Ah-MAY-zing Reads 2014: Cammie McGovern on writing Say What You Will


Hello, awesome readers! Today’s post is a little different from the others- it’s a special feature on the writing process, specifically for Cammie McGovern with her upcoming and highly awaited novel: Say What You Will. Cammie reveals all on how she came up with such a heartfelt book! Go read what she has to say. ;)

Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern

say what you will

Writing Say What You Will

It took me an embarrassingly long time to write Say What You Will. Almost eight years, in fact, with very different drafts and other books in between. I admit this because I take such comfort when other writers admit that a book which might seem like a relatively straightforward story took a long, long time to arrive. Though I’m not comparing myself to John Green, I love that he says The Fault in Our Stars took many years and many different drafts to get right. I love it because when you’re in the throes of wrestling with a book that has good elements and much that doesn’t work, it’s hard not to feel incredibly stupid.

You think: I’ve got this one charming character, why can’t I put her in a story that works? For years, this was my dilemma with Amy. I had her in an adult book which took place after her graduation from Stanford. She was a highly intelligent, very disabled young woman who disappears while on a date her parents have set up for her the summer after her college graduation. After her date is cleared of any wrongdoing, (Amy excused her herself to go to the bathroom then disappeared out the back door of the restaurant,) her parents gather her old “friends” from high school—her hired peer helpers—to piece together their memories of the year they spent with Amy to figure out where she might have gone.

It sounds okay, doesn’t it?

Maybe it even sounds pretty good. I still like the idea that girl who has accomplished so much hasn’t figured out a way to determine her own path without disappearing from the one her parents have charted out for her. The problem was: it never worked.

The plot got bogged down in logistical details. I over-researched disappearances and put in way too many scenes of people hanging flyers and combing through woods. It was convoluted and surprisingly boring. When I returned to it after a few years hoping it would be better than I remembered, it wasn’t. If anything, it was worse. The only part I liked was a relatively small subplot where one of her old peer helpers—Matthew—talks about the year they spent together and how he felt like Amy was the best friend he’d ever made.

For no reason that I planned ahead of time, he was her only peer helper who hadn’t gone to college. He still worked the movie theater job he had in high school. He was, by most estimations, far less successful than the others, including Amy, but he was—somehow—the most appealing thing in the book.

So I started over.  I threw away years of work and wrote a bunch of new scenes with Amy and Matthew back in high school. Talking honestly. Getting to know each other. Once I had picked this path, the book took about eight months to write. So altogether: seven years, plus eight months.

I think this encapsulates the highs and lows of the writing life pretty well. There are years spent with stories that never succeed. Years devoted to characters and a plot no one will ever know because I wasn’t a good enough writer to get the idea out of my head and down on paper in a way that came alive and made sense.   I suspect every writer knows this feeling—as if you are running, headlong into the wall of your own limitations. I remember early in my time as a creative writing student, sitting in classes where I was both—if this is possible—the most enthusiastic student and also the worst. I wrote VOLUMINOUSLY, long long stories that cracked me up and made no sense to anyone else, judging by the polite silence that settled over the room any time my stories were being discussed.   The excruciating, “I wasn’t sure, was this meant to be funny?”

Oh, it’s torture to recall but it should also be reassuring for every young writer out there. I stuck with it and got better. I wrote stories I was less sure about which eventually worked better. In fact, I learned an interesting lesson: this constant uncertainty about yourself, your story, your ability to pull it off—is kind of the best part. It’s the reason I remain addicted to this process. Because sometimes in the rubble of your own failure, you can spot a little glimmer of hope. Wait a minute, you think after reading something so bad you feel sure you may never write again.  There is this one character I still like a lot. He’s only got twelve pages now, but maybe I can write a little more about him…

There’s always a chance that you can make it better. Maybe you can even make it good enough that your characters can actually come out in public and meet a few readers…

You’ve come such a long way, Cammie, and we all cannot wait to finally read your years worth of work! Book nerds, if y’all enjoyed this lovely guest post, do add Say What You Will to your to-read shelves and watch out for its release next month!

Want a chance to win SAY WHAT YOU WILL? Enter the giveaway below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

To win a gorgeous finished copy of Say What You Will, as well as other awesome prizes, join the #AhMAYzingReads twitter party on May 30th, 9pm EDT/ 31st 9AM PHT! :-)

Author Bio:

cammie mcgovern


Cammie McGovern was born in Evanston, Illinois, but moved to Los Angeles when she was seven years old. She is the author of three adult novels, The Art of Seeing, Eye Contact, and Neighborhood Watch. Say What You Will will be published by HarperTeen in June, 2014. She currently lives in Amherst, MA, with her husband and three sons, the oldest of whom is autistic.

Website / Twitter / Facebook / Goodreads

22 Responses

  1. I’ve always found novels with special people for main characters interesting and worth the attention (for some reason). With that said, I’m so so excited for this novel! Thank you so much for the giveaway! (I am crossing my fingers for this one.) <3

  2. I’m excited to read SAY WHAT YOU WILL BY CAMMIE MCGOVERN, with its interesting premise and heartfelt story, I think this one will be incredible. I cannot wait for this one. Thank you for the opportunity. <\3

  3. Amazing interview. I could feel her pain and the hardship of the whole writing process. The premise of the book draws me in and I just have to read this book!

  4. What interests me with this wonderful novel is that it feels real, like comparisons to those with John Green’s TFIOS. People with certain conditions shouldn’t be outcasts just because. They have every right to feel normal and to forget. What I’m more excited to read about is Amy and Matthew’s relationship being so different but both not as open to the world.
    I’m excited to read this for the tour and talk to Cammie about it too!!! Good luck with your giveaway Hazel! :)

  5. The book seems really interesting and I think I’ll learn a lot of things from this book & would be helpful for me since I’m taking Occupational Therapy. Thanks for the giveaway, Hazel! :)

  6. First of all, I love the doodle writing and the feel of the cover. Secondly, The synopsis is intriguing and the plot seems interesting which wants me to read this book.

  7. I’m sooo excited to read Say What You Will! First of all, I was pulled by what I call “The Invisible and Invincible Book Magnet” because of the cover.
    Next, Cammie worked really hard for this. (It took her almost eight years, right?)
    That makes it more interesting. It was also part of the Most Anticipated June Releases of EpicReads.

    Thanks for the giveaway!

  8. It’s really quite fascinating (and reassuring) to read about the length of a writer’s writing process. I do think, even though it might take some time, it’s totally worth it when the book becomes exactly what you’d hoped/wanted it to be. So glad Cammie shared her writing process with us!

  9. Thank you for this giveaway! This is a new type of story that I have never heard about! I’m really excited to discover it! :)

  10. The title itself is very interested to read. Seems like there so much deep that awaits me as the reader.

  11. I saw this book from “Books you should read if you like TFIOS” post. And I was like, suuuure! I mean who doesn’t love to read books that leave great impact on you like TFIOS?

  12. Well, honestly, I still judge books by their cover (literally). And when I saw this one, I thought it’s worth the read.

  13. i have this feeling where i can’t find words to describe what i feel which sucks and that is my problem right now but i just want to see what this book could do to me the effect of what the book will give me will it make me see things differently? i’m excited on how i could learn from this book’s story and apply what i’ve learned here to the real world. :-)

  14. I am excited to read it because it says it’s as heart -crushing as tfios and tfios was very emotional!

  15. I’m pretty excited for Say What You Will because I’ve already experienced telling everything to someone except what matters the most. I’ve heard really good things about this book and the cover is really pretty!

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