Sunday, June 12, 2022

One Writer's Process: Deborah Underwood

Writing is Hard

I wrote a picture book last year. Revised, revised, had some interest, revised, revised, got to a point where it felt better, but now am at a point where to go forward I would need to revise again, and maybe remove some of what I thought the story was about (although exactly what it is about has remained elusive, even to me).
Have you ever had a fallen soufflé story? One where you've messed with it so much you're completely lost and don't even know which way is up anymore? I've set this aside for a bit, but came back to it yesterday and am just as confused and unconvinced. The revision suggestions make good sense, but I'm not sure I feel they're right for me. But I know the story could be stronger, and I want it to be as strong as it can be. Unless I want to just leave it behind and move on, which is another possibility.
I may just do a quick draft to see if the changes feel off once they're incorporated, but I'm dragging my heels even at that. I don't mind editing; I actually like it. But I really don't like looking around and saying, "What even IS this mess? And should I find an escape hatch and go write something totally new?" It's like I've entered some weird magnetic anomaly where the compass is spinning around wildly and can't be trusted.
In contrast, I had to write a synopsis of a recent work yesterday. I love this story. Self-doubt is my constant companion (for most all writers, maybe?), but this story makes me laugh every time I read it. It's funny, I love the voice, and the plot works exactly the way it should. It reads as if it poured from the assured pen of a skilled writer who doesn't question her ability or experience at all.
Being a writer is dancing between these two opposites, and boy, it can mess with your head.
Coffee will help though, right?

Deborah Underwoods most recent release, Bearplane, illustrated by Sam Wedelich, came out last month, and Walter Had A Best Friend, illustrated by Sergio Ruzzier, is coming out this fall. She’s written for young readers as well as for older readers, including Every Little Letter, The Panda Problem, Interstellar Cinderella, and The New York Times bestsellers The Quiet Book, The Loud Book, and Here Comes the Easter Cat. (And that doesnt include the 28 nonfiction books that shes written for kids.) If youd like to learn more about her and her work, visit her website:

Editors note: Deborah shared these observations on writing with her Facebook followers and kindly granted Wordswimmer permission to reprint her words here. If you’d like to follow her on Facebook, check out her FB page: Thanks, Deborah!