. 8–12-year-olds are some of the smartest, most open, and inquisitive people around. She’s dedicated to writing stories that help them hold onto that magic as they grow up. Alysa’s favorite stories are those that meld the historical with the fantastic, and that find ways to shine a light on both the things that divide and unite us all. When she’s not writing she’s probably out walking her two very demanding rescue dogs, or she might be trying to figure out what to make for dinner – again! – for her family. But, if she’s very lucky, she’s out at the theater getting lost in a wonderful story. THE VERDIGRIS PAWN is her debut novel and is available now from HarperCollins Visit her at www.alysawishingrad.com, on Twitter @agwishingrad or on Instagram @alysawishingradwrites.