Friday, February 19, 2010

Getting Back To Basics

I’m currently in the middle of rewriting and editing a chapter book. The editing process has always been a daunting task for me. I never knew if I was making things better or worse. That has changed recently. I’ve been getting some invaluable advice and feedback from Sandy Fussell, a children’s author I greatly respect.
.
Now I find that I actually enjoy the editing process. And the editing has been going well until I reached a hurdle I couldn’t work out how to get over. In the story, the main character, Marina makes origami creations with magic paper. These creations become real if she wishes hard enough. There is a distinct pattern in the story which sees Marina make one of her paper creations in each chapter. That is until chapter six.
.
When I started editing chapter six, I realised Marina had made a boat, then immediately made a captain’s hat for one of her new friends to wear. When one of the other children falls into the water and they discover she can’t swim, Marina turns the captain’s hat into a life jacket to rescue the girl. That is technically three origami creations in one chapter. It ruined the pattern of the book.
.
I’ve spent a week now trying to figure out a way to fix the flow of the story without detracting from the story itself. Finally, I decided to get back to basics.
First, I listed everything that happened in the chapter in point form.


.
..
· Children looking at their basketball floating in the middle of the pond.
· Amelia saying ‘If only we had a boat.’
· The hardest wish, Marina makes a boat.
· All aboard.
· Sam wants to be captain.
· Marina makes a captain’s hat.
· Sail to the ball.
· Amelia slips and falls in trying to save the ball.
· Boat is sailing away and Amelia can’t swim.
· Marina turns the Captain’s hat into a life jacket and throws it to Amelia.
· Amelia dries off, back on the boat.
· Home time.

Then I put myself into the heads of the kids to work out exactly what I know about them and how they would react to the events. The first three points stayed the same but I realised their reaction in the story to seeing a sailing boat materialise before their eyes was under done.

.

Shocked expressions, a ‘No way!’ And a ‘How did you do that?’ weren’t sufficient. I also wondered if an 11 year old boy, two ten year old girls and a 7 year old boy would actually know how to sail.

.

This was the point that opened up storyline to change. The changes have also led to greater character development of the secondary characters. Toby has shown himself to be a little bossy and dismissive of his younger cousin, Sam. When Sam wants to be captain, Toby tells him he’s too small. But Sam proves himself when they get into trouble.
.
This is how the plotting developed.
· Children looking at their basketball floating in the middle of the pond.
· Amelia saying ‘If only we had a boat.’
· The hardest wish, Marina makes a boat.
· Reaction to the magic.
· All aboard.
· Sam wants to be Captain. Toby says he too small.
· Casting off, but no one knows how to sail.
· Wrong way Toby – chasing ducks.
· Working out how to steer.
· Against the wind - Stuck on the wrong side of the pond.
.
Chapter six ends with the boat drifting closer to a strand of tangled reeds, with razor sharp leaves.
.
Chapter seven starts as Sam takes over the steering and sails the boat to safety. That is when Marina makes his captain’s hat for him. The rest of the chapter stays close to the original plan and the pattern of the book is back on track.
.
So the moral of this is. When you are stuck;
· Break it down. Not just into scenes – Go smaller, to the individual plot points of each scene.
· Look inside the minds of your characters. If you know them the answers will come.
.
.

3 comments: