Deconstructing a Cookie

For the past couple months I’ve been working on a new novel, but it’s not new to me — it’s a women’s fiction novel I wrote for NaNoWriMo in 2008 and while I’ve always liked the story, I knew it would be better as young adult. In July I reread it for the first time in seven years, and while it’s much better than I expected, it’s going to take a lot to change from three POVs (one teen and two adults) to two POVs (two teens). Yes, I’m keeping one of the teenagers but I’m realizing I need to add a lot more plot to make this work.

It feels a bit like changing an oatmeal raisin cookie to chocolate chip.

At first glance, they look pretty similar — round, light brown, dark chunks — and it seems like it shouldn’t be too hard to swap the raisins for chocolate chips, but once you start breaking it down you realize you have to REMOVE THE OATMEAL [insert eye-boggle emoji here]. The oatmeal that has been stirred and mixed and BAKED into the very essence of the cookie.


I just finished reading Jeff Gerke’s Plot versus Character and it’s really helped me learn more about my characters, while also figuring out what the heck they’re doing throughout the novel. During this process I’ve also realized how different the structure of the two genres are. Women’s fiction can get away with having more emphasis on the characters and how they grow throughout the story, while young adult has much more emphasis on plot and story. Things have to keep moving, and while my prose is oh-so-pretty in some places (I even posted something about it while reading) the majority of it doesn’t advance the story.

I’m breaking it down to the eggs, flour, and water.

I’ve never tackled a project like this but I like to challenge myself in new ways with each novel (because apparently writing a novel isn’t enough challenge in itself). I have a rough outline that I still need to develop into a full-blown, 10+ page, chapter-by-chapter description of what happens, but I’m excited to see how these characters change — and how I change as a writer.

Plus I really, really love chocolate chips.

I know this process sounds like absolute torture to some writers, but I don’t like to start the actual writing until I have the recipe all laid out, the oven preheated, the ingredients spread out on the counter, and an extra dish of chocolate chips set aside to snack on. Then step back and let me eat… er, write!

About Melanie Hooyenga

Writer. Designer. Jock. Reader. Wife. Puppy-Mama. SCBWI member since 2015.


  1. Allen

    Two things: First, congratulations on finishing a NANOWRIMO. Second, I keep a junkyard of stories that have crashed for whatever reason where I go and get parts of stories on occasion. I also will, on rare occasions, bring out a story and rework it.

    It takes nerves of steel to remake those projects. I wish you lots of luck.

    • Thanks! I’ve completed a couple NaNos (including Flicker) and plan to compete again this year.

      Funny that you mention having a junkyard of stories – that’s today’s topic for the instagram challenge I’m doing and I don’t have ANY abandoned stories. I have another completed novel that will not see the light of day, but I did finish it.

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