New Voice: Lindsey Scheibe on Riptide

By Cynthia Leitich Smith

Lindsey Scheibe is the first-time author of Riptide (Flux, 2013). From the promotional copy:

Grace has one summer to prove she’s good enough.

For Grace Parker, surfing is all about the ride and the moment. Everything else disappears. She can forget that her best friend, Ford Watson, has a crush on her that she can’t reciprocate. She can forget how badly she wants to get a surf scholarship to U.C. San Diego. She can forget the pressure of her parents’ impossibly high expectations.

When Ford enters Grace into a surf competition— the only way she can impress the UCSD surfing scouts—she has one summer to train and prepare. Will she gain everything she’s ever wanted or lose the only things that ever mattered?

Could you tell us about your writing community-your critique group or partner or other sources of emotional and/or professional support?

I am blessed to be part of an awesome and very active writing community – Austin SCBWI. It is through that chapter that I met critique partners, made writing friends, and life friends.

Cynthia – you are a strong presence and leader in our chapter and I have definitely been blessed by mentor moments with you regarding milestones on my path to publication. The example you have set has been an excellent one.

Cynthia Leitich Smith & Lindsey Scheibe celebrate Liz Garton Scanlon‘s Happy Birthday Bunny!

Nikki Loftin has been an immense blessing in the form of critique partner, in paving the way for debut author info, and an awesome source of emotional support.

Lindsey and Nikki Loftin

Sam Bond and Raynbow Gignilliat (online crit partners) read so many early drafts of this manuscript, they deserve a medal.

Samantha Bond with former Austin SCBWI RA Tim Crow & Nikki

Local published authors have been a huge source of inspiration, encouragement, and know how for not only the publishing process but for writing from your heart. That is priceless.

What was the one craft resource book that helped you most during your apprenticeship? Why? How would you book-talk it to another beginning writer in need of help?

In the very beginning, a fabulous resource for me was The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman (Fireside, 2000) because it really showed me where I was messing up on the mechanics of things, on the nitty gritty of editing. If a writer is interested in the basics on dialogue tags and general cleaning up of their sentences, then I would say this was a great accessible starter book.

While I didn’t use this book on my current novel, Save The Cat by Blake Snyder (Michael Wiese Productions, 2005) has become a recent favorite for plotting. If someone is looking for a book to help them with structure and plot points, then I would praise Save The Cat for not only breaking things down in very accessible ways, but also as an immensely enjoyable read. I love his examples!

What inspired you to choose the particular point of view-first, second, third (or some alternating combination) featured in your novel? What considerations came into play? Did you try the story from a different point of view at some point? If so, what made you change your mind?

Originally this story was told solely in first person point of view from one character – Grace. I wanted to create the cloud of confusion Grace lived in, but it resulted in an inability for the reader to connect with Grace’s situation.

I realized that when the story was told only from her point of view, the reader didn’t get quite how easy it was for other people to miss the enormity of what she was dealing with or to understand her and how her situation of domestic abuse played into her choices and affected her relationships.

Readers really liked the story but there was a mixed bag regarding their reactions towards Grace and her parents, which I found to be very interesting.

What I found early on in drafts is that my readers typically grudgingly or not-so-grudgingly liked the dad, couldn’t stand the mom, and loved Grace or got frustrated with her. They wanted her to behave in healthy ways even though she was surrounded and raised in an unhealthy environment.

I believe the reader put much of the onus on Grace because there was not a voice of reason they could identify with.

Readers loved the story, but they really needed a voice of reason. A way to say, hey what’s wrong with this picture – things don’t add up. A way to call Grace out on choices she made or accepted. That is where Ford’s point of view came in.

Ford provided the opportunity for the reader to see into Grace’s world from an outside perspective. Ford is not always the voice of reason, but he shows how easy it is to be deceived or confused by Grace’s situation and family, which in the end makes it easier for the reader to understand some of the deeper complexities of Grace’s situation. Without Ford’s POV, the reader is left in a confused state trying to understand Grace’s decisions and family life. Ford’s POV helps clear up the confusion and gives the reader an anchor.

I switched to alternating POVs because I felt it would give a wider and truer picture of how Grace’s story was playing out in everyday life. It ended up adding in subplots, texture and characters, which I have come to love and couldn’t imagine Riptide without.

In writing your story, did you ever find yourself concerned with how to best approach “edgy” behavior on the part of your characters? If so, what were your thoughts, and what did you conclude? Why do you think your decision was the right one?

Visit Lindsey online!

Absolutely. I was most concerned about the use of language and domestic violence. I didn’t want it to be gratuitous; it needed to be organic to the story.

It was important to portray the manipulative psychological component of the violence and to portray that in a realistic way, melded with the black and white of physical violence.

 I tried to create that psychological component in a way that was true to the characters and the story.

Could you describe both your pre-and-post contract revision process? What did you learn along the way? How did you feel at each stage? What advice do you have for other writers on the subject of revision?

Before my contract, this manuscript went through several drafts and I’m guesstimating at least five major iterations. I’m one of those strange writers who loves critiques and revisions. The prospect of making my manuscript better is always shiny!

I went through one major round of revisions with my editor and fortunately he was pleased with them. I really appreciated his insights into how to make Riptide a stronger novel. For anyone going through an editorial process whether it’s with a critique partner, an agent, or an editor, I think it’s really important to remember that the goal of the critique is to make the manuscript stronger.

If something doesn’t resonate with you or a suggestion doesn’t jive, I think it really needs to be thought through well. Whether one agrees or not, there is a reason for that person’s reaction to the manuscript. It could be they didn’t get a scene, but the follow up question would be why? And how could you fine-tune that so it comes across stronger/clearer to the reader.

Whether I agree with a comment or not, I always feel there is a validity to it and I need to work through that and figure out a way to address the underlying concern or start a dialogue to explain myself further and open the conversation up to figure out the disconnect.

My philosophy on revision that I share with others is: Hold your words loosely and hold the heart of your story tightly.

How do you psyche yourself up to write, to keep writing, and to do the revision necessary to bring your manuscript to a competitive level? What, for you, are the special challenges in achieving this goal? What techniques have worked best and why?

Lindsey gives Shutta Crum info at the Austin SCBWI con.

For me writing is an outlet, emotional and creative. It fuels me and brings me balance in my everyday life. It’s a little corner I can occupy and just be and create.

When I first started writing, I started with the goal of being published. So once I discovered author, agent, and editor blogs, I knew that was going to be my informal education. At one point, I read about 15-20 blogs a day during naptimes. That was my fuel and my crash course. My other fuel was SCBWI.

These days my primary job is mom and as we have some special needs in our family; that is quite a full time job. So, I don’t have the luxury of time I had when I first started writing 4.5 years ago.

My main constraint these days is just finding an hour here or there. I don’t have the luxury of warm ups or getting in the mood to write. But I need to write like I need air to breathe. So when I get a treasured bit of time to create, I take advantage of it and hit the ground running. For me failure is not an option and time is a luxury. I think a powerful motivator is to want something badly enough and that it’s important to believe in yourself.

When and where do you write? Why does that time and space work for you?

In general, the best place for me to write is a coffee shop or quiet café. I have littles running around at home and in order to get uninterrupted writing time; I usually head out to a local spot.

As a contemporary fiction writer, how did you find the voice of your first person protagonist? Did you do character exercises? Did you make an effort to listen to how young people talk? Did you simply free your inner kid or adolescent? And, if it seemed to come by magic, how would you suggest others tap into that power in their own writing?

The voice came by magic. As a landlocked person who hadn’t surfed on a regular basis in a couple of years when I started this manuscript, I just spent a few moments relishing the beauty of the ocean and the sexiness of surfing. I thought about how to make it come alive and then the first scene practically wrote itself.

I think tapping into emotional truths and memories, and just meditating on those will really help relay various emotions needed for different characters and scenes. It’s a bit like method acting, perhaps. You don’t have to have been in the same exact situation as your character, but you draw from similar emotions you might have felt in various circumstances and then translate them into your work.

As a contemporary fiction writer, how did you deal with the pervasiveness of rapidly changing technologies? Did you worry about dating your manuscript? Did you worry about it seeming inauthentic if you didn’t address these factors? Why or why not?

YA authors April Lurie & Lindsey

I didn’t want technology to terribly date my story, so I tried to keep my terms/tech slang to a minimum. I do have some texting in the manuscript and phone calls. I mention internet videos but none of that plays a huge factor in Riptide. I would say it’s more of a background factor that nods to current technology trends.

As someone who’s the primary caregiver of children, how do you manage to also carve out time to write and build a publishing career? What advice do you have for other writers trying to do the same?

You grab snippets. If your kiddos nap, that’s the golden time. If your kiddo goes to therapy or participates in sports or extracurriculars, then you might be able to write while you wait.

Something’s gotta give and in our house that has translated to laundry piles and stacks of dishes. When my husband’s work schedule allows it, he’ll watch the kids for me a couple of hours a week so I can write. When it doesn’t allow for it, then we try to get a babysitter a couple of hours a week so I can write.

Cynsational Notes

Attention Central Texans! Lindsey will launch Riptide at 2 p.m. May 19 at BookPeople in Austin.