Thank you for having me, Pat. It’s always an honor to be a guest on your wonderful blog!
Chances are, as a writer, you have an old manuscript tucked away in a desk drawer, or among the deeply embedded folders in the hard drive of your computer, that every once in while calls out to you. Certain scenes—ones with clever prose, or well-done humor—will cross your mind every so often. You know there’s just something about that manuscript . . . but there it sits, untouched, unedited, unpublished.
When I started Bobbing for Watermelons, my first attempt at a novel, back in 2004, I had no clue what I was doing, but thanks to my critique group, I soldiered on. In 2008, it became a Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Colorado Gold finalist, but even then, it needed work (as evidenced by the mounting rejections I continued to accumulate). I set it aside and began a new project. Over the years I thought about it, even swearing I’d heard it call to me through my laptop speakers. I’m pretty sure it was my main character, Helen, telling me she was tired of being ignored. By last year, she was really fed up and screamed at me to pay attention.
So I did.
During a three-day writing retreat through the Northern Colorado Writers, I edited the first third of the book. I spent a lot of that time cringing, embarrassed I had actually sent it to agents. At the same time, I was pleased to see how far I’d come in the ten years of studying the craft of writing. Putting that much distance between myself and the manuscript gave me new perspective; the book wasn’t ready for publication back then and I needed to grow as a writer.
When I started the book, I was around 27 with a six-year-old, and now, I’m closer to my character’s age who also has teenagers. I finally could relate to her, which led to more vivid, realistic scenes that I only guessed at before. At last, I felt the emotions my character would experience in certain situations, and I could convey them in a way that rang true and authentic.
Not only was my goal to write a great novel, but to make it a publishable one as well, so if a section didn’t work, I didn’t bat an eye when cutting it out. I deleted scenes, added chapters, and even rewrote the entire last third of the book. Applying the lessons and techniques I’d learned over the years, from being both an avid reader and writer, I ended up with a book I’m very proud of.
I encourage you to unearth an old manuscript, breathe new life into it—perform CPR if necessary—and see what it has to say. My characters usually don’t talk to me—or at least I don’t typically admit they do—but Helen’s voice rang out loud and clear. She wanted her story told, and I knew deep down, so did I.
April is giving away one copy of Bobbing for Watermelons to a U.S. or Canada reader who leaves a comment on today’s post by midnight Mountain Time Saturday, March 21st. The winner’s name will be posted here on Sunday.
April, thanks so much for being my guest today. Can’t wait to read Bobbing for Watermelons.
April J. Moore grew up writing and drawing and continues on both paths, providing illustrations for cards, journals, and books. A love of history, resulted in her first book, Folsom’s 93: The Lives and Crimes of Folsom Prison’s Executed Men and her love of humor and quirky characters, encouraged to write Bobbing for Watermelons. When not writing or illustrating, April is usually enjoying the Colorado sunshine by working in her vegetable garden, kayaking, or hiking, and spends the cold, wintry months curled up with a good book and a mug of tea. Her favorite activities, however, is spending time with her husband, sixteen-year-old son, and ninety-five-pound lap dog.
Bobbing for Watermelons, a work of women’s fiction, is due for release in late March 2015, from Hot Chocolate Press. April’s first book, Folsom’s 93: The Lives and Crimes of Folsom Prison’s Executed Men (Linden Publishing, 2013) is available at Amazon. You can learn more about April at AprilJMoore. She can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.
April! I can’t wait to read it! I’ll get some needed motivation!
Adam Gaylord says
I think persistence might be the single most important trait for a writer to have. And I bet there aren’t very many published writers that lack it! Great post.
April Moore says
Yes, Patricia, it’s a very satisfying feeling–one I could certainly get used to. And congrats on your contract!
Patricia Smith Wood says
Congratulations, April, on perfecting your story and getting it published! I had a roughly similar experience with my first book. I entered it into a contest and was actually surprised when I didn’t win. Four years later, after EXTENSIVE rewrites (brought about by much study and learning the craft) I was offered a contract to have that same book published. I felt so relieved that I could learn from the experience and put it to good use. Obviously, you have succeeded in your goal too. It’s a satisfying feeling, isn’t it?
John Paul McKinney says
One nice thing about getting older, among a lot of things: I can identify with people of just about any age, since i’ve been there. Looking forward to getting to know Helen. She sounds interesting, yelling at you like that.
April Moore says
Thanks, everyone; and thanks, Pat for having me as your guest today! There’s usually a thing or two of value in old manuscripts, whether it’s something to never attempt again, or something to see as a starting point; a source of inspiration. In case you’re itching for a sneak peek, you can read the first 4 chapters of Bobbing for Watermelons (which releases March 22) at HotChocolatePress.com
Thanks again, Pat!
Laura DiSilverio says
Ii think we all have one or two of those manuscripts lurking in a file cabinet or a floppy disk (I’m dating myself with that reference!). The trick is knowing which ones are resurrectable, and which should be left to rest in peace.
Love the title and look forward to reading it, April! Thanks for sharing your inspiring story. This gives me hope for my unfinished manuscripts.
The waiting game with a dusty manuscript so resonates with me these days. I’ve been sitting on an idea for the last three years while in the meantime self-publishing my debut novel and second in a young adult Sci/Fi series. However this ‘other’ idea beckons me in the middle of the night and as of now has exploded into the early raw form of a manuscript outline. Getting the experience of two novels under my belt and learning more of the ropes to Indie publishing, I feel it is high time to pursue the traditional publishing route and I plan on taking this one to a critiquing group at the upcoming Northern Colorado Writers Conference to pitch the logline and first page. Time to jump into the Shark Pit!
Jerry Eckert says
In my case, I have a manuscript that I am embarrassed to have submitted. I must need that writing retreat on a mountain to do a complete overhaul. I have learned so much thanks to NCW and others since that dismal draft was birthed.
Alex J. Cavanaugh says
I did dig a really old manuscript out once and rewrote it. The story became my first published book. So I can attest to what you are suggesting.
Dean K Miller says
Can’t wait to read this, April!
Allan J. Emerson says
I love that title–the image makes me laugh. I’d pick it up just to see more.
Every success with your book!
Hilary Melton-Butcher says
Hi Pat and April .. lovely to have April here with her interestingly titled book “Bobbing for Watermelons” .. good luck to you both .. cheers Hilary
Maggie D Amato Goins says
Good advice, April. I have drawer manuscripts, also, which sigh to me occasionally, begging for attention. My first novel, women’s fiction, was written in 2000. I made the mistake of throwing away. Bad mistake, it reminds me in its ghostly voice.
Can’t wait to read your new novel:)
Patricia Stoltey says
Good morning, April! Hope you’re enjoying your jaunt and that you get a chance to stop by later today.