Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Tuesday Muse: Kristin Cashore on Starting Over

Last Tuesday I attended an event at Books of Wonder that was run in an unusual way: three powerhouse writers who knew and really loved each other and each other's work (Kristin Cashore, Melina Marchetta, and Gayle Forman) sat down together and just had a conversation about books, and writing, and relationships, and equality. What was essentially a planned converging of such smart minds made the event the best signing I'd ever been to, and today's Tuesday Muse is just one of many inspiring snippets from that evening.

When asked what the best advice she'd ever gotten from her editor was, Kristin Cashore answered with one sentence from the editorial letter she received in her first round of edits on Bitterblue: "Would you consider starting from scratch?"

Can you imagine—to have written a novel of Bitterblue's length and, moreover, of its incredible complexity of depth and character, and to be asked to scrap it and start again from a blank page? And yet, Kristin said, it was freeing. She knew where the novel was going at that point, but could never have gotten it there trying to mold the words she had written into the right shape. Instead, she wrote the New York Times bestseller on her belief in the story she had to tell and the characters she had to tell it, and on the faith that throwing all those words out to begin anew would redeem them.

They talk about being willing, as a writer, to "kill your darlings." Hand in hand with that, though, goes a willingness to rethink everything, to go back to the drawing board, and to start from scratch. So finish your novel. And if it doesn't work, that's okay. Would you consider starting from scratch?


  1. Yes! I have done just that. And while it's incredibly terrifying at first, I'm always surprised at how much better it is the second time.
    Thanks for sharing this!

  2. Oh my! I've done that!! And, hand on heart, can honestly say I am now really proud of what I've written. But it is a scary thing to do ...
    Sounds like that was one heckuva fab event, thanks for sharing :D

  3. I'm currently doing it, but for a much different reason- it's my first novel and is was lacking. (Much!)
    Cashore came to our local library on her very limited Bitterblue tour and told us about the "revision" process for the book as well. It was wonderful to hear her talk about it and to know she has drafts where she writes "this is crap" on the page, but just keeps going.
    She's such an inspiration and so incredibly humble, all things considered.