I first met Shari Green at Surrey International Writer’s Conference, and am really pleased to finally be hosting her here at Prime Writing. Below, Shari discusses the long road to publishing her debut YA novel, FOLLOWING CHELSEA, and gives us an inside look at the types of structural revisions she needed to make to the story to mature it into published novel.
Oh, and no introduction to Shari is complete without a little “GO HABS, GO!”
Shari: The idea for FOLLOWING CHELSEA was first sparked by a news story of mistaken identity. After letting that brew for a while, it evolved into Anna’s story—a teen girl arriving at a new school with hopes of flying under the radar, only to find she’s in the spotlight, thanks to an uncanny resemblance to Chelsea, a popular girl who recently died.
It was fun imagining how this might play out. Ultimately, Anna’s backstory of betrayal and abandonment leads to her exploiting the situation. (Needless to say, that doesn’t go especially well!) I think, in the end, FOLLOWING CHELSEA became the story of a girl learning to be okay with being herself, when being someone else seems so much more appealing. I didn’t know when I was writing that the take-away of the story would boil down to “be yourself”, but it pretty much did, and I’m okay with that. Even in middle age, it’s something I’m still learning (clearly, my characters are more advanced than I am…ha!).
I worked on this story for about a year, back in 2008. When it was done—the writers among you are now smirking, knowing all too well that a story is never really done—it was told in alternating points of view—Anna’s, and that of the grieving boyfriend. It turned out, that didn’t serve the story all that well. You’ve heard what they say about “killing your darlings”, right? Ooh boy. I hated letting that POV go, but I did it. It was the right thing to do, as darling-killing so often is.
I re-wrote the manuscript (see? it wasn’t done), tossed it under the proverbial bed while I wrote something else, pulled it out again, tucked it away again and wrote yet another novel, and then…I came across a call for submissions from Evernight Teen. It seemed like a potentially good match, so I dusted it off (did one more revision pass…nope, still wasn’t done!) and sent it. Next thing I knew, I had a contract in hand! *cue happy dancing*
There were edits (minor ones, thankfully) and copy-edits, and then FOLLOWING CHELSEA was released in October. I had my first official book-signing in November, and have had great support from my local bookstore, as well as from friends, family, and fellow writers (what a wonderful community!).
I learned a lot during FOLLOWING CHELSEA’s evolution (it feels like the title might be the only thing that never changed from first draft to published book!). I learned about listening to my characters, and about letting the story be what the story wants to be. I learned about revising from big to small—big picture problems first, then smaller things, then polishing—and I learned that even my favourite bits sometimes have to be sacrificed for the good of the story. I think that last one is something I’ll have to re-learn a few times yet…
And now—for my part, at least—FOLLOWING CHELSEA is done. It belongs to readers now, which is kind of cool and kind of terrifying. For those who are interested, links to purchase are on my website. It’s available as an e-book and print-on-demand paperback.
Thanks for reading, and thank you, Katrina, for hosting me!
Shari Green writes Young Adult and Middle Grade fiction and occasionally masquerades as a poet. When she’s not glued to her laptop, she can often be found wandering in a blissful daze on the beach near her home on Vancouver Island, BC. Visit her online at www.sharigreen.com.