Hi Math is Everywhere Readers and Kidlit Zombie Week Friends,
Today we have a super special guest who I call upon every time I need a title because not only is he an amazing picture book writer but he’s also the title master! He’s hear to share his Kidlit Zombie Week story as one of the co-hosts and hopefully inspire you to revive those zombie manuscripts. Make sure to pop over to our 6 Ladies and a MANuscript Twitter page after reading this post to discuss (and yes, he DID come up with our awesome name for our critique group–I told you! He’s the best at titles!) Without further ado, here is Mike Irive.
My Kidlit Zombie Week Story
by Mike Irvine
It was an honor co-hosting Kidlit Zombie Week in 2020. I had a blast reading all the amazing pitches and helping to select the resurrection winners. And 2021 is shaping up to be another bloody exciting week!
Photo Credit: TranBC (flikr)
Although I was one of the human brains behind Zombie Week, it hadn’t crossed my mind to resurrect my own dead manuscripts. Yes, I was focused on the pitches, but I was also at a point in my writing journey where every story had to be a ‘new idea’. I suppose that’s what I thought I needed for the motivation to wage battle on the page. Old was out. New was in.
However, a few months after Zombie Week, I hit the dreaded ‘idea wall.’ I couldn’t summon a new story idea to save my life. The well had dried up, but the urge to keep writing remained. So, with Zombie Week fresh on my meaty mind, I took a peek at my old manuscripts.
Photo Credit: acurt14 (flikr)
There was one manuscript that I’d glance at every year; maybe I’d make a line tweak, here or there, but it never felt right. The story idea had come to me three years earlier, as I walked around my neighborhood, wearing my infant son, desperately trying to get him to fall asleep. I jotted down notes, researched, and wrote draft after draft, but three years later, I had yet to crack that chestnut. There was just something missing; an element of the story that hadn’t been fully baked in my sleep-deprived new dad brain.
Several months after Zombie Week, I popped open that dusty document and reread the story with fresh eyes. WHAM!—the missing plot element jumped out at me. I wrote it, revised it, sat with it, revised it, second-guessed it, third-guessed it, sent it to my critique group, tweaked it, shared it with my wife, and shot it off to my agent. And now as I write this, nearly 4 years later, it’s on submission!
The past year has taught me a lot about resurrecting manuscripts that are dying to be brought back to life. Here are my three biggest takeaways:
1. Revisiting old, incomplete stories can be beneficial when new ideas aren’t flowing. Revising and revamping requires different writing muscles than creating from scratch. And those muscles need to be stretched, too.
2. As authors, we can also become ‘Zombie-fied’—mindlessly going through the same routine every day. Get out there! Explore the world! Grow as a person! Raise your family! Live life! Then come back to your story with a different POV.
3. Some Zombie stories need multiple mini-resurrections. It took Leonardo da Vinci at least 4 years to complete the Mona Lisa. Don’t give yourself a time-frame to solve your story. It’s okay to pluck away at it a little every year.
Credit: Planetrussell (flikr)
I don’t know if my story will be yet another Kidlit Zombie Week success story. (There have been so many!) But I do know this: I may not have entered the contest, but the co-hosting experience inspired me to revisit a story that was all but dead. So I’d like to say thank you to all the participants of Kidlit Zombie Week. You inspired me to keep pushing!
I can’t wait to read all your entries this year!
Thank you all for joining us again for another fun Kidlit Zombie Week post! Make sure to shuffle on over to our Twitter page and click the pinned tweet to discuss, connect, share, grow, and inspire like you all did so brilliantly yesterday! I can’t tell you all how proud and honored I am to be part of this supportive community.
If you haven’t signed up for the pitch practice event tomorrow, head over to the Forms page and sign up before the spaces run out!
Kaitlyn Leann Sanchez