Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Processing Spring: "How's the writing going?"

I'm glad you asked.

Five months ago, I chucked 100 pages of my latest novel into the recycle bin.  The “garbage” would sound better and is a far more accurate description of how I felt, but I'm an environmentalist.  Although I had yet to chuck the rest of it, the remaining 200 pages have since been hurled or dismantled and reconfigured.  It sounds more like a puzzle than a novel, and at times it felt more like one too.  The hard part, as with most everything I write, was putting it into a reader-friendly order.  Not jumping, or flying all over the place, as I'm prone to do.  Thank God for good editors.

The book, currently called Reason to Believe, is now warm and green—spring-like, coated with pollen and purpose.

I’m in awe of how writing is like peeling an onion.  The deeper I go, layer after layer, one slivery luminescent skin after another, I uncover the wettest, most glorious pungency and truth.  The story remains the same, from first draft to last, but nearly every word changes.

Part of me wants to keep this bizarre unraveling to myself, to hold it close, and let the wonder soak into the bone, but then a girl in Zumba this morning said, “How’s the writing going?”

I looked at her in amazement.  How does she know?  Am I beaming?  Do I look like a new mother?  Because that's how I feel.

“What do you mean?” I asked.  At first, I'm defensive.

“Well, it’s spring and everything.  Does that make the writing better?”

“Well, as a matter of fact, I’m glad that you asked because I just finished rewriting my latest novel, and I’m really excited about it.  And later today, I’m going to send it on to my agent, and then it will go to my editor.  And man oh man, but I am happy!  You see, no matter what happens from here on out, I feel really good today.  And yesterday, and the day before, but not going all the way back to last Friday when I was pondering specific rewrites.  But that’s okay because Friday is nearly a week ago.  The point is: I did it, you see, and I wasn’t sure if I could.  I wrote this book.  And for some time, I didn’t know if I had it in me, but I did.  These wonderful winged birds, who are characters in my book, came through me like angels and sometimes like demons.  They flitted across the page like fairies and I had to cater to them.  And love them, but never pin them in place.  It was a difficult balancing act.  Thank you so much for noticing my glow, the fact that I birthed something new.  Thank you so much for asking because I guess I was really dying to tell someone.” 

Michele Young-Stone is the author of The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors.  Her next two novels are under contract with Simon and Schuster.

Michele is a proud wife and mother, newbie kayaker and Zumba junkie. Check out what's happening on Facebook and follow on Twitter.

Nest collage by Michele.  Little Wendy Savannah Bird Girl painting by Karen Kearney, Photograph of Michele by Loretta Sanders.  Photograph on the right by Francesca Woodman.    


  1. Thanks, Brenda. All I can think about lately is pushing send. I sent it yesterday. :-) So it makes sense. That poor girl in Zumba. I'm sure that she's like, "A tornado just touched down."

  2. Great piece, Michele. I'm knee deep in onion peeling mode on my book no. 2 and can only imagine how good you must feel. Excited for you and excited to read your new book.

  3. Michele,
    Congratulations on finishing and turning in the manuscript! Finishing a book is accomplished by magic--I am never quite sure how it happens...but it does. Enjoy the moments of rest before the copy-edits come back and then the next story, and the next, and the next...

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