From Picture Books to YA Fantasy Fiction

From Picture Books to YA Fantasy Fiction

The way I decided on writing a young adult historical fantasy novel happened like jumping from one stone to another across a creek.

Eleven years ago, give or take, an idea started forming in my mind to write a children’s picture book. It came about while scruffing our young Manx cat, Bear.  He was so loving. Always jumping in my lap every time I sat down for my morning devotions, in fact, he’s been the best accountability partner I’ve ever had in that area, he would prance his feet and squint his eyes before he curled up to relax. The problem w he curled up to relax. The problem was he made no sounds. He couldn’t purr. I have been around many cats in my lifetime, to say the least. Never have I run across one that didn’t make that peace inducing sound. He made all the right motions, but nothing came out. I’m not sure he knew anything was wrong. We had another cat that he loved like a mother; he had my girls and me that doted on him. He was a confident, no-worries guy.
His experience got me thinking about another self-confident individual in my home. One that had physical challenges, but no one could see them from the outside, just like Bear. She, like him, had an abundance of love and acceptance which on most days gave her the same worry free attitude he had. That’s where my book idea came in. A story about a little cat that couldn’t do everything all the other kittens could do, but that didn’t matter. No one could see his disability though, and some made fun of him when they would find out. It would be a tale that encouraged acceptance and love for those who struggle with physical challenges outside of their control. Great idea, right?

He loves his bow tie!

Somehow, I haven’t been able to craft those 800 words. Picture books are much harder than they seem. Also, the market is flooded with them, and if you don’t happen to be a celebrity these days, it’s hard to get it in front of an audience.

So I jumped to the next stone. Chapter books. 10-12,000 words, sure, I can do that I thought. I came up with several ideas and plot lines. I still have them all saved in a file. You see, once the idea went from “maybe I should” to “I’m going to do this” it was no longer an option of whether I would write, but what would I write. I will write those chapter books still, just later.

Stone three moved me to middle-grade novels. Those are longer books meant to be read by fifth to eighth-graders. Any topic is acceptable, and they range from relatively young, goofy humor to pretty intense drama. They sit somewhere in the 30-50,000 words area. Yep, just hard enough to be scary and yet a challenge worth accepting. I was in.  I wrote a book about a young Viking girl. It finished at around 36,000 words, and I was impressed with myself. I printed it out, didn’t let anyone read it, and I stuffed it into a file cabinet to sit a while before I edited it. In the meantime, I accepted the NaNoWriMo challenge (you can see that post here).

Stone four. My NaNoWriMo book was just practice after all, so I decided to enter the world of young adult fantasy, with a historical setting. A twist on a fairy tale so it would help me plot easier, I thought. I also love reading fantasy stories. For some reason, it never hit me that what I like to read would be the best stories to write. I was too focused on what I “should” write. I had a wonderful time writing that novel and finished it in 29 days and 92,000 words.

When I took that middle-grade novel out of the cabinet a couple of months later and read it, I almost cried. It was awful. I had two choices, try to save it through editing, or revise it. It wasn’t a hard decision. I tore it apart and built it back up into a young adult historical fantasy. Now, I have a story that makes me smile and characters I’ve fallen in love with.

I’ve made it across the creek and found my writing home. Ingrid, the Viking Maiden is the culmination of all those hops across the stones.