There’s a trend on social media to share the manuscripts you’ve written even if they’ve never seen the light of day. I’m happy to participate even though my list isn’t very long. I appreciate any opportunity to shed more light on potential paths to publication (say that ten times fast).
Here’s the graphic I shared on Instagram and Facebook today.
Although they’re presented linearly, that’s not how I wrote them. In fact, I started writing The Tree of Us over ten years ago and it was only last summer when I took it out of the proverbial drawer and reread it.
Writers are often advised to create some distance from a manuscript while writing and revising in order to read it with fresh eyes.
Well, ten years is more than a little distance! With some of my creative work, written and otherwise, I have the tendency to lose the forest for the trees. Actually, there comes a point in some projects where I can’t stand to look at them. Where my self-doubt overtakes my confidence and I lose sight of what I liked about the project in the first place.
Ten years after starting The Tree of Us, I certainly read the manuscript with fresh eyes. Marcel Proust once wrote,
The only true voyage of discovery, the only fountain of Eternal Youth, would be not to visit strange lands but to possess other eyes, to behold the universe through the eyes of another, of a hundred others, to behold the hundred universes that each of them beholds, that each of them is.
I wrote the bulk of The Tree of Us as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ecuador two children, three states, and four jobs ago. I’ve heard writers talk about how the theme of their work didn’t reveal itself until a draft was written. While I knew the premise, the setting, the characters, and most of the plot points, the themes didn’t coalesce until I revisited this story last summer.
The Tree of Us is the project that got me my agent (read more about my journey to finding an agent in my last blog post) and it is currently on submission.
The first project I listed in the graphic, User Experience, was the experimental literary fiction opus I wrote during the pandemic. I’ve never queried it except to submit to one fellowship, which afforded me with the deadline I needed to keep me motivated, researching, writing, and revising. Perhaps I’ll return to it in ten years’ time to read it with “other eyes.”
During the pandemic, I decided to return to writing for myself and in my own voice after a career in mission-based marketing and communications. I spent a year reading over 200 books and writing every day. It was my way of giving myself an MFA in creative writing. After that whirlwind year in which I wrote User Experience, I returned to The Tree of Us.
As I entered the query trenches with The Tree of Us, I wrote the first draft of The Mariposa Effect during NaNoWriMo in 2022, revised with my mentor Cindy L. Rodriguez during the Las Musas Books mentorship this past year, and I will continue to work on it until it’s ready for submission.
I approached writing The Mariposa Effect differently than The Tree of Us in terms of form and process. For one, I put on my planning hat. Instead of free writing, I used Save the Cat to plan the beats and NaNoWriMo to keep me motivated and producing. I wrote it in first person with YA audiences in mind centered on one main protagonist while The Tree of Us is a middle grade book told in third person with three protagonists. It’s contemporary while The Tree of Us is historical (I still think it’s wild that the 1990s are considered historical).
Despite these differences, both books are coming-of-age explorations of identity, the Latinx diaspora, adoption, and finding your moral compass.
With my current project, a YA Psychological Thriller, I’m challenging myself to write in first person present tense in a completely new genre. I’m hoping to write the bulk of it during this year’s NaNoWriMo next month. We’ll see how it goes!
So, that’s my list. One project shelved, one project on submission, one project in revision, and the last project I’m currently drafting.