On Writing a Second Book

It began as an assignment for my granddaughter when she was in third grade. She is now a seventh grader. 

Writing a book is a process.

She was supposed to write 100 words and grace her pages with artwork. From her hand-written pages, I typed. Then she drew.

A little girl collected buttons and had a favorite that she had misplaced. She searched and searched, and searched some more–and found it! That was her story.

She put her finished work in a binder decorated with buttons. She earned a very good grade.

And I said, “I think you have something here. Let’s keep going.”

So we worked to understand the girl. Why was the button important? What did the girl look like? What did she like? Who was her family? Who were her friends?

We switched from third person (she) to first person (I). We developed a reason the button was important. We added family, friends, dialogue, description, repeating symbolism, and motives.

I thought we had a picture book, so I shared it with an author/friend. She said, “It’s not a picture book. It’s a chapter book. Keep working.” 

So we did.

Writing a book is a process.

We shifted from the perspective of the little girl to the viewpoint of one of the previously peripheral characters–a boy–the new kid in town.

We drew in a team of helpers–her brother and some of their cousins. There were times that some of us met in a very professional manner discussing the story and deciding how to enhance it. 

There were times we talked about it less formally, in the car or at a family gathering.

Sometimes, I wrote alone. One day, I typed as a grandson and I developed a chapter. 

Now, we have more than 12,000 words. And so begins the process of cutting fat that may weigh it down and slow its journey to print and perhaps adding flesh and blood where the text is dry bone.

And then there will be the process of asking others to look at it. Will it float and fly? Or will our labors continue?

Wordcraft can be a process in which we grow along with our characters, a process that weaves bonds by telling stories real and imagined.

William Faulkner said writing is “agony and sweat of the human spirit, not for glory and least of all for profit, but to create out of the materials of the human spirit something which did not exist before.”

We’ve made a piece of work that did not exist before. Something from our human spirits. And in that process, we’ve explored characters and human character and tightened the bonds between us. 

Writing a book is a wonderful process. 

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Photo Credit: Pixabay

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24 Replies to “On Writing a Second Book”

  1. Nancy, what a neat book idea about the girl and buttons and added a community and other people into the story. And love William Faulkner’s quote. Glad you have something that did not exist before and it inspired me as I work on my book.

  2. I love this idea Nancy and what incredible memories for you and your granddaughter. I hope she will grow up with a love of writing and I hope one day to try this with my grandkids

    1. I love how we learn as we write. As a college student, I once had this wonderful epiphany while writing a paper. Then I realized that we write to learn just as much as we write to express ourselves.

  3. I love this whole post/idea/reality. What an amazing thing to share with your granddaughter. How wonderful that you are teaching her to love writing at such a young age. I can’t wait to hear the rest of the ‘story’. My son and I have been going back and forth on a story idea and you have inspired me to take it more seriously. Thank you!

  4. What a wonderful story! That book is all woven through your relationship with your granddaughter and other grandchildren. It’s a joint project that they’ll never forget, that shapes their lives, and blooms from your close relationships. You’re an amazing grandmother, a writer, a poet, who has passed this love of writing, of seeing the world through creative and curious eyes, down to yet another generation! What a priceless gift you’ve given them!

  5. I love this! I remember when I was that little girl sitting down to write! What a great way to cultivate creativity. And I’m in the process of trying to find an agent for my first book, so I completely agree that it is a process. 🙂

  6. More than the story and resulting book, I love the shared process and relationship. Sharing a love of reading, writing and stories…..creating community – the essence of storytelling.

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