3 S.R. Johannes: Just because it looks dead, doesn't mean it's dead!

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Just because it looks dead, doesn't mean it's dead!

Couple Things:

  • What are you waiting for? If you are searching for the right agent, you still have time to enter the Agent Pitch Contest! What do you have to lose? It lasts until tonight at midnight! So if you do not have an agent, go enter a 3 sentence pitch. Bree Ogden (from Martin Literary) will choose her top 3 who will get a full read, a partial read, and a query critique.
  • I've hit 1,000 followers on Twitter. Only 130 more here and a HUGE marketing prize will be given away to a loyal follower.
  • Next week, Suzie Townsend (from Fine Print Literary) will be here doing another agent contest. Details will be announced later this week :) You can enter more than one agent contest so no need to choose. :)
  • Someone asked me why I doing the agent contests? I have a simple answer and I will share it with you all. Because I want to pay it forward. Someone gave me a break and recommended me to their agent which opened so many agent doors for me. I need to pay it forward for me. That is the only reason.
Just because you think it's dead, doesn't mean it's dead!

Do you ever feel like you should just give up? Put your book aside? Your goals? Your dream of being published?

Do you ever feel like putting one book down and starting to write something else?

I do.

There are days where I ask myself - why am I doing this? There are days when I look at a couple old books, wondering if I should pick them up again. Then I think, maybe I should put this book out of its misery!

Whether you have an agent or an editor, these insecurities always pop up and various points in your process. In your journey.

I was thinking about this the other day at the pool as I watched my kids play.

When do we give up? When is the right time? I think this can apply to anything we are struggling to work for? struggling to conquer. On this particular day, I wasn't feeling too great about this whole writing thing.

I was puled out of my pending pity party when I heard my daughter yell for me and saw her pointing to something in the water.

A huge yellow swallowtail butterfly.

Now due to a book that will never see the light of day, I have a special place in my heart for butterflies, especially yellow swallowtails.

The butterfly was not moving and was floating in the water, still. Peaceful.

I scooped it and up and watched its wings sag as the life left its little body.

I laid the butterfly in the pine straw and waited.

It was clearly dead. No movement.

For a while, my daughter (6) and son (3) stood by watching. Waiting. For more than 20 minutes this went on.

"It's dead you guys. It's not moving."

Daughter: "But why?"

"Maybe God needed more butterflies in heaven."

Daughter: "But i tried to save him."

"Well sometimes things can't be saved - no matter how hard we try."

Daughter: "Maybe he's just resting. Maybe he got tired swimming. I get tired when I swim."


She starts blowing on the butterfly's wings. "Maybe Ill do CPR."

"I don't think that works on a butterfly honey."

Daughter: "Well I can try?"

I pick up the butterfly and take it into the sun. I lay it on the end of my chair and we wait some more. Like another 15 minutes!

Inside, my heart sank. I don't know why. I mean, it wasn't my fault. It'd been in the water too long. The chlorine had probably been so toxic. The water too much for his lungs to overcome.

But its sad to watch the life leave something and try so hard to save it. But not knowing what to do, you feel so helpless. So incompetent.

And then.....

So never give up because you think something is dead. Just think about how you can breathe life back into it. If you believe, it can happen!

Back to the WIP!

So to celebrate this little butterflies journey to the dead and back. To celebrate his fight to live, I'm giving away an ARC of Yvonne Woon's Dead Beautiful (Hyperion) !! Doesn't release until September 2010. A haunting love story about desire, danger, and destiny. Dead Beautiful is both a compelling romance and thought-provoking read, bringing shocking new meaning to life, death, love, and the nature of the soul.

Just answer this question for a chance to win:

Have you ever felt your book was dead? And then magically it came back to life? If so, what did you do to get it breathing again?


Anna Staniszewski said...

I have one manuscript that's died and been reincarnated a few times. I just love the idea but haven't quite found the right way to tell it. But a few weeks ago, I got a teeny tiny burst of inspiration that made me look at the project in a whole new way, and I started writing it all over again. Sometimes you just need a fresh perspective to breathe life back into a seemingly dead idea.

Cindy said...

In my own writing, I really try to focus on what my characters might say or do in a particular situation. I try to imagine them eating breakfast in the morning and what kind of conversation they might have.

I am so excited to read this book. It sounds so powerful! Thank you for the chance to win. :-)

Natalie said...

I loved your butterfly story! It's amazing how resilient creatures can be. The story I've just finished needs SO MUCH WORK. A big part of me just wants to shove it in a drawer and forget about it forever. I think I'm going to do that for a while, but I hope that maybe in 6 months I can pull it out and bring it back to life.

Candyland said...

This was so beautiful, I cried a little. Inspiring, completely...

Janet Johnson said...

What a great story! Sometimes we just need to have the faith and confidence of children. Anything is possible to them, and why not?

I thought my first book was dead, but just recently I've started a new draft with new life. The characters were there, but plot not so much. It's fun to watch its wings slower twitter and hopefully come to life by the time I've finished. It's a lot of work, but very satisfying.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Oh, yes! My current chapter book began as a PB. I loved it. I queried it. And queried it. And queried it. DEAD. When I began blogging seriously and found some CP's, I realized it was meant to be a chapter book. What a difference. Two years later, I have just begun querying again.

Sherrie Petersen said...

I love the butterfly story! That's beautiful!

I have a dead book that I actually pulled out last night. I rewrote the opening chapter and I'm kind of excited for it again. We'll see...

Meredith said...

Such an amazing story!

I tend to think my books are dead around the 40,000 word mark--I'm not quite sure why. When that happens, I grab a journal and start writing things down, stream-of-conscious. I write down questions I have about the plot, how I could improve it, etc., and I usually discover a plot twist that makes me more excited to keep writing. It's a weird method, but effective!

Renae said...

Wonderful post!

I actually felt that way about my book that is currently on submission. I set it aside and started working on somethign else. Then one day I went back to it. I can't explain it, but I finished it, then found my agent. So worth it. Sometimes I think you have to take a step back.

Larissa said...

OMGoodness, that was so awesome!

I was feeling like my current wip was dead, and got a comment from a reader that changed everything! Go, inspiration!

Anonymous said...

Oh, gosh, Yes. Sometimes it just needed a totally new vision and voice to come alive.

Jamie Grey said...

Oh my, I think I teared up there for a few minutes...what a great story! I have my current WIP that I'm about ready to throw in the towel on. But maybe now I'll give it another chance. Maybe it's not quite dead yet...

VS Grenier said...

What an inspiring post. I'm actually working on a WIP I put away for a little over a year because I just felt I didn't know where the story was going anymore. I just died in my heart, but recently I went with my family to a midevil fair and all kinds of ideas started to come to mind. I could even hear my main character whispering in my ear what changes needed to be made so her story could come to life.

Unknown said...

I love that video--your daughter must have been so excited!

I don't know if my book has ever been dead so much as seriously injured. Revising/rewriting helps. :)

Carolina M. Valdez Schneider said...

You know, I don't know that I've felt something was dead, but there have been times where I almost wished it was because the amount of work required to fix the problems seemed overwhelming. But I love this analogy. Absolutely brilliant.

Hardygirl said...

Best post ever!!!

I've got a first novel that I've put away. But, I got some great editorial feedback on it, and I know it can be fixed. Maybe I'll pull it back out. Someday.


Tricia J. O'Brien said...

A little faith and patience. Something to remember, for sure. I love that video and the hope. Thank you. (Don't enter me, cuz I just won a book from you and don't want to be greedy) :)

Natalie Aguirre said...

It's taken me over 6 years to finish revising my manuscript enough to feel like I can submit it and enter contests. I can't count the number of times I've thought it was dead or me as a writer. Somehow I always have come back to revising it and felt better that maybe there's a chance.

I wouldn't give up on your manuscript forever. Maybe another one will be your first book and this one will be looked at differently later. You never know. That's what I'm hoping if I can't sell my book now. I'll start on something else & save it for later.

And thanks for paying it forward. I so appreciate it.

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Great post and awesome comments...very inspiring! Sometimes it takes someone else looking at our work for us to see that it is revivable. (Thanks Sharon McPherson for the CPR for my pb...)

Thanks for the lovely story and the links, Shelli. :)

Carolyn V. said...

Yes! My current wip almost got tossed. But I pulled it back out and took another good look at it. I'm revising now. =)

S.A. Larsenッ said...

Shelli, you made me cry. Oh, goodie. Seriously. I was cut off from all my blogging buddies all day. My internet died! I was shocked at how lost I was without all of you. I'm so glad I was able to stop by today.

For me: the breath of my daughter and a dear friend breathed new life into my current manuscript. They are life.

bclement412 said...

Great post, great contest.

Other people have told me my book was dead, and deep inside I knew it was too, but I refused to believe it or accept it. I'm not going to admit that its "dead" until all the roads of publications have put up big STOP signs

Anonymous said...

Oooh the book sounds cool ! Please enter me:

I'm 14. And my friend got me to to do NanoWrimo (National Novel Writing Month). And so I started a book I've really wanted to write for a long time. I got maybe bout fourteen thousand words out in that month (didn't reach my goal), but then I stopped. So yes, my book died. But then a few weeks ago it magically came back to life when I came up with an idea for a really cool part of my book. I had no idea what I was doing, I think I was hanging with my friends and listening to music. So I thank that song that got me going again !

Thanks for the contest!


Tere Kirkland said...

I almost gave up on Evangeline, the novel I would desperately like to be my "debut novel". I'd received too many rejections, and I thought it was time to move onto something else.

And I did move on. I moved on to another story. This story wasn't really any better plot-wise, but I learned a lot about voice and style while I was writing. I applied these things to my old manuscript, which helped, and revamped the plot. It's still not perfect, but it's much closer to being my "debut novel" than I thought when I almost trunked it last summer.

I'm glad I didn't abandon it, but I'm also glad I took a little hiatus from it to work on my craft.

Great post.

Kerri Cuev said...

Oh Boy I am having a moment like that now. Instead of giving up I put it to rest, start a new project, then go back to the old one after a couple of weeks.

Martina Boone said...

Ooh, definitely one of two things: new eyes, or time in the dreaded drawer. It's amazing what a break-up between your WIP and you can do :)


Jeanne Ryan (Serenissima) said...

Beautiful post! I actually got teary eyed at the video.

I finished my first novel-length ms in 2006. After a dozen queries, I put it aside because I felt there was something wrong with the book but couldn't identify what. So I wrote another ms, and another, never forgetting my first "dead" ms.

Two and a half years later, I rewrote the book, transforming it from historical women's fiction to a contemporary YA, keeping those elements that were nearest my heart. Finally, the book felt "right." That ms got me an agent.

As we go into a second year of subbing to editors, with yet another ms, I'm grappling with many days when my writing dream seems like the poor butterfly.

And then I read a post like yours and feel a sparkle of hope again. Thank you.

JKB said...

YAY for tough butterflies! And YAY to your darling daughter for not giving up!!!


Stasia said...

A great post. Thanks. Was definitely in need of a butterfly today :)

Spav said...

It has happened to me a few times, but usually a good night of sleep solves it. I get a lot of ideas from my dreams!

Rae Ann Parker said...

A manuscript that was in the drawer has new life because of a workshop at the SCBWI Winter Conference. I started working on it again and my critique group got excited about it with me and now hopefully the story will get a second chance.

Vicky Alvear Shecter said...

Love the butterfly. You saved it by moving it to the sun. It was recharging it's batteries! Sometimes I worry that my book is dead even while I'm working on the edits from an editor! That inner critic can be so brutal. But I love the idea of moving the butterfly to the sun and letting it soak in the light...

Kristin said...

So inspiring! Thanks! I'll remember this.

Unknown said...

LOVE that image. How amazing--I bet your daughter was thunderstruck!

Lisa Gail Green said...

Such a beautiful story! I love it. I love happy endings. I'm a sucker that way. Thank you for sharing and I'll keep it in mind whenever things get tough.

Jemi Fraser said...

That made me teary eyed (in case it wasn't obvious, I'm a total sap!)

I have one dead book... maybe. It's the ms I had nearly finished when I thought "maybe I should try & pub something one day". Since then I've learned so much!! The ms has changed drastically (and been cut in half). It's marinating right now - I don't think it fits in today's market. I'm thinking on it for a bit :)

CL said...

Thanks for that excellent story! Just what I needed to hear right now.
I had a picture book manuscript I'd submitted to several publishers with nothing but rejections. I mentioned the story to someone in my writer's group and she said, "I never thought that was your best piece." So I shelved it. Then one day I ran into a fellow writer I hadn't seen in awhile and she said, "What ever happened to that snail story? That was always my favorite."
So I took it off the shelf,realized I do love it, worked on it a bunch more and I'm now submitting it again.

Jess said...

I've never had a manuscript die. I've given up too soon because I've not known what to do, but it hasn't been dead. Some of them sit waiting for me to come back to, but most are happy to have been what they were for me. There are two such stories, one from last year and the other from ... 04? at least, that have melded in my head into my current WIP.

It's never been the stories that have died. I have been too unskilled to finish them.

Martina Boone said...

What a beautiful story! My daughter and I went through something similar with a baby Robin when she was about eleven. Chirpy survived miraculously and even went back out into the wild. Every Robin my daughter and I see reminds of that miracle.

Dead manuscripts? Oh, yes. I have a drawer full of picture books, including some that made it to aquisitions before being turned down for whatever reason. You are inspiring me to take another look at them.

And my finished mss? It's been dead to me more times than I can count. Usually every time I realize the story is bigger than my talent. Every time that happens, I step back and return to my worksheets to break things down into component parts and focus on what's wrong and why I'm overwhelmed.

If all else fails with a manuscript, I add more obstacles for my protag. I am so abusive to my characters, I should be arrested!

Again, AWESOME story. Thanks for the inspiration and the kick in the pants.


Katie Anderson said...

aww... that sweet butterfly was beautiful! What an inspiring post, shellibean!

wait.are you sure those weren't just deathly twitches?


Hilary Wagner said...

I've never thought that one of my books was dead per se, more like stewing in a dentist's waiting room, trying to figure out an excuse to leave, even though they know they have to get the work done so they can keep that beautiful smile!

xoxo -- Hilary

PJ Hoover said...

What an awesome story, Shelli! Thank you for sharing it!
I've not yet thought anything was dead, but there is one ms I wrote that needs some serious reconstructive surgery. But I have a hard time giving up on anything.

Nicole said...

This was such a beautiful post. I sent it straight away to my good friend who has been feeling low because she hasn't been getting the response to her queries that she was hoping for. But she only just started. I sent this post to her to encourage her to keep going!

Anonymous said...

Wow, what an awesome story.

I haven't had a dead manuscript come back to life because my manuscripts don't die so much as I lose interest in them. Or I used to, years ago. These days it seems that when I start writing a book, I finish it.