How Do You Know When to Let Go?

According to Thomas A. Edison, “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”

I’m not sure to what Mr. Edison was referring with that statement, but I do know much writer-ly advice disagrees with the sentiment. How many times have we heard that writers should stuff our unsold manuscripts beneath the bed and start something new? Fellow writers, agents, and editors caution against obsessing over one manuscript. They tell us to let go and move on. Give it up, already!

I wholeheartedly agree with that advice in regard to a first manuscript.  And maybe even the second. Write those books, learn all you can in the process, test them in the market, and move on. In fact, I’ve pretty much subscribed to the Write Your Next Book approach since I began writing novels. I’d give the manuscript my best shot and then put it away to write another. In fact, I’ve been so concerned with writing the next book I have two drafted novels I haven’t looked at in a couple years; it’s as if I’ve convinced myself whenever I’m not creating brand new work I’m treading literary water.

But I’ve recently realized the Write Your Next Book advice doesn’t always ring true. I wrote and polished a book I love (my fifth) and while writing my next book (a story I was exceedingly excited about, one that’s high concept and has a bigger hook) received editorial input on that fifth book.  Conventional wisdom says I should continue with the hook-y work in progress.  Exploit the commercial potential and finish that shiny, new book!

Instead, I set it aside and went back to the old. Am I obsessed? Delusional? Clinging to the past?  Maybe. But thanks to the editor’s comments I now understand where the story was lacking. I understand why readers weren’t connecting with the main friendship and why they didn’t believe the protagonist’s fear. And because I’ve written a whole bunch more since that fifth book went out, I have faith in my abilities to make the revisions work. I want the story to shine the way it always has in my head and heart.    

So I’m going to offer my advice:

  • It Is Okay to Revisit a Manuscript if your love for the story hasn’t wavered.
  • It is Okay to Revisit a Manuscript if working on it helps you learn more about the writing process.
  • It is Okay to Revisit a Manuscript if the changes you’re making aren’t merely a superficial editing but represent a significant revision.

That’s my thinking, but I’d love to hear your take on all this.  How do you know whether it’s time to move on or take a step back?

Tracy Abell is currently hunkered down in a revision cave in Colorado, putting finishing touches on a manuscript dear to her heart.

June New Releases!

Summertime . . . and the reading is easy!

Take a look at what’s coming this month for middle grade readers! I know I’m already enjoying reading new books outside!




The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore (Atheneum) – William Joyce

This is a new release of the book that inspired the Academy Awardwinning short film, from New York Times bestselling author and beloved visionary William Joyce.

Morris Lessmore loved words.

He loved stories.

He loved books.

But every story has its upsets.

     Everything in Morris Lessmore’s life, including his own story, is scattered to the winds.

But the power of story will save the day.

Stunningly brought to life by William Joyce, one of the preeminent creators in children’s literature, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore is a modern masterpiece, showing that in today’s world of traditional books, eBooks, and apps, it’s story that we truly celebrate—and this story, no matter how you tell it, begs to be read again and again.

If you haven’t seen this amazing short film, check it out here!)


A Home For Bird (Roaring Brook) – by Philip Stead

While out foraging for interesting things, Vernon the toad finds a new friend – a small blue bird who is curiously silent. Vernon shows Bird the river and the forest and some of his other favorite things, but Bird says nothing. Vernon introduces Bird to his friends, Skunk and Porcupine, but Bird still says nothing. “Bird is shy,” says Vernon, “but also a very good listener.” Vernon worries that Bird is silent because he misses his home, so the two set off on a journey to help find a home for Bird. This is a tender tale of a thoughtful friend who is determined to help his quiet companion, by the author of A Sick Day for Amos McGee, winner of the 2011 Caldecott Medal.

Bink and Gollie, Two for One (Candlewick) –  Alison MgGhee  and Kate DiCamillo

Your favorite marvelous companions are back! Meet them at the fair in this delightfully droll sequel to the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award-winning Bink and Gollie.

The state fair is in town, and now Bink and Gollie — utter opposites and best friends extraordinaire — must use teamwork and their gray matter while navigating its many wonders. Will the energetic Bink win the world’s largest donut in the Whack-a-Duck game? Will the artistic Gollie wow the crowd in the talent show? As the undaunted duo steps into the mysterious tent of fortune-teller Madame Prunely, one prediction is crystal clear: this unlikely pair will always be the closest of pals. Get ready for more laughs in this wry, warmhearted sequel to the New York Times Book Review Best Illustrated Book Bink and Gollie, written by the award-winning, best-selling Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee and featuring the exuberant visual humor of illustrator Tony Fucile.

Pandora Gets Greedy (Bloomsbury) Carolyn Hennessy

Pandora is off to Rome in search of Greed. With a little magical help, Pandy and her friends pose as servants for a Roman senator. But the hard work leaves little time to search for evils—not to mention dealing with the senator’s bratty daughter. When a feud breaks out between the senator and Julius Caesar, Pandy finally gets the courage she needs to search for Greed. But there is an odd twist. The Greek gods are in town on a “family reunion” with their Roman counterparts. Are the double gods just a coincidence or are they here to help her?

The magic and humor of Carolyn Hennesy’s beloved series is back in full force. Fans will be thrilled by the new twists and turns and next year will bring us the final chapter in this exciting quest.

 Clementine and the Family Meeting (Hyperion)- Sara Pennypacker and Marla Frazee

Clementine’s having a nervous breakdown. The FAMILY MEETING! sign is up in her house, and she just knows she’s in trouble for something. Has she been too mean to her little brother? Too sloppy? Eating too much junk food? Try as she might to find out what’s on the agenda, her parents won’t reveal anything before the meeting. As far as Clementine is concerned, the agenda should be something like: “We’re getting a gorilla.” But no, it’s something entirely different. “We’re talking about a new baby,” says her father. “A brother or sister for you two. What do you think about that?” NO THANKS! is what Clementine thinks. After all, four is the perfect number for a family. There are four sides to a table, not five. Will Clementine learn to make room for one more? Readers will chuckle at Clementine’s unique perspective on the age-old issue of sibling rivalry.

Chronicles of the Red King #2 (Scholastic)-Jenny Nimmo
The second book in NEW YORK TIMES and USA TODAY bestselling author Jenny Nimmo’s new series chronicling the origin and the adventures of Charlie Bone’s magical ancestor, the Red King!Timoken, a magician king, has found a new home in a castle in Britain. But when an evil steward takes control of the castle, he imprisons Timoken and wreaks havoc on surrounding villages. With the help of Gabar, the talking camel, Timoken escapes and embarks on a quest to find and rescue his friends, and build himself a kingdom to call home for good.

In this brand-new series, bestselling author Jenny Nimmo takes readers on an extraordinary quest with one of her most powerful and mysterious characters, the one who started it all for Charlie Bone.

In an all-new addition to the New York Times bestselling series that’s as popular as it is dorky, Nikki Maxwell is determined to help out her crush!

Nikki Maxwell isn’t at all surprised to find out that her crush Brandon volunteers at a local animal shelter. He’s such a sweet guy—of course he wants to help those adorable puppies! Then Brandon tells her that the shelter is in danger of closing, and Nikki knows she can’t let that happen. Especially when she discovers a shocking secret about Brandon that makes keeping that shelter open more important than ever. So Nikki and her friends Chloe and Zoey enter an ice skating competition to help raise money for the shelter, but (big surprise) Mackenzie has to stick her nose in and cause trouble so that she can be the one to swoop in and save the day. No way will Nikki let that happen: She’ll just have to come up with some extra creative ideas this time.

Seekers: Return to the Wild 2: The Melting Sea (HarperCollins) – Erin Hunter
Toklo, Kallik, Lusa, and Yakone trek onward toward the Melting Sea, the site of Kallik’s traumatic cubhood–and prepare to be separated for the first time since their journey began.

You Can’t Have my Planet….Winner!

As kewl as we are here at the Mixed-Up Files, we can only have one winner (though you’re all winners in our eyes!).  So we had to randomly select one winner for James Mihaley’s book, You Can’t Have My Planet, But Take My Brother, Please.

And so we’ve selected that winner.  And it’s only one.  Yup.  Only one winner.

Oh.  Right.  You probably want to know who that winner is….of course.



Congratulations!  You’re the next contestant on the Price is Right! Oh wait…wrong station.  *Blushes*

Please contact me, Amie Borst, at Amiegr8tstuff (at) aol (dot) com and I’ll be sure the book is sent to you asap!

We hope you enjoy this story!