Writing My First Novel: Creating a Style All My Own 4

It hangs on my wall to remind me to write. Artist Unknown.

Does anyone else take risks when they write? Do you wish you had not later if you do?

I took a huge gamble when I wrote my first novel. The first reviewer recognized my strengths and my weaknesses and recommended that I get editorial help. I listened.

Yet, when my first editor failed to see why I wanted to begin Mia’s journey into this world with her watching from heaven, I fumed. And when she also told me everything about Mia’s character was unbelievable and I should only write from one point of view, I refused to listen. I even demanded to have a different editor, one that actually had a clue about Asperger’s. My second editor is a child psychologist, so I no longer had to explain the entire story. What a relief!

Why did I demand to write the story my way? There are several reasons. First and foremost, my daughter’s true story inspired this story. I needed the reader to be able to see Mia’s parents’ family differences, so they could understand how this contributed to misunderstandings, and even misdiagnosis. I did not add conflict to make either family look bad. I added conflict because books require conflict to make them interesting and because there really were misunderstandings on both sides.

I needed the reader to know Mia’s mother’s story too, so they could clearly see the love between Mia and Francesca from the start. I understand that many have a hard time with Mia watching her mother from heaven. Did I mention my husband and Mia’s father are both Chinese Americans. Did anyone see the movie Mulan?

Why then is it so hard to grasp that Mia might have watched her mother from heaven? Many Chinese believe their ancestors are important, and they pay respect to them for years after they die even taking food to the cemetery for them. Buddhist and many other Eastern religions believe in reincarnation, so why is it so far-fetched to believe that Mia could watch from heaven and choose her mother?

I also needed Francesca and Mia to both identify traits of Asperger’s that the average reader would have missed just as the doctors did. Yes, I get that this made some of the story seem redundant, but any parent of a child with special needs of any sort will tell you how important it is that others see our children as they are, not as they appear.

I wanted Mia’s story to be a story of family love, not just of Asperger’s and bullying. I wanted people to see a loving family and to clearly see Mia’s kind and loving nature before they saw the effects of bullying.

My little novel received recognition from three unrelated sources prior my getting the results from 19th Writers Digests Self-Publishing Book Awards in January. Yet, when I received the judges comments, I was devastated. Why? Basically, the judges validated everything the first editor, the one I fired, tried to tell me. They hated that I started the story with Mia watching her mother from heaven. This is the part that all three felt was unbelievable. They all three also hated that I used two points of view.

Yet, here is what Kirkus said:

“The author sets Mia’s first-person narrative within a larger family story told from Francesca’s point of view as she grapples with Ben’s exasperation over Mia’s problems, tussles with her difficult Chinese-American mother-in-law and weathers the heartache of her parents’ deaths. Writing with a limpid prose style deftly infused with medical research, Walker does a remarkable job illuminating Mia’s offbeat perspective from within; she makes it more a personality than an affliction. The book’s advocacy impulses occasionally overheat, as when Francesca goes ballistic over an incident in which mean girls tease Mia at school. Still, through Mia’s story, Walker dispels much of the mystery of Asperger’s kids while revealing the richness and promise of their lives.

A poignant and enlightening coming-of-age saga.”

Here is what Tony Attwood, the world-renowned psychologist and author of The Compete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome had to say:

“There are many facts within fiction. This captivating story provides invaluable insights into the childhood of a girl who has Asperger’s syndrome. Fiction allows the author to explore different perspectives and add poignancy to the experiences of sensory sensitivity and being bullied and teased of someone who has Asperger’s syndrome. The title Delightfully Different describes Asperger’s syndrome but also the qualities of this novel.”

Here are the rewards it received from the Young Voices Foundation:

Seal of Approval in the Inspirational/ Spiritual category

and 2 Bronze awards:

Regional Fiction/ Youth/ West Pacific

Regional Fiction/ Teen/ Young Adult/ West Pacific.

I have heard stories of how many successful writers received rejections in one form or another. I know how many years it can take for a book to take-off even if published by a traditional publisher. Yet, I have hesitated to share my rejections with you. Just a FYI: I had not planned to write the second novel from two points of view or to cover as long of a time span anyway. The second book is from Cal, the brother’s point of view. It will address cyberbullying and Cal will help stop it by working closely with the FBI. You can read the first installment here.

So, now that you know, who should I listen too? The book is not selling like I would like. Do you think the judges are right and this is the reason? What would you do with this information if it were your novel? Would you continue the story?