Signed Copies of the Book Scavenger Series

I recently visited my local indie bookstore The Wandering Jellyfish Bookshop and signed copies of all my books in hardback and paperback. If you’d like a copy, you can order online (if the web page hasn’t been updated to show all options, just call or email them), or stop in if you’re local. You’ll not only be supporting me, but a brand new (very awesome!) children’s bookstore in my area.

If you already have a copy of my books and would like a personalized bookplate (and/or a bookmark and stickers), email me at fromthemixedupfiles@gmail.com and I’ll be happy to send you one.

Notes from the Revision Cave–April

This year for newsletter subscribers, I’m sharing about my process as I work on my next middle-grade mystery. I’ll repost here on my blog a few weeks after they appear in the newsletter, but if you want to follow my writing process closer to real-time, or you don’t want to miss out on my monthly Book Love giveaways, or you want to be the first to hear Book Scavenger updates and other bookish fun, then make sure to subscribe. I’ll be sending out a new one with the latest soon!

*  *  *

I’ve come to the point in my revision process where I clean my office. No, seriously, that’s part of my process! With every draft of every novel I’ve written, there is always a point (or multiple) where the clutter and piles and pet hair build up around me as I work and then I can’t stand it anymore.

So, I clean my office.

You might be saying, that’s housekeeping, not part of writing! Or maybe it sounds like procrastination. But I think of it as part of the revision process, because I see meaning in it. There is a reason why I can ignore the clutter and piles and pet hair for a stretch of time, and then suddenly can’t anymore.

Right now, my thoughts about my revision are feeling jumbled. It’s like, in the beginning, you have a map and you know your destination. But then the directions get complicated, and there are multiple routes you could take, and you might be looking at the map upside-down for awhile there. It can feel hard to make sense of which way you’re going. And for me, writing in a messy office is like trying to make sense of that map while in fast-moving traffic on a freeway. There’s just too much going on. And when things feel chaotic inside my head, it helps me focus better if what’s around me doesn’t feel chaotic too.

This wasn’t a major deep-dive, super-detailed cleaning session, mind you. All I did was move the piles out of my office, relocate anything that belonged in another room, throw away or recycle the obvious stuff, vacuum, mop, dust my desk, and then move the piles back in. If I really wanted to procrastinate, there is plenty more cleaning and organizing that could be done. Things are still jumbled in my head, but now it feels like I’ve exited the freeway and can focus better on where I’m going.

Book Scavenger Website Update!

The Book Scavenger website has a new look! I can hardly believe it, but it’s been over six years since I launched the website and the game for the publication of Book Scavenger in 2015. Six years!!!

At the Book Scavenger launch party at Linden Tree bookstore.

Back then, I had no idea if anyone would read Book Scavenger, let alone want to play a version of the game in the book. But I kept thinking about how if I had read Book Scavenger when I was a kid, I would have wanted the game to be real. And the first thing I would have done after finishing the book would have been to look it up and see if it was. So I wanted something to exist for other readers like me.

To launch the game, I asked my publisher if they’d be willing to give me 50 advance copies of Book Scavenger with the plan to give away one copy to a reader in each of the 50 states, with the hope that the recipient would read the book, like the book, hide the book, and then post a clue on the website for others to find. My publisher loved the idea, and so we did the giveaway. A book went to each state, and I waited. Soon enough–copies were hidden! And then found! And more were hidden and found, and so on and so forth until now nearly 20,000 tracking numbers have been requested and books have been scavenged in Iran, Australia, Japan, Canada, Spain, China, France, Chile . . . so many different places around the world!

I am so grateful to all of you–the young readers, the teachers, the librarians, the parents, the booksellers, everyone who has embraced my books and continues to recommend them to others. There have been times I’ve thought maybe I should retire the website and game because it does take a bit to maintain, and I often feel like I’m falling short there, but then I get a nice message from one of you, or see a new hidden book post, and I’m reminded of my kid self, the one I wrote Book Scavenger for and the one I had in mind when I launched the game, and I think, I can’t stop now. As long as you are out there enjoying my books and wanting to play the game, then I want to try and keep it going for you the best that I can.

So after six years, I decided it was time for a refresh. Take a look around–there’s some new content and a few fun surprises for you to find as well . . . A huge thank you to Websy Daisy for designing the website for me. I hope you like it!

Notes from the Revision Cave–March

This year for newsletter subscribers, I’m sharing about my process as I work on my next middle-grade mystery. I’ll repost here on my blog a few weeks after they appear in the newsletter, but if you want to follow my writing process closer to real-time, or you don’t want to miss out on my monthly Book Love giveaways, or you want to be the first to hear Book Scavenger updates and other bookish fun, then make sure to subscribe. I’ll be sending out a new one with the latest soon!

I have a fun update for you about the novel I’ve been working on. It has a title! Well, a working title, which means it could still change before it’s published in 2022. But my editor and I both like it, and she said I could share! We’re calling it The Case of the Nancy Drews. What do you think? I bet you can guess what the mystery revolves around . . .

I’m currently in one of my favorite phases of the revision process. My ideas are starting to gel, the writing in the opening chapters feels solid, and I have a handle on the characters and what they’re doing in the story. This is not to say it’s all smooth sailing and the words type effortlessly from my fingers, but it’s exciting to see and believe in the book’s potential. I’ve also been doing a lot of supplemental reading and research, which is fun and always inspires ideas.

Something that can be tricky when you get into the middle of a revision is keeping track of different threads and plot points. When I was working on Book Scavenger, I made a color-coded outline with the story broken down into short scene summaries. The colors were used to represent different characters and their plot threads. I’m a visual person and so the different colors helped me get a sense for pacing and how the different parts of the story were working together. The photo below shows the outline for one of the earlier drafts of Book Scavenger, so there are many differences from the final version (like a character named Mr. Condor, who I cut from the book, for example).

Recently, Steve Sheinkin shared photos of how he storyboards his nonfiction novels-in-progress. Author Melissa Stewart asked him questions about these photos and posted his responses on her blog, which I found fascinating. It’s somewhat similar to what I did above, but he uses colored notecards and tacks them to a wall, in columns under the chapter where they appear. I really like how he can move the cards around, and how he can see the entire landscape of a book at once. I don’t have a huge wall space, but I do have two small bulletin boards above my desk. Perhaps I could make cards small enough to fit across them for my Nancy Drew book? We’ll see . . .

I love learning about the different methods and processes of book creators. (That’s what inspired me to do the Creative Spaces interviews on my blog! They’re listed in the sidebar by author or illustrator name.) On her YouTube channel, Melanie Conklin shares how she uses sticky notes to brainstorm, draft, and revise a novel. I also liked seeing KA Holt’s process of laying out her novel on the floor. If you are a writer, what organizational methods do you like to use?

Notes from the Revision Cave–February

This year for newsletter subscribers, I’m sharing about my process as I work on my next middle-grade mystery. I’ll repost here on my blog a few weeks after they appear in the newsletter, but if you want to follow my writing process closer to real-time, or you don’t want to miss out on my monthly Book Love giveaways, or you want to be the first to hear Book Scavenger updates and other bookish fun, then make sure to subscribe. I’ll be sending out a new one with the latest soon!

 

One of the tricky things with a revision, at least for me, is letting go of my attachments to what I wrote before. When I read my most recent draft, I’m not only seeing the story on the page but also the story behind the page. I see the chapter I rewrote ten times trying to get it just right, the joke that cracked up my writing group, the scene inspired by a funny thing my husband said. It’s hard to strip away the personal meaning and only consider how something is functioning in the story. But you as the reader do not have access to what is personally meaningful to me. You only have access to what is on the page. So, everything on the page needs to serve you, not my memories.

As I’m thinking about this, I’m realizing it’s not unlike looking at a disorganized closet. You might have the vision for how you want it to look. You might even know the problem is you have too many sweaters. But when you sit down with your stuff, the decisions of what should stay and what should go, and the order everything should be put in, aren’t always easy. This sweater is so soft and comfy, but also incredibly unflattering. You paid too much money for that sweater so you’d feel guilty if you parted with it, even though you never wear it because it’s itchy. The too-small sweater was a gift from a loved one, so letting go of it feels like letting go of them. Even when you’ve pared it down to your essentials, there can still be questions of order. Do you fold them? Hang them? Sort them by color, or sleeve length, or season, or casual/dressy? There isn’t a right or wrong answer to these questions. And that’s how it is with writing a novel, too. You are in charge, and you get to make the decisions. But what happens when you’re frozen by indecision?

My most recent draft and notes for the revision. Coco’s advice for feeling overwhelmed? “Take a nap.” (This is also her advice no matter your problem.)

Running with the closet metaphor, I’ve heard a number of organizing experts stress the importance of pulling all your clothes out of the closet and going through them one-by-one in a different setting. This is essentially the approach I currently take with my revisions. I started doing this out of necessity when I was writing The Unbreakable Code on a tight deadline. I felt so overwhelmed looking at all the stuff I was trying to cram in the closet. Eventually, I stopped working within the old draft, and instead wrote a summary of the new version of the story that was mainly in my head. From there I opened a new document and typed a rough outline of what happened. And that’s what I worked from, the new outline, not the old draft.

This has been my approach with my current book too. I focus on a chunk of chapters at a time, usually up until a turning point in the story. With the first chunk, I make a very basic outline of what happens. If it involves a scene that was in the old draft, then I open up the old file, find the scene, and copy-and-paste it into the new file. Then I start from the beginning, writing new material where nothing existed before and revising what did exist so it fits in with the new version. Sometimes I realize something else from the old draft can be adapted to work somewhere, and I’ll go back to the old file and copy and paste again. Sometimes the only thing that stays from an old scene is the dialogue, or a few lines of description. Sometimes the entire scene works essentially as it was written. Doing it this way helps me keep my focus forward, and fixed on the book I want to create, not the draft I already wrote.

Every writer is unique and what works for one person might not work well for someone else. And what works for one book might not work for the next. This is my approach right now, but it might not be my approach for the next book. That’s one of the best things about doing creative work—the rules are flexible. We can play with our process and change it up as we go along.