Friday, August 24, 2018

The Seasons of My Books

It is my turn to blog about how the season affects my writing.  The seasons of the year don’t change my writing schedule.  When I’m working on a book I keep plowing onward Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall.  

But I do have different seasons of writing that has nothing to do with the calendar.  I write long nonfiction books that are deeply researched. Each one takes years to research and write.  And in a lot of ways, each book goes through four seasons.  

I’ve written about my upcoming book in the blog space quite a few times.  But just like a mother (and grandmother) I never tire of talking about my “baby” AKA, my new book.  Oh and did I mention that new baby’s name is 



This book, like all my others, goes through all four seasons before it bursts forth as a fully developed book.  

It goes something like this: 


Spring is when a new idea pushes its way to the top.  For Buried Lives, that idea was five years ago.  Yes, five.  The idea for this book was fresh and green and exciting.  I wondered if the idea for this book would take hold and grow. There was so much I needed to consider. Could this idea work?  Would it work?  Was there enough primary source material to make it work?   Spring is the time for possibilities.  

Summer is when the idea has taken root.  The idea turned into a book proposal.  The proposal turned into a contract.  The contract turned into finding a way to make this book actually work.  This is when seed which sprouted in the spring, takes root.  The more I work on the book the deeper the roots go.  For Buried Lives, the long hot days of summer lasted a very long time. It is a complex, difficult topic. Many days I watered the text of this book with tears.  

Fall is when the idea has been fully executed.  I turned in the completed manuscript.  Then the harvesting begins.  Like my Daddy cut rice during the days of harvest on our farm, editing and revision is about cut, cut, cut.  Then revise, revise, revise.  Editor after editor, reader after reader suggested changes.  This is when my “baby” book starts to walk, then run. Every edit makes it better. Finally, the last edits are done. (Just this week the very, very last edits were done on Buried Lives.)  The harvest is over and the result is a book that is as good as I can possibly make it.  


Winter is when the book is finished.  My editor and I are elated and exhausted.  The book is delivered to the printer.  It is a time of reflection because I know that soon people will read the words I’ve written and rewritten.  I hope reviewers, teachers and readers will like my “baby” and I hope that no one is mean to my darling in a nasty review.  Yet, I know I’ve done all I can do.  Soon I will send my book out into the world to stand alone.  

For me the winter season of the book is when I clean my office and try to get the stacks of research in order and off of my desk.  Then I start working through a to-do list of things around the house I have ignored: cleaning closets, drawers and the garage.  (OK, I still haven’t gotten to the garage!)   Even as I’m relieved to be finished with my book, I start wondering what I should write next.  

During the winter season of my books, a glorious day arrives—like it’s Christmas Day.  A box of books lands on my front porch and I tear it open to see my baby nestled there in paper.   I revel in the sound of opening of a brand new book.   It is a happy day-beyond description really.  The publication date for Buried Lives is December 18, so I should get this happy day of books near the end of November or so.

Spring follows winter, even in the seasons of my books.  When spring comes, I’m ready for a new idea to push its way to the top.  

The front cover of Buried Lives: The Enslaved People of George Washington's Mount Vernon, published by Holiday House, release date December 18, 2018.

Carla Killough McClafferty


Carmela Martino said...

Love this description of your writing process through the "seasons," Carla! I'm so glad you've been able to nurture this project through to fruition. I look forward to soon seeing and holding your baby! Congratulations.

Carla Killough McClafferty said...

Thanks, Marti. Writing books takes much longer than some people think.

Bobbi Miller said...

Love this journey through the four seasons! And congratulations on the new baby!!

Mike Dougherty said...

Nice job on the post, Carla! ... Looking forward to the new book.