Countdown to CHIRP: Revising. Then Revising Again. (And then more revising…)

Welcome to Countdown to CHIRP, a wonderfully nerdy blog series about the writing process behind my February 2020 MG novel, CHIRP. Here’s a little about the book from Bloomsbury, so you’ll understand what I’m talking about when I share all the nitty-gritty writing and revision details…

When Mia moves to Vermont the summer after seventh grade, she’s recovering from the broken arm she got falling off a balance beam. And packed away in the moving boxes under her clothes and gymnastics trophies is a secret she’d rather forget.

Mia’s change in scenery brings day camp, new friends, and time with her beloved grandmother. But Gram is convinced someone is trying to destroy her cricket farm. Is it sabotage or is Gram’s thinking impaired from the stroke she suffered months ago? Mia and her friends set out to investigate, but can they uncover the truth in time to save Gram’s farm? And will that discovery empower Mia to confront the secret she’s been hiding–and find the courage she never knew she had?

In a compelling story rich with friendship, science, and summer fun, a girl finds her voice while navigating the joys and challenges of growing up.

All in all, CHIRP took a little over two years to write, from idea to publication. Most of that time was spent revising. Once I finish a rough draft, I always take a break from the project to work on other things, bake some cookies, go hiking…stuff like that. When I return, I have new energy and fresh eyes for the revision process.

While I’m drafting, I keep a list of things I know I’ll want to go back to work on when I revise, and that’s where I begin my first revision pass.

I print out my manuscript and make notes about how I’ll tackle those issues on my to-do list.

Sometimes that involves asking myself questions, acting as my own editor to push myself to dig deeper.

Sometimes, revision is a matter of trimming scenes where I’ve rambled on too long. (If I’m bored while I’m revising, the reader is definitely going to be bored later, so that scene needs work!)

Sometimes, revision means getting rid of entire scenes and chapters, and marking places where I want to write new ones.

As I revise, I’m seeing the story in new ways, and playing around with all kinds of ideas that might make it stronger. I do a lot of scribble-thinking on the page.

This is all for big-picture revisions. After those bigger issues have been addressed, I’ll read through the manuscript again – out loud this time – to work on sentence level writing and line edits, to make sure I’ve always chosen language that’s specific and vivid.

Once this is done, I’m wrapping up on draft 3 or 4 of my manuscript.  But it’s not ready for my editor quite yet. In the next “Countdown to CHIRP” post, I’ll talk about getting help from writer friends and why fresh eyes can make a big difference.

For now, I’d love it if you’d consider pre-ordering CHIRP. If you do that through my local indie, The Bookstore Plus, I’ll personalize and sign your copy to be mailed out on release day. And wherever you pre-order, Bloomsbury will send you a special gift – a CHIRP poster and a class set of bookmarks to share!

Pre-order Chirp and get a poster and a set of 30 bookmarks for your school or library. Visit for details

Thanks so much for taking the time to read about CHIRP. I’m so hopeful that this book will find the readers who need it, and I’m grateful for the early praise it’s garnered from readers and reviewers alike…

“Kate Messner strikes the perfect balance of joy, pain, and strength in this deftly layered mystery about family, friendship, and the struggle to speak up.” –  Laurie Halse Anderson, bestselling author of SPEAK and SHOUT

Chirp is so many things: a mystery, a family story, and a story of the power of friendship. It’s about learning to speak out when it seems the whole world would rather you shut up. Sure to be passed from kid to kid to kid” –  Laura Ruby, National Book Award Finalist and author of the York Trilogy

“Once again, Kate Messner has written a book that will be a dear and important friend to her readers. A loving and compelling ode to the joy of friendship, the many kinds of strength, and the everyday bravery of girls.” –  Anne Ursu, author of THE LOST GIRL

“Messner deftly weaves together myriad complex plot threads to form a captivating whole. . . . Rich, timely, and beautifully written.” –  Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews

“Messner addresses #MeToo themes authentically and with care as her story moves toward empowerment: Mia displays fear and confusion alongside a hope to reclaim the strength she once felt as a gymnast. Layering mystery elements, strong and myriad female characters, and a poignant analogy involving chirp-less female crickets, Messner gently guides Mia on a journey of resilience that both comforts and inspires.”

–  Starred Review, Publishers Weekly

“Messner honors middle graders by exploring important, relevant issues at their level of understanding. This book will prompt discussions of gender inequality, consent, and sexual abuse. A must purchase.” –  Starred Review, School Library Connection

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