Today we’re celebrating my wonderful critique partner, Kate Bassett, and her debut young adult novel, Words and Their Meanings, which releases today. Here’s a description of the book:
Anna O’Mally is a born writer—gifted, perceptive, headed for the stars. Or she was, until the tragic death of her uncle Joe. He was barely older than Anna herself, and she worshipped the ground he walked on. Best of all, Anna got to live in the glow of knowing that she was the most important person in his world, too.
Anna has promised everyone—her shrink, her parents, her best friend—that Joe’s one-year “deadaversary” will be the end of her period of mourning. But when a strange note suggests that her saintly uncle had deep secrets, Anna stumbles into a chain of events that changes everything she thought she knew about the past, the possibilities of love . . . and origami.
“With a compelling voice and evocative prose, Kate Bassett establishes herself as an author to watch.”—Sara Zarr, author of The Lucy Variations and National Book Award winning Story of a Girl
“Bassett’s debut novel scores a hat-trick of literary merit in a strongly crafted and complex plot, deeply drawn characters with palpable grief, and beautifully woven and rich prose.”
—SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL (starred review)
“A heartbreaking and fantastic debut.”—VOYA
In celebration of Kate, I want to share the wisdom she’s lavished on me and our fellow critique partner, Valerie Geary, over the years. Though what I’ve included here is often personal, it’s also universal, and I think all writers will benefit from Kate’s sensible, compassionate approach.
On First Drafts:
Own the fears and let them go…Even if the story is full of holes, it only means you are still discovering it. That it’s still just finding its way. It’s part of the journey– and leaves room for so much possibility. Give yourself a minute or two of wallowing. Then get out for a run. Take some time to think of each character– let them try on ideas and personality traits and possible scenes like dresses. You’ll get there. We believe in you!
the first draft is about discovery, nothing more. Plus, we are, of course, our biggest critics. We should make a pact to be gentle on ourselves.
Val, write, write, write through it. You’ll find the steam and soon first draft blues will be a thing of history.
I hear you. And I know that place in the process. But remember: it’s just a place. It’s just that rotten, wicked stupid seed of self doubt we all wrestle with, and while I wish I had magic words to take it away…the best thing I can tell you is to do the work. Even if you have to cry. Even if you feel so overwhelmed you need to walk away. Especially because the biggest doubts come to us when we know, deep, deep down this is our calling…You CAN do this. You WILL pull it all together with grace and tender, moving language. Because you are enough. You have the skills. You are a writer. The hard stuff is what you do.
The Writing Life:
I get all grumpy and frustrated…but then, I take a step back and realize….hurrying never makes a good book.
Words are good. And they matter.
Writing and Doubt:
Hush those doubts, my friend. YOU are a beautiful writer. Beautiful writing NEVER goes out of style. You’ve written ANOTHER beautiful book. And it will sell. I know it.
I’m convinced the new book fear will NEVER leave. But maybe that’s what makes new writing good, right? I mean, if there was no fear, there would be no risk, no love, no creative force. So be filled with the fear, and then translate that into a burst of beautiful writing like only you can.
We’re each on our own journey, but it is sure nice to have friends along the way.
So happy to have you walking this path with me, friend.
Joli @ Actin' Up with Books says
This is some great advice for getting the words down for that story out of your head and on paper – “Own the fears and let them go” – Perfect.
I love to read–the portion you shared sounds great! 🙂
Mary Preston says
This would be invaluable.
This looks like a great book! I also appreciate the honesty and encouragement of the comments on the writing process. My daughter wants to be a writer and I will be sending her the link to this! Thanks!
I launched into a first draft today and these words were so timely. Thank you. Looking forward to reading whether I win or not!
Margaret Simon says
Origami? Where did that come from? I am totally intrigued. Also love all the writerly advice.