I write. I revise. I eat Twizzlers. I write some more. Recently, I realized there’s another thing I do when I’m in the writing zone, I listen and sing poorly to songs that inspire me. Now, as I recently confessed to a classroom of fifth graders, I sound a bit like a dying frog when I sing. But, I love it! So, I can’t seem to stop myself from belting out the the music when I’m cooking, driving, or on a run. So, if you happen to be nearby, I truly am sorry.
A while back, while in the kitchen making meatballs and singing poorly and dancing with my sauce-splashed apron on, I realized the song I was singing over a killer tomato-basil sauce, had less to do with dinner, and more to do with my current work-in-progress. I was right in the thick of a first draft. To me, this is the part of the process where I fear everything. I’ll never come up with a gripping plot. Even if I have a good plot, I’ll never be able to construct a whole story. Even if I can construct a story, it’s going to stink. So naturally, I found myself singing Brave by Sara Bareilles, loudly and out-of-tune, while slicing and dicing. There I was in all my first draft glory singing along with Sara like we were old friends. “Say what you want to say. Let the words fall out. Honestly, I want to see you be brave.”
So after a delicious Italian dinner, I jumped back into my work-in-progress with purpose, and to my happy surprise, I eventually completed a draft of my new story. Woot! Let the celebration begin! I was super excited until I read the whole thing over and realized it stunk. I mean no-one’s-going-to-read-this kind of stunk. I knew I needed to summon the courage to reconstruct the characters, the plot, the pacing. So, I popped in my earbuds and listened to The Fight Song by Rachel Platten before I dug back into all those words on the page.
Once I finished, I mean really finished, a process that included several bags of Twizzlers and many many drafts, I sent my newly revised story to Trish, my agent. And, I waited for her thoughts while I jumped back into all the things I had put on hold while revising. The music of choice – The Waiting by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. And then, Trish called. She loved it! So, I popped in my earbuds and went for a run to Happy by Pharrell Williams!
Elly Swartz is a middle-grade author. Her debut novel, FINDING PERFECT (FSG October, 2016) is a story about a twelve-year-old girl named Molly, friendship, family, OCD, and a slam poetry competition that determines everything. It took thirteen years, numerous drafts, many Twizzlers, loads of hugs, and much unconditional love, to find her way to YES. Elly lives in Brookline, Massachusetts with her husband, two sons and beagle named Lucy. If you want to connect with Elly or learn more about what she’s working on, you can find her at www.ellyswartz.com, on Twitter @ellyswartz or Facebook.