Backwards Manuscripts and Rewriting

I’ve discovered something during endless days of rewriting children’s middle grade novels. Most of my stories start out backwards. Maybe the beginning is near the ending, sort of like that great movie I saw recently, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” In that memorable flick, Ben started out as an elderly man who aged backwards until he became a baby at the end of his life.
A story may start out old, then gradually during numerous rewrites, it becomes youthful and ready for the eyes and minds of young readers.

The saying, “Writing is rewriting,” is one of the most true sentences you will hear. Sounds so simple, yet to follow this advice takes strength, perseverance, and numerous days and nights of “butt in the chair.”

Is all that rewriting worth the time and effort? You bet. Imagine a library or a bookstore or an online selling venue full of books that tell stories that remind readers of wrinkled old men and women. (Not that there is anything wrong with such creatures. I have a few wrinkles myself!) Picture how stretched out and incontinent these tales would be. Now imagine these stories trimmed, tweaked, tightened, polished, lovingly edited, edited some more, and tailored for young readers.

Rewriting is a beautiful thing. Really. If you’re an author or aspire to write and publish, embrace the concept and turn your manuscripts around.

Dycie Hancock Schneider, My Second Grade Teacher and One of my Inspirations

My forthcoming children’s middle grade novel, GONE FROM THESE WOODS, is a fictional story set in a North Georgia rural community very much like Winterville, Georgia, the small town where I live.
My fictional tale of a young boy, Daniel Sartain, was inspired by a real story I heard growing up. What happens in my book is similar but not the same as what happened in the family of my second grade teacher, Dycie H. Schneider. She was one of my inspirations. I took this picture of Mrs. Schneider on a May 2008 visit to Morningside, a retirement home where she lived. During our hour together that day, she retold the sad story of her first husband’s accidental death. She also talked about how happy she had been in her second marriage many years later (she had been a widow for about a year when I visited her), and she talked about attending Tuckston School on Lexington Road in Athens as well as Gaines School the first year it opened.

Unfortunately, a couple of weeks after that visit, Dycie had an automobile accident and died several days later from her injuries. She was 90 years old. Dycie knew before she died that I had included her name on my forthcoming book’s dedication page and she was looking forward to reading my book. I am thankful I got to visit with her for about an hour on that day in May. It was a special time for me and she seemed to enjoy the visit, too.

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