Thursday, January 5, 2023

Change One Thing

 When I moved about a year ago, I wasn’t sure how I would use my office, so I just kind of shoved things into it. Within a month, it became a multi-purpose space, housing my gym equipment and my son's gaming computer (long story). My haphazard office had become unwieldy.

My complaints were many. I didn’t like my desk. I didn’t have a regular writing surface, only the computer desk. The lighting wasn’t right. My Zoom background stank. I just didn’t like working in the space.

So last month, I decided to make some changes.

I didn’t really know what to do, so I picked one thing I thought I could manage. I moved my desk to give myself a better Zoom background. The room was even messier–my recliner was now in the center of the room. But once I moved the desk, I realized I could also set up a 4’ folding table to give myself a place to write long-hand and use my laptop.

Everything flowed from there. That one move allowed me to think about how to move other furniture and where it might fit best, and what furniture I could replace to make the room feel more inviting. With a few days of work, I was able to transform the room into a space I love.

It's like that with writing sometimes, too. There can be something that’s not working in a manuscript, and I don’t really know how to fix it. It might be overloaded with things that aren’t in the right places. Or I identify a number of things I don’t like about it. Or I read it and feel a "that's not quite right" feeling.

Focusing on one part and trying to make it more like what I envisioned can open my eyes to other possibilities for the piece.

Changing the location of a scene can create more tension for the characters and that can cascade into deeper character growth. Switching the ending of a picture book might reveal what the opening should be. Starting a story in a different place can give the whole story a new shape and emphasize different themes.

I hope you try this strategy with something you’re working on. Just pick one thing you know you want to be different and give it a shot. See what else it reveals about your manuscript. You might find revision opportunities you didn’t know existed.

Anne-Marie Strohman writes stories for children of all ages, from picture books to YA. She holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She’s presented at SCBWI events in multiple regions, and she founded, co-edits, and writes for the blog KidLit Craft ( She’s the current Scholar-in-Residence for the SCBWI San Francisco/South region. She writes from her revised office in the San Francisco Bay Area, which she shares with her gaming teenagers and an inspirational goat figurine.

This post first appeared in the KidLit Craft October Newsletter.

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